How to Motivate the Opposite Sex

Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus: The Classic Guide to Understanding the Opposite Sex - John Gray 1992

How to Motivate the Opposite Sex

Centuries before the Martians and Venusians got together they had been quite happy living in their separate worlds. Then one day everything changed. The Martians and Venusians on their respective planets suddenly became depressed. It was this depression, however, that motivated them eventually to come together.

Understanding the secrets of their transformation helps us today to recognize how men and women are motivated in different ways. With this new awareness you will be better equipped to support your partner as well as get the support you need at difficult and stressful times. Let’s go back in time and pretend to witness what happened.

When the Martians became depressed, everyone on the planet left the cities and went to their caves for a long time. They were stuck and couldn’t come out, until one day when a Martian happened to glimpse the beautiful Venusians through his telescope. As he quickly shared his telescope, the sight of these beautiful beings inspired the Martians, and their depression miraculously lifted. Suddenly they felt needed. They came out of their caves and began building a fleet of spaceships to fly to Venus.

When the Venusians became depressed, to feel better they formed circles and began talking with one another about their problems. But this didn’t seem to relieve the depression. They stayed depressed for a long time until through their intuition they experienced a vision. Strong and wondrous beings (the Martians) would be coming across the universe to love, serve, and support them. Suddenly they felt cherished. As they shared their vision their depression lifted, and they happily began preparing for the arrival of the Martians.


Men are motivated and empowered when they feel needed…. Women are motivated and empowered when they feel cherished.


These secrets of motivation are still applicable. Men are motivated and empowered when they feel needed. When a man does not feel needed in a relationship, he gradually becomes passive and less energized; with each passing day he has less to give the relationship. On the other hand, when he feels trusted to do his best to fulfill her needs and appreciated for his efforts, he is empowered and has more to give.

Like the Venusians, women are motivated and empowered when they feel cherished. When a woman does not feel cherished in a relationship she gradually becomes compulsively responsible and exhausted from giving too much. On the other hand when she feels cared for and respected, she is fulfilled and has more to give as well.


A man falling in love with a woman is similar to what took place when the first Martian discovered the Venusians. Stuck in his cave and unable to find the source of his depression, he was searching the sky with his telescope. As if he had been struck by lightning, in one glorious moment his life was permanently changed. He had glimpsed through his telescope a vision he described as awesome beauty and grace.

He had discovered the Venusians. His body lit on fire. As he watched the Venusians, for the first time in his life he began to care about someone other than himself. From just one glimpse his life had new meaning. His depression lifted.

Martians have a win/lose philosophy—I want to win, and I don’t care if you lose. As long as each Martian took care of himself this formula worked fine. It worked for centuries, but now it needed to be changed. Giving primarily to themselves was no longer as satisfying. Being in love, they wanted the Venusians to win as much as themselves.

In most sports today we can see an extension of this Martian competitive code. For example, in tennis I not only want to win but also try to make my friend lose by making it difficult for him to return my shots. I enjoy winning even though my friend loses.

Most of these Martian attitudes have a place in life, but this win/lose attitude becomes harmful in our adult relationships. If I seek to fulfill my own needs at the expense of my partner, we are sure to experience unhappiness, resentment, and conflict. The secret of forming a successful relationship is for both partners to win.

Differences Attract

After the first Martian fell in love, he began manufacturing telescopes for all his brother Martians. Very quickly they all came out of their depressions. They too began to feel love for the Venusians. They started to care about the Venusians as much as themselves.

The strange and beautiful Venusians were a mysterious attraction to the Martians. Their differences especially attracted the Martians. Where the Martians were hard, the Venusians were soft. Where the Martians were angular, the Venusians were round. Where the Martians were cool, the Venusians were warm. In a magical and perfect way their differences seemed to complement each other.

In an unspoken language the Venusians communicated loud and clear: “We need you. Your power and strength can bring us great fulfillment, filling a void deep within our being. Together we could live in great happiness.” This invitation motivated and empowered the Martians.

Many women instinctively understand how to give this message. In the beginning of a relationship, a woman gives a man a brief look that says you could be the one to make me happy. In this subtle way she actually initiates their relationship. This look encourages him to come closer. It empowers him to overcome his fears of having a relationship. Unfortunately, once they are in a relationship and as the problems begin to emerge, she doesn’t know how important that message still is to him and neglects to send it.

The Martians were very motivated by the possibility of making a difference on Venus. The Martian race was moving to a new level of evolution. They were no longer satisfied by just proving themselves and developing their power. They wanted to use their power and skills in the service of others, especially in the service of the Venusians. They were beginning to develop a new philosophy, a win/win philosophy. They wanted a world where everyone cared for themselves as well as for others.

Love Motivates Martians

The Martians began building a fleet of spaceships that would carry them across the heavens to Venus. They had never felt so alive. Through glimpsing the Venusians, they were beginning to have unselfish feelings for the first time in their history.

Similarly, when a man is in love he is motivated to be the best he can be in order to serve others. When his heart is open, he feels so confident in himself that he is capable of making major changes. Given the opportunity to prove his potential, he expresses his best self. Only when he feels he cannot succeed does he regress back to his old selfish ways.

When a man is in love, he begins to care about another as much as himself. He is suddenly released from the binding chains of being motivated for himself alone and becomes free to give to another, not for personal gain, but out of caring. He experiences his partner’s fulfillment as if it were his own. He can easily endure any hardship to make her happy because her happiness makes him happy. His struggles become easier. He is energized with a higher purpose.


Given the opportunity to prove his potential, a man expresses his best self. Only when he feels he cannot succeed does he regress back to his old selfish ways.


In his youth he can be satisfied by serving himself alone, but as he matures self-gratification is no longer as satisfying. To experience fulfillment he must begin to live his life motivated by love. Being inspired to give in such a free and selfless way liberates him from the inertia of self-gratification devoid of caring for others. Although he still needs to receive love, his greatest need is to give love.

Most men are not only hungry to give love but are starving for it. Their biggest problem is that they do not know what they are missing. They rarely saw their fathers succeed in fulfilling their mothers through giving. As a result they do not know that a major source of fulfillment for a man can come through giving. When his relationships fail he finds himself depressed and stuck in his cave. He stops caring and doesn’t know why he is so depressed.

At such times he withdraws from relationships or intimacy and remains stuck in his cave. He asks himself what it is all for, and why he should bother. He doesn’t know that he has stopped caring because he doesn’t feel needed. He does not realize that by finding someone who needs him, he can shake off his depression and be motivated again.


Not to be needed is a slow death for a man.


When a man doesn’t feel he is making a positive difference in someone else’s life, it is hard for him to continue caring about his life and relationships. It is difficult to be motivated when he is not needed. To become motivated again he needs to feel appreciated, trusted, and accepted. Not to be needed is a slow death for a man.


A woman falling in love with a man is similar to what took place when the first Venusian believed that the Martians were coming. She dreamed that a fleet of spaceships from the heavens would land and a race of strong and caring Martians would emerge. These beings would not need nurturing but instead wanted to provide for and take care of the Venusians.

These Martians were very devoted and were inspired by the Venusian beauty and culture. The Martians recognized that their power and competence were meaningless without someone to serve. These wondrous and admirable beings had found relief and inspiration in the promise of serving, pleasing, and fulfilling the Venusians. What a miracle!

Other Venusians had similar dreams and instantly came out of their depressions. The realization that transformed the Venusians was the belief that help was on the way because the Martians were coming. The Venusians had been depressed because they felt isolated and alone. To come out of depression they needed to feel that loving help was on the way.

Most men have little awareness of how important it is to a woman to feel supported by someone who cares. Women are happy when they believe their needs will be met. When a woman is upset, overwhelmed, confused, exhausted, or hopeless what she needs most is simple companionship. She needs to feel she is not alone. She needs to feel loved and cherished.

Empathy, understanding, validation, and compassion go a long way to assist her in becoming more receptive and appreciative of his support. Men don’t realize this because their Martian instincts tell them it’s best to be alone when they are upset. When she is upset, out of respect he will leave her alone, or if he stays he makes matters worse by trying to solve her problems. He does not instinctively realize how very important closeness, intimacy, and sharing are to her. What she needs most is just someone to listen.

Through sharing her feelings she begins to remember that she is worthy of love and that her needs will be fulfilled. Doubt and mistrust melt away. Her tendency to be compulsive relaxes as she remembers that she is worthy of love—she doesn’t have to earn it; she can relax, give less, and receive more. She deserves it.


A woman’s tendency to be compulsive relaxes as she remembers that she is worthy of love—she doesn’t have to earn it; she can relax, give less, and receive more. She deserves it.


Too Much Giving Is Tiring

To deal with their depression the Venusians were busy sharing their feelings and talking about their problems. As they talked they discovered the cause of their depression. They were tired of giving so much all the time. They resented always feeling responsible for one another. They wanted to relax and just be taken care of for a while. They were tired of sharing everything with others. They wanted to be special and possess things that were their own. No longer were they satisfied being martyrs and living for others.

On Venus, they lived by a lose/win philosophy—“I lose so that you can win.” As long as everyone made sacrifices for others, then everyone was taken care of. But after doing this for centuries the Venusians were tired of always caring about one another and sharing everything. They also were ready for a win/win philosophy.

Similarly, many women today are also tired of giving. They want time off. Time to explore being themselves. Time to care about themselves first. They want someone to provide emotional support, someone they don’t have to take care of. The Martians fit the bill perfectly.

At this point the Martians were learning to give while the Venusians were now ready to learn how to receive. After centuries the Venusians and Martians had reached an important stage in their evolution. The Venusians needed to learn how to receive while the Martians needed to learn how to give.

This same change commonly takes place in men and women as they mature. In her younger years, a woman is much more willing to sacrifice and mold herself to fulfill her partner’s needs. In a man’s younger years, he is much more self-absorbed and unaware of the needs of others. As a woman matures she realizes how she may have been giving up herself in order to please her partner. As a man matures he realizes how he can better serve and respect others.

As a man matures he also learns that he may be giving up himself, but his major change is becoming more aware of how he can succeed in giving. Likewise, as a woman matures she also learns new strategies for giving, but her major change tends to be learning to set limits in order to receive what she wants.

Giving Up Blame

When a woman realizes she has been giving too much, she tends to blame her partner for their unhappiness. She feels the injustice of giving more than she has received.

Although she has not received what she deserved, to improve her relationships she needs to recognize how she contributed to the problem. When a woman gives too much she should not blame her partner. Similarly, a man who gives less should not blame his partner for being negative or unreceptive to him. In both cases, blaming does not work.

Understanding, trust, compassion, acceptance, and support are the solution, not blaming our partners. When this situation occurs, instead of blaming his female partner for being resentful, a man can be compassionate and offer his support even if she doesn’t ask for it, listen to her even if at first it sounds like blame, and help her to trust and open up to him by doing little things for her to show that he cares.

Instead of blaming a man for giving less, a woman can accept and forgive her partner’s imperfections, especially when he disappoints her, trust that he wants to give more when he doesn’t offer his support, and encourage him to give more by appreciating what he does give and continuing to ask for his support.


Most important, however, a woman needs to recognize her boundaries of what she can give without resenting her partner. Instead of expecting her partner to even the score, she needs to keep it even by regulating how much she gives.

Let’s look at an example. Jim was thirty-nine and his wife, Susan, was forty-one when they came for counseling. Susan wanted a divorce. She complained that she had been giving more than he had for twelve years and could not take it any more. She blamed Jim for being lethargic, selfish, controlling, and unromantic. She said she had nothing left to give and was ready to leave. He convinced her to come to therapy, but she was doubtful. In a six-month period they were able to move through the three steps for healing a relationship. Today they are happily married with three children.

Step 1: Motivation

I explained to Jim that his wife was experiencing twelve years of accumulated resentment. If he wanted to save this marriage, he would have to do a lot of listening for her to be motivated to work on their marriage. For the first six sessions together, I encouraged Susan to share her feelings and helped Jim patiently to understand her negative feelings. This was the hardest part of their healing process. As he began to really hear her pain and unfulfilled needs, he became increasingly motivated and confident that he could make the changes necessary to have a loving relationship.

Before Susan could be motivated to work on their relationship, she needed to be heard and feel that Jim validated her feelings: this was the first step. After Susan felt understood, they were able to proceed to the next step.

Step 2: Responsibility

The second step was taking responsibility. Jim needed to take responsibility for not supporting his wife, while Susan needed to take responsibility for not setting boundaries. Jim apologized for the ways he had hurt her. Susan realized that just as he had stepped over her boundaries by treating her in disrespectful ways (such as yelling, grumbling, resisting requests, and invalidating feelings), she had not set her boundaries. Although she did not need to apologize, she did acknowledge some responsibility for their problems.

As she gradually accepted that her inability to set limits and her tendency to give more had contributed to their problems, she was able to be more forgiving. Taking responsibility for her problem was essential to releasing her resentment. In this way they both were motivated to learn new ways of supporting each other through respecting limits.

Step 3: Practice

Jim particularly needed to learn how to respect her boundaries, while Susan needed to learn how to set them. Both of them needed to learn how to express honest feelings in a respectful way. They agreed in this third step to practice setting and respecting limits, knowing that at times they would make mistakes. Being able to make mistakes gave them a safety net while they both practiced. These are some examples of what they learned and practiced:

· Susan practiced saying “I don’t like the way you are talking. Please stop yelling or I will leave the room.” After leaving the room a few times, she didn’t need to do it anymore.

· When Jim would make requests that she would later resent doing, she practiced saying “No, I need to relax” or “No, I’m too busy today.” She discovered that he was more attentive to her because he understood how busy or tired she was.

· Susan told Jim that she wanted to go on a vacation, and when he said he was too busy she said that she would go alone. Suddenly he shifted his schedule and wanted to go.

· When they talked and Jim interrupted, she practiced saying “I’m not finished, please hear me out.” Suddenly he started listening more and interrupting less.

· Susan’s most difficult task was to practice asking for what she wanted. She said to me, “Why should I have to ask, after all I have done for him?” I explained that making him responsible for knowing her wants was not only unrealistic but a big part of her problem. She needed to be responsible for getting her needs fulfilled.

· Jim’s most difficult challenge was to be respectful of her changes and not expect her to be the same accommodating partner he originally married. He recognized that it was as difficult for her to set limits as it was for him to adjust to them. He understood that they would become graceful as they had more practice.

As a man experiences limits, he is motivated to give more. Through respecting limits, he automatically is motivated to question the effectiveness of his behavior patterns and to start making changes. When a woman realizes that in order to receive she needs to set limits, then automatically she begins to forgive her partner and explore new ways of asking for and receiving support. When a woman sets limits, she gradually learns to relax and receive more.


Setting limits and receiving are very scary for a woman. She is commonly afraid of needing too much and then being rejected, judged, or abandoned. Rejection, judgment, and abandonment are most painful because deep inside her unconscious she holds the incorrect belief that she is unworthy of receiving more. This belief was formed and reinforced in childhood every time she had to suppress her feelings, needs, or wishes.

A woman is particularly vulnerable to the negative and incorrect belief that she doesn’t deserve to be loved. If as a child she witnessed abuse or was directly abused, then she is even more vulnerable to feeling unworthy of love; it is harder for her to determine her worth. Hidden in the unconscious, this feeling of unworthiness generates the fear of needing others. A part of her imagines that she will not be supported.

Because she is afraid of not being supported, she unknowingly pushes away the support she needs. When a man receives the message that she doesn’t trust him to fulfill her needs, then he feels immediately rejected and is turned off. Her hopelessness and mistrust transform her valid needs into desperate expressions of neediness and communicate to him the message that she doesn’t trust him to support her. Ironically, men are primarily motivated by being needed, but are turned off by neediness.

At such times, a woman mistakenly assumes that having needs has turned him off when in truth it is her hopelessness, desperation, and mistrust that has done so. Without recognizing that men need to be trusted, it is difficult and confusing for women to understand the difference between needing and neediness.

“Needing” is openly reaching out and asking for support from a man in a trusting manner, one that assumes that he will do his best. This empowers him. “Neediness,” however, is desperately needing support because you don’t trust you will get it. It pushes men away and makes them feel rejected and unappreciated.

For women, not only is needing others confusing but being disappointed or abandoned is especially painful, even in the smallest ways. It is not easy for her to depend on others and then be ignored, forgotten, or dismissed. Needing others puts her in a vulnerable position. Being ignored or disappointed hurts more because it affirms the incorrect belief that she is unworthy.

How the Venusians Learned to Feel Worthy

For centuries the Venusians compensated for this fundamental fear of unworthiness by being attentive and responsive to the needs of others. They would give and give, but deep inside they did not feel worthy of receiving. They hoped that by giving they would become more worthy. After centuries of giving they finally realized that they were worthy of receiving love and support. Then they looked back and realized that they had always been worthy of support.

This process of giving to others prepared them for the wisdom of self-esteem. Through giving to others they came to see that others truly were worthy of receiving, and thus they began to see that everyone deserved to be loved. Then, finally, they saw that they too deserved to receive.

Here on Earth, when a little girl experiences her mother receiving love, then automatically she feels worthy. She is able easily to overcome the Venusian compulsion to give too much. She doesn’t have to overcome a fear of receiving because she identifies so closely with her mother. If her mother has learned this wisdom then the child automatically learns it through observing and sharing her mother’s feelings. If the mother is open to receive, then the child learns how to receive.

The Venusians, however, did not have role models, so it took them thousands of years to give up their compulsive giving. Through gradually seeing that others were worthy of receiving, they realized that they also were worthy of receiving. At that magical moment the Martians also went through a transformation and began building spaceships.

When the Venusian Is Ready the Martian Will Appear

When a woman realizes that she truly deserves to be loved, she is opening the door for a man to give to her. But when it takes her ten years of overgiving in a marriage to realize that she deserves more, ironically, she feels like closing the door and not giving him the chance. She may feel something like this: “I have given to you and you have ignored me. You had your chance. I deserve better. I can’t trust you. I am too tired, I have nothing left to give. I will not let you hurt me again.”

Repeatedly, when this is the case, I have assured women that they don’t have to give more to have a better relationship. Their partner actually will give them more if they give less. When a man has been ignoring her needs, it is as though they have both been asleep. When she wakes up and remembers her needs, he also wakes up and wants to give her more.


When she wakes up and remembers her needs, he also wakes up and wants to give her more.


Predictably, her partner will wake up from his passive state and truly make many of the changes she requires. When she is no longer giving too much, because she is feeling worthy inside herself, he comes out of his cave and starts building spaceships to come and make her happy. It may take him a while actually to learn to give her more, but the most important step is taken—he is aware that he has neglected her and he wants to change.

It also works the other way around. Usually when a man realizes that he is unhappy and wants more romance and love in his life, his wife will suddenly begin to open up and love him again. The walls of resentment begin to melt, and love comes back to life. If there has been a lot of neglect it may take a while truly to heal all the accumulated resentments, but it is possible. In chapter 11, I will discuss easy and practical techniques to heal these resentments.

Quite often, when one partner makes a positive change the other will also change. This predictable coincidence is one of those magical things about life. When the student is ready the teacher appears. When the question is asked then the answer is heard. When we are truly ready to receive then what we need will become available. When the Venusians were ready to receive, the Martians were ready to give.


A man’s deepest fear is that he is not good enough or that he is incompetent. He compensates for this fear by focusing on increasing his power and competence. Success, achievement, and efficiency are foremost in his life. Before they discovered the Venusians, the Martians were so concerned with these qualities that they didn’t care about anything or anybody else. A man appears most uncaring when he is afraid.


A man’s deepest fear is that he is not good enough or that he is incompetent.


Just as women are afraid of receiving, men are afraid of giving. To extend himself in giving to others means to risk failure, correction, and disapproval. These consequences are most painful because deep inside his unconscious he holds an incorrect belief that he is not good enough. This belief was formed and reinforced in childhood every time he thought he was expected to do better. When his accomplishments went unnoticed or were unappreciated, deep in his unconscious he began forming the incorrect belief that he was not good enough.


Just as women are afraid of receiving, men are afraid of giving.


A man is particularly vulnerable to this incorrect belief. It generates within him the fear of failing. He wants to give but is afraid he will fail, so he doesn’t try. If his biggest fear is inadequacy, he naturally is going to avoid any unnecessary risks.

Ironically, when a man really cares a lot his fear of failure increases, and he gives less. To avoid failure he stops giving to the people he wants to give to the most.

When a man is insecure he may compensate by not caring about anybody except himself. His most automatic defensive response is to say “I don’t care.” For this reason, the Martians did not let themselves feel or care too much for others. By becoming successful and powerful they finally realized that they were good enough and that they could succeed in giving. They then discovered the Venusians.

Although they had always been good enough, the process of proving their power prepared them for the wisdom of selfesteem. Through becoming successful and then looking back, they realized that their every failure was necessary to achieve their later successes. Every mistake had taught them a very important lesson necessary to achieve their goals. Thus they realized they had always been good enough.

It Is OK to Make Mistakes

The first step for a man in learning how to give more is to realize that it is OK to make mistakes and it is OK to fail and that he doesn’t have to have all the answers.

I remember the story of a woman who complained that her partner would never make a commitment to marriage. To her it seemed that he did not care as much as she did. One day, however, she happened to say that she was so happy being with him. Even if they were poor, she would want to be with him. The next day he proposed. He needed the acceptance and encouragement that he was good enough for her, and then he could feel how much he cared.

Martians Need Love Too

Just as women are sensitive to feeling rejected when they don’t get the attention they need, men are sensitive to feeling that they have failed when a woman talks about problems. This is why it is so hard for him to listen sometimes. He wants to be her hero. When she is disappointed or unhappy over anything, he feels like a failure. Her unhappiness confirms his deepest fear: he is just not good enough. Many women today don’t realize how vulnerable men are and how much they need love too. Love helps him to know that he is enough to fulfill others.


It is difficult for a man to listen to a woman when she is unhappy or disappointed because he feels like a failure.


A young boy who is fortunate enough to see his father succeed in fulfilling his mother enters relationships as an adult with a rare confidence that he can succeed in fulfilling his partner. He is not terrified of commitment because he knows he can deliver. He also knows that when he doesn’t deliver he is still adequate and still deserves love and appreciation for doing his best. He does not condemn himself because he knows he is not perfect and that he is always doing his best and his best is good enough. He is able to apologize for his mistakes because he expects forgiveness, love, and appreciation for doing his best.

He knows that everyone makes mistakes. He saw his father make mistakes and continue to love himself. He witnessed his mother loving and forgiving his father through all his mistakes. He felt her trust and encouragement, even though at times his father had disappointed her.

Many men did not have successful role models while they were growing up. For them staying in love, getting married, and having a family is as difficult as flying a jumbo jet without any training. He may be able to take off, but he is sure to crash. It is difficult to continue flying once you have crashed the plane a few times. Or if you witnessed your father crash. Without a good training manual for relationships, it is easy to understand why many men and women give up on relationships.