I don’t know what triggered the thought, but my mind wandered back to the early 90s. There was a wildly popular book by Dr. John Gray, Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus. Karen read it and insisted I read it, too. I put it on my reading to do list. I still have that list somewhere.
I remember her giving me a chapter by chapter synopsis as she read it, which really meant I didn’t have to read it myself. It was her “a ha” moment, substantiating every thing she ever thought about male and female relationships.
From what I heard and gleaned from Cliff notes — remember, I never actually read the book myself — Dr. Gray works from the premise men and women have reciprocally different natures. Of course, anyone who has been married for any length of time already knows that. Men and women do, indeed, think differently … well, maybe not think, but certainly process things differently. It may be a generality, but men tend to seek approval for their abilities while women tend to seek approval for their feelings. In contrast, men don’t put much stock in feelings while women don’t value ability highly. Men like to work on their own and exercise their abilities by solving problems quickly and single-handedly; women like to cooperate and exercise their feelings through interactive communication with one another. Men value solutions and view unsolicited assistance as undermining their effort to solve problems alone; women value assistance and view unsolicited solutions as undermining their effort to proceed interactively. Men desire their solutions will be appreciated; women desire their assistance will be appreciated. When faced with tough problems, men go to their caves and women want to talk.
Yeah, that pretty much sums it up.
And of course, men and women speak differently. Generally, men are more literal and to the point, while women tend to skirt around the issues eating at them, using an often dramatic flair in dialogue that roams from Venus to Mars. Men like to sort their thoughts out before communicating them and have the tendency to become distant and non-communicative as they ponder their concerns. Women like to sort their thoughts out during the process of communicating them and have the tendency to pour forth a litany of general grievances as they relate their concerns. Men feel validated and gratified when they are left to sort things out by themselves and feel undermined by being offered sympathy or unsolicited assistance. Women feel validated and gratified by being offered sympathy or unsolicited assistance and feel undermined when they are left to sort things out by themselves.
And yet, with that being said, women never, ever want their problems solved by an interloping male. They just want someone to listen, not fix.
Deep inside every man is a knight in shining armor seeking a damsel in distress who will love him and shower him with trust, acceptance, appreciation, admiration, approval and encouragement. Deep inside every woman is a damsel in distress seeking a knight in shining armor who will love her and shower her with caring, understanding, respect, devotion, validation and reassurance.
Poor Dr. Gray was criticized for stereotyping … but through my 40 years of marriage I think he was on to something. A lot of what I was told he wrote seems to imitate our life experience pretty close.
I did pick up some nuggets along the way. The good doc said, “When a man can listen to a woman’s feelings without getting angry and frustrated, he gives her a wonderful gift. He makes it safe for her to express herself. The more she is able to express herself, the more she feels heard and understood and the more she is able to give a man the loving trust, acceptance, appreciation, admiration, approval and encouragement that he needs.” I think James Dobson said something similar.
That’s pretty good advice which I picked up along the way.
“Men are motivated when they feel needed while women are motivated when they feel cherished,” I’m told Dr. Gray wrote. More good logic to be incorporated into our life and love.
But I didn’t always get it right. When I first heard the title, I translated Venus as love and Mars as weird. I think I got the last part right, but I may have missed the mark on the first.
As Karen was reading the book early on, I, of course, misread her. I remember it vividly. With my foot still drooling from my mouth, I said with a wink, “Hey, Venus …”
She immediately knew where the conversation was heading. With a smirk and a dismissive wave of her hand, she said, “Not tonight, sweetheart. You haven’t come back from Mars yet.”
THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: A friend is a present you give yourself.