Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus
Gray’s primary message is that men and
women have such different needs and expectations that they may as well
be from different planets. His assertion is that it is a failure
to understand how the other loves and expects to be loved that is the
main reason for the difficulties with relationships and marraige in our
present culture. We give what we would want, not what they
want. He has empirical evidence, repeated throughout the book,
that understanding (coupled with a desire to love each other) has
changed and saved many relationships, often overnight.
Gray’s observation of men is that men value themselves through
achievement. They want to solve problems and build great
things. They think that problems are opportunities for a
solution. If the problems are too big to solve, they go off by
themselves and do something to forget about it. But,
deep down, men fear that they are not good enough or not competent, and
consequently desire to be needed and trusted. Women, on the other
hand, value themselves through the depth of their relationships. They intuit others needs and automatically give of themselves to help. Their deep fear is they are not worthy of love. They give freely,
too much even, but are afraid to receive, because to need someone and be
rejected by them would validate that they are no worthy of love. Consequently, women want to be cherished and have their feelings
The application of these principles is that our natural reactions tend
to be the opposite of what the other needs. When a woman tries to
change a man, he perceives that she thinks he is broken and in need of
fixing and resists her. She perceives him as unwilling to change
because he does not love her. To change a man, the best way is to
do nothing and accept him for who he is. Likewise, when she gets
upset with him for being late, he feels that he has failed, or if she
is trying to help out by suggesting, often obvious, things he feels
that she does not trust him to accomplish the task himself. Similarly, when men offer advice to women instead of just listening and
understanding them, women think that men do not care about their
feelings. Men are also apt to try to fix the women’s problems by
explaining why they are not important, not realizing that the problem
is not the problems but the not knowing which is the problem. Or
they will half-listen or not say anything, because, to them, these are
little, easily solved problems. But it does not reassure the
woman that her feelings are valid so she perceives a message that her
feelings are not important.
Emotional stress also highlights the differences between the
sexes. Somewhat naturally solitary, men will retreat to their
“cave” to forget about their problems during times of emotional
stress. Women, on the other hand tend to be overwhelmed by a
million things but do not know what is really bothering them, so they
want to talk about it because by talking to someone else it clarifies
to themselves what the problem really is. Unfortunately men think
women are looking for answers (because that is the only time men tell
other men their problems) instead of just understanding and
empathy. Likewise, women feel ignored when men retreat (because a
woman would not retreat from another except if they did not care) and
try coax him back instead of going off and doing something else while
he gets over his problems.
Just as men and women have different emotion needs, so they have
different emotional cycles. Gray describes men as “rubber-bands”
because men realize their need for another and come close but have a
sort of intimacy threshold which, when reached, will cause them to
retreat before they lose themselves. After being autonomous for a
while, they will realize their desire for intimacy and come back with a
higher threshold. A man needs to retreat before he can be more
intimate (and if he does not or is not allow to retreat, he will become
less intimate) Women are scared by this because usually something they
say or do triggers the threshold and the man starts pulling away. Their efforts to get him back fail (in fact, push him away) and they
fear they have lost him somehow. Their challenge is to not assume
that he needs to talk (like a woman would) but just wait and trust that
he will be back. When he starts coming back he will be ready for
Women are described as “waves” since their self-esteem rises and falls
in a periodic motion. When they are rising, women will be very
loving and giving, but unexpectedly they crash and begin feeling
hopeless or unloved. Afterwards they rise again and start that
cycle anew. Men assume that a woman’s mood is based on his
behavior. So when she rises he thinks he is doing the right
thing, but then she falls and he was not doing anything
different. He may feel that she should be more steady (which
would make her less loving), or try to pull her up when she is
down. Instead she needs to be supported (which may make her feel
worse initially). Men need to realize that women’s moods are not
dependent on them and that she is not broken when she is down, does not
need to be fixed, and will come back up by herself.
Gray also raises a number of less fundamental points. One
well-known one is that women appreciate all acts of love about equally
(something as small as holding the door for her might weigh as much as
a vacation) while men tend to award points in large chunks (including
for not doing things, like not pointing out too loudly that he forgot
something). However, he also includes a section on motivating the
opposite sex, which mainly suggests that men do not automatically
understand what a woman needs, so she needs to ask them to do things,
appreciating him when he does them, and gradually they will learn to
see them for himself. Finally, he notes that relationships have a
spring-summer-autumn-winter-like cycle, where love cycles between easy
Men Are From Mars, Women Are From
Venus contains all the basic principles needed for healthy
relationships, conveniently packaged with a very conversational style
and peppered with many suggestions and illustrations. While the
book is quite informative and eminently practical, Gray seems to ignore
our fundamentally selfish nature. It seems a bit to simplistic to
expect that merely giving each other what they want will undo years of
misunderstanding, as his illustrations seem to imply. Similarly,
however healing writing love letters (often not delivered) which
describe your fears, pains, and reaffirm your love can be, it would be
simplistic to assert that they will solve current or childhood
hurts. The topic of a solution is not discussed; the
release of the emotional energy appears to be solution enough for
Gray. However, there is so much worth remembering in the book,
especially some of the practical applications, that simply cannot be
absorbed on one reading. Singles who are not dating will probably
want to re-read this book at some point in the middle of their next
relationship, and educators teaching sex-education would likely find
Gray’s material to be more needed than the current curriculum.
A bit too chatty and coloquial in
style, but as I found myself at a loss to absorb all the useful
information and the style does make the book easy to read, it falls
only a little short of the highest marks.
My edition had a number of
magazine-like quotations in the middle of the page. They were
annoying when reading the book, but they make a good summary of Gray’s
- We mistakenly assume that if our partners love us they will react
and behave in certain ways—the ways we react and behave when we love
- A man’s sense of self is defined through his ability to achieve
- To offer a man unsolicited advice is to presume that he doesn’t
know what to do or that he can’t do it on his own.
- A woman’s sense of self is defined through her feelings and the
quality of her relationships.
- When our partner resists us it is probably because we have made a
mistake in our timing or approach.
- A man wants to make improvements when he feels he is being
approached as the solution to a problem rather than as the problem
- To feel better Martians go to their caves to solve problems
alone. ... To feel better Venusians get together and openly talk
about their problems.
- Men are motivated and empowered when
they feel needed... Women are motivated and empowered when they feel cherished.
- 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.
- Not to be needed is slow death for a man.
- A woman’s tendency to be compulsive [in giving of herself]
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
- When she wakes up and remembers her needs, he also wakes up and
wants to give her more. [i.e. women need to not give too much,
otherwise they will become emotionally tired.]
- A man’s deepest fear is that he is not good enough of that he is
- Just as women are afraid of receiving, men are afraid of giving.
- It is difficult for a man to listen to a woman when she is
unhappy or disappointed because he feels like a failure.
- To fully express their feelings, women assume poetic license to
use various superlatives, metaphors, and generalizations [i.e. don’t
take them literally]
- The number one complain women have in relationships is “I don’t
feel heard.” Even this complaint is misunderstood by men!
- The biggest challenge for women is to correctly interpret and
support a man when he isn’t
talking. ... When a man is silent it is easy for a woman to
imagine the worst.
- Never go into a man’s cave or you will be burned by the dragon!
- It is very difficult for a man to differentiate between empathy
and sympathy. He hates to be pitied.
- A woman should not be judged for needing [reassurance that she is
loved] just as a man should not be judged for needing to withdraw.
- When a man loves a woman, periodically he needs to pull away
before he can get closer. ... A man automatically alternates between
needing intimacy and autonomy. ... To a certain extent a man loses himself through connecting
with his partner. ... The man grows to understand his own cycles and
reassures her when he pulls away that he will be back.
- A woman’s self-esteem rises and falls like a wave. When she
hits bottom it is a time for emotional housecleaning. ... When negative feelings are surpressed positive feelings become
surpressed as well, and love dies.
- Men argue for the right to be free while women argue for the
right to be upset. Men want space while women want
understanding. ... By supporting her need to be heard she
could support his need to be free.
- Men primarily need trust, acceptance, appreciation, admiration,
approval, and encouragement. Women primarily need caring,
understanding, respect, devotion, validation, and reassurance.
- A man commonly makes the mistake of thinking that once he has met
all of a woman’s primary love needs, and she feels happy and secure,
that she should know from then on that she is loved.
- The secret of empowering a man is never to try to change him or
- Men rarely say “I’m sorry” because on Mars it means you have done
something wrong and are apologizing [while women use it to mean] “I
care about what you are feeling”.
- Most arguments escalate when a man begins to invalidate a woman’s
feelings and she responds to him disapprovingly.
- The most common way women unknowingly start arguments is by not
being direct when they share their feelings.
- On Venus their motto is “Love is never having to ask!”
- If a woman is not asking for support a man assumes he is giving
- When a man hears a demanding tone, no matter how politely you
phrase your request, all he hears is that he is not giving
enough. His tendency is then to give less until you appreciate
what he is already giving. ... When asking a man for support
[e.g. doing something for you], assume that he doesn’t have to be
convinced. ... Men are much more willing to say yes if they
have the freedom to say no.
- When you ask a man for support and you do not reject him for
saying no, he will remember that, and next time he will be much more
willing to give.
- When a man grumbles it is a good sign—he is trying to consider
your request versus his needs.
- One of the key elements of assertive asking is to remain silent
after you have asked for support.
- It is a paradox: because you feel safe with your partner,
your deepest fears have a chance to surface. When they surface
you become afraid and are unable to share what you feel.
Copyright © 2003 by Geoffrey Prewett