Pop psychology drivel from the 90’s? You gotta be kidding me, right?
Why on Earth would I be reviewing Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus, two decades after it was released?
Here’s the thing about pop psychology. The fact that it’s considered “pop” means it gets a boatload of buzz and then, as quickly as it came, it becomes yesterday’s news. But that’s akin to throwing out the baby with the bath water because psychology, pop or not, is built upon the study of humans, who change very little, all things considered, over the course of a few decades.
I came across Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus in the bookstore and had the same reaction you probably had when you read the title of this post, I chuckled at the thought. However, because it’s my job to suffer on your behalf, I read the damned thing. And, you know what? I thought it was great.
And it has seriously helped in my own relationship, at least for a few weeks.
So what’s it all about, then?
The obvious gist of the book is that men think one way and women think another. This much you probably already know as MAFMWAFV was originally published in 1993 and, for a while, it seemed like no one could shut up about it. What you may not know is that it’s a supremely well-thought-out roadmap to relationships between men and women (sorry, no advice here for Mars+Mars or Venus+Venus).
See if this fits you, MAM, when there’s a problem to be solved you are inclined to retreat to your “cave”, as author John Gray puts it. Inside your cave, you will focus on that one issue until you’ve achieved some sense of a solution. If you find you need help, you will damn-well ask for it.
Women, on the other hand, tend to reach outward for a solution. They want to talk through their troubles with compassionate listeners. Often, that’s supposed to be you.
The fundamental premise of the book is that these two systems are perfectly acceptable but neither men nor women seem to understand that the other has a system completely different than theirs. Women want you to talk about your troubles and you might want them to, um, not talk quite so much.
When you start to get huffy because you feel like she doesn’t appreciate the things you do for her, even though you forgot to take out the garbage, you might step back and consider that she keeps score in a completely different way than you do, and it’s not something she does deliberately.
Or when you think she’s trying to change you, well, she is… but it’s in a loving way. Making suggestions and wanting to see you improve is her way of showing you that she loves you deeply. Knowing how she communicates will save your ego and make you love her more.
I haven’t read a thing about this book as I wanted to write my own thoughts, not rehash what I found on the intertubes. But I’m going to guess this book gets a lot of flack for its bias toward men, not to mention the fact that it was written at precisely the time the “politically correct” movement was transforming the way we communicate. Make no mistake, it’s strongly slanted in a male direction.
But there’s really useful information for women in here, too. In fact, I’ve asked my fiancee to read it and gotten a lot of blow-back as a result, though she’s at least committed herself to reading it but not on any sort of a time frame. For starters, she’s a psychotherapist and bristled immediately at the thought of me reading a pop therapy book, especially one published in 1993.
Secondly, she, like so many of us, thinks she knows what it’s all about when, in fact, she has no idea. And, in case it’s not immediately clear, I had no idea either. If you think you know, you are probably in for a surprise.
As I stumbled across page after page of descriptions and case studies that sounded as though John Gray has been standing in our house taking notes, I realized just how predictable I really am. And just how predictable my partner is. And how he provides the tools to work through all of our predictable patterns and achieve some kind of mastery over this whole man+woman thing.
Over the course of the last few weeks (with a few notable exceptions) I’ve been using the tiny bit of the knowledge I’ve gleaned from MAFMWAFV and it has made a huge difference. But here’s the rub, she hasn’t yet read it! So sometimes it feels like pushing string. But if I can get her to read it, we can work together toward that mastery. I have to tell you, I’d like that…
The nitty of the gritty
Here’s my advice to you, fellow Middle-Aged Man, if you’re currently in a relationship that could use a little push to get back on the rails, see if you can get your partner to commit to also reading it. If the two of you can share the concepts, I can almost guarantee you an improvement in your life together.
If you’re single, it’s also a solid read. Knowing more about the dynamics of a relationship before you start another one will only serve you in the end (that and learning to listen will probably score you more dates).
How many ways do you want it?
John Gray has created an empire out of this one concept, so there’s no shortage of ways to digest it. There’s the Kindle version, the audio version, and the interactive version. And then on John Gray’s author page, there are about fifty variations on the theme.
I suggest you go get yourself a copy. And, frankly, I suggest you get the Kindle version so no one can read the title and give you that condescending look…