Each year, couples around the world reiterate their love February 14, celebrating the fact that they’ve maintained their feelings for each other for another year, with few hiccups. We’ve always known understanding and managing personal relationships has been tougher for men and women than a work relationship. Why?
Because, over time, our expectations of our partners have not only changed but increased, explains the guru of love and author of the super-seller Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus, Dr John Gray.
“I’ve been teaching gender differences for over 30 years, and more and more differences between men and women begin to show up because never before have we expected so much,” says Gray, who will be in Dubai on February 26. “A loving romantic relationship is the ultimate antidote to our high-stress lives. Because we are more stressed, we come home looking for more happiness in our personal relationships”.
Stress on stress
On this tour, Gray says he will speak on how men and women are physiologically different — brain differences, hormone differences and how stress affects them differently.
“I’ve seen again and again that women’s complaints in relationships are very different from men. I help both to understand what those complaints are, so they can provide a better kind of support to each other. I help women understand what is realistic in terms of what you can get in a relationship and men to interpret women in a way so they can be naturally motivated to provide the kind of support women need to help cope with the modern stresses.”
In Men are from Mars..., Gray has discussed several issues — reacting under stress, dealing with depression, decision-making and appreciating each other’s efforts, to name a few. Issues, he feels, will never change in relationships. The only thing that will change is how we handle them.
“For thousands of years men and women have understood that we are different, that we live in two different worlds. And we’ve made peace with that. The closer we get, the more important it is [for us] to recognise our differences in a positive way and see how we can interrelate and become more interdependent — more intimate — than ever before. However the closer you get with someone, the greater is the chance of having someone step on your feet. So, it’s imperative to have a more positive way of understanding our differences and let go of old-fashioned stereotypes that imply a lack of gender equality. Also, with greater gender equality, there is a greater need for gender intelligence — that is, to be able to discern and discriminate and recognise the differences between men and women.”
Me time or our time?
Now that both men and women are working equal hours of time, women too wish the same kind of support and love men have always expected. How much more have men become “giving”?
“Actually this question implies a falsehood. This question implies that women want the same kind of love and support from a man that she gives — that she has traditionally given to her man. That’s the problem today. As women want more, men give the kind of support, that a man would want,” he says.
Gray explains how. Often a man when he comes home, wants to be ignored or be left alone for a while. But, a woman does not. If he understands that a woman’s needs are different, that participating and listening to and sharing with her, is a way of showing love to her, he will be motivated to do that. But men don’t have the necessary instructions to provide this new kind of support women want.
“Yes, it is true that women, being more in the workplace, require new kind of support but it is not even close to the kind of support men need or have been getting for centuries from women. Basically, we have to do a general overhaul on our skills in relationship if we want them to work, which is why there’s so much of divorce in the modern world”.
Talk, not fight
Fights are part of any relationship, whatever the era. And mostly we find one partner adopting silence, rather than arguing over an issue, to maintain peace in the relationship. Gray believes this need not necessarily be the answer to all problems — unless keeping silent to really listen to the other person.
“Well, maybe at some points silence is the best policy. What I do know is that yelling and screaming definitely doesn’t work. I think couples who are happily married don’t have painful arguments — they may have differences or little arguments but a real fight in a relationship builds a sense of lack of trust and passion goes away. If you want to keep passion alive, one has to learn to avoid fighting and have conversations where both people feel heard. Silence might imply not expressing how you feel or think and it doesn’t work because you start feeling suppressed in a relationship.
“Why so many relationships are failing today is also because people feel licensed to express whatever they think and feel, instead of realising that as we grow in consciousness, with a sense of entitlement for more, we want to express who we are. That’s a true need, but we have to learn how to express ourselves in a way that doesn’t offend or hurt others.”
Grounded in time
Gray has authored 15 other bestselling books on relationships but holds Men are from Mars... as his “foundation book”.
“Because it was the result of more than 20 years of counselling, growing an insight, teaching these ideas. I still teach them, I still completely agree with them. Questions have come up like how to apply this to dating; to marriage; to starting over; or, how to apply the differences between men and women to boys and girls as a parent, so I’ve written more books answering these questions as they came up. But the actual behavioural skills and the solutions are still all contained in the original.”
With the change in gender status, in workplace and at home, if he were writing the book now would he write it differently?
“Well, I have to say — playfully — I’m from Mars, and on Mars we have a formula: if it works, don’t fix it,” Gray says. “This book has worked — and it has worked for 22 years now.”
Box: Meet John Gray
When: February 26, 5 to 9pm
Where: Ductac, Mall of the Emirates
How much: Dh645 per person
Registration: Log on to www.rightselection.com/events or call 04-3527803.
Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus: the film
“I am very happy with the movie. I enjoyed reading the script — I didn’t write it — but the script is based upon every scenario that’s in my book. I even came to tears many times; then laughed many times — as is the experience of many people who read my book. I’ve done my own critique of it. I’ve given my editorial suggestions which I think have made it a better movie. But while I am the source of the movie, credit should also go to the person who’s created the adapted screenplay because that’s something I wasn’t trained to do”.
Books or e-books?
“I’m very excited about e-books because people on an impulse, and immediately, can download a book. They don’t have to find it in a store. So I think people are more open to reading books that may be in a bookstore they wouldn’t want someone to see they are reading. For example, when Men are from Mars … first came out in America, it held the record of all time for the most stolen cassettes of any book. You know when you write a book you also do a CD of the author reading the book. And this was before the age of CDs, and bookstores have reported no product, ever in history, stolen other than the cassettes of Men are from Mars…. And the conclusion that bookstore owners reached was that men were embarrassed to be buying a book on relationships — they just put it in their coat pocket and walked out.
“So I think, today, with the availability of e-books, you can order whatever you want without being worried that the bookstore salesperson will be looking because men to some extent are still embarrassed to buy a book on relationships.”