Why Mars & Venus Collide (review: 3/5)

Why Mars & Venus Colllide is about stress and communication between men and women. Our modern lifestyle is breakneck-paced, relationship roles have changed, our responsibilities and stress levels grow as our time to deal with them decreases. Welcome to today, nothing new. So what do you do?
According to John Gray, the first step is to wake up and realize that men and women have different biochemistry going on, stress affects our chemicals in different ways, and we recover from stress and replenish ourselves in different ways. But we’re clueless: “Women mistakenly expect men to react and behave the way women do, while men continue to misunderstand what women really need.”

We each feel better when our personal chemical stockpiles are filled up. This is how it works: in a nutshell, women de-stress by talking, connecting, processing, sharing their ills—which restores oxytocin. Men de-stress by zoning out, shifting gears, detaching from the day’s troubles—which allows testosterone reserves to fill up again. These seem like competing solutions.

Women can’t just shut down and forget about it for a little while like men. Going ninja and crossing more items off the to-do list doesn’t work, either, because “in a woman’s brain there will always be more to do.” They need to talk—it’s biological. They’re wired to process and men need to respond:

Without understanding this, a man’s testosterone levels would drop when he passively listens to his partner’s feelings or her resistance to his action plans. Just listening to her feelings seems a no-win situation. When women talk about problems, men start to become restless, irritable, and then depressed… Men need to learn the art of listening without interrupting to solve her problems.

And when men convert to seeing attentive listening as a problem-solver in itself… then we’re on to something. Man gets the satisfaction of “doing something,” woman gets the satisfaction of being heard.

A man’s desire to make a woman happy is greatly underestimated by women, because women have such different motivations.

The rest of the book is about exploring these differences and finding sensible compromises that allow each partner to relax and emote in healthy ways. Gray paints with a pretty broad brush, but anecdotally, most of it squares with experience. I like this bit on the relationship scoreboard:

“At a subconscious level, a woman is always keeping track of how much she gives in contrast to how much she receives. When he gives to her, she gives him a point, and when she gives to him, she gives herself a point.” And this begins an extended and probably-not-intentionally hilarious section on how to “rack up the points on Venus,” even providing a “One Hundred Ways…” list that would be at home here on the internet.

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