Book review: Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, by John Gray

Title: Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus: A practical guide for improving communication and getting what you want in your relationships
Author: John Gray
Edition: HarperCollins, 1992

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10 years from first hearing about this book from my ex-boyfriend, I finally encountered it at a thrift store and grabbed the deal.

The book’s subtitle promises “a practical guide”, and there are no disappointments. This is indeed a ‘how-to’ book, offering a whole package of strategies for verbal communication in intimate, heterosexual relationships. The step-by-step approach is a lifesaver for anyone who is confused, frustrated or helpless.

In my opinion, the book offers very valid suggestions. The ‘translations’ between men and women language is fun, but also has its truth. There are, of course, simplifications and stereotyping, but they are for clarity. It is a reflection of the yinyang of communication, rooted in two polarities and constantly interacting. It is the way of interaction that matters.

All of the author’s advice comes down to three themes:

1. Neither men nor women want any advice from their other half. The Martian (man) wants to be trusted, and the Venusian (woman) wants to be understood. 

2. It is the delivery that matters. The stance is minor.

3. Love equals needs. When our needs are met, we feel loved. Therefore, good communication addresses needs.

On p.133, the author writes about the six primary love needs of women and men:

Women: care, understanding, respect, devotion, validation, reassurance
Men: trust, acceptance, appreciation, admiration, approval, encouragement

Some of these needs are very similar but have different nuances. This is a list to memorise. Bear in mind the needs of the target audience (your other half), and design your interaction accordingly. For example, I know my husband hates when I suggest that he brings an extra jacket, as all men do. To women it’s a sign of care, while to men it’s a vote of no-confidence. With this understanding, I make up with better delivery.

The book is yet again another reminder that love is not anything glamorous or virtuous. The feeling of love coincides with the lighting up of the brain’s reward circuit. To feel loved is to feel rewarded, to feel that our needs have been met.

Therefore, companionship is to be set up for both parties to meet their needs. The many facets, such as schedules, environment, expectations, finances and principles, have to be expressed, received and adapted to create a harmonious life for both. With young children, this process is a one-way observation (learning); with adults, the cycle becomes two-way, for which is termed as ‘communication’.