John Gray on his book, Why Mars and Venus Collide

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After a stressful day, you need help at home. He just wants to chill. So while you prepare dinner, do the laundry, straighten up, and bathe the kids — yet again — he’s watching the news. Meanwhile, you’re getting angry.

Sound familiar? If so, you’re like every other couple in America, says best-selling author John Gray (Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus).

In his latest book, Why Mars and Venus Collide: Improving Relationships by Understanding How Men and Women Cope Differently with Stress , he describes the epidemic of stress plaguing us today — and what men and women can do to meet in the middle for stress relief, while respecting gender differences.

WebMD recently spoke with Gray. Here’s what he had to say:

Q. What are women’s biggest complaints about their male partners today, and what are men’s biggest complaints about their female partners?

A. The biggest complaints women have about men is that men don’t listen, they stop being romantic, and they don’t help out with chores. Men say that nothing they do is ever good enough.

Q. Everyone agrees that couples are all under a lot of stress these days. But are we really that different from other generations — say, those who lived through world wars?

A. We are under the greatest stress that’s ever been in recorded history. … We live in a sea of stress, and it’s a new cause that really goes unrecognized. Gradually, in the last century, more and more women have become co-providers. Never in history have women been the providers in a family situation. They were always the nurturers, the homemakers.

Q. Are women under more stress than men these days?

A. Women have twice as much stress. Cortisol levels (stress hormones) are twice as high when she walks into the house, because she’s thinking about all the problems she has to solve and all the things she has to do.

Q. Why don’t men just pitch in?

A. Men are not instinctively motivated to help out around the house. Men are motivated to do things that produce testosterone. As soon as romance?

A. Inertia sets into marriage and long-term relationships. The man will stop planning dates. Instead, he’ll wait until Friday or Saturday night, and he’ll ask his wife what she wants to do. He thinks he’s being the most wonderful, loving partner he can imagine. Because in a man’s mind, if she said, “What would you like to do?” and she said, “Whatever you want?” that would be great. That’s what he would want, but what women are looking for is a man with a plan. She needs to know that someone is attending to her needs and taking action for her, so that’s one less thing she has to do for herself.

Men don’t understand that because men do whatever they want, basically. Particularly after a hard day at work [where] they’ve sacrificed and yielded their wishes all day long to make money for their family, now they’re ready to come home and do what they want. He knows that earning money is a fire that he has to put out. But he does not realize that he has to be romantic. He doesn’t understand that that is a necessity, as a major oxytocin-producing activity. And women don’t want to ask for it, because they say that’s not romantic. That’s a hurdle that women have to overcome.