ARE MEN REALLY FROM MARS AND WOMEN FROM VENUS?
I was only a sophomore in high school when John Gray’s book Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus was first published, but I remember the Shabbat table conversations that ensued almost weekly as a result. It seemed that everybody bought into the notion suggested by Gray that men and women are so different, it is akin to them having come from different planets. Contemporary research on relationships has shown that the reality is far more complex. In his book The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, Gottman points out that “The determining factor in whether wives feel satisfied with the sex, romance, and passion in their marriage is, by 70%, the quality of the couple’s friendship. For men, the determining factor is, by 70%, the quality of the couple’s friendship. So men and women come from the same planet after all.”
The truth is that gender differences in many areas are relatively small, and there is much more variation between individual people than there is between genders. Therefore, focusing primarily on gender differences when dealing with our partner tends to oversimplify things, leading to less, not more, understanding of one another.
It is with this preamble that I highly recommend one of Gottman’s (co-authored with two women) other books The Man’s Guide to Women. I was initially surprised to see Gottman put out a book which does not focus on mutual understanding, but instead focuses specifically on men better understanding women. But as I read through the book, I came to appreciate its importance and credibility. Gottman highlights two proven realities: most men are loath to ask for directions (when driving, as well as when navigating relationships!), and, most relationship books are written for women. Equally true is that every husband “want desperately to understand how to love his wife, make her happy, and ensure that she will desire and want him forever. He wants to fight less, play more, know how his wife’s brain works, what makes her heart beat faster, and how to be the kind of man she needs him to be.”
I suggest that husbands and wives read this book together. Allow it to guide you as partners to discover where your unique (or not so unique) relational differences lie. This book is written in an easy-to-read style with humor, visuals, and cartoons.
In the first chapter of Genesis, God creates man – אָדָ֛ם – and directs male and female to procreate – זָכָ֥ר וּנְקֵבָ֖ה בָּרָ֥א אֹתָֽם… פְּר֥וּ וּרְב֛וּ וּמִלְא֥וּ אֶת־הָאָ֖רֶץ. In the second chapter of Genesis, God creates woman אִשָּׁ֑ה, and it is in this chapter that God leaves the utilitarian directive of chapter one and focuses instead on the relational aspects of the couple. It is in this chapter that God highlights the individual needs for friendship, support, companionship, and unconditional love-לֹא־ט֛וֹב הֱי֥וֹת הָֽאָדָ֖ם לְבַדּ֑וֹ אֶֽעֱשֶׂה־לּ֥וֹ עֵ֖זֶר כְּנֶגְדּֽוֹ. Gottman’s research supports that which God told us long ago – men AND women need friendship in their relationship in order for it to thrive.