Book Review: Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus

My first surprise on picking up a copy of Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus is that it is written by a man. For one reason or another, it seems automatic to assume that the ‘relationship bible’, described as the best selling book of the 1990s, is a mouthpiece for female psycho-babble. The kind of book Bridget Jones would buy and read, whilst sobbing into yet another pint of Ben & Jerry’s. In fact, it is written by relationship counselor, John Gray Ph.D. (note: the pre-nominal letters after his name), whose masculine perspective not only altered my original perception of the book, but made me pick it up and actually read it.

In fact, discovering its male authorship was just the beginning. I soon learnt that there was actually some truth behind the text. It may sound obvious – after all, everyone in the Western world has heard of this book – but over the past ten years, it has become somewhat of a cliché. We all think we know what it is about, without having even read it. The title is pretty self-explanatory, right?

Well, yes and no. The crux of Gray’s theory revolves around his separate planet analogy that men and women are different, not just biologically but psychologically, hence the continuous struggle between the sexes to understand one another. Anyone who has ever spent an extended period of time with the opposite sex will recognize the truth behind this. What Gray brings to this is his solution: how to communicate with one another, without it ending in hairdryers bouncing off walls and two broken hearts.

The issues it brings up are universal. Gray works through, chapter by chapter, and explains both sides of the story – why men feel the need to retreat into ‘the cave’ in times of pressure, when all a woman wants to do is vent – and how you should react accordingly.

Whilst women want to talk about their problems, men prefer to be left alone. The more a woman pressures a man to talk about his problems, the less likely he is to do so; Gray describes this as the ‘elastic theory’. The key is not treating you partner the way you would want to be treated, but how they want to be treated.

Whilst there are aspects of Men are from Mars that really do enlighten and hit home, it is not without its flaws. You soon come to realise, the text is very repetitive; Gray’s approach is like a pneumatic drill, drumming his point into your consciousness continuously until you get it, and then just a little bit longer to make sure you really don’t forget it.

Yes, you may be embarrassed to open it up on the train, but that shouldn’t put you off reading it. Whilst it may be women buying Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, it’s men who are sneaking it off their partner’s bedside tables for a quick peek.

Buy Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus here.

Images sourced from Spitalfields Life and Rachel Danger.