Mars & Venus On a Date
Due to popular demand by his single and divorced readers, John Gray, Ph.D., has written a prequel to his successful series of books dealing with male-female relationship issues. Mars and Venus on a Date is a "guide for navigating the five stages of dating to create a loving and lasting relationship."In Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus, Gray, a marriage counselor, describes the differences in male and female behavior as though men and women are creatures from different planets. He posits that not only do men and women behave differently: they communicate differently; they respond differently; they even think differently.Much of Gray's appeal to readers is the nonjudgmental tone of his presentation. Despite the fact that he is a man, Gray presents both sides of the story. He gives specific examples of realistic incidents in the life of relationships.For example, Gray says that when women are upset, they like to "talk it out." Men prefer not to talk; even to isolate themselves "in their caves" when they are upset. A typical power struggle ensues when a man and a woman attempt to resolve a problem in their own preferred style, without taking into account their partner's preference. Throughout Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus, Gray presents examples of dialogue between couples, and an interpretation. He writes, "'When a man says .... what he means is . . ., but a woman hears ... " The Mars and Venus concepts go a long way toward explaining the differences between men and women.Five Stages of RomanceIn Mars and Venus on a Date, Gray describes the five stages of dating: attraction, uncertainty, exclusivity, intimacy, and engagement. Gray believes these stages are a prerequisite to a successful marriage relationship. Additionally, he believes that going through these stages with intention will screen out potential partners who are not one's "soul mate." He defines a soul mate as one who brings out your best characteristics. The soul mate relationship is reciprocal, but Gray is quick to caution that "soul mates are not perfect."Going through the stages of dating allows for an "increasing discernment of our date's suitability." It is possible to learn to identify characteristics of your soul mate, even by dating people who are not "soul mate material."AttractionIn Stage One: Attraction, a person is expected to express his or her best and most positive self. Gray says that a man, being from Mars, will typically talk a lot, in an effort to advertise his resume of qualifications. A woman, being from Venus, will do what she secretly desires the man to do -- ask questions and listen patiently.In order to get off on the right foot in a relationship, a man should: ask the woman questions. Iisten to her, and compliment her. A woman should: talk more, dwell on the positive, and allow the man to take care of her without feeling obligated to do something nice in return.Gray states often that a man likes to be the pursuer in a relationship. He continues that, "after being receptive to a man's advances, and appreciating his efforts, a woman doesn't owe a man anything." Often, a modern woman will diminish a man's opportunity to pursue her by giving too much too soon in the relationship.UncertaintyIn Stage Two: Uncertainty, men and women vacillate with their partners. They could "actually be dating their soul mate, but may not know it."This is a necessary stage of dating. In contrast to each other, a man will question how a woman compares to his fantasy woman, while a woman will question where the relationship is going.Gray says that many relationships end at this stage because an assertive women will call a man and interrogate him about his feelings regarding her and the relationship. Gray's advice is that a modern woman may call a man at this stage, as long as she keeps it light, friendly, and non-demanding.Sometime between Stage Two and Stage Three, the question of physical intimacy becomes an issue. Gray believes that sexual intimacy too early in a relationship confounds the successful transition through the stages of dating. Sexual intimacy becomes confused with emotional and intellectual intimacy. However, Gray is no Puritan, and allows that there are also varying degrees of physical intimacy which would be acceptable in Stages One and Two. He stresses that neither person should engage in any sexual acts with which he or she is not comfortable.Going SteadyStage three is labeled Exclusivity. In this stage, the couple makes a commitment to get to know one another better, and not to date others. Gray says that men feel the pursuit is over once the commitment to exclusivity has been made. This is because Martians are incredibly efficient. They won't waste any further energy once they've attained "the prize."Gray encourages men to think of a relationship like an investment -- in Stage Three, a man is still earning his investment capital. It is not time yet to slack off. This is what accounts for women's complaints that their partner used to be attentive, but now ignores them.A woman's "greatest challenge" in Stage Three is to "practice the art of asking for support." This is not something that women routinely do. Gray says, "The best time to ask for support is when a man stops offering it," because "a man automatically assumes that when a woman is not asking for help, she must be getting enough." However, Gray is quick to remind women that this is not an incitement to nag or demand. A woman's request must be made positively, such as "Would you take me to a concert next weekend?" This will be much more effective than the negative, "We never go out." Also, women need to remember to continue to reinforce a man's attentive behavior with a receptive and grateful attitude.IntimacyStage Four of dating is Intimacy. At this level, a man and a woman feel physical, emotional. mental, and spiritual chemistry. If they do not feel this chemistry, it is a sign that the partners may not be meant for each other. Breaking up once this is realized is less painful than going on and on, trying to make the relationship work.If a couple was sexually intimate earlier in the relationship. it becomes difficult to discern whether the emotional, mental and spiritual chemistry are appropriate, or are undeveloped due to the intensity of the physical chemistry.Gray refers back to Men Are From Mars, Women Are from Venus to remind the reader that women are like waves: "increased intimacy makes a woman feel more vulnerable. and as a result, her feelings will tend to rise and fall like waves. When a woman's wave crashes, she has very little to give, temporarily. This is when a man is required to draw from his skills of Stage Three and continue giving his best without expecting an immediate return."If a woman asks if she looks fat, a man should not say, "Well, you certainly don't have the body of a model, but those women starve themselves." Instead. a man should say, "I think you are beautiful and I love you just the way you are."In Stage Four, a man may pull back before he can feel closer. This is "the cave" Gray describes in Men Are From Mars. Gray believes that "the basic in-and-out urge is in all men."When a man pulls away, a woman should let him go. Even though a woman will feel the urge to pursue a man into his "cave", she needs to realize that, in this case, ' absence makes the heart grow fonder."Gray describes men as rubber bands who pull back from a relationship and then spring back to it. "Each time he comes back to her, he will love her more." Gray thinks that a man's need to pull back will always be there. but it may "diminish over time."EngagementThe last stage of dating is Engagement. Gray states that the engagement is important for the long-term relationship. It sets the tone and allows the partners to practice communication and conflict-resolution skills before there is a history of negativity and disappointments. Men should learn to apologize, and women should learn to forgive during the engagement period.After laying out the stages of dating, Gray goes on to describe problems in relationships such as: moving too quickly through the stages of dating; partners in different stages; partners unwilling to become engaged and progress through the final stage; partners who have become fixated in Stages One and Two; partners acting inappropriately to the stage a relationship is in; and moving backward through the stages in order to repair a relationship.Gray emphasizes that every relationship is a gift. Even if the relationship ends. we will be able to learn from it.The last section of this book gives "101 Places to Meet Your Soul mate." There are some predictable suggestions and some which are not. Many of these ideas emphasize that a person may find his or her soul mate somewhere he or she would not ordinarily be -- as if to concur with the old adage that opposites attract.This book provides for some quick and enjoyable reading. John Gray's respect for both men and women is evident. In all likelihood, many relationships would be better if his advice was followed consistently.However, I still have some concerns that he advocates for a traditional society where women must conceal their assertiveness and practice the manipulation of men. Gray responds to this allegation by pointing out that many assertive women who don't need a man find themselves alone, without a soul mate, even when they desire one. Touche.Marie Walker is a Northern Express contributing editor. Mars and Venus on a Date is published by Harper Collins.