Why John Gray?

Posted: August 11, 2011 in Who is John Gray?, Why this guy?

I am aware that there are virtually thousands of self-help books on the market written by psychologists, psychiatrists and psychotherapists that profess to help individuals find some peace with, or gain control over, some aspect of their lives. Judging by the space devoted to the genre there is no doubt a substantial demand for such reading material, thus my concerns lie not with the need to occasionally seek the opinions of others, but the degree to which individuals question the material they are reading.

Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus: A Practical Guide for Improving Communication and Getting What You Want in Your Relationships (New York: HarperCollins, 1992) came to my attention through a friend of mine who had been experiencing a very draining and depressing marriage. On the precipice of divorce, her husband arrived home one evening with the now infamous book. He had underlined a number of passages and suggested that they read the book together in order to improve their communication (the source, he believe, of their marital discord). Always open-minded, she thought it was at least worth the old college try. She opened the book and proceeded to read the introduction and the first two chapters, at which point she closed the book, walked into her bedroom and laughed out loud. Her impression? “It’s ridiculous,” she said to me. “It’s sexist and demeaning. You have got to read this!”

Within a few months another good friend called me. She told me that a co-worker had received the book from her sister as a “gag gift” and brought it into work. It quickly became the focus of laughter and, later, really concern. The consensus among this group of women held that Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus was, at best, demeaning, sexist and dangerously bordering on the misogynist. Misogyny? This was petty strong stuff! It was time to read the book.

As of this writing I have read the book. Four times. The first time I was, to say the least, amused. It was rich fodder for laughs, but as I thought about it I realized how destructive the information really was. It was certainly a book that professed to improve communication–but at what cost? The underlying message was not one of mutual respect, but an obvious endorsement of passivity on the part of women. Women needed to settle for less, shut up, and pull back when men needed time by themselves. Lists abounded for the improvement of women, but what of those for men? Was this really an improvement? Beyond the clever, but quickly overused, Martian-Venusian metaphor was the theme of female passivity. This book, clearly aimed at a female audience, was patronizing and downright insulting. How had this book become so popular?

As a woman, I had serious questions about its proposed methods for better communication. I spoke with colleagues as well as other friends and acquaintances and found an overwhelming dislike for the book. What I found so unnerving in this general dismissal of the material was a belief that people were intelligent enough to reject it and move on. While I agree that this is certainly the case with many individuals, those who are hurting may not always see through a clever presentation camouflaging a very ugly reality. Would men have a problem with this book? They should, for it insults their intelligence and their integrity as well. Although, since it accommodates their every need without having to do anything of any real significance, I could scarcely blame them if they liked it.

Without having read every self-help book on the market, it is probably safe to say that John Gray is not the only individual with whom I might have cause to disagree, but he is one of a few that I have read. And, judging by his apparent fondness for self-promotion, I think that it is important to have another voice rise to seriously question his ideas. True enlightenment, regardless of the subject matter, comes when an individual has had the opportunity to look at two sides of an issue and reach some sort of synthesis. Should you find this critique unwarranted, I respect your right to disagree, but only if you have at least read the concerns of those on this page before making your decision.
14 February 1996

Columbia Pacific University
(Now Commonwealth Pacific University)

In early February 1996, an amazing thing happened on one of John Gray’s (now defunct) WWW site chat pages. A woman known only as Barbara posed a question to the group concerning Gray’s educational background. She felt that Gray’s work was, at best, relegated to the realm of pop psychology and she wanted to know more about the author’s qualifications. (www.marsvenus.com/cgi-bin/chat.cgi?../jbchat; Thu Feb 8 19:24:51 1996 and 19:24:42 1996 respectively.) Michael Najarian, an individual who asserted that he worked daily with Gray and knew him for a period of eight years, responded to her rather strong query. Najarian listed Gray’s familial devotion as his strongest “credential.” While he did note that Gray had completed a doctorate, he neglected to say where or when this prestigious degree was conferred. Indeed, Najarian seemed reluctant to cite the institution saying, in essence, that it was “integrity” that set Gray apart from the rest of the pack; one could not established the worth of an individual purely on an evaluation of academics alone. (Ibid., Sat Feb 10 07:58:06 1996.)

I smelled a rat, ladies and gentlemen. And it was time to do a little checking . . .

A Newsweek article reports that Gray spent nine years as a celibate monk and secretary to the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (October 2, 1995, Page 96.) Surely if you’re a Beatles fan you’ll remember the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi!  Time ran an article in 1997 wherein it was revealed that Gray earned himself a B.A. and M.A. in the Science of Creative Intelligence from the Maharishi European Research University in Switzerland.  And just what is the “Science of Creative Intelligence?”  According to a timeline of chronicling the highlights of the Maharishi’s campaign to establish heaven on earth, in 1971 “His Holiness” formulated the Science of Creative intelligence as the “scientific theory for the development of higher states of consciousness, which naturally develop through the practice of Trascendental Meditation.”  Yeah, I hear all your Harvard Medical School graduates are doing this now.   Cripes!  No wonder Najarian was eso vasive.

Oh, and the “University?”  Well, that’s been rumored to be evidenced by the existence of a few desks in the a hotel run by the movement in Seelisberg, Switzerland.

With this puzzling foundation established, I wondered where Gray received a Ph.D.   On Gray’s book jackets and WWW sites, we are told that he received a Ph.D. in psychology from Columbia Pacific University. Now, I won’t profess to know every school that dots the landscape of the United States, but I became concerned when I was unable to find a reference to Columbia Pacific University in any volume of Dissertation Abstracts.  After all, Gray acts quite the authority throughout his publications and on talk show appearances; I fully expected the man to have a degree from an esteemed and widely respected institution. As a result, I did some checking on Gray’s alma mater and here is what I found.

  • One master’s-degree student was given credit for “a learning contract describing how he would continue taking dance lessons and watch dance demonstrations in order to improve his skills as a Country Western dancer.”
  • A Ph.D. dissertation written in Spanish was approved by four faculty who cannot speak the language.
  • One dissertation “had no hypothesis, no data collection, and no statistical analysis. A member of the visiting committee characterized the work as more like a project paper at the college freshman level.” The dissertation, The Complete Guide to Glass Collecting, was 61 pages long.
  • At least nine students who received Ph.D.s in 1994 had been enrolled less than 20 months, four of them less than 12. [Point Reyes Light, December 24, 1997]

How can this happen?

From the information brochure sent to me in 1996 by the Office of Admissions at CPU, the school, founded in 1978, is a “private, independent university offering non-residential programs leading to a bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in a variety of academic fields.” Their educational philosophy held that “relevant educational work experience can contribute significantly to preparation for an advanced degree program.”

In the brochure’s opening paragraph, it is stated that in 1986, after an “exhaustive evaluation” of the school, the State of California’s Department of Education’s Superintendent of Public Instruction concluded that CPU offered an education “comparable to that required of graduates and other recognized schools accredited by an appropriate established accrediting commission.” Hmm, but it does not say that CPU is accredited, only that it is comparable to institutions that are accredited. The difference between being accredited and not being accredited is a bit like being a little pregnant, don’t you think?

Along with the general catalog that I later requested was a “fact sheet” from the Council on Private Postsecondary and Vocational Education. Its inclusion seemed apologetic, if not defensive, explaining both what accreditation “is” and “is not,” basic types of accreditation and the various types of accrediting bodies. Either way you slice this loaf of bread, however, we are still life with crumbs that spell out NOT ACCREDITED.

CPU offered degree programs in three schools: Arts and Sciences, Administration and Management, and Health and Human Services. Students can apparently focus their independent study in a number of different fields: business, counseling, education, engineering applied science, health sciences, international business law, library science, psychology or public administration.

Again, according to the information brochure, “class attendance is not required. Courses can be completed by mail and phone.” Course work is accomplished through independent study arrangements with faculty and “academic Counseling staff.” Previous academic work and other “relevant experiences” are evaluated and assigned credit value for the desired program. Since CPU is a non-resident school, “contact with the University (including faculty) may be by letter, telephone, exchange of cassettes, in person, or a combination of these methods.” Students apparently “advance at their own rate” through the completion of “core curriculum requirements” and “workbooks on such topics as how to research information resources and develop organized individual learning plans.” There is an emphasis on so-called “Learning Contracts” that embrace individualized instruction (i.e., independent study) and other educational experiences that can be used “in order to accomplish some learning” and fulfill a portion of CPU’s academic requirements. Students must be enrolled for a minimum requirement of one year.

In the 1995 General Catalog, we are informed that students enrolling for the Ph.D. track was have a Master’s degree in hand or its equivalent. A minimum of 54 credits is required for graduation from any doctoral program at the school. Grading is accomplished through the issuance of the following: “No Pass-Work in Progress,” “No Pass Failure,” “Pass (equivalent to a B or C),” and “Pass with Distinction.” Well, for those of us who have weathered the storm of B.A., M.A. and Ph.D. requirements, we can be envious that there are apparently no grade point averages to get you bent out of shape at this institution.

Ph.D. hopefuls must indeed complete a dissertation. The student’s dissertation committee consists of the Dean overseeing their school, the faculty mentor who work with the student and another individual appointed by the Dean. They must all hold a Ph.D. and possess three years of experience in their specialty. And now we come back to that pesky accreditation item: at least two members of the student’s committee must hold a degree from a school certified by an accrediting body that has been recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. Well, if accreditation isn’t such a big deal, then why would two committee members be required to hold degrees from institutions that have been accredited by recognized bodies?

But even this regulation hardly entitles CPU enter the world of legitimacy.  In December 1997, California’s state attorney general’s office filed suit to compel Columbia Pacific to close down, pay civil penalties, and refund tuition fees.  Deputy Attorney General Asher Rubin blasts the school in his complaint, calling it “a diploma mill which has been preying on California consumers for too many years.” The suit also calls Columbia Pacific a “phony operation” offering “totally worthless [degrees] . . . to enrich its unprincipled promoters.”

In December 1999, the Marin County Superior Court ordered CPU to cease operations within the state.  And on February 21, 2001, the judge denied further appeals and entered a final judgement ordering CPU to:

  • Pay a civil penalty of $10,000 to the Bureau for Private Postsecondary and Vocational Education for violating Sections 17200 et seq. and Sections 17500 et seq. of the Califronia Business and Professions Code
  • Permanently stop operating or offering any educational programs in California
  • Notify all students enrolled from June 25, 1977 to December 1, 2000 of the injunction and of their right to a refund
  • Provide refunds to all students within 30 days of their request
  • Provide a status report to the Court by June 30, 2001.

CPU has moved to Missoula, Montana, changed its name to Commonwealth Pacific University, and remains in business.  Its web site is silent on the California order.

So, armed with the power to meditate and a mail-order Ph.D., “Dr.” Gray builds his empire and sells his snake oil to the vulnerable.  Something worth thinking about the next time you preceed John Gray’s name with the empty title “Doctor.”

My thanks to all of you who kept me informed as to CPU’s legal status and the work of Dr. Stephen Barrett at Quackwatch.com!

 

1996

As we all know by now, the key to living happily ever after in the world according to John Gray is in accepting what he believes are the inherent differences between men and women. Once these differences are embraced, strategies can be developed that will enable men and women to understand one another better and help them along the road to everlasting happiness. Arguments can be one major roadblock on the old happiness highway. But never fear! “Dr.” Gray has the solution to avoid them.

“The best way to stop an argument is to nip it in the bud,” writes the good doctor. “Take responsibility for recognizing when a disagreement is turning into an argument. Stop talking and take a time-out.” (153) Sounds like good enough advice to me. However, in order for “responsibility” to be defined we have to delve a little deeper into this chapter. Remember: in Gray’s world, gender is everything.

According to Gray, men have two approaches to avoiding hurt—both are pro-active. First, they fight. “This stance definitely comes from Mars . . . [Men] immediately move into an offensive stance . . . They strike out [and] start yelling . . . their inner motive is to intimidate.” (154) Mars is the god of war after all, right? The second approach is flight. Also coming from Mars, Gray says that this proactive avoidance is an attempt “to avoid confrontation, Martians may retire into their caves and never come out.” (154) This is apparently because men walk on eggshells. “It is so ingrained in men,” writes the “doctor,” that they don’t even realize how much they do it.” (I guess that explains why this book spends so much time on instructing women how to walk on them.)

Hmm . . .

Now what about women? Goddesses of love have two very different approaches—both are passive reactions to a perceived problem. First, women fake. In this mode a woman pretends that there is no problem. “They try to make everything ‘all right, OK, and fine.’” Slotting nicely into Gray’s gender-defined world we are told that “Unlike men, when a woman uses these phrases it may be a sign that she is trying to avoid a conflict or an argument.” (155) Secondly, women fold. “This person gives in. They will take the blame and assume responsibility for whatever is upsetting her partner.” (155) Remember that quote

Well, that may explain what men and women do to avoid arguments, but why do men and women argue? Gender differences, silly!

Gray says that men argue because they are “deprived of the love [they need].” When he is deprived of this love “he becomes defensive and his dark side begins to emerge; instinctively he draws his sword.” (157) Apparently, this applies to all aspects of a man’s life. Gray argues that while a man may seem to be arguing over things like money, work, and other facets of modern day living, “the real reason he has drawn his sword is he doesn’t feel loved.” (157) The “doctor” provides his readers with effective phallic imagery—not to mention a pretty unflattering picture of men—and predictably places men in a position of power. Only the man can determine when he feels loved. Until he decides that he is loved, the woman at the tip of that sword of his anger is damned if she does and damned if she doesn’t.

Indeed, Gray maintains that men argue as a result of not being admired, not feeling encouraged, appreciated or trusted, and not feeling acceptance or approval. (157-158) A woman, on the other hand, argues for other reasons: she doesn’t feel validated and cherished, she hasn’t been respected or reassured, she doesn’t feel as if her partner cares about her, or she feels misunderstood. (159-160)

It all boils down to the same paradigm we’ve seen for the last eight nauseating chapters: Men receive admiration, trust, encouragement, etc. for doing. (And they appear to need admiration, trust and encouragement 24 hours a day in order to function. What are they? Infants?) Women need to have their emotional heads patted and looked after by their male partners. Once again, women are passive reactors. Now did it ever occur to the good “doctor” that people argue because they have two opposing viewpoints? For example, your house needs and new roof and new windows. He wants to have a new roof put on the house first, she wants to replace the windows. How does feeling “unloved” enter into this argument? How does feeling “cherished” apply?

Gray supplies us with the anatomy of an argument so he can make his points. Naturally we all know that misunderstandings happen all of the time, and to that end the good doctor has provided us with his celestial translation guide. The problem, however, is not that misunderstandings between partners happen often enough, it is the guide itself and the position that women must assume if they follow it.

For example, Gray notes that apologizing for misunderstanding is very difficult—if not impossible—for a man. We’re told that on Mars (!) “it means you have done something wrong and you are apologizing.” (162) If this is impossible, does it mean that men never do anything wrong? Well, let me return to that point later . . .

When women say “I’m sorry” it apparently doesn’t mean that they are apologizing for doing something wrong, it’s just a way that women express how they care about others. (I guess when men say this at a funeral it means they did something wrong. I’m confused.) As a matter of fact, women love the words “I’m sorry” so much that Gray advises men to use this little phrase to their advantage. “The easiest way to derail an argument,” writes “Dr” Gray, ” is to say ‘I’m sorry’.” (163) Indeed, Gray gives us a rare peek into his personal research archive to prove that this little trick works:

“Sometimes . . . apologizing is very difficult. At those times I take a deep breath and say nothing. Inside I try to imagine how she feels and discover the reasons from her point of view. Then I say, “I’m sorry you feel upset.” Although this is not an apology it does say ‘I care’ and that seems to help a lot.” (162)

Ooooh! What a remarkable way to skirt around taking responsibility! Just re-word the “apology” a little so that technically you’re not really apologizing for anything that you may have said or done, but it sounds like you are! Wow! Kill two birds with one stone: she thinks you’re truly sorry and you’re validating her! That’s genius! Who knew our little rich kid-computer guy-TM monk-facilitator-rocket scientist was a lawyer too! Well, I’ll be!

Yeah, and who knew women were so dumb! Okay, let’s reflect for a moment. So “Dr.” Gray is telling us that in order to avoid a full scale blow out when he’s done something wrong that has upset his wife, he doesn’t apologize for his actions, but instead twists things around a little bit to lay the responsibility on his wife’s shoulders! A little doubletalk and maybe a hug could fool any woman. (In fact, I’ll just go ahead and admit it: if “Dr.” Gray gave me a hug and said he was sorry that I felt the way that I do about his snake oil show, I’d pull The Rebuttal off the web faster than a New York minute!) In the end the woman is supposed to think that whatever he has done is fine, what’s wrong is her interpretation of it. Very existentialist! Charlie Manson should’ve used this script at his trial. “Hey, murder isn’t wrong. It’s all in how you interpret it, man.”

Now what was it that Gray said earlier in this chapter? Oh yes, to avoid an argument women “fold.” “This person gives in. They will take the blame and assume responsibility for whatever is upsetting her partner.” (155) Now, didn’t Gray just manipulate reality so that she would take the blame?

Furthermore, absolutely nothing has been solved. Instead the argument has been “derailed.” This is an interesting choice of words. Having effectively “derailed” the argument both parties remain at odds. This is not communicating! It is avoiding communication as if it were the plague. And what do you do when both sides are presenting facts? Do you hire a mediator? A union representative? Do husband and wife enter binding arbitration until he concedes that, indeed, he’s finally feeling loved and she feels cherished and heard? Heard? He hasn’t heard a damned thing–he’s “derailed” the argument by lying to her and saying “I’m sorry”.

Oh, honey! Do I have a headache!

According to our mail-order graduate, men usually start arguments because they “unknowingly invalidate” their partner’s feelings. (164. Enhancements mine) Gray tells us that men have an instinctual need to offer solutions to a woman’s concerns. Indeed, “every cell in a man’s body instinctively reacts with a list of explanations and justifications designed to explain away her upset feelings.” (Wouldn’t you like to see the paper trail on that research?) However, a woman “cannot appreciate his solution until he validates her need to be upset.” (164)

Oh, boy! Men have a lot of power. I stand in awe of it every stinking time I read this poor excuse of a book. Women need a man to tell them that their concerns are valid? After all, that’s what validate means. So when talking with a man, I need him to tell me (or infer to me) that what I’m saying to him is valid (Hey, let’s use Najarian’s thesaurus. Logical, well-founded, satisfactory, convincing, cogent, et. al.). Well, how about “acknowledgement”? (Let’s use it again! Agree, concede, thank, appreciate, recognize, et. al.) This is a good word. It shows that while you may not understand someone’s thoughts, you are acknowledging the fact that you’re listening to the person and making an honest effort to understand their point of view.

But Gray can’t use the word “acknowledge” because that would put men and women on an equal playing field. A playing field where equally powerful human beings are making a mature and honest effort to understand the other’s point of view without the need to validate or be validated. But, you see, that’s not gender-specific. That approach doesn’t fit into the paradigm that Gray has heretofore established for women: passive, powerless, and rambling shrieking harpies who need the approval of a man before having a successful relationship.

And while we’re told that men have this way of unknowingly starting arguments, women have a little different approach. Once again, this is a time when Gray gives women power, but it’s wholly negative.

“Instead of directly expressing her dislike or disappointment, a woman asks rhetorical questions and unknowingly (or knowingly) communicates a message of disapproval.” (164. Enhancements mine.) Hmm . . .

“When a women is upset the tone of her voice often reveals that she is not looking for a valid answer but is making the point that there is no acceptable reason.” (165) What power we have as women! Just by the very tones of our voices we can send men spinning through the house like dust devils! “One of the ways women unknowingly communicate disapproval is in their eyes and tone of voice. The words she chooses may be loving, but her look or the tone of her voice can wound a man.” (167) (Wow! Come home too late, Herbie, and you might be pecking the cheek of Morgan le Fay!)

Now, you must understand. Gray says that men unknowingly start arguments by not validating their partner’s feelings. But women, while they may start arguments unknowingly, also start them knowingly just by their look or through the tone of their voice. As Gray says, “Women commonly interrogate a man about his behavior with a disapproving tone.” (166) But this shrieking tone of disapproval can be completely avoided if we remember our role as women. You see, ladies, you have to be supportive and accepting of your man at all times. And it doesn’t matter what he is doing. As the questionably credentialed doctor writes:

“To approve of a man is to see the good reasons behind what he does. Even when he is irresponsible or lazy or disrespectful, if she loves him, a woman can find and recognize the goodness within him. To approve is to find the loving intention or the goodness behind the outside behavior . . . To treat a man as if he has no good reason for what he does is to withhold the approval she so freely gave in the beginning of the relationship.” (166)

So even if he’s being a jerk, don’t become angry. Don’t judge him. He’s got a good reason for acting that way. Trust that he would help you if he could. Maybe he’s having an affair to give you a rest because you need your sleep at night. Maybe he’s not contributing to the maintenance of the household because he’s unsure of proper dusting technique and feels a bit inferior asking you about it. Maybe he’s reading this book because he’s tried to jump-start his IQ, but he just can’t! Trust, my friends. Trust that he would if he could.

Doesn’t it strike you as offensive that Gray never mentions once in this book that men must always see the good in what women do? Hmm, if she’s not accepting, admiring, or trusting him does Gray ever say that men should recognize the goodness within their female partners? Does he ever tell men to be patient and wait because women can’t give what they don’t have? Does he ever tell men to trust that she would if she could?

No.

And doesn’t it offend you that men are portrayed paradoxically as keystones of knowledge, power, and direction as well as your plain old spineless dolts? It doesn’t make sense. A woman looks at a man with one look of disapproval and they slink off into the sunset feeling all “unloved.” If a woman pursues they’re told to spin on their heels before retiring to their cave, holler “I’m sorry” and off they go! So the argument is derailed and nothing–absolutely nothing–has been solved!

And people still write to me and proclaim John Gray a “genius.” It’s a wonder anyone can sleep at night!

To further aid men and women in fulfilling the roles that Gray has deemed appropriate he has provided another translation table wonderfully titled “The anatomy of an Argument.” (Does it surprise me that in all six scenarios it is the woman who is angry and ready to drag her poor defenseless husband into the Coliseum? No.). The ultimate use for this particular table is to enable women to become less disapproving and have men be more validating. Here are a few predictable snippets:

How she can be less disapproving: “I know you need to pull away at times but it still hurts when you pull away. I’m not saying you are wrong but it’s important to me for you to understand what I go through.” [Woman moves down stage left, falls on sofa exhausted from all the energy it takes placating the stupid moron.]

How he can be more validating: “’I understand it hurts when I pull away. It must be very painful for you when I pull away. Let’s talk about it.’ (When she feels heard then it is easier for her to accept his need to pull away at times.)” (179) [Man finishes pouring beer with one hand, moves up stage right, finds remote, turns on TV, starts watching the game.]

And remember, friends, the need to cave is instinctual. He can’t do anything about that, but he can talk about it. But because men are following an instinct when they cave you cannot expect–nor should you expect–that they will do anything but talk about it. Gray has never told men to try and be open with their problem solving in this book. In fact, in this particular chapter he’s telling men to walk away and avoid conflict all together! This “discussion” is just another trademark of Gray’s: patronize them, validate them, pat them on the head–and just do whatever the hell it was you were going to do in the first place. Oh, and say “I’m sorry.”

How she can be less disapproving: “It’s OK that we are rushing and I don’t like it. It feels like we’re always rushing” or “I love it when we are not in a hurry and I hate it when sometimes we have to rush, I just don’t like it. Would you plan our next trip with fifteen minutes of extra time?” [Again men in a position of power. He is not only setting the tone of the trip, he has even planned it!]

How he can be more validating: “’I don’t like it either. I wish we could just slow down. It feels so crazy.’ In this example he has related to her feelings. Even if a part of him likes to rush, he can best support her in her moment of frustration by expressing how some part of himself sincerely relates to her frustration.” (173)

Here we go again with Gray’s favorite endorsement to placate the woman with no interest or intent to modify behavior that may be causing his partner some degree of distress! Why not use those magic words: “I’m sorry”? “Gee, honey, I’m sorry you don’t like to rush.” I mean, technically he’s not really apologizing for doing anything wrong and he has no intention of not rushing, but I’ll bet it makes her feel better and shuts her up already!

Seriously, though, consider this carefully! “I wish we could just slow down.” Well, it’s within his power to slow down, but he doesn’t seem willing to modify his behavior. Indeed, Gray has just told men that they shouldn’t modify their behavior. Once again it is the woman who accommodates! Gray has merely advised this man to “support her in her moment of frustration.” Read: pay her some lip service and then go about your activities as originally planned.

Okay, so the message we take away from this chapter is “the best way to stop an argument is to nip it in the bud.” (153) Both men and women start arguments unknowingly, but only women are identified as the party who is able to start arguments knowingly. Men are told to to say “I’m sorry” in order to derail an argument. This will fool the woman into believing that you care about what she has to say. And now that she has been heard and validated, she’ll go away. And, realistically, since arguments can be debates, nothing ever gets solved. In the end we’ve swept everything under the rug and not solved a thing.

This particular approach has real potential. Yes, the potential for a small scratch turning into a gaping head wound that the good “doctor” has told us will heal with his band-aid therapy! Gray hasn’t told men and women how to communicate in this chapter and he’s said as much: “How to AVOID Arguments.” He’s told men how to maneuver out of taking responsibility and he’s given yet another lesson in accommodation for women.

How? Let’s apply his technique to a real-life scenario: how should we invest our money? Should we go for a traditional IRA or a ROTH IRA? Two excellent plans! How do we decide? She wants the ROTH and begins to put forth her argument, he disagrees and retreats. She has to tell him she loves him and then he says he’s sorry. Well, that’s been solved! NOT! So, what plan do we invest in?

She appreciates and trusts him, he feels big and strong, and now he can say he’s sorry. But why is he sorry? For liking a different IRA? And her feelings have been validated even though she hasn’t had a chance to talk about the advantages of the ROTH IRA and then they, what, go watch TV? Yeah, I guess that’s all these rocket scientists can do now since they’ve effectively nipped this argument in the bud!

If Gray thinks arguments should be derailed, then his reaction to all confrontation, no matter what it is, is passive. And what an amazing revelation that is! You know, I have seen nothing but a fear of women throughout this self-help nightmare and it has been beautifully presented in this chapter. Women paralyze men through their look, the tone of their voice, asking rhetorical questions, probing, and being otherwise disapproving. What fear is this? Are we talking about adult behavior, “Dr.” Gray?

This book isn’t a “guide for improving communication and getting what you want in your relationships.” It is a juvenile attempt to avoid all conflict. It solves nothing.
28 July 1998

 

“Men and women generally are unaware that they have different emotional needs. As a result they do not instinctively know how to support each other.” (132) Ahh, yes, another foray into the unknown world of the instinctive.

As has been determined already from previous chapters, men have instinctive behaviors that propel them to realize an active and self-motivated reality for themselves. Women, on the other hand, fulfill an instinctive directive to satisfy passive roles in society–only being active when their interference works against the instinctive behavior of their male counterparts. Now we learn that men and women have differing instinctual needs. John Gray tells us that only after satisfying these primary reciprocal needs can men and women be open to accepting and appreciating “the other kinds of love.” (134) Just what are these so-called primary instinctual needs of men and women? In the table below, I’ve assembled Gray’s instinctual revelations into a table that facilitates an easier comparison of the two lists.

 

She Needs (he gives)

He Needs (she gives)

CARING
He shows interest in “her feelings.” (135)
TRUST
She believes that “he is doing his best.” (135)
UNDERSTANDING (synonym)
She is “heard and understood.” (135
ACCEPTANCE (synonym)
She does not try to improve him, “she trusts him to make his own improvements.” (135)
RESPECT (synonym)
He “takes into consideration her thoughts and feelings.” (136)
APPRECIATION (synonym)
She “acknowledges having received personal benefit and values from a man’s efforts and behavior.” (136)
DEVOTION (synonym)
He makes her feelings and needs more important than his other interests–likes work, study, recreation.” (136)
ADMIRATION (synonym)
She regards him with “wonder, delight, and pleased approval . . . she is happily amazed with his unique characteristics or talent.” (136)
VALIDATION (synonym)
A man’s validating attitude confirms a woman’s right to feel the way she does.” (137)
APPROVAL (synonym)
She “acknowledges the goodness in a man and expresses overall satisfaction with him.” (137)
REASSURANCE (synonym)
“He must remember to assure her again and again [that she is loved].” (137)
ENCOURAGEMENT (synonym)
She “gives hope and courage to a man by expressing confidence in his abilities and character.” (138)

 

This is a very interesting list. All but two of the words (caring and trust) are synonyms. But why should we be surprised that they mean different things to men and women? These synonyms are perfectly suited to Gray’s gender paradigm: Women are from the planet Emotional Venus and Men are from the planet Action Mars.

As always, I am intrigued by the words Gray chooses to communicate his ideas. They speak volumes! In Gray’s universe, women float like plankton without direction in a body of swirling feelings. Men, like whales, lend the plankton a real purpose: to nurture and feed the larger, more powerful mammal swimming through them on their way to someplace else. Women, according to Gray, have this endless need to be reassured ” again and again” that they are loved. (137) But men have real purpose. Notice in this list how men are always doing something. Indeed, they must be, for women are advised to look at their men with “wonder, delight, and pleased approval” for his performance. A woman happily “acknowledges having received” things from her man. She is advised to express “confidence in his abilities.” (135-138.) In short, the plankton nourish the whale.

Viewed alone, these are wonderful ways to express love to your partner. But after Gray is through massaging them, they take on a whole new meaning. Women are once again passive–always accepting. Men are doing–for what else can women do but accept that which is done or given to them? After all, women are too busy talking to do much else (unless it’s something negative).

“You jealous, male-hating, femi-nazi, lesbian!” the Apologists yell (followed by guttural snickers that sound suspiciously like the cartoon characters Beevis and Butthead). “You’re nit-picking again!” All right! All right!! Let me drag this piano to home plate for you yet again. But this time everyone needs to make a cup of hot chocolate, curl up to the fire, and listen in anticipation to a peculiar fairy tale written by “Dr.” Gray.


The Knight in Shining Armor

“Imagine a knight in shining armor traveling through the countryside. Suddenly he hears a woman crying out in distress.” (138) It’s a big evil, dragon, boys and girls! With fear absent from his heart, the knight draws his mighty sword and topples the dragon in one fell swoop. The woman is beside herself with gratitude. Everyone is happy and the knight marries his fair maiden.

When a month passed, the knight left his beloved at the castle to go away on business. When he returned home, he once again heard his fair beauty “crying out for help.” The knight charged forward to save his fair woman, but, alas, before he made his final approach, the lovely lady offered the knight a noose and told him to use it because it was more effective. The dragon was killed, but the prince, it seems, was bummed. “After the event he [was] slightly depressed and [forgot] to shine his armor.” (139) Awwwww . . .

Another month passed and Mr. Knight found himself yet again on a business trip away from the castle (leaving his princess behind again). However, before he left, the princess “[reminded] him to be careful and [told] him to take the noose.” (139) When he came home, yet another dragon was found attacking his fine home,but he hesitated to kill the dragon because he wasn’t sure which would be more effective: the noose or the sword. While pondering this dilemma (all caused by that meddling wife of his) the night suffered a burn on his arm! Oh no! At that moment the princess yelled for him to use poison, because the noose wouldn’t work this time! The princess was right! The poison worked, “but the knight [felt] ashamed.” (139)

You know what happened a month later, boys and girls? Right! The knight went away on yet another trip. And can you tell me where the princess was? That’s right, she stayed home–yet again. But as she did the last time, she told him to be careful and reminded him to take the noose and poison. “He [was] annoyed by her suggestions but [took] them just in case.” (139) While he was away on his travels, the knight came across another passive princess in distress. He hesitated for a moment because of the meddling suggestions he had received in the past, but he “remembered how he felt before he knew the princess, back in the days when he only carried a sword. With a burst of renewed confidence, he [threw] off the noose and poison and charged the dragon with his trusted sword.” (139) The dragon was killed and the townspeople rejoiced!

Now, my friends, sadly the knight never returned to the first princess (you know, the one at home). He stayed with this new piece of . . . er . . . princess and lived very happily for the rest of his days. He eventually married, but “only after making sure his new partner knew nothing about nooses and poisons.”

As we all know, all fairy tales teach us a lesson. Can anyone guess what lesson this wonderful tale has imparted to us? Right! I’m so proud of you! If a princess doesn’t want to lose her knight in shining armor, she will always remember to be passive, hide her intelligence and–even if she knows best–shut up.

The End


Gray has already established in this book that a quiet woman is a happy woman; for a quiet woman is the woman who will keep her man. Gray established that way back in Chapter Two. Unsolicited advice is the “ultimate insult” to a man. If a woman keeps quiet, she is displaying “warm acceptance and trust” on her part. (20) How quaint. Thus far, Gray has used every opportunity in this book to either tell women to be quiet, or instructed her that it is far better to ask her man to rephrase her concerns so that she will not run the risk of upsetting him and thus sending him to his cave. (88) In this chapter, Gray outlines for us mistakes made by men and women that “may be unknowingly turning off your partner.” (140)

 

Mistakes Women Commonly Make
(Pages 140-141)

Mistakes Men Make (but note how they don’t “commonly” make them)
({Pages 141-142)

1. She “offers unsolicited advice.” 1. “He doesn’t listen.”
2. She tries to alter his behavior by “sharing her upset or negative feelings . . . she must accept him as he is.” 2. “He takes her feelings literally and corrects her.”
3. “She doesn’t acknowledge what he does for her, but complains about what he has not done.” 3. “He listens, but then gets angry . . . for bringing him down.
4. “She corrects his behavior and tells him what to do as if he were a child.” 4. “He minimizes the importance of her feelings.”
5. “She expressed her upset feelings indirectly with rhetorical questions like ‘How could you do that?'” 5. “When she is upset, he explains why he is right and why she should not be upset.”
6.When he makes decisions or takes initiatives, she corrects or criticizes him.” 6. “After listening he says nothing or just walks away.”

 

Oh, there we are again! The men are busy doing “stuff,” but women are only chattering away about their feelings. Men are active. Women are passive. Yes, I know I’ve been hammering away at this point for a long time, but that really is the point, isn’t it? Gray’s decision to use specific language when describing the actions of men and women tell you exactly where his world view is. And, if you ask me, I don’t think you have to look through the Hubble telescope to see where his distorted view of gender originates. Yep. No one’s gettin’ a suntan in that nirvana of dysfunction.

While I was encouraged that Gray included some advice for men to “listen without getting angry,” in the end it is merely a crumb thrown aimlessly to the side in an effort to appease the women reading this book and bolster his claim that this is also a relationship book for men (144-145). Sure, Gray seems to be telling men to take responsibility for their actions, but he insults men by implying that they all must learn how to listen. It insults women because he implies that all women do is talk. They’re always feeling, never doing. Why assume that it is only men who have trouble listening? Yeah, yeah, Venusians are supposed to have that special gift of communication. Of course, while Gray is telling men that they should learn to listen, they’re not just any old run-of-the-mill listener, but a logical listener. “Remember that [her] feelings don’t always make sense right away, but they’re still valid and need empathy.” (144) Hmm, is this where the famous Gray “fake it” comes into play?

Take responsibility. Empathize. Don’t offer solutions, just listen. Well, at least “fake it.” She’ll never know the difference. She’s just happy to have someone look at her while she aimlessly chatters away. Don’t forget to throw in an occasional “humph” or “hmm.” If men at least fake it, “she feels heard and understood, and the more she is able to give a man the loving trust, acceptance, appreciation, admiration, approval, and encouragement that he needs.” (145) It’s in a man’s best interest to listen. Why “Dr.” Gray even told those men on the ABC special which aired recently to “fake it,” for they’d have good sex afterwards. Why? Because she’s been heard. And, of course, don’t take her feelings literally, because women never really mean what they say.

While Gray advises men to “listen without getting angry,” he encourages women to learn the “art of empowering a man.” (141) It’s interesting that men only have to listen, because all women do is passively talk (and rarely make any sense while doing it). Women, however, must empower a man because men do things. They are active and in charge. What is the secret to male empowerment? “Never try to change or improve him.” (145)

“Certainly you may want him to change,” writes the infomercial star, “just don’t act on that desire.” (146-enhancement mine) The only time women actively do anything in Gray’s universe it is negative. Now, Gray does acknowledge that not acting on this desire “doesn’t mean a woman has to squash her feelings. It’s OK for her to feel frustrated or even angry, as long as she doesn’t try to change him. Any attempt to change him is unsupportive and counterproductive.” (146) In two words? Shut up.

I’m not surprised at the advice, but I am curious about one thing: why is it that women are the ones desiring all the changing here? Gray says that “when a woman tries to change a man, he is not getting the loving trust and acceptance he actually needs to change and grow.” (146) Doesn’t that work both ways, “Dr.” Gray? Jeez, isn’t “respect” supposed to be a primary love need for women? Well, there’s plenty of men out there trying to change their wives or girlfriends, but that isn’t mentioned, is it? No. Those men must be an aberration of some sort. This I-want-you-to-change-to-please-me behavior seems to be another instinctual quality that women possess. What’s the phrase that Gray is always saying in his interviews? “Men are simple.” Yeah, he’s simple, all right.

“For a man to improve himself he needs to feel loved in an accepting way. Otherwise he defends himself and stays the same. He needs to feel accepted just the way he is, and then he, on his own, will look for ways to improve.” (146) Why should he? He’s being accepted “just the way he is.” If he’s being accepted, there will be no logic in improving, will there? And, of course, we know from earlier chapters that the final determination of whether or not he feels loved and accepted is exclusively his.

Slippers, please. We’re treading on the eggshell carpet again.

This “advice” is absolutely irresponsible! Certainly it is not appropriate for either partner to change the other, but this entire treatment assumes two things. First, it is women who are wanting all of these changes. There are plenty of men out there wanting or, indeed, expecting their partners to change. All you have to do is turn into the daytime microcosms of dysfunction (the talk show) to see such sick and mindless behavior. Just a few minutes will reveal that the desire to control another person is not restricted to gender. Lose weight. Dress sexy. Dress plain. Talk nicer. Display manners. Change your hair. Stop belching. Stop flirting. Change this. Change that.

Second, this little bit of the mail-order “doctor’s” wisdom doesn’t allow for dangerous behaviors or addictions. There are plenty of women in shelters who thought that if they just shut up their husbands would stop beating them. Likewise, plenty of women can be heard lamenting that their husband’s would give up the bottle if they just shut up. Maybe if they stopped nagging he’d stop gambling away the money.

This is the danger of a “self-help” book written on the intellectual level of a third grade reader: simplify everything so that it doesn’t take into account dangerous behaviors. There are a lot of unhappy people out there reading this book thinking, “Gee, if I just stop reminding him to take the high blood pressure medication he’ll remember on his own–hopefully before he has a stroke and becomes the vegetable du jour or dies!”

Billy Joe Bob Doofus has been exhibiting some pretty crass behavior in the company of his family. Every night after dinner Billy Joe Bob can be heard rumbling through the house, “C’mon! Pull my finger!” His family has grown tired of this joke, but after incessant pleas from Billy Joe Bob, someone inevitably pulls his finger, allowing him to release a burst of compressed air so thunderous that it moves the living room curtains and makes all those in the room wretch from the stench alone. Well, Billy Joe Bob laughs until he can laugh no more, and then he repeats his little trick much to the disgust of the entire family.

Now, Wilma Doofus, Billy Joe Bob’s wife, has read Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus and knows that she must embrace her husband with loving acceptance and not try to change his behavior in any way because he won’t feel loved and trusted enough. So Wilma stops complaining about Billy Joe Bob’s little trick. Now when he extends his finger after a meal, Wilma pulls it without protest, but Billy Joe Bob feels a little resentment. Now he’s on the defensive. He’s not going to change just to spite Wilma! So Wilma finds herself wedged between the proverbial rock and a hard place. Okay. Indifference isn’t working, maybe she’ll just join in. “Maybe I’ll do it with him. That way he’ll see that I accept and love him just the way he is. He won’t be on the defensive anymore and he’ll top just because he realizes that he needs to improve this behavior.”

One evening, after eating a heaping bowl of hot Texas chili, Wilma embarks on her plan. “C’mon, Billy Joe Bob, pull my finger!” Billy Joe Bob is now angry. He thinks Wilma is making fun of him. He remains silent and leaves to sit in front of the TV. That did it! She’s sent him into his cave! Wilma is beside herself. “I shut up and that didn’t work. I joined in and that didn’t work. I’ve asked him to stop and that didn’t work. I have to go back and read the chapter again and learn how to give up trying change a man.”

Wilma turns to page 148 and seriously reads the chart “HOW TO GIVE UP TRYING TO CHANGE A MAN.” And what does Gray tell women that they need to remember? “Don’t ask him too many questions when he is upset . . . give up trying to change or improve him . . . unsolicited advice [makes him feel] mistrusted, controlled, or rejected . . . when a man becomes stubborn . . . he is not feeling loved . . . if you make sacrifices hoping he will do the same then he will feel pressured to change . . . share [your] negative feelings without trying to change him . . . [don't] give him directions and make decisions for him . . . Relax and surrender. Practice accepting imperfection. Make his feelings more important than perfection and don’t lecture or correct him.” (148-149)  Hmm . . .

With her face twisted in confusion, Wilma closes the book and thinks about what she has read. She says aloud to herself: “This chapter started out as a chapter on mutual needs–things we can do for one another to feel loved and happy. Even though women are real passive, at least the thought was nice. Then he told women to stop reading up on nooses and poisons if they wanted to keep their men around–keep your better sense to yourself. Then he asked men to listen to women, but all women do is talk. I mean, I do things. I don’t just talk and feel. Then it ends like all the rest of the chapters in the book–with more advice for women. Here it’s on how to give up trying to change a man.”

Wilma throws the book into the trash. “Hmm, with this advice it seems I’m damned if I do and damned if I don’t.”

Wilma, it seems, has just broken the code.
20 October 1997

 

Up to this point, the bulk of John Gray’s advice has been to women. They’ve been told how to change in ways that make their men feel accepted, trusted, and appreciated. Page after page is chock full of pointers and suggestions to help Stepford hopefuls cultivate a successful relationship–at least as Gray would define one. As for men, Gray has told these accomplished cave dwellers that it is absolutely essential to reassure their partners by uttering those words that Arnold Schwarzeneggar made famous: “I’ll be back.” In short, Gray has made no secret of his belief that the balance of power should be with the male half of a heterosexual relationship. Further advancing this point of view is chapter seven. Primarily concerned with advice to men, Gray endeavors to explain the seemingly unexplainable behavior of women, what men can do to support them, and how they can get out of having to support them should they not be quite up to it.

“A woman is like a wave,” writes Gray. “When she feels loved her self-esteem rises and falls in a wave motion.” (112) Sometimes they’re up and then quite suddenly they’re down. However, the good “doctor” cautions us that this “crash” is only temporary. “After she reaches bottom suddenly her mood will shift and she will again feel good about herself. Automatically she begins to rise back up.” (112) Not to worry! This “crash” is, apparently, a good thing. To help women and men better understand it , Gray chose a charming domestic metaphor to explain the process: “This time of bottoming out,” he writes, “is a time for emotional housecleaning.” (112)

“My wife Bonnie,” writes the Columbia Pacific scholar, “says this experience of going down’ is like going down into a dark well. When a woman goes into her well’ she is consciously sinking into her unconscious self, into darkness and diffused feeling. She may suddenly experience a host of unexplained emotions and vague feelings. She may feel hopeless, thinking she is all alone and unsupported.” (113) This is a very important concept for men to understand, for how a woman feels about herself is directly related to the relationship. Indeed, Gray says that if a woman is “not feeling as good about herself [then] she is unable to be as accepting and appreciative of her partner.” (113) This is paramount, for we all know by now that acceptance and appreciation for men should be a cornerstone of female behavior. But during a woman’s “down times,” Gray asserts that she “tends to be overwhelmed or more emotionally reactive.” (113)

Stop for a moment and view the foundation that Gray has established thus far in his book. Men go into a “cave.” This is a place where they can be alone, work out and solve problems, or just generally go to unwind. Indeed, in chapter five Gray lists the specific reasons why men retreat into a cave. First, “he needs to think about a problem and find a practical solution.” (70) Second, “he doesn’t have an answer to a question or problem.” (70) Third, “he has become upset or stressed.” (70) And, finally, “he needs to find himself . . . too much intimacy robs them of their power.” (70) After this retreat, a man emerges from the cave feeling “rejuvenated” and, as a result, is able to tap into his “loving and powerful self again.” (70)

A cave implies a strong, fortified structure, doesn’t it? It is a place where you go to retreat, to seek protection for yourself. A man chooses to go into a cave. While there, this man solves problems, works things out, and emerges rejuvenated and refreshed.

Now let’s consider the so-called “well” for women. In describing this retreat, Gray calls upon the following descriptions: “crashes,” “falls,” “bottoming out,” “going down,” “sinking,” “darkness and diffused feeling,” “hopeless,” “overwhelmed,” “descent.” It implies a loss of control. Women sink into a dark well. Women don’t choose to go here, they just begin sinking. You can drown in a well.

Cave: Voluntary. Time to reflect, work things out, solve problems, rejuvenate.

Well: Involuntary. Darkness, overwhelmed, “emotional housecleaning.”

Gray further explains that “in a relationship, men and women have their own rhythms and cycles. Men pull back and then get close, while women rise and fall in their ability to love themselves and others.” (113) The thing that troubles me with Gray’s analysis is that with women, it’s all about self-esteem. How they love themselves and others hinges on it. But what about men? Do men have problems with self-esteem? At first glance, men don’t seem to have a problem with it, but another look at Chapter Five reveals there may be a problem. “To be trusted that he can handle his problem (i.e., go into his cave and work things out by himself) is very important to his honor, pride, and self-esteem.” (76) Think about this. He doesn’t have a problem with his self-esteem, but if she doesn’t trust him to handle his own problem in the cave that he has chosen to go into, then he’s got a problem with it. This is very interesting, “Dr.” Gray. A woman’s self-esteem is HER problem, but a man’s self-esteem, it seems, is also HER problem. Hmm.

With Bill and Mary, we learn that Bill is frustrated because he just can’t understand what’s going on with his wife. “She becomes overwhelmed by how much she is doing for everyone and then starts being disapproving of me.” (114) Men, of course, are never overwhelmed. Gray’s advice is to support her “when she is on her way down . . . What she needs is someone to be with her as she goes down, to listen to her while she shares her feelings, and to empathize with what she is going through.” (115) Gray is quick to comfort the man, however, should his significant other not respond to his support. She may fail to feel better immediately. Indeed, Gray cautions that she may even feel worse than before. “But that is a sign that his support may be helping.” (115) How so, “Dr.” Gray? “His support may actually help her to hit bottom sooner, and then she can and will feel better. To genuinely come up first she needs to hit bottom. That is the cycle.” (115)

Gray needs to provide these words of comfort, if you will, to his male readers. After all, Gray has inferred throughout this book that man’s voice is the voice of reason. If a woman doesn’t respond to this voice of logic and reason, men have to be reassured. How can you expect the irrational to respond to the rational? She’s completely out of control. Indeed, she has to spin completely out of control in order to be normal. But men need to be left alone in the cave. They’re reasonable. They can work it out all by their lonesome. Women, on the other hand, need this support–even though reason won’t help them. It won’t help them because they’re out of control.

Indeed, women are apparently so out of control that they involuntarily fall into their respective wells. While in there they are overwhelmed, confused, and emotional. Why? Well, Gray argues that “when a woman goes into her well her deepest issues tend to surface. These issues may have to do with the relationship, but usually they are heavily charged from her past relationships and childhood.” (117) Funny how you don’t seem to mention how a man might be affected by his past in this way, “Dr.” Gray. Only women. The cave is all about problem solving or getting some space. The well is about drowning in unresolved past issues.

How might a woman feel while descending into Gray’s Inferno? “Overwhelmed, insecure, resentful, worried, confused, exhausted, hopeless, passive, demanding, withholding, mistrustful, controlling, [and] disapproving.” (117) Hmm, and all of this because of past relationships or her childhood. Might health problems enter into any of these moods? How about the ticket she just got for speeding this afternoon? Maybe she got passed over for a promotion or didn’t get that raise she was promised. She lost her job and the bills are piling up. Her husband’s been in his cave for so long that she’s wondering if she’s really still married or not. No, none of these things are relevant. It’s all her unresolved past.

It seems to me that men cave because of work related stress or to solve a problem. Women, on the other hand, fall into a well of despair because of the Barbie doll she lost when she was nine, the date that stood her up when she was 18, or the time her father had to cancel the picnic because he had to work.

For a man to support a woman while she’s drowning in her well of pain and despair is a good thing, for as the voice of reason is there to hold her hand, “gradually she will become free from the gripping influence of her past.” (118) A woman’s past is baggage. And there is nothing that she can do about this but fall into an irrational darkness every now and again to free herself from it. But a man’s support will help to set her free!

Pardon my vernacular, friends, but what the hell is this anyway? Mr. Knight has to protect and save me from my own past?! Well, I don’t know why I should be so surprised. Gray has thus far inferred that a woman has no control over the present, so why should she be capable of controlling her past. It’s impossible! But a woman NEEDS the support of her man to help her through it all. If not, she’ll drown in the well. Her own past will drown her! I suppose there aren’t any men running into a cave to escape past problems that lie unresolved, eh?

Now Gray has come up against a very scary prospect here. He’s told men to be supportive, but he’s also cautioned them that if it doesn’t look like it’s working they should be happy because it’s really helping her. She’ll “hit bottom” sooner and bounce back up in no time to be with her man. Now, if Billy Joe Bob Doofus out there doesn’t want to deal with the problems his significant other is having, then he really doesn’t have to sit there and support her anyway. She’s going to bounce back. It’ll just take a little longer, that’s all. So Billy Joe Bob either settles his arse deeper into the cushions to watch TV, goes out with his buds, or he caves. It will work out for him regardless of what he does.

On the outside chance that Billy Joe Bob begins feeling a little guilty about this–you know, not really being there to help her when he’d rather be at the ballgame with his friends, in front of the TV or otherwise caving–Gray has some words of support for Billy Joe Bob and others of his ilk. First, “a man’s love and support cannot instantly resolve a woman’s issues.” (119) Indeed, “he can expect these issues to come up again and again.” Second, “A woman going into her well is not a man’s fault or his failure . . . he cannot prevent it from happening.” (119) Finally, and most importantly, Gray tells men that “a woman has within her the ability to spontaneously rise up after she has hit bottom.” (119)

It is very interesting how Gray needs men to know that none of this is their fault. However, isn’t it intriguing how he had to let women know that while men may have an “instinctual” need to retreat to their cave, it is usually “because something she says or does often triggers his departure.” (98) Fascinating. Woman are responsible for triggering a man’s instinctual need to retreat, but a man is not in any way responsible for a woman’s capsizing in the bottom of her emotional well.

As the Church Lady would say: “Well, isn’t that conveeenient?”

Now, what happens if a woman doesn’t fall into her well every so often? Gray, of course, has an answer for everything, as we know. “When a woman doesn’t feel safe to go into her well, her only alternative is to avoid intimacy and sex or suppress and numb her feelings through addictions like drinking, overeating, overworking, or overcaretaking. Even with her addictions, however, she periodically will fall into her well and her feelings may come up in a most uncontrolled fashion.” (120) Well, well, well. These aren’t cave behaviors, are they? Gray never tells us that men who aren’t permitted to cave might fall into addictions. No! That’s for women because they’re out of control! They’re “overwhelmed” during these “difficult” times. If they can’t sink into their well, they’ll eat themselves into one! Maybe they’ll drink themselves into a well. Or they might overwork themselves into a well. Well, that’s a new one from Gray. Overwork? Yeah, probably from bending over backwards to make their man feel appreciated, blameless, loved, and trusted.

Women always go overboard in Gray’s world. They can’t cope. They can’t live without being needy, smothering, whining, harping, or feeling overwhelmed and out of control because of the “gripping influence” of their past! Now if they’re not careful they’ll be addicted too! Why don’t any of these things happen to men in Gray’s world? I guess because they’re powerful, head strong, independent, inventive, controlled, rational, and logical. And besides, if they do lose control they can’t help it anyway–it’s usually because of “what” a woman says or “when” she says it.

“You probably know stories of couples who never fight or argue and then suddenly to everyone’s surprise they decide to get a divorce.” (120) Gray posits an explanation: “In many of these cases, the woman has suppressed her negative feelings to avoid having fights. As a result she becomes numb and unable to feel her love.” (120) This is really fascinating. Before, a man reacted because of “what” a woman said or “when” she said it. Now the whole marriage has failed because she didn’t say anything. Women have some power in Gray’s world. It’s just too bad that it’s all negative!

Now, if women don’t go through this periodic emotional housecleaning, “through controlled repression of her feelings her wave nature is obstructed, and she gradually becomes unfeeling and passionless over time.” (120) When we learned how men were like rubber bands, Gray said that women can obstruct a man’s instinctual need to retreat. But now we learn that women are responsible for their own obstructions through “controlled repression of [their] feelings.” (120)

When some women “resist the natural wave motion of their feelings,” Gray tells us that they experience premenstrual syndrome. In addition, “in some cases women who have learned successfully to deal with their feeling have felt their PMS symptoms disappear.” (120) Wow! I always thought premenstrual syndrome had to deal with hormone levels!

Notice how Gray does NOT use the word instinctual here as he does with men. He doesn’t because this would mean that women have no control over their behavior. But women do have control, because women who have mastered their negative feelings “have felt their PMS symptoms disappear.” Wow! Women are so powerful that they can even regulate their own hormone levels! I can see the next infomercial already: “Hi, I’m Mrs. Ihelpjohngraypromotehissnakeoil, and since I finished reading his books I found that I can spontaneously control my hormone levels. In fact, since putting this book down I can testify to you, brothers and sisters, that I no longer experience bloating or dysmenorrhea.”

HALLELUJAH, REVEREND JOHN! SHE’S HEALED!!

“One study revealed that a woman’s self-esteem generally rises and falls in a cycle between twenty-one and thirty-five days.” (121) Well, that’s interesting. A real study! Gray was no doubt sure that the nimrods fawning over his book wouldn’t ask, but I’ll get the party started: What study? Where was it published? Who published it? What are all of the specifics! Cripes! You finally have some evidence, man, and you don’t even want to tell us about it! And what about this self-esteem cycle? Is this what the well is? It’s apparently a natural cycle, but one that a woman does have a certain amount of control over–unlike a man who has no control over his instinctual need to retreat, except that it’s triggered by “what” a woman says and “when” she says it. Curious.

Gray has to continue with his professional facade, so he persists by noting that “no studies have been done on how often a man pulls back like a rubber band [no, the collective DUH you heard was not a .wav file. That came out of your mouth.], but my experience is that it is about the same.” (121) Gray’s “experience?” Well, he says that with a certain amount of pseudointellectual certainty, but is this experience garnered from the men who talk to him at his seminars or from the sexapalooza he had after leaving the Maharishi? “Experience.” Not good enough, Gray. The “experience” of what boils down to a seminar facilitator isn’t good enough for me.

Gray then says that if a man is truly wise, he “learns to go out of his way to help a woman feel safe to rise and fall . . . As a result he enjoys a relationship that increases in love and passion over the years.” (121) If you think this shows concern for women, it is but merely a crumb to satisfy the female reader. Up to now a woman has had to go out of her way to do everything but bathe her significant other because in the end it would benefit him. Now, men are being asked to be supportive because in the end, it will benefit them. This sounds a lot like the opinion Gray echoed in a recent interview. “Women should have great sex. It will make better marriages for men.”

For this chapter’s relationship vignette we are treated to Harris and Cathy, two people who apparently sunk money into at least one of Gray’s seminars. They were very much in love. Cathy was on cloud nine. Well, that is until one night when “Harris decided to stay up late . . . and watch TV.” (122) Cathy was crushed. “Dr.” Gray says that “ever since [Cathy] was a little girl this type of intimacy was her dream . . . To the vulnerable little girl within her it was an experience of giving candy to a baby and then taking it away. She became very upset.” (122) Gray calls Cathy’s upset an “experience of abandonment. [Er . . . he watches TV and she gets close to a mental breakdown? Either these are some pretty sick people, or Gray is given to extremes.]

Gray digs deeper into Cathy’s psyche and asserts that “she began to feel the way she felt as a child when her father was too busy for her. Her past unresolved feelings of anger and powerlessness were projected onto Harris’s watching TV. If these feelings had not come up, Cathy would have been able gracefully to accept Harris’s wish to watch TV.” (123) Okay. Isn’t it interesting how in the last chapter we learn that not only is a man’s retreat inot his fault because he’s following instinct, but that the woman usually triggers it by what she says and when she says it. But Harris is completely blameless now that Cathy is upset. And what is she upset over? Not Harris wanting to watch TV, but HER haunting past. He is blameless. Not that I think watching TV is something to be angry about, but it’s HER fault. A man caving is never HIS FAULT, it just is. Something funny is going on here.

When Harris pulled away from Cathy “it triggered [her] wave to crash. Her unresolved feelings started coming up. She was not just reacting to Harris watching TV that night but to the years of being neglected.” (125) But this was, in the end, a good thing. “By understanding the bigger picture,” assures Gray, “it triggered Cathy’s time to do (yes, for the seventh time this chapter) some emotional housecleaning.” (125)

WAIT A MINUTE!! Harris did trigger Cathy’s descent into the well, but this was a GOOD thing! When a women supposedly interrupted a man’s instinctual cycle of pulling away it was a BAD thing! A man is not only blameless in Gray’s world, but when he does trigger something, it’s all for the best!

A major dilemma, of course, arises when Harris chooses to retreat into his cave and Cathy needs support as she begins her descent into the well. Gray is very understanding of this need for men to pull away. After all, it is instinctual and there is nothing they can do about it anyway. With this already established in the previous chapter, Gray offers some words of reassurance when a normal, feeling, sensitive man starts to feel guilty for thinking about himself first as his partner stands before him in emotional pain.

First, Gray advises men, “accept your limitations . . . The first thing you need to do is accept that you need to pull away and have nothing to give . . . Don’t try to listen when you can’t.” (126) Second, “understand her pain [but] you are not wrong for needing space [just as] she is not wrong for wanting to be close. (126) Lastly, Gray tells men to avoid arguments and, instead, encourages them to reassure their partners. “Although you can’t give the support she wants and needs, you can avoid making it worse by arguing. Reassure her that you will be back, and then you will be able to give her the support she deserves.” (127) Hmm, this doesn’t sound like steps for supporting her, instead it sounds like a badly needed rationale for placing his needs OVER her’s. Wait, you don’t agree?

“There was nothing wrong with Harris’s need to be alone or watch TV, nor was there anything wrong with Cathy’s hurt feelings,” writes Gray. However, to avoid an argument over whose needs are more important, Gray tells us that Harris could have said the following: “I understand you’re upset, and right now I really need to watch TV and relax. When I feel better we can talk.” (127) So Harris’s need to “cave” by watching TV is MORE IMPORTANT than Cathy’s needs at that particular moment, eh? Gray has just described women as screaming meemies who are completely out of control emotionally. He makes it sound as if they are on the brink of a breakdown and then he tells men to take their eyes off the TV for a moment to say, “Look, I need to relax now. When I’m ready we’ll talk, okay?” Even Gray acknowledges that a woman would be turned off by this response, but he manages to explain that away as well. “She may not like his response, but she will respect it.” (127)

Gray is adamant. “He should take the time he needs and then go back and give her what she needs . . . He cannot give what he doesn’t have.” (127) Cathy questions this behavior.

Cathy: “If he gets to be in his cave what about me? I give him space, but what do I get?”

Gray: “What Cathy gets is the best her partner can give at the time . . . She gets his support when he comes back.” (127-128)

Whoa! Hold on for just a minute! Here we’re met with that classic control phrase again: “You’ll get what I give you.” Naturally, if the uni-browed Neanderthal that Gray has just painted for us doesn’t want to deal with his partner’s problem, all he needs to say is “wait.” She waits until he is ready. Never mind the nature of the problem, the urgency, or anything else. Shegets what her partner can give at the time.” (127)

But what if she can’t give what she doesn’t have? Well, John Gray has dealt with that before, remember? If she’s not in the mood to have sex, Gray doesn’t tell men to respect that and deal with what she can or cannot give at the time. Instead, he tells women that they are offering nothing but “excuses. It takes two minutes. That’s all complete baloney and that attitude ruins marriages. Women make this big deal out of a two-minute hand job. They want him to go do something for her! They want him to go clean this up or whatever. Two minutes! That’s all it takes! Big deal! . . . I’m not just talking hand jobs. He’d resent it if all he gets are hand jobs . . . But if you can do a blow job, do that, and if you can have a quickie–intercourse–do that. It only takes a couple of minutes. What’s the big deal?” Hmm.

I detect an obvious imbalance of power here–and the scales aren’t tipping in favor of women! Yes, John Gray’s scale of misogyny is heavily–and shamelessly–weighted in favor of men.

“Without learning how women are like waves, men cannot understand or support their wives.” (130) Understand what? Support whom? What have we really learned in this chapter?

First, women have this bi-polar behavior called a self-esteem cycle that, in John Gray’s “experience,” tends to average about every twenty-eight days. Men might trigger it by something they do, but this is a good thing because women “need” to “crash” or “hit bottom” in order to come up and feel better again. In addition, men are reassured that it is better that they think of themselves FIRST. He utters those three magic words of reassurance that she may not like, but will most certainly respect: “I’ll be back.”

It is encouraged that men adopt the attitude of “You’ll get what I give you.” And from previous chapters, women have learned that it is in their best interest to accept this. After all, “what” they say as well as “when” they say it could drive a man into retreat and that would not make the man feel loved, accepted, blameless, or trusted. That’s a bad thing. She must learn to accept that as a woman, she comes second. That’s a good thing. He cannot give what he doesn’t have.

You know, it’s funny. The late Diane Fossey had a better handle on human behavior than John Gray has–and she was studying Rawandan mountain gorillas.
7 July 1997

A scene from John Gray’s 1996 infomercial. Women and men, who have been identified as viewers of Gray’s “first series,” are listening to Gray speak. They seem to be listening intently. Gray focuses on a blond actress and thus we witness the following:

Gray: “What moved you to order the tapes?”
Actress: “Well, I had been married for thirteen years and I ended up in a divorce. And, believe it or not, we went to five therapists before we finally came to that conclusion. (She bites her lip.) It, by far, was the most traumatic event in my whole life. (Voice cracks.) And so I promised myself that I would never let that happen again. (Voice more strained, bites lip.) So I saw your tapes and I had to have them. (Voice cracking, emotional.) And it’s changed my life because my relationships now . . . I truly know how to communicate. (Holding back tears.) I really appreciate it.”
Gray: “That’s such a special share, that I just want to come over closer, if that’s okay. (He walks over to her, she smiles.) Just want to sit here . . . (He sits next to her and, looking down at her, places his left hand on her right shoulder and begins rubbing his hand in a circular pattern over her shoulder.) I just want to thank you for sharing that and would you share with me what made the difference when you’re listening to the tapes? Did you feel a sense that ‘I’m okay’ for what then . . . (She wipes away tears.)
Actress: “It was the understanding that I don’t need to be fixed.”
Gray: “Right.”
Actress: “I can be a whole woman without some man telling me that I need to change.” (Gray nods. Cut to Gray hawking his tapes.)


Whoa! I don’t know what tapes they were talking about, but they sure don’t sound like the ones based on Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus (which, by the way, is the name of the tape series)!

In this book, Introduction and Chapter One is all about women being passive receivers and men active givers. Chapter Two tells women that offering “unsolicited advice” to a man is the “ultimate insult.” (20) Indeed, keeping quiet and not offering a solution is “warm acceptance and trust” on her part. It is a “very special opportunity to love and support” her partner. (20) Chapter Three introduces the “cave”–a special place where men retreat to solve their problems. When men go to this place, women need to know that “this [is] not the time to have intimate conversations but a time to talk about problems with their friends or go shopping.” (40) Chapter Four tells women that men need to “feel appreciated, trusted and accepted.” (46) That when men are motivated to give, then they will give their best to their partners. Gray also tells women that “instead of blaming a man for giving less, a woman can accept her partner’s imperfections, especially when he disappoints her, trust that he wants to give more when he doesn’t offer his support, and [encourage] him to give more by appreciating what he does give.” (49) And, in Chapter Five, we learn how a woman can express her feelings without making her partner “feel attacked, accused, or blamed.” (88) That is, a woman should offer him “loving acceptance (i.e., say nothing), ask him to rephrase any concerns with which she may have a need to discuss with him, reassure him that he is not being blamed for comments uttered in frustration, and, most importantly, what a woman says is never what she actually means. We also learn how men could be supportive to their partners: When feeling a need to retreat into the cave, they should always say, “I’ll be back.”

No, no! Women don’t have to change at all–just adopt an attitude of passive resignation. What he’s giving is all he’s got to give. If he’s not giving more, then you’re not trying hard enough to love and support and accept him. Hmm, does Gray ever outright ask a woman to change? Yes, I think he does.

Fascinated by his cave metaphor, John Gray uses Chapter Six to expound on why men retreat into their caves and, naturally, how women can make life easier for them by learning to understand why men need to have some time alone. The reason, we are told, is because men are like rubber bands.

“A rubber band is the perfect metaphor to understand the male intimacy cycle,” writes Gray. “Men instinctively feel this urge to pull away. It is not a decision or choice. It just happens . . . It is a natural cycle.” (92) As men experience this instinctive urge to “fulfill [their] need for independence or autonomy,” they pull away much like a rubber band that is stretched to its limit. (93) Like the rubber band, a man has nowhere else to go but back. When he has done so, like the rubber band, “he will return with a lot of power and spring.” (94) If a woman expects her partner to be close and intimate all of the time, the rubber band will turn limp and flaccid. His “power and strength,” like the rubber band, is gone. Simply put, if a woman quietly accepts her partner’s instinctive urge to pull away, she will be rewarded by his eventual return.

However, please indulge me for a moment while I examine this rubber band metaphor in a bit more detail. Now, according to Gray, a man satisfies his instinctual need for autonomy by stretching away from his partner. His need for independence satisfied, he springs back to her. (94) However, further along in a drama starring Jeff and Maggie, we’re told that as their relationship blossomed, “Jeff was strong and full of desire. His rubber band was fully stretched.” (95) When Jeff felt himself becoming limp from intimacy, he felt a need to pull away. So, I ask you, how does this metaphor work, exactly?

 

A man stretches away when he needs autonomy. Yet, Jeff was “fully stretched” at the height of his desire for Maggie. When he was getting limp from too much intimacy, it is then that he felt a need to pull away. But Gray just said that when he pulled away he was at the height of his desire and felt limp. But then, if he’s limp, how can he be fully stretched? (92) I don’t know, it’s just a thought, but perhaps “Dr.” Gray might want to make sure the metaphor actually works before he uses it. But I digress . . .

 

Ultimately, however, we learn that whether he is stretched or limp, Maggie’s first reaction is one of fear. Panicking at the thought she may have “done something wrong” or terrified that “he will never come back,” Maggie runs after Jeff. But Maggie doesn’t realize that this is “just part of his intimacy cycle.” (96) Indeed, once Maggie learned that this was instinctual or natural behavior for a man, “her trust in this process grew [and] she just accepted him at those times, [knowing] the sooner he would return.” (97) Indeed, keen on this biological interpretation, Gray again tells us that a man cannot help doing this. “Just as we do not decide to be hungry,” writes “Dr.” Gray, “a man does not decide to pull away. It is an instinctual urge.” (98)

How interesting, then, that this instinctual behavior is often caused by the woman herself. Usually “because something she says or does often triggers his departure.” (98) Well, this is very convenient, isn’t it? The man is not responsible for pulling away, because it is an “instinctual urge.” (98) And he does nothing to spur this exile because the woman “often triggers” his instinctual need for autonomy. (98) Further along, Gray informs us that at another time in this natural cycle, it is not so much what a woman says “but when she says it.” (99) As I see it, a woman in Gray’s universe is damned if she does and damned if she doesn’t. The bottom line that she has no choice but to accept this instinctual behavior–behavior that she has prompted by either what she has said or when she has said it.

Put on your slippers, ladies, you’re about to take a walk on the proverbial eggshell carpet.

Gray’s advice for the instinctual behavior that she has just triggered, is to “let him pull away. After some time, he will return.” (99) But just how long is “some time?” An hour? A day? A week? A month? A year? Regardless of the time line, a man’s return is a woman’s reward for her patience. This is the time that she should talk to him. However, she should not demand that he talk, but should just begin sharing her thoughts and feelings with him. Gray assures us that “as she appreciates him for listening, gradually he will have more to say.” (100)

So which is it? Does a woman keep quiet, or does she talk? If she talks, he pulls away because she is talking about feelings. But then, she doesn’t know what part of the intimacy cycle he’s in, so does she risk talking and possibly spark another need for instinctual departure, or should she be quiet and take the chance of hurting his feelings because she’s not saying anything and, therefore, provoke another departure. Through all of this, of course, the man is doing nothing but stretching away and springing back–which he cannot control because this is instinctual. The woman, on the other hand, reacts and interacts at her own pleasure–or peril.

Should a man be uncommunicative, either before or after his retreat into Autonomyland, Gray informs us that you can not reject a man for not talking. A man has to “feel accepted just the way he is . . . He does not feel accepted when she wants him to talk more or resents him for pulling away.” (100) This is the same lesson from Chapter Four: you’ll get what I give you. It is her fault if he pulls away because she likely triggered it (even thought it is instinctual), but it’s part of his natural cycle; meaning that she has nothing whatsoever to do with his return only his retreat. Indeed, Gray stresses that “in the beginning, she should even discourage him from talking.” (100) But what if he wants to talk? If she discourages him from talking, she may cause him to pull away yet again!

He just “is.” She must both “act” and “not act.” Either way, she’s between the proverbial rock and a hard place, because, in the final analysis, he is the one who decides whether or not he is being “accepted just the way he is.” (100) However, if you, as a woman, still fell stymied by this curious scenario, then Gray offers a scholarly and well-researched explanation: “[you are] forgetting that men are from Mars!” (104)

Lisa and Jim are introduced as a couple who feel guilty if they indulge their own selfish pleasures without sharing them with one another. Lisa feels guilty without inviting Jim to participate in something with her. Jim feels guilty if he leaves Lisa. But after Gray’s magical insight, Lisa “released her resentment toward Jim. She realized that she been expecting too much from him . . . [and] how she was contributing to their problem.” (106) Lisa had come to the realization that Jim just naturally needed time to be by himself! Once she had accepted him “just the way he [was],” she realized that she was “not only preventing him from pulling away and then springing back but her dependent attitude was smothering him.” (106)

Consider again Gray’s assessment of the situation: Lisa finally “realized . . . how she was contributing to their problem.” (106. Enhancement mine.) Oh, I see, Jim’s likewise co-dependent behavior was not a contributing factor because he is driven by instinct–much as a female praying mantis bites off the head of her mate. Coupled with Lisa’s “smothering” and “dependent” behavior, he couldn’t help but be caught in her emotional web. He is completely absolved of his emotional behavior. After all, he is just responding to her. She is obstructing his natural cycle. Hmmm, it doesn’t sound like Jim is on the higher end of the food chain, does it? He is helpless. Driven by instinct–and, let us not forget, the actions of his female partner–he becomes limp and unresponsive. When Lisa changed her “dependent” and “smothering” behavior, however, Jim began to respond to her changes. He had determined that he was being fully accepted for just the way he was. As I read it, if he didn’t respond, then she would have failed. (Actually, the behavior being exhibited by both Jim and Lisa sounds rather co-dependent, if you ask me. But I suppose since this term has been snatched up by a myriad of twelve-step programs and authors, Gray probably didn’t see the practicality–i.e., money-making potential–in a phrase of this sort.)

Women routinely obstruct the natural cycle of intimacy for men by exhibiting what Gray terms “chasing” and “punishing” behaviors. If she chases, by either physically pursuing him or emotionally smothering him, he will pull away. He feels “controlled.” (107) She may try to pull him back by trying to please him. “She becomes overly accommodating. She tries to be perfect so he would never have any reason to pull away. She gives up her sense of self and tries to become what she thinks he wants. She is afraid to rock the boat for fear that he might pull away, and so she withholds her true feelings and avoids doing anything that may upset him.” (107-108) But isn’t this what Gray has been tacitly advocating all along?

Just as the “perfect metaphor” didn’t work, neither does Gray’s so-called analysis. Gray just told us that what she says, as well as when she says it, will often trigger a man to pull away. She should encourage, but not demand, that he talk. She should discourage him from talking. She should accept the way he is. When he feels accepted, then he will respond. If he has not responded, then she isn’t doing her job. But, then, what exactly is her job? Damned if she does. Damned if she doesn’t.

For the first time in his book, Gray breaks from his paradigm of female passivity and assigns women real power. Yes, real power. However, the power that she has is altogether negative! Consider that the first time a woman is “active” is Gray’s universe, she is “chasing” her man. In the next, and most revealing, scenario, she “punishes” her man for obeying his instinctual urge.

When he returns from his self-imposed (excuse me, instinctually driven) emotional exile, she “pushes away his physical affection . . . She may hit him or break things in order to show her displeasure.” (108) This makes a man afraid. If he is afraid, he may never “come back” again. She may punish him emotionally by forgiving him “for neglecting her.” (108) As a result, Gray argues that “he feels incapable of fulfilling her and gives up.” (108) Further, she may mentally punish him by refusing to “open up and share her feelings . . . by not giving him a chance to listen and be the ‘good’ guy.” (109) He returns only to find himself “in the doghouse.” (108-109)

This punishment by a woman is wholly unwarranted, because he has only pulled away because it was biologically unavoidable! As a result of her sordid punishments, however, “he may become afraid to reach out for her love again because he feels unworthy, he assumes he will be rejected. This fear of rejection,” warns Gray, “prevents him from coming back from his journey into the cave.” (109) It seems that when a women does exhibit her true feelings, she runs the risk of turning him away and forever alienating him. He is not expected to change his behavior. He can’t. You cannot punish a man, or expect him to modify his behavior, because he is following his instinct.

If, however, a man does attempt to control this instinctual behavior, he is cornered into making excuses or “unconsciously [creating] arguments to justify pulling away. This kind of man naturally develops more of his feminine side but at the expense of suppressing some of his masculine power . . . Without knowing what has happened he loses his desire, power, and passion; he becomes passive or overly dependent.” (109) Hmm, you mean he’s becoming more like a woman, “Dr.” Gray? After all, this is the way women have been characterized in this book from the very beginning. In this chapter, Gray characterized women as “smothering” and “dependent.” Earlier chapters established passive behaviors, the familiar muted acceptance and, in some very memorable interviews, passionless ambivalence, as inherent female behavior.

Once again, it seems to be men who have all of the control, and women have to do all of the necessary changing in order to accept and accommodate the instinctual behavior of her partner.

“The wise woman learns not to demand . . . she trusts . . . she does not punish . . . she does not chase . . . she understands . . . she patiently and lovingly persists with a knowing that few women have.” (111) Although men are told that when they are “not needing to pull away, the wise man takes the time to initiate conversation by asking his female partner how she is feeling.” (110) Gee, that’s really nice. And then the women, happy that her man is “back,” begins to talk about her day, things she likes, maybe some things she’d like to do with him. But then instinct calls. He feels “the call” and says to her, “I need some time to think about this and then we can talk again.” (110) You see, he is ruled by instinct and though this sounds harsh to the common sense-thinking-responsible-adult, a man learns through reading this chapter that all he has to do is reassure his partner that “when he pulls away he will be back.” (110) He is released from all adult responsibility and adult consideration of another human being because he is following instinct.

Do women have any humanity in Gray’s universe? Do they deserve any type of consideration for their being? How is it that women are expected to be so accepting? If a woman, according to Gray, “punishes” her man by withholding physical affection, could it be that the woman has been wounded by her partner? Ignored and cast aside because instinct tells him that it’s time to hang with his buds, flick the remote control, or brood over the lawn mower? But she is not permitted to express how she feels. No. That would not be accepting. That might not be motivating. And it certainly wouldn’t be trusting. Women must trust that when men are off on their own that they’d really rather be with their partner, but instinct won’t let them.

So, when he “returns,” she’s wounded. She’s been truly hurt by his inattention. And then he sneaks up behind her and offers a hug or nuzzles her neck, but she’s hurt. She doesn’t want to respond. No, she loves him, but she needs time to think now. “No, honey, I’m not in the mood right now. I’m tired. I need some time to think.” What might “Dr.” Gray say to this sincere, albeit guarded, response to her partner? “Honey, you don’t want to have sex? How about a blow job . . . or a hand job?” And she must, according to Gray, acquiesce because her feelings, her protests–what he would deem her “punishments”–are “all excuses. It takes two minutes! That’s all complete baloney and that attitude ruins marriages.”

“I can be a whole woman without some man telling me that I need to change,” says the marginal actress. But if you don’t want to accept this crass behavior, Gray tells you to accept. If you don’t think this behavior deserves patience because it’s just rude, Gray tells you to be patient. If you think it’s just an adult shirking responsibility, Gray tells you to trust, because he can’t help it–he’s driven by instinct. And when you reveal your displeasure, your disappointment, in the self-centered behavior of your mate, Gray tells you to be quiet. This is a punishment. You’re not allowed to punish because that may hurt him. He can’t help it–he’s responded to an instinctual urge.

Wake up. Gray has just told men to stay the way that he believes they are. Gray has just told you to change.
21 June 1997

Alright, Star Trek fans, dig out that universal translator! You’ll need it to get you through this chapter. Oh, not to understand it, but to garble the tripe with the hope that you will be more apt to forget it! Who knows, in another language the negative images evoked might at least sound better than they are in reality!

In Chapter Four, we learned that it was the job of the woman to inform her partner when and if she needed support. At that point, the degree of support was wholly incumbent upon how motivated her man felt to give her the support that she desired. Remember, “given the opportunity to prove his potential, he expresses his best self.” (45) If the opportunity is not provided for him, then he bears no responsibility to put forth his best self. This is why Chapter Five is such an integral part of this book, for we learn how men and women communicate. Women will now learn how they can provide the opportunity for a man to offer his “best self” to her.

As far as women are concerned, John Gray informs us that in order “to fully express their feelings, women assume poetic license to use various superlatives, metaphors, and generalizations.” (60) [Odd, that sounds a lot like this male-authored book, doesn't it?] Men, we are told, take these exaggerated statements literally and therein lies the cause of conflict in communication between men and women. To help mitigate our understanding of these differences, Gray provides a list entitled “Women say things like this.” (60-61) Let’s see what they say.

  1. “We never go out.”
  2. “Everyone ignores me.”
  3. “I am so tired, I can’t do anything.”
  4. “I want to forget everything.”
  5. “This house is always a mess.”
  6. “Nothing is working.”
  7. “You don’t love me anymore.”
  8. “We are always in a hurry.”
  9. “I want more romance.”

While one’s first reaction is to wonder why this list was not entitled “Wails of Shrieking Harpies,” Gray offers a translation for the average man who might not be able to discern what these statements actually mean. Let’s take the first statement: “We never go out.” Gray argues that when a woman says this to her significant other, what she actually means is “I feel like going out and doing something together . . . I love being with you. What do you think? Would you take me out to dinner? It has been a few days since we went out.” (62-63) Without this sappy translation, a man might very well hear the following. “You are not doing your job. What a disappointment you have turned out to be. We never do anything together anymore because you are just lazy, unromantic, and just boring.” (63) I submit that if a man embraces this particular translation, there may very well be something about which he is feeling guilt. After all, “we never go out” may mean just that: “we never go out.” Gray never stops to assume that a woman means what she says. No, they’re just exaggerations.

Consider some “translations” to a few of the above statements. First, “no one listens to me anymore.” This seemingly innocent comment of frustration (sorry, just using my common sense here) has been translated by our graduate from Columbia Pacific University thus. “I am afraid I am boring you. I am afraid you are no longer interested in me. I seem to be very sensitive today. Would you give me some special attention? I would love it . . . Would you listen to me and continue to ask me supportive questions . . . Or just listen, and occasionally when I pause make one of those reassuring sounds: ‘oh,’ ‘humph,’ ‘uh-huh,’ and ‘hmmm.'” (65) Without this weary and heart-sick translation, Gray argues that a comment uttered in frustration means that “you have become a very boring person to be with. I want someone exciting and interesting and you are definitely not that person. You have disappointed me. You are selfish, uncaring and bad.” (65) Er, from where did he get that extreme of an idea?

Consider another phrase: “We are always in a hurry.” (66) Now, I realize that my leaps of common sense make me interpret these statement as ones borne out of frustration or accurate assessments of a bad situation, but the good “doctor,” of course, reads much more into them. If I, as a woman, say this, I am really stating that “I feel so rushed today . . . I wish our life was not so hurried. I know it is nobody’s fault and I certainly don’t blame you. I know you are doing your best to get us there on time and I really appreciate how much you care.” (66) Without the handy translation, however, a man would just naturally assume that she is accusing him of being “irresponsible . . . I can never be happy when I am with you . . . You ruin things every time I am with you. I am so much happier when I am not around you.” (66) Could it ever be that, indeed, “we are always in a hurry?”

Let’s review.

What she says

What he hears

“We never go out.” “We never do anything anymore because you are lazy, unromantic, and boring.”
“No one listens to me anymore.” “You have become a very boring person to be with. I want someone exciting and interesting and you are definitely not that person. You have disappointed me. You are selfish, uncaring, and bad.”
“We are always in a hurry.” “You ruin things every time I am with you. I am so much happier when I am not around you.”

You know, I don’t think it takes a rocket scientist to identify some excessive leaps in logic here.

The important point concerning these examples is Gray’s assertion that men learn over time that “these kinds of dramatic phrases are not to be taken literally. They are just the way women express feelings more fully.” (67) Gray has thus far insisted that men are logical to a fault, so then why would they be apt to interpret such extreme meanings from comments borne out of frustration? More importantly, why wouldn’t a man, being so logical, take that comment for what it is. Maybe he doesn’t listen to her anymore. Perhaps it is true that they never go out. Indeed, is it such a stretch to think that maybe they’re always in a hurry? Oh, that’s right, women exaggerate everything. Now, why do women supposedly talk this way?

Why Women [and Men] Talk (70-71)

  1. “To convey or gather information. (This is generally the only reason a man talks.)”
  2. “To explore and discover what it is she wants to say. (He stops talking to figure out inside what he wants to say. She talks to think out loud.)”
  3. “To feel better and more centered when she is upset. (He stops talking when he is upset. In his cave he has a chance to cool off.)”
  4. “To create intimacy. Through sharing her inner feelings she is able to know her loving self. (A Martian stops talking to find himself again. Too much intimacy, he fears, will rob him of himself.).”

According to Gray, “men and women think and process information very differently.” (67) Men prefer to silently “mull over” what they wish to say. Women, however, talk “to think out loud.” (71) Because women, by virtue of their gender, evidently ramble on incessantly until they figure out what it is they want to communicate to their partners, they have no need to retreat into a cave. Men, however, need to cave. And following his established pattern of not having a man do anything before he is ready, or unless his partner has provided the opportunity to express his best self, we learn that a woman should never follow her male partner into this proverbial cave. Not understanding this, women try to get their man to talk. Gray provides us with a sample conversation between a man and his shrieking harpy . . . er . . . female partner. (72)

She: “Is there something wrong?”
He: “No.”
She: “I know something is bothering you, what is it?”
He: “It’s nothing.”
She: “It’s not nothing. Something’s bothering you. What are you feeling?”
He: “Look, I’m fine. Now leave me alone!”
She: “How can you treat me like this? You never talk to me anymore. How am I supposed to know what you are feeling? You don’t love me. I feel so rejected by you.”

Naturally, Gray has determined that this is gender-specific behavior. This is NOT gender-specific behavior; this sounds more like co-dependent behavior that could just as easily be exhibited by a man who doesn’t know when to give his significant other space. Gray tells us that a woman who nags, bites, and rags at her partner will ultimately get burned by the dragon guarding his cave. (!) Now, we’ve already had a list of things that women might say. Examine, if you will, the character of the things that men might say. (74-75)

  1. “I’m OK” or “It’s OK.”
  2. “I’m fine” or “It’s fine”
  3. “It’s nothing.”
  4. “It’s all right” or I’m all right.”
  5. “It’s no big deal.”
  6. “It’s no problem.”

When Gray “translated” what it was women were actually saying, the general character was that of someone walking on eggshells, pleading and remaining submissive, struggling never to offend or convey the wrong message. How does Gray translate what men say? Well, “I’m fine” means “I am fine because I am successfully dealing with my upset or problem.” (74) “It’s nothing” translates into the calm and logical “nothing is bothering me that I cannot handle alone.” (74) And what of “It’s no problem”? Naturally, “I have no problem doing this or solving this problem. It is my pleasure to offer this gift to you.” (75)

What a big difference between shrieking/whining harpy and calm, logical, and rational thinking man! You say you don’t see any sexism here? Let’s take a look at what women can do to support a man when he withdraws into his cave. (And let us not forget that a cave, by its very nature, conveys a structure that is strong, fortified, protective, and intimidating. This will become extremely important in following chapters.)

It possibly the only (and I mean only) ray of light that exists in this book, Gray suggests that a woman not make her partner “the sole source of [her] fulfillment.” (76) [Although I'm not surprised that he doesn't offer the same caution to men.] Of course, this small flicker of hope gets brutally snuffed out when we read over a list of suggestions that Gray has compiled for women to do when their partner has retreated into his cave. These are important, for “anything that distracts her or helps her to feel good will be helpful to him.” (77) So much for selfish pleasures, eh?

Read a book Write in a journal
Listen to music Go shopping
Work in the garden Pray or meditate
Exercise Go for a walk
Get a massage Take a bubble bath
Listen to self-improvement tapes See a therapist [from an accredited university, I would hope]
Treat yourself to something delicious Watch TV or a video
Call a girlfriend for a good chat

Gee, I don’t see anything on this light and brainless list (one that is soo cerebral I’ll just go ahead and call it The Lobotomy List) that suggests women concentrate on some work from the office. How about immersing oneself in scholarly pursuits? No, Gray would never stop to consider that women do anything more than primp, preen, talk, and go shopping. Gee, why not go to the public park and find a grill in which to burn a book written by John Gray? Not that would not only be useful, but immensely cathartic as well.

I can hear the Apologists wailing now: “These are only examples. They don’t fit into the argument you’re trying to make that everything ‘Dr.’ Gray suggests is gender-specific!” Oh, no? Try page 78. “It was hard to conceive of being happy when a friend was hurting,” writes Gray digressing into his stellar fantasy, “but the Venusians did find a way. Every time their favorite Martian went into his cave, they would go shopping . . . Venusians love to shop.” (78) Gray’s Apologists, of course, are now nodding their heads reciting the Gray mantra, “Uh-huh.”

We are then told that Gray’s wife, Bonnie, sometimes goes shopping when Gray retreats into his cave. “When I begin showing signs of interest in her, she recognizes that I am coming out of the cave.” (78) This is the time a woman should talk–NOT BEFORE. Gray then proudly tells us that Bonnie will sometimes “casually say, ‘When you feel like talking, I would like to spend some time together. Would you let me know when?'” (78) Gray argues that this is the correct approach, for through approaching him in this way “she can test the waters without being pushy or demanding.” (78)

We learn that when a woman has criticism or advice for her significant male other, she should bind her feet, put her head down, and walk on eggs without producing nary a crack! Well, what Gray actually says is that a woman “should definitely not offer criticism or advice unless he asks. Instead she should try giving him loving acceptance. This is what he needs, not lectures.” (79) Hmm. “Loving acceptance.” Gray offers four possible approaches should, for example, a woman need to discuss some concerns with her partner about the way he dresses.

Approach #1

As he is getting dressed she could just tell her man that she doesn’t like that particular shirt on him and ask, “Would you wear another one tonight?” Should he become “annoyed” by that comment “she should respect his sensitivities and apologize. She could say, ‘I’m sorry–I didn’t mean to tell you how to dress.'” (79) Apologize? FOR WHAT? She didn’t deliver an ultimatum, she made an honest suggestion. An apology could only be squeezed out of this scenario by a woman cowering in fear after seeing this moron’s hand raised to her face.

Approach #2

Well, this is the indirect manipulation scenario. “Remember that blue shirt you wore with the green slacks? I didn’t like that combination. Would you try wearing it with your gray slacks?” (80) This suggests to me that a woman must forego honesty and turn to manipulation to get what she wants. Hmm, what was that an Apologist wrote recently? “I learned how I can CONTROL my relationship with my man. How I can, through techniques you refer to as acting passive, gain exactly what I want from my boyfriend without whining and bitching and moaning like a weak woman would do. This book didn’t take my power away, it empowered me.” (Krista M. Beavers; 12 June 1996.) Well, that’s downright scary–whether or not it comes from a man or a woman!

Approach #3

This approach is what Gray has termed “mothering.” Here a woman directly asks, “Would you let me take you shopping one day? I would like to pick out an outfit for you.” Gray cautions us, however, that “if he says no, then [you] can be sure he doesn’t want anymore mothering.” (80) Mothering.

Approach #4

In this final scenario, a woman approaches her man directly and says, “There is something I want to talk to you about but I don’t know how to say it. [Pause.] I don’t want to offend you, but I also really want to say it. Would you listen and then suggest to me a better way I could say it?” Er . . . huh? Let me get this right. I go to my man, cowering with feet bound, and ASK HIM TO TELL ME HOW TO PHRASE MY REQUEST? Gee, what could have ever convinced me that Gray is a card carrying sexist?

If a man behaves in a way that is embarrassing to his partner, Gray advises that she should approach him away from anyone else (oh, that common sense thing kills me every time, “doctor”) and say, “The other night at the party, I didn’t like it when you were so loud. When I’m around, would you try to keep it down?” Well, heck, that sounds reasonable enough for an approach. It is honest and shows respect for your partner. Of course, this whole common sense approach is warped once Gray expounds on it a little more. “If he gets upset and doesn’t like this comment,” advises the “doctor,” “then simply apologize for being critical.” (81) Yes, it’s that old female passivity role that Gray adores so much. Apologize for feeling the way you feel, ladies. Forget your priorities.

These seven pages of advice for women are followed by two pages of advice for men on how to be supportive to a Venusian.

Basically all men are told to do for their partner is to reassure her that he will eventually emerge from his cave. That’s it! “When a man understands how important this is to a woman, then he is able to remember to give this reassurance.” (85) Hmm, women have been told in seven pages to avert their eyes, apologize, refrain from giving advice unless they are asked, and all men are told to do is reassure their significant others that they’ll be back from their caves eventually. In his segway to a discussion on communication without blame, Gray writes that “just as men can support women by making little changes, women need to do the same.” (85) “Little changes?” Up to now women have been making all sorts of changes. Is it any surprise to you that his five page treatment on avoiding blame is directed at women? No, it shouldn’t be.

“To reassure a man that he is not being blamed,” advises Gray, “when a woman expresses her feelings she could pause after a few minutes of sharing and tell him how much she appreciates him for listening.” (86) How does one do this? Simple! “If she is complaining about finances, mention that she appreciates that he fixed the fence; or if she is complaining about the frustrations of being a parent, she could mention that she is glad she has his help.” 987)

Well, that was simple enough. Let me try it. “You know, honey, you spent a whole week’s pay on beer last month so we don’t have any formula for the baby, but, hey, thanks a lot for flushing the toilet this morning.” Humph, that was easy!

“It’s not your fault.” These are the so-called “magic words of support” for a man. (88) Gray tells men that the best thing they can do for a woman is to listen to her without taking things personally (i.e., feeling blamed). But to head off any potential conflict, a woman should always remember those “four magic words” and insert them into any statements she may make out of frustration or discontent.

Our lesson for Chapter Five is an interesting one. “A woman does not have to suppress her feelings or even change them to support her partner. [Wait. Here it comes.] She does, however, need to express them in a way that doesn’t make him feel attacked, accused, or blamed.” (88) How is this resolved? It isn’t.

We have seen in example after example how women have been told to suppress how they feel or later apologize for their feelings in order to make their man feel loved, accepted, blameless, and trusted. That’s a hell of a lot more work than Gray’s extensive advice for men: “Honey, I’ll be back.”
6 August 1996