“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)
He shows interest in “her feelings.” (135)
She believes that “he is doing his best.” (135)
She is “heard and understood.” (135
She does not try to improve him, “she trusts him to make his own improvements.” (135)
He “takes into consideration her thoughts and feelings.” (136)
She “acknowledges having received personal benefit and values from a man’s efforts and behavior.” (136)
“He makes her feelings and needs more important than his other interests–likes work, study, recreation.” (136)
She regards him with “wonder, delight, and pleased approval . . . she is happily amazed with his unique characteristics or talent.” (136)
“A man’s validating attitude confirms a woman’s right to feel the way she does.” (137)
She “acknowledges the goodness in a man and expresses overall satisfaction with him.” (137)
“He must remember to assure her again and again [that she is loved].” (137)
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.
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
Mistakes Men Make (but note how they don’t “commonly” make them)
|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