on October 12, 2005
Before writing this review, I spent some time looking over many of the other reviews on here. The spread is interesting, and I think it comes from a misunderstanding of the very limited scope of this book.
First off, if you're looking for a book to explain the innate differences (if there are any?) between men and women, this is definitely not it. Further, if you're looking for a book that dives deep into communication theory and has profound statements regarding the nature of good communication, this is equally lacking. The title betrays the purpose. This book is a badly written collection of common sense ideas and tactics to use when communicating in a relationship.
Why 4 stars? Because common sense is not as common as people think. I am amazed at the 1-star ratings by "intellectuals" who charge that this book stands on very shaky philosophic ground, and that it does not live up to the high caliber of true scientific studies into communication fundamentals and/or gender differences. Get a grip! That's not the purpose of the book!
This book is equivalent to an "Idiot's Guide to Listening, Respect, and Communication, with Easy-to-Remember Examples." Intellectuals charging that the common person should read XYZ's scientific study about the fundamentals is missing the basic point -- I don't want to know the fundamentals of communication (at the moment), I just want to know why my last girlfriend got offended when I offered solutions when she was complaining about work. Sounds simple? Not for all of us.
I have a degree in rocket engineering and I am very confident that I could tear a book about "Physics for the common person" to ribbons for making vast over-generalizations and ignoring (what I consider to be) key details in the trade. I could easily humble half the readers of this review if we were talking about rocket dynamics. But would I criticize a beginner's physics book if it generates interest in my favorite subject? Of course not! You can't mock a beginner's book for not addressing the advanced issues.
Further, it is hard to argue with the couples who say their marriage has been saved by this book. All idealism and charges of misogynistic text aside - if it works, it works. Period.
I find it kind of humorous that those most offended by the generalizations made in this book are the ones most quickly to generalize. You must remember: Not all stereotypes are false, or even bad. When I go to China and sit down at a restaurant, I'm going to ask for chopsticks, and not forks. Why? Because I stereotype all people in China as eating with chopsticks. Is this bad, or just efficient?
Many men and women fall into the stereotypes as described in this book. Whether or not you agree with those stereotypes as being "right" or "acceptable" is really irrelevant to the point. Further, the stereotypes are just a method of conveying the information. Gray is just trying to document the two different most common reactions to stress, and labels them "male" and "female" according to stereotype. He might as well have labeled them "North" and "South" for all I care -- the point is not the male/female generalizations, the point is understanding BOTH ways of dealing with stress (talking about it or receding into thought) and how to correctly handle it when you or your partner starts doing either.
Last, but certainly not least, let's get off the charges of women-hating. The book is almost literally a mirror within itself, as every paragraph generalizing women has its counterpart generalizing men. While you can charge that he mislabels both equally, those who look at this evenly stacked book and somehow derive a women-bashing lean are simply playing up their own insecurities, opinions, and political stances regarding the genders. The book is an almost word-for-word split between the two (if you don't believe me, go back and look!). If you can only see the women-bashing side of things, while nonchalantly accepting all the male generalizations, then you are reading through your own mental filter, and should take a moment to consider that.
I recommend this book to those of you who may not have the common sense that the elitist intellectuals profess, nor the ludicrous sensitivity to one side of an equally balanced portrayal of (admittedly overgeneralized) gender roles.
Finally after 12 years and fourteen worldwide very successful million copies, MEN ARE FROM MARS, WOMEN ARE FROM VENUS comes out across the USA in the more affordable paperback. Rather than the typical "I liked it, but" format, my experience with the book was that I wound it liking it more and more as it went on, but the introductory chapters almost stopped me flat.
In school we were warned not to write in "Glittering Generalities," yet Gray does his best to make a virtue of that. Who but a stand-up comedian would dare say "Canadians love Good Government, Americans love Liberty"? Or: "Californians crave B vitamins, Midwesterners crave protein"? Gray's whole thesis sounds just as simplistic at first. (In general, and with exceptions), Men are from Mars: Competitive, individualistic, not into "caring and sharing," wanting to be admired for their ability to hang tough and deliver the goods yet unwilling to communicate the fact they need admiration. And Women are from Venus: Craving respect from their men, looking for emotional bells and whistles and not so much material status symbols as their men might suppose, prone to cycles of emotional fatigue and dependent on their mates to cherish them. In the beginning it all sounded so like a 1950s Tupperware Party I almost gave up.
But I didn't, and eventually the book works, in no small part because Gray writes patiently and simply but not simplistically, supported by a huge pool of real-life examples from his own therapy sessions (and apparently lots of "plugs" from earlier editions of his books at its successors). It's hard to argue with people who tell you their marriage was saved by this book.
Gray deals with language a lot in this book, because "Martians" and "Venusians" speak different languages, and each is only remotely connected to English. (He even uses phrasebook-translation techniques at times!) If a man comes home mulling over something and seems withdrawn, his wife may ask him, "What's wrong"? He might say, "It's okay." This is Martian for, roughly paraphrasing, "I need to withdraw into myself (his "cave," Gray says), and mull over a situation. It may be a small technical matter or something more significant. I first have to isolate the matter, then chew on it, determine its scope, and try to solve it on my own. Trust me to have enough sense to try to solve it rationally, and trust me to have enough sense to seek advice from the right source if it's something I can't handle on my own. Please DO NOT keep offering help. That's a waste of your time and mine; and it's a double insult to imply that I can't solve most of my own problems and that you somehow would be better at solving my own problems that I am." So the woman cannot interpret "It's OK" into Venusian ("Please help me") or even literal English ("Everything's fine; I'm going to relate to you normally").
On the other hand, suppose Mars and Venus are in the car, getting ready to leave the house for a long-planned camping trip. Mars turns the ignition key; Venus suddenly sighs and says, "I feel all the life is being squeezed out of me. You NEVER do anything with me anymore." Mars should not, SHOULD NOT, respond to the challenge of "never" by saying "If I 'never' do anything with you, what the Hell do you call this trip?" Which would lead to hurt feelings, bickering, perhaps an all-out fight. And Mars probably has no clue his spouse is uttering Venusian dialect meaning something along the lines of "I'm at an emotional low. All the planning and packing has drained me. I need love and sympathy. Please show how much you care for me so that I can start re-investing my trust in you." His best response might be . . . no response at all. Or maybe something like "mmmm." (Gray is very big on non-verbal verbal communication.) Martians have to listen beneath the words, beneath the contract, and learn to hear the tone ringing through the context.
Sound difficult? It is. That's why it takes a medium-sized book to broach the subject; and my paraphrases, however glib, have been worked as much as possible to be accurate. Gray's theories are convincing in structure, attitude and -- as I've said above -- outcome. Not for everyone and not all the time, but maybe for eighty percent of American couples who aren't "newlywed or nearly dead." The mass of people who haven't given up -- who care about keeping their relationships intact -- especially those who come out of an argument truly puzzled as to why mere misunderstandings escalate into wars of words, or why their problem-solving seems to ground-out at the level of "S/he's always got to WIN an argument." This book is not just for stereotype Alan Aldas or Stepford Wives; to borrow a phrase it has worked for a lot of people who worked it and will continue to do so. Just don't confuse John Gray with Moses, lest the "Commandment-like" tone of his opening chapters put you off this very good and useful book. ;)
on August 2, 1999
A friend recommended this book to me a year ago, but I didn't want to read it at that time. But later, my 30-year old son told me he heard the casette and liked it, so I decided to give it a try.
When I began to read the book, I was impressed with the way it described some of the differences between men and women. The book gave me a lot of insight and answered some of the questions I've puzzled about for a long time. However, I got bogged down with the book's repetitiveness.
Since my son liked the tape, I bought it(abridged) and found I liked the concepts even better in a condensed form. After listening to the casette several times and understanding it, I enjoyed the book better, too. The wisdom of its concepts began to grow on me. Now, I often think of the concepts taught. Using them increases understanding between us in our marriage. The concepts aren't difficult, just different than what I would think up on my own. I found my husband likes the tape, too. We're going on a trip this weekend and plan to take the tape along and listen to it again.
I appreciated ways to word feelings that I couldn't think of how to express before. Sometimes feelings and words are very far apart in our heads. The book helped me to express how I feel, and it helps us to have better discussions on the way we feel without getting angry about it. I was often amazed at a concept and checked it out with my husband, and he always agreed with what was taught as a man's point of view.
This book and tape help us remember that men and women are different, and they are meant to be different! So, let's enjoy it and work together instead of complaining about it!
on December 20, 2001
The worst thing about this book is its repetition. First he tells you what he is going to say, then he says it, then he tells you what he just said. Then he repeats the gist of it between dotted lines in the middle of the page. When Gray cites examples, he lists so many that I, for one, don't have the patience to read the whole list. Plus, you may already be familiar with many of the ideas expressed, so you may find yourself skimming most of this book.
The best thing is that if you take away the repetition, the ideas expressed are true and useful for most people. At least, I think so, and I scoffed at the title, insisting I must be from Jupiter, and refused to read it for years.
Much of the advice to women I had already figured out on my own. (Example: you notice the garbage can is overflowing and wish your man would empty it. You wonder why he didn't notice & empty it already, and wish he would do it without being asked. You feel tempted to deliver a long lecture about why he should have done it already, and present an airtight case that he is guilty of neglect. The question is, which is more important, 1. proving you are right and he is wrong, or 2. getting an empty bag in the garbage can? If the answer is 2., skip the lecture and just ask him politely to do it.)
My favorite chapter was "Women Are Like Waves." In it, Gray describes a cyclical fluctuation in women's moods. Just when it seems a woman is on top of the world, she plummets, and has to reach bottom before feeling good again. Gray's wife Bonnie calls the down part of the cycle being in a well. When a woman is in her well, she confronts whatever is difficult in her life. Gray advises men to resist the temptation to try to "fix" the problem, and just be there for her and listen. He warns that the woman will feel worse before she feels better, because she has to "bottom out" before she can rise again. The most important point is that the whole thing will reoccur. Any unresolved issues in a woman's life will reappear whenever she's in her well, whether they are from her past, problems with her current relationship, her career, etc. This can create a sense of "déjà vu" in an intimate relationship - "didn't we talk about this already?" From my own experience, I believe this pattern exists, at least during difficult times, and I can understand how these reoccurring conversations must be puzzling and frustrating for men. Gray's advice to them is right on target.
This book has often been criticized for perpetuating stereotypes or insisting everyone is the same. Many readers seem to have ignored this caveat on page 6: "I make many generalizations about men and women in this book. Probably you will find some comments truer than others...after all, we are unique individuals with unique experiences."
I don't know why some readers have thought this book is insulting to women. It describes women as caring, feeling individuals who want to connect with others. It could just as easily be said it insults men by portraying them as pre-verbal, insensitive troglodytes driven by power, competition, and the fear of intimacy. Personally, I think both sexes are portrayed fairly. The aim of the book is not to pigeonhole people, but to alleviate misunderstandings brought about by common differences between men and women in what we value, what motivates us, and how we communicate.
Because of the repetition, I don't think the book is worth buying. But it's worth going out of your way to borrow it from a friend, from the library, or to spend some time with it in your local bookstore.
on September 29, 2004
"Falling in love is always magical. It feels eternal, as if love will last forever. We naively believe that somehow we are exempt from the problems our parents had, free from the odds that love will die, assured that it is meant to be and that we are destined to live happily ever after." Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, is a book on how the opposite sex should approach different situations that could occur in a relationship early. Author John Gray realized that men and women are having problems expressing their needs to each other so he decided to write a book that would guide young couples to a loving and secure relationship. Unknowingly this book has affected a lot of relationships in the world today. Many people feel that this book has broken the code of silence between men and women everywhere. It has allowed them to expresses freely what they have been suppressing for far too long. Within this book John Gray discusses topics like "Mr. Fix-It and The Home Improvement Committee," "Men go to their Cave and Women Talk," and "How to Motivate the Opposite Sex." All of these chapters give specifics on how to improve a relationship without hurting the other feelings.
"We mistakenly assume that if our partners love us they will react and behave in a certain way, the ways we react and behave when we love someone." This is a direct quote from Dr. Gray. Here I think that he is trying to show us that we can not change the way we are, as humans, even if the person we are trying to change is our partner. If you read the book thoroughly you will see that this book gives a lot of generalizations, but you should understand that this book was not written for a specific population, Dr. Gray was just trying to give some insight on relationships based on things that he personally experienced in his marriage and things he observed in different couples. While I was reading this book I noticed that even in my relationship I say things that may come across like I am uncaring, but after I got a thorough understanding of the true message in the text I realized that there are different methods of communication that I feel all couples should develop if they want to keep their relationships and marriage alive.
Dr. Gray uses situations that could happen to every couple to display several points that he felt was important. I can just about guarantee you that almost every situation or argument given is this book will relate to you as a reader on a more personal level. You will begin to see that some of the things you were arguing about were so petty that the whole thing can be very sickening. I am not going to say that everything you read in this book is going to apply to every situation you experience in life; however the bottom line is that you realize that there are certain situations that can occur in relationships that can be easily avoided. As a person who has read the book, I can honestly say that if you follow some of the suggestions that Dr. Gray gives you will experience some positive feed back from your partner. This could either work for the best or it could also work for the worse, however you will never know if you don't give the suggestions a chance. This book forces you to be open-minded and considerate of the other person's feelings and circumstances.
on November 27, 2000
I was really skeptical when a friend told me this book was fantastic. Especially when I realized it was written by a guy who was writing relationship books even before he got a divorce (he has since remarried successfully). I figured it was a trendy book that was going to stereotype men and women and say a few facts about the obvious differences- but I figured, it was worth looking at, couldn't possibly hurt anything.
Boy, were we surprised! First my husband and I tried so hard to convince each other we were not like the average Martian and Venutian, but really much as the motivations were oversimplified it really did describe incredibly well exactly how we behaved under certain circumstances. And gave really concrete tips on what to do differently to avoid communication gaps. Now when we start getting frustrated we can take a step back and say "oh, we're having a Mars-Venus moment here" and we find our communication, honestly, is greatly improved, and we're happier.
Once we'd gotten the first few points down we found the book somewhat repetitive and overly simplistic- applying the same concepts to every possible situation, even when obvious- but then every now and again we'd start a new chapter and walk away saying "wow, I never realized that. you really think that way about things?" Overall, every relationship could use a few communication tips, and I certainly learned a lot more than I thought I would from this book. It's fantastic.
on October 6, 1998
The entire contents of John Gray's books repeat the same tired old anecdotes and dogmas. In his view, men are mute, dumb, inarticulate cave-men who can only comprehend mindless action-activities as a form of bonding, i.e., sports, butting heads, hanging out with 'buddies' over a beer, etc. In the bedroom, they are rapacious savages-- demanding and poor at satisfying their partner's needs. Men put out love in relationships only to get sex. Women, in his view, are on the other hand moronic complainers, seeking a warm body to shelter them. Women put out sex in relationships only to get platonic love and protection. Women, in his view, far from being intellectual, want to pour out their feelings endlessly; we just want to talk, not act, according to Gray's quackery. The solution, he holds, that will enable these two inadequate and polarized psychopaths to survive in a marriage, is MUTUAL SELF-SACRIFICE. Men, be patient if she is a frigid, passive complainer who leans on your protection in return for love. That is simply the nature of women. Women, tolerate his ape-ish habits, patiently sitting through a football game, or washing dishes while he retreats mutely into his anti-social "cave." As you can see, John Gray's... ideas do not represent serious phychology or serious research. His ideas do not promote mental health and self-improvement, only mistaken characatures of men and women. His feel-good psychology, which evades personality problems and psychotic behaviors, under the guise that they are merely "masculinity" or "femininitiy" is pathetic and dumbed-down. Don't buy his books. Instead, check out Dr. Ellen Kenner, Dr. Nathaniel Branden, or Dr. Edith Packer. They offer solutions, not self-sacrifice.
His book should be renamed "Psychopathic Women Are From Venus and Inadequate, Stupid Men Are from Mars." Don't buy the book if you have an above-average I.Q. or an effective, normal personality.
on February 4, 2002
Lots of the negative reviews on this site are by women who feel patronized by Grey's superficial and insulting claptrap.
However the book is just as insulting to men. It's core message to men is: you can fix your relationship by not acting like a complete jerk every time you're with your partner, even if it's only once a week, and even if you aren't sincere.
For example, Grey thinks you'll be the world's #1 chick-magnet if you show appreciation for the fact that your partner does all the cooking, cleaning, garbage duties etc. Never mind offering to actually contribute to the relationship, just nod when your partner complains about doing all the work. Many of the anecdotes come from John Grey's own experiences. From what the man describes of his own shallow and cavemanlike behaviour, it's no wonder that all the women he knows complain a lot!
If my brain ever fell out and I started to take any of Grey's advice, I reckon my now happy and fulfilling marriage would be over in a year (just like John Grey's).
How anyone can read this book and rave is beyond me - dreadful beyond words, and dangerous to boot. I'm so glad I read a borrowed copy - if I'd helped John Grey get rich(er) I'd be ashamed. Worth WAY less than one star.
on March 13, 1999
I heard talk of an opposing viewpoint so I finally took up Susan Hamson's counterpoint, the "Rebuttal from Uranus" in TAKING SIDES/HUMAN SEXUALITY, 6e.
At first view, the Mars and Venus metaphor seems to make good common sense. Hamson rips it to shreds and challenged me to question my assumptions.
I feel like I have a brain again.
on November 16, 2008
The fact that millions of people believe the advice in this book is astonishing.
First and foremost, John Gray is NOT a phD from an accredited university. It is a certificate from an online school that was closed down by the state of California for "running a degree mill." In fact, if you do your research, you will find only his high school diploma is accredited. Do I think that only an accredited phD has valid advice? No. But anyway you slice it, slapping phD all over book covers when you aren't is extremely deceitful and misleading.
That being said, I found this book to be very degrading to women. Statements along the lines of "When the Venusians (women) first saw the Martians (man) they said 'We need you for your strength and power!'" and "women find value in being cherished by a man" are infuriating. Everything about this book insinuates that women need men to take care of them and only feel valuable in the long run if they have a man.
I did find some valid, insightful information in this book, but why John Gray has to pinpoint these insights to either the man or the woman and not on people as a whole is beyond me. Also, the constant referral of men and women as beings from other planets is tiresome and completely unnecessary. We get it. The genders are different in more ways than our reproductive organs. Speak to us as though we are adults, please.
In my opinion, this book is not a book I would give my daughter or son for relationship advice. Instead I would suggest a book that offers advice that is directed to different personalities...not genders.