The Classic Guide to Understanding the Opposite Sex
Life gets busy. Has Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus been sitting on your reading list? Learn the key insights now with this summary and review.
Introduction and Meaning
“A valuable, much-needed book. A contribution to the understanding of the communication styles of men and women.”— Harville Hendrix, author of Getting the Love You Want
In relationships, men and women often behave differently, leading to the two parties having different expectations and goals. This can cause conflict and strain relationships.
Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus is a #1 New York Times bestselling book on the common relationship problems between men and women. The book believes these difficulties result from psychological differences between the sexes. At the most basic level, we can distinguish between the sexes based on how they respond to stress.
The book helps men and women understand each other and reconcile their differences. John Gray creates a translation guide using the playful metaphor of men being from Mars and women being from Venus. Both Martians and Venusians can use this guide to better understand each other. Through this guide, they can develop intimacy and build stronger relationships.
Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus has now sold more than 15 million copies and is the highest-ranked work of non-fiction from the 1990s.
“Gray offers a Berlitz of the heart, a translation of that foreign language your spouse is speaking. And hearing.”— USA Today
Disclaimer: This is an unofficial summary and analysis and is not affiliated with or endorsed by the author. The content here includes generalizations and is not a replacement for getting professional help.
About John Gray
John Gray, PhD, is an American relationship counselor, lecturer, and author. He has written over 20 books about relationships and appeared on shows including Oprah, The Dr. Oz Show, Good Morning America, The Today Show, and many more.
He provides practical insights to improve relationships at all stages of life through his books, blogs, and free online workshops at MarsVenus.com. He also promotes natural solutions to anxiety, stress, and depression to support increased energy, libido, hormonal balance, and better sleep.
He grew up with five brothers in Houston, Texas, where his father was an oil executive, and his mother worked at a spiritual bookshop. His parents were Christians and taught him Yoga. The Autobiography of A Yogi inspired him greatly later in life. Gray attended a Transcendental Meditation lecture in 1969 and went on to live a celibate life for nine years as Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s personal assistant.
Gray now lives in Northern California, where he spent 34 years with his wife, Bonnie, until she passed away in 2018. Gray and Bonnie had three daughters and four grandchildren together.
StoryShot #1: Men and Women Prefer Different Types of Praise
Each sex works differently and enjoys a different type of praise.
Men generally prefer to work on their own. They perceive assistance as an attempt to undermine their capabilities. They exercise their ability to solve problems quickly and love to have these abilities recognized and appreciated. Men also hate to have their skills ignored or mocked. They rarely use feelings to guide their behavior, as they believe this produces unreliable results.
Women are different. Women prefer to co-operate and mostly avoid working on their own where possible. To women, others working independently undermine the team’s efforts to work interactively. Women believe abilities are generally unimportant, as they result in aggressive competitiveness. Instead, women exercise their feelings by interacting with other women.
Men desire appreciation of their abilities. Women desire appreciation for their assistance.
StoryShot #2: When Stressed, Men Go to Their Cave but Women Talk
As well as differing in the ways they work, men and women differ in how they react to stress.
When faced with a difficult problem, the typical reaction for men is to become non-communicative and withdraw temporarily to their “cave”. Most often, they go to their garage or spend time with their friends. They will probably not focus on solving the problem they’re facing during this time. The “time-out” allows them to distance themselves from the problem, relax, recharge and re-examine it later from a fresh angle.
Men take this approach because they hope to solve problems by themselves. They do not want interference from others. If men communicate, it is so that they can get the point across quickly. They generally avoid listening where possible.
The male tendency to retreat into their ‘cave’ has historically been hard for women to understand.
When women become unduly stressed, their natural reaction is to talk to someone close about it, even if talking doesn’t provide a solution to the problem at hand. This sets up a natural dynamic where the man retreats as the woman tries to get closer, which becomes a major source of conflict.
On the flip side, women seek communication as they want to work out how they can help others. Women also like to show their feelings when stressed and are happy to listen. They like to communicate for the sake of communicating.
StoryShot #3: Men Want to Feel Needed and Women Wish to Feel Accepted
At a group level, men instinctively look after themselves. This selfishness can be detrimental to those around them. In a relationship, men have to learn to care for their partner. Women have the instinct to look after others, even at their own expense. In a relationship, women have to learn how to accept care. If women learn this, then both members of the relationship can have their needs met.
Both sexes winning is better than a relationship based on instinctive behaviors. Issues can arise when one of the partners continues to act on instinct. They will not be successful in pleasing their partner. This partner could then revert to their instinctive behavior, leading to the relationship unraveling.
Men need to feel that their attention is required. Men should express their desire to fulfill their partner’s needs and for her to accept his care.
Women need to feel that their needs are accepted and considered. A woman must express her desire for his care and encourage her man that he is capable of fulfilling her needs.
Both must remember to appreciate, accept, and forgive the other. They cannot blame each other whenever they fail.
StoryShot #4: Men and Women Communicate Differently
Men talk in a very literal way. Their primary purpose is to provide information, so they generally like to sort out their thoughts before communicating. Non-communication can arise, as men want to spend time alone considering their thoughts. Men must reassure women that they are merely taking time to think.
Women tend to use language more dramatically and artistically. This allows women to express their feelings fully. Women sort their thoughts out while communicating them. While providing this stream of concerns, women must reassure their partners that they are capable of caring for them.
Both men and women must focus on avoiding the blame game. When partners are dealing with problems, blaming only one party is not useful.
StoryShot #5: Men and Women Deal With Problems Differently
When troubled, men do not want their partner to express concern for them. Instead, men want to hear the problem at hand is within their abilities. They wish to sort the issue out themselves. Sympathy will only feel like the woman is undermining the man’s abilities.
When women are troubled, they love their partner to express concern for them. Women don’t like to hear the issue is simple. Describing her problems as simple rejects her concerns. A man should only propose a solution when he has considered all her feelings.
StoryShot #6: Men Are Like Rubber Bands
Men run away from situations when they feel their self-sufficiency is threatened. Men can then become unapproachable. This temperamental behavior can be challenging for women.
Like rubber bands, men snap back into their natural state if given time. So, women should give men some time.
Men must also give women assurance that they will soon return to their usual happiness.
StoryShot #7: Changes in Mood Can Be Tough to Handle
Women periodically sink into a depression when they feel they need to express their emotions. These emotions can stem from recent or long-standing problems and can build up over time. If they cannot find any real troubles, women might still find other worries. When women feel like this, they will no longer be givers. They will demand the right to express their feelings. If supported and given time to express their feelings, women will recover and soon return to their usual selves. As men spring between unhappiness and happiness, women’s gradual movements in mood may be hard for men to understand.
Women must assist their partners by not showing too much concern when they are sinking into their depression. Women should explain to their partners that it is not their fault.
Issues can arise when a man’s periodic need to be free coincides with a woman’s periodic need to be heard. At this point, the woman should share her concerns with her friends instead.
StoryShot #8: Differences in Argument Styles Can Lead to Further Friction
Arguments are less about content and more about the tone of voice and body language. Communication should always be loving and respectful.
One of the biggest flaws of men is their inability to pay sufficient attention to women’s feelings during an argument. One of the most significant flaws of women is being overly critical of men. Either of these flaws can be the trigger for an argument. These flaws can also trigger the partner’s flaws to arise, which further aggravates the argument. When men make mistakes, they become frustrated and angry. During this time, women should leave their partners alone to calm down.
Apologies are also considered differently by different sexes. Men consider apologies to be admissions of guilt. Women consider apologies to be expressions of compassion. This difference leads to issues, as men are much less willing to apologize.
Within arguments, the tone is often different between the sexes. Men generally use aggressive words to ensure that they win the argument. Women back down during arguments as they don’t want to engage with these aggressive words.
Men and women also adopt different approaches in attempts to avoid arguments. To avoid arguments, men will withdraw and refuse to talk. Women will pretend the disagreement is forgotten and will move on. The peace is a cold one, though, and the issues will remain. So, men should listen without getting defensive and women should try to express their feelings without being critical.
StoryShot #9: Men Shouldn’t Assume Women Are Happy to Be Givers
Men value results while women value thought. Issues can arise from this difference in values.
If men do not receive what they want, they may suspend giving. Women will continue to give even though they believe they are giving more. However, the woman will start to feel unloved, unappreciated, and resentful.
There are a few things that men and women can do to overcome these differences. Men should try to identify little ways to show they value their partner without being asked to do so. Men should also avoid the mistake of assuming their partner is happy to give without receiving anything back.
On the flip side, women should avoid pretending that they are happy with the inequality of giving. If women start to feel resentful, they should start to slowly reduce their giving and learn to ask for things in return. Women should also provide remarks of appreciation when their partner does something loving. These remarks will encourage their partner.
StoryShot #10: Men Show Anger and Ego to Tackle Fear
Avoiding negative feelings doesn’t make them go away. We must embrace negative feelings with compassion, and then we can heal these feelings.
To avoid pain and fear, men tend to show anger and ego. They do this because they are always in pursuit of success.
To avoid these same feelings, women can lapse into depression.
Constructive communication is a critical skill to learn. To engage with this communication, we must also unlearn the repression of negative feelings. One way to do this is to write your feelings down. Writing your feelings down allows you to express your negative emotions in a controlled manner, rather than letting them explode. After this, you will be in a better position to explain yourself calmly.
StoryShot #11: Ask A Man Would You Not Could You
Men enjoy proving their worth by doing things, but they wait to be asked and struggle to remember to offer their services. So, women must learn to control their expectations. Men will not always expect women’s needs. Women should ask for help when they need it but avoid making it sound like a demand.
Men often interpret questions that begin with the words ‘Could you’ or ‘Can you’ as questioning their abilities. So, they respond more positively to the same questions if they begin instead with ‘Would you’ or ‘Will you’.
It is best to allow a man to do things in a way and at a time that works for him. If a man complains about a request, this is a good thing. It means he is considering doing it, and the best approach is to wait for him to decide.
StoryShot #12: The Honeymoon Period Doesn’t Last
Love inevitably changes over time. The honeymoon period won’t last forever, and we all have flaws that will make relationships complicated. That said, understanding the other sex means we can sustainably love each other at a healthier and longer level. To achieve this, we must accept our partner is different from us and adapt accordingly.
Final Summary and Review of Men Are From Mars Women Are From Venus
Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus describes the important differences between men and women. Understanding these differences is essential to strengthening your romantic relationships. You can learn to accept certain behaviors and react accordingly to strengthen your relationship and make it more pleasurable.
Let’s go over the key insights one more time. Tag us on social media and let us know which ones you agree or disagree with.
- Men and Women Prefer Different Types of Praise
- When Stressed, Men Go to Their Cave but Women Talk
- Men Want to Feel Needed and Women Wish to Feel Accepted
- Men and Women Communicate Differently
- Men and Women Deal With Problems Differently
- Men Are Like Rubber Bands
- Changes in Mood Can Be Tough to Handle
- Differences in Argument Styles Can Lead to Further Friction
- Men Shouldn’t Assume Women Are Happy to Be Givers
- Men Show Anger and Ego to Tackle Fear
- Ask A Man Would You Not Could You
- The Honeymoon Period Doesn’t Last
We rate this timeless book 4.4/5.
This article was first published in 2021. It was updated and revised in September 2022.
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