Men are from Mars, Women are from VenusA classic and unique self-help book, Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus tackles the perennial problems faced by couples everywhere. Gray tells an allegorical story of the Venusians and the Martians who move to Earth, having enjoyed wonderful and fulfilling relationships with one another for many years. However, as soon as they arrive on this planet, amnesia sets in! They can no longer remember that they are from different planets and all sorts of communication and emotional problems set in. Written in an unpretentious and jargon-free style, Gray’s tactic of using “Venusian” and “Martian” to refer to the two genders (and he does comment that these roles are not necessarily based on sexual biology) avoids the dead-end path followed by so many people, of using sweeping statements such as: “men always…” or “women just don’t understand…”. Instead, he says: “Venusians are from a different planet, therefore…” or “Martians need…”. This in itself is a worthwhile tactic, removing blame and shifting communication onto a new level where it is OK not to be on the same wavelength all the time and not to automatically understand all your partner’s needs. His new naming strategy even manages to be amusing, in a way that many books in this area can fail to be, although the writing tends towards over-simplicity at times.
He discusses every aspect of relationships–but most importantly he does this in practical ways. For example, he lists common statements that people in relationships say to their partners, what is intended, what is actually heard. Gray goes on to suggest ways to say what you intended that are more appropriate for the Venusian or Martian audienc–he even compiles lists of translations of common male/female exchanges.
The tone of the book is always helpful, friendly and non-judgmental, kind and well-meaning, although the typical self-help strategy of repeating and summarising points results in the book seeming somewhat directionless. It is nevertheless an essential title for the bookshelf of every self-respecting self-help addict, and is a good place to start for the curious. It does also have some real gems of wisdom and new strategies. All in all, Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus is a star guide to understanding the constellations of coupledom. —Alison Jardine
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