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When Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus published almost 20 years ago, the book was hailed by readers and critics alike as a genuine take on what happens in “modern” relationships and marriages. Over the years, those same critics have circled and declared this once “groundbreaking” message is now antiquated and out of touch.
The truth is far from the critic’s reality. As an author, I still receive the same glowing feedback from the one source that ever truly mattered to me and that’s from the readers; the couples whose lives are touched by the messages in the Mars Venus books. Regularly at talks, seminars and even events like the Facebook Takeover (happening this Thursday at 2pm eastern on YourTango’s Facebook page), people share with me that the messages in my books still touch their lives.
The question, for my critics and advocates alike, to really think about is what has happened to relationships over the past 20 years and how does the Mars Venus message apply to a modern couple.
From my perspective, there are a few very meaningful things that have happened:
The internet, cell phone and smart phone technology have become a seamless part of our lives. The very format we use to communicate with family, friends, loved ones, coworkers and our children has changed and it will never return to what it was even 20 years ago.
The way we find potential mates has evolved. We’re no longer just looking in person, now we can look any time of day from any computer in the world. And with sites like match.com reporting that 1 in 5 marriages form online, the tools we now use have become more effective than ever.
The role of women in the workplace has been changing since World War 2, and continues to develop. According to the Department of Labor, women currently make up 46.8 percent of the total U.S. labor force and will grow to 51.2 percent by 2018. Of the 66 million women employed in the U.S., 74 percent work full-time jobs, while 26 percent worked on a part-time basis.
Gone are the days when men could do the majority of the breadwinning and a family could thrive. The need for multiple incomes has changed for most families and today, more and more families require that both parents work to simply make ends meet.
The consequence of these changes has been that the roles that men and women traditionally occupied in relationships have changed.
What does all of this mean for the modern couple?
Truthfully, it means we need more time, patience and skills to navigate relationships. Unfortunately, for many couples, time is one thing they feel like they don’t have. Without the skills to understand what’s really going on in your partner or spouse’s mind, it’s very easy to make mistakes and misinterpret the signals received. From my perspective, the core principals in the Mars Venus books are more important than ever; even if we have to “age” them a bit so they reflect the changes we’ve experienced in our society in the past 20 years.
For a modern day couple, I offer this guide to translate the 5 most important Mars Venus messages from the original book into today’s fast-paced world:
Core Message #1: Men and women are different.
This is as true today as it ever was. We are different. The core message here is that men and women have different ways of giving and receiving love. What makes him feel safe, secure, virile and capable of giving to those he loves is different than what she needs.
From my perspective, there’s nothing wrong with being different. It doesn’t mean that one sex is better than the other; it just means we’re different. Understanding those differences is the key to creating harmony in relationships. Denying they exist is like trying to teach a fish to walk on land; it simply can’t happen and trying to make it happen is futile.
I know there are a lot of science studies out there that take on the brain chemistry of male and female brains, and for those of you who believe in this science I ask you to consider this: it’s not just science that makes up how we relate, there are also the complicated variables of societal messages played out in popular culture, the values you were raised with and a host of other factors that make up the complete picture of who you are. However, brain chemistry differences related to our hormones are one big piece of the puzzle, and many scientific studies in the last 20 years have validated these differences.
Core Message #2: To recover from stress he needs a cave and she needs a well.
This is also true today, only for women it’s far more complicated. The root of this complication is that with so many women in the workforce, women are required to spend more time on “male” side to be successful at work. The more this goes on, the more we’re seeing that women need a cave too. Let me explain what this means.
The “cave”, as I define it, is a metaphorical place where people go to de-stress. It’s not a conversation about what created the stress; it’s an action like mowing the lawn or going to a ball game where you can remove yourself from the stress—even the thinking about the stress—and be totally distracted for a time to let your mind relax from the incident.
What happens for most men after this time away is that they are able to return with clearer thinking about what to do. It’s also at this time that men either act or ask for help. It’s a mistake to believe that men never ask for help; men ask for help but ONLY when they know they need it.
For women it’s different. The traditional concept of the well is that women need to dig into their feelings in order to understand what’s going on inside. For many women, the challenge 20 years ago was around finding the time to talk about their feelings. They would bottle things up for a period of time until they could release them. The longer they held on to their feelings, the deeper into the metaphorical “well” they would go in order to let things out.
What’s changed for modern women is that, while they still have this need, there are competing factors that give them mixed messages about letting their feelings out. To begin, consider how most women spend their days… at the office, on their male side, solving problems and slaying dragons just like her husband.
As Tom Hanks said, “There’s no crying in baseball” and the same is true for the workplace. Being an emotional woman means she often gets overlooked for promotions and seen as a difficult employee. If she wants to be successful, those parts of her life are better left at the door before she walks in.
With women working long hours and overtime, this compartmentalizing of her life results in women stuffing, rejecting and hiding her feelings. There are only so many hours in the day, and if talking about her feelings doesn’t fit into the schedule, it simply doesn’t happen until it must. Unfortunately, when those times erupt, the depth of her confusion, despair and hopelessness are even deeper and darker than they would have been if she had allowed herself to be in touch with her feelings a little at a time.
Consequently, the concept of the “wave/well” for women is even more powerful today than it was 20 years ago, because today a part of her isn’t valued in the same way as it once was by modern society. That very act of denying her feelings can be harmful to her self-esteem. This is why therapists and coaches are hearing more than ever from women, “Why am I so successful at work but I can’t find a mate or make a relationship work?”
The pendulum has shifted too far in exclusively honoring how women are successful at work when they’re on their male sides without some equal value to her feminine side. And the place we see that playing out in marriages is, specifically, in the bedroom...
Look for part 2 of this article and we'll dig into what's the main reason couples aren't having more sex in the marriages and how the Mars Venus messages relate to couples of ALL varieties.
And don't forget to join me on Thursday when I "takeover" YourTango's Facebook page and answer your questions on love, relationships, dating and starting over.