I have been reading John Gray’s “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus” and am not finished with it, but I must say that it has led to many insights in my current romantic relationship and as I look back on my previous relationships and the conflicts that were created. I remember first hearing the title of the book from the movie “Clueless,” and let’s just say I didn’t have high expectations for the book, which was such a misleading association worth pointing out. I apologize to John Gray for letting my perception of a movie that had nothing to do with the content of his book influence the way I thought about the book before knowing anything about the book. This goes to show: don’t judge a book by a movie that has nothing to do with the book. Moving on now.
I am inspired to write about four lessons that I am taking from the first half of the book. What is making this book so much more valuable is that Kaori and I have been reading it at the same time. This means that we are able to talk about the content, which parts we can identify with, how we annoy each other, and how we can better support one another.
This post will be catered more to men, but women can also benefit by assessing their past and current relationships in general, and how much of the following has applied to them.
So, let’s get straight to the first lesson:
- Don’t take her words literally
This has been one of the biggest issues for me because I always seem to take things literally when I am angry. Here I go using “always,” which is a gross generalization and the same thing that gets me on the defensive when Kaori uses all-or-nothing words to describe my actions.
Some sayings may be:
- “You always think about yourself.”
- “You always make assumptions.”
- “You never listen to me.”
- “You always have an excuse”
Does that sound familiar at all? When I’ve heard these statements come from a romantic partner in the past, I would immediately snap back and defend myself by saying something like,
- “What are you talking about? I came back from work tired and cooked for YOU yesterday.”
- “I definitely make assumptions, but I don’t always make assumptions.”
- “That’s ridiculous. Of course I listen to you. I can tell you everything you’ve been saying for the past 5 minutes.”
- “Always? No, I don’t”
After talking to Kaori, she explained to me that she doesn’t mean that I always or never do something. She just says it impulsively sometimes to convey her frustration. She wants me to understand that she’s perhaps not feeling valued at the moment, or that she’s had a rough day and wants me to understand how she’s feeling. So, when I attack back and argue about her use of never and always, I am misunderstanding her.
I will still get defensive sometimes when she uses such statements, but it’s relieving to know that she was able to directly tell me what she means, so that we can lower the chances of misunderstanding each other. Mind you, we still will misunderstand each other from time to time, but this was a huge step in understanding the implications behind all-or-nothing words.
- Telling her that her issues are not a big deal does not help
I am definitely accused of doing this and I can’t deny it. When I hear about a particular situation from her and don’t think it’s really something worth being concerned about, I feel like saying, “Don’t worry, it’s not a big deal. Your friend is just tripping,” can help to minimize the issue she’s experiencing. But it doesn’t. I don’t know all of the reasons why this doesn’t help, but I am not allowing her the space to feel ‘bad’ and go through her emotions. Kaori usually has a really positive attitude and bright, energetic spirit, but when she is not feeling that way and explains her situation, my masculine side comes out and I tend to make things small, or I try to.
One of the beautiful things about women in general is their ability to be so open with their emotions. I find it pretty accurate to say that men generally aren’t so expressive. To allow Kaori to express her emotions when she has my undivided attention allows me the privilege of deeply connecting with her need to communicate her feelings, allows me to become a more empathetic listener, and gives her the release that she needs to feel better.
- Sometimes you aren’t in the state to listen. She needs to know.
“Men begin to feel their need for autonomy and independence after they have fulfilled their need for intimacy. Automatically when he begins to pull away, she begins to panic. What she doesn’t realize is that when he pulls away and fulfills his need for autonomy then suddenly he will want to be intimate again. A man alternates between needing intimacy and autonomy.”
John Gray uses the metaphor that men are rubber bands. that after intimacy has been achieved, the rubber band then becomes limp and begins to pull away – perhaps feeling too dependent or may not understand why.
In my experience, when me and Kaori spend entire days together and see each other constantly and cuddling, I get tired and feel like I need some breathing room, time for myself, and find it very difficult to listen to her when I experience this change in mood. I usually try my best to listen to her, but end up feeling even more exhausted afterwards. These are my times when I withdraw and want to be alone. I can’t give her all of my attention. So, we came up with an agreement that when I experience this time of wanting to pull away, I tell her that I need to some ‘cave’ time.
This is very early in the works, but I am very optimistic about these new strategies we are implementing, largely because we really trust another and established from the beginning that we still have our own social lives and allow each other to do our own thing.
As John Gray puts it, “Regardless of how it is described, when a man pulls away, he is fulfilling a valid need to take care of himself for a while.”
I can’t speak for every man, but I find my ‘cave’ time to be very refreshing and I have more to give to Kaori when I allow myself this time to pull away to evaluate my life and any challenges without feeling guilty for wanting this space. I feel very blessed that she is so understanding of me. I am a very lucky guy.
- She doesn’t want a solution. She just wants to be heard.
The last lesson I’ll cover is the toughest one for me. It is one of my habits to try and solve Kaori s ‘problems’ for her. I feel a sense of responsibility when she doesn’t feel empowered and it just makes sense to me that anyone talking about an issue of theirs wants a solution. Perhaps it’s just the instinctual mentality of a guy: being outcome-oriented, getting shit done.
Anyway, I have sensed that when I offer possible solutions to Kaori when she is under stress and describing the sources of her stress, she doesn’t seem relieved. Perhaps she doesn’t want a solution, that’s not her goal. I talked with her about this last week and she agreed with John. Most of the time when she comes to me to talk about her ‘problems,’ she just wants me to listen to her. She just wants to get everything off of her chest. She doesn’t need my advice. She wants my support not by way of giving solutions, but by reaffirming her right to be pisst off (tweet this). understanding that she doesn’t feel good, giving her a hug after her difficult day. She wants me to be patient and support her ‘bad’ feelings.
We came to another agreement – which I will try to follow as consistently as possible – which is to only offer her possible solutions when she asks for it. As an oblivious boyfriend, it makes things so much easier on my end when I know cut-and-dry how to best support her emotions.
I am aware that wanting to understand her might conflict with a time when you might feel like withdrawing and I know there will be some dude that comes here to say, “Well, what if I always feel like not listening to her when she has something serious to talk about?” Then that’s a fucking problem, dude. And that calls for evaluating why you’re with your girlfriend and what it is that you offer your girlfriend. One thing that I constantly think about in my romantic relationship now is what I have to offer Kaori. I am aware that I won’t always be able to attend to her every desire and support her at all times as she’d like. I want to support her and be as affectionate as possible. But I also now realize that there’s nothing wrong with wanting my own space at times and asking for my space when I am not offering my best particularly after times of being constantly around one another.
By embracing this idea that pulling away is a natural instinct for a man after a prolonged period of intimacy (not strictly referring to sex) and that women are like waves and need to be given the opportunity to sink down to the ‘bottom’ by expressing themselves without solutions in order to come back up – we can gradually accept these differences. We can begin to look at men and women from the standpoint that we process things differently, use words (communicate) differently, and that our biology is different.
Differences can then be something to be expected, and from this point of view, we can embrace the contrast we offer to one another.
Once again, going over the four lessons I learned in the first half of John Gray’s “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus”:
- Don’t take her words literally.
- Minimizing her issues does not positively serve her
- Taking time out for yourself to validate your autonomy
- Listening without giving solutions
PS: I want to add that my girlfriend just left my place after I misunderstood her. This is a little dramatic, but it’s what just happened. It started with, “I’m going to head back home,” which I knew meant that she didn’t want to leave but my pride took over and I said that she can go if she wanted to. This led to her telling me that I was boring and that she actually wanted to stay. So, I told her she could stay, but I really didn’t want her to stay at this point, especially since her place is so close to where I live and I was getting a little upset at this point, you could say. We’ve actually been around each other constantly for about a week, which was really great. But I’m taking this as a sign that we could use some space physically apart from each other. How long, I don’t know. But, this is a great breather for the both of us, whether she thinks so or not.
Anyway, to tune everyone back in, she knew I didn’t mean when I said I wanted her to stay with me and she got more frustrated. I ended up confessing that I didn’t mean it and wanted her to go back to her place. Small disgruntlement, yes?
She’s on her way home right now and I made the mistake of responding that she could leave if she wanted to, instead of knowing that’s not what she meant. Now that I have my time alone, it’s so fascinating how something so small gets blown out of proportion (I am certainly responsible) when dealing with an intimate relationship. This just goes to show that my relationship skills and our level of understanding for one another has some room for improvement.
As I type this, I feel a lot more relaxed. Hold up. 15 minutes later. It turns out that she forgot her bananas (which she really didn’t need to get) and ended up coming back more calm than before. She still said that she didn’t want to see me for 2 weeks, but I was more calm now and I know that she didn’t mean it, so I hugged her and my response to her statement changed my state even further. But I doubt that we would have been as calm as we are now if she had stayed at my place all along.
The ‘space’ we allowed for one another – even if it was just 15 minutes – was just what we needed to think more collectively. We both see how even a short time away from each other allows us to get a more composed perspective on our situation. We acknowledged the ‘space.’
I acknowledge that there’s a lot more work to do. I’m human just like you and you all have a right to know. We are in this together.
May at least a part of this be useful to you in some way.
Please leave any of your thoughts below