According to most spiritual practices forgiveness is considered to be one of the highest healing states of consciousness. A complementary practice of forgiveness is humility (colloquially known as apologizing). Not surprisingly there are Mars Venus differences when it comes to how we move into and out of these states. As with all of the Mars Venus material, I want to remind you that men and women have both Martian and Venusian sides. While I will be making distinctions about how forgiveness and apologies work on Mars and Venus, this will not have a one-to-one correspondence with men and women. You will need to be aware of which side of the equation you or your partner is coming from and then use the comments as they apply to your situation.
This is also a good place to point out that in these articles I am integrating Mars-Venus material with other information, particularly more psycho-spiritual and energetic approaches. It is absolutely crucial to understand that the major benefit of forgiveness always goes to the person doing the forgiving. Let me say this again. The major benefit of forgiveness always goes to the person doing the forgiving. Any benefit that accrues to the person who “made the offense” is a bonus.
If I am angry with or hurt by you and I hang on to these feelings, I am the one who suffers. If I stay stuck in resentment and blame then I am the one whose life energy “Chi” is diminished. I am the one who is more vulnerable to illness. It does not matter whether I aim the blame or resentment at others or myself. It is in my self-interest to forgive others and myself. So in relationship, it is up to each person to let go of blame and resentment. Using the Mars Venus approach then can be thought of as a “kindness” we do for our partner to make it easier for them. It is also an opportunity to let go of our own blame and resentment. If I know that on your planet it works better to do XYZ, the main reason that I am not going to want to do it is, because I think you should do it my way. I will be resentful if I have to do it your way.
The distinction that John Gray describes is that Martians tend to need to learn how to be more apologetic and Venusians need to learn how to be more forgiving. Furthermore, apologizing and forgiving happen very differently on Mars and Venus. Lets look at this. When a Martian makes a mistake (e.g. being late) he will apologize by saying, “I am sorry I am late” and then proceed to give the REASONS WHY he is late. There was traffic; I had extra work to do, etc. Actually some Martians will skip the formal “I am sorry” part and launch right into the reasons why.
Many Martians have difficulty saying, “I am sorry”, which means I made a mistake. Martians have a hard time doing this because they focus their ego needs for self esteem based on what they do. If they make a mistake they are at risk for feeling ashamed. On Mars it can take a while to get to an apology. And as you may have guessed, this custom does not go over well on Venus. She hears the reasons as “excuses”. She correctly hears a hidden message that says, “You should not be upset with me, because I have these good reasons.” To a Martian this message is great. “I should not be upset - this is not about me - You got reasons - No problem”. Telling a Venusian she should not have her feelings is a cardinal sin.
What does the Martian want? He wants to be forgiven. If I forgive you, it means that I let go of any negative energy I may have had about your behavior. My heart stays fully open to you. Martians do not like their Venusians to be disappointed in them. The problem is that on Venus the way you get to this place is by talking about your negative feelings first and then letting them go second. On Mars once an apology is given that is the end of it. He is done and wants to get back to feeling good about each other. On Venus once an apology is given that is the beginning of it. The Venusian wants to be able to express her feelings and concerns and have them acknowledged. Once they are acknowledged then the good feelings come back.
The big lesson for Martians is to let go of their pride and be more humble by apologizing according to Venusian custom. Instead of telling a Venusian not to have her feelings by giving her reasons, allow her to have her feelings about your mistake; and, allow her the space to forgive you. The best way to do this, according to John Gray (see Mars and Venus on a Date) is First, do not give reasons why whatever you said would happen did not happen. Second, use “Nadjectives”. The key nadjectives phrases are: I am sorry for________. It was insensitive of me. Or, it was disrespectful of me... Or, it was inconsiderate of me... Or, it was selfish of me... When a Venusian hears anything like this, she feels that the Martian understands her. She will quickly move into forgiveness. Her upset just melts away.
So, the lesson on the Yin side of the equation, for men or women, is the importance of letting go of defensiveness, and simply acknowledging “mistakes” and acknowledging the impact of those “mistakes” on others. A mistake is defined here as not doing what you said you were going to do. Obviously, if a person were to use nadjectives, but continue to do the same mistakes this would be a problem. So, if a man is always late, he needs to stop being late. Perhaps his wife wants him to come home by 6:00 p.m. But that is not a likely event. He needs to tell her that he cannot be home by 6:30pm. He will be home by whatever time he knows he can absolutely make it.
A fine point that men can learn is that it is not the hour that you come home that is so bothersome to women. It is the breach of trust when you do not do what you say you will do that is so bothersome. Often times the man is truly trying to be helpful and cooperative. He intends to get home by 6:30 to make his partner happy. But, he is trying to please her too much. I tell my clients that there are four words that can make a huge difference: PROMISE LESS - DELIVER MORE. Frankly this is a dynamic that many businesses need to learn. When a person continues to not do what he or she says he or she will do, it makes it much more difficult for the other person to forgive. This applies equally to men and women.
Apologies & Forgiveness on Mars and Venus Part 2
In the first part of this article I discussed: 1) how forgiveness is for the benefit of the forgiver. 2) The big lessons that Martians need to learn with regard to apologizing without discounting a Venusian's feelings. (you can get the article at our website www.Doctor-bob.net) In this section we are going to focus on the lessons for Venusians in the areas of apologies and forgiveness. As in the last article, I want to point out that while women tend to be the ones who need to learn Venusian lessons, these lessons are applicable to anyone who is on their Venusian side.
Venusians need to learn how to be more forgiving of the mistakes that Martians make. There are several levels to this. First let me tell you what it does not mean. It does not mean that a Venusian should be long suffering and miserable about having her needs not met. Forgiveness does not mean that you avoid telling your partner what you want and need in the relationship.
The word forgiveness literally means fore giving - giving first. So if your partner forgets to take out the garbage or bring home some milk, you give first your acceptance of the fact that your partner is loveable and he just forgot or he was not in a place where he could come through for you. You keep your heart open. This is in contrast to being resentful and thinking that your partner does not care about you. You can also ask your Martian for what you want. It might sound like this. The Venusian asks, “ Did you stop and pick up the dry cleaning? He says, “ Oh no I forgot!” She replies with a positive tone of voice. “That's Okay. Will you please pick it up tomorrow?”
What happens when you take this kind of stance, especially if the mistake happens a second or third time and you maintain the same stance? First, you will feel better than if you are resentful. Second, a Martian (and I am speaking from experience) thinks, “Wow she is being so forgiving. I want to come through for her. I cannot let her down again.” The more accepting and forgiving you are, the more likely a Martian will be willing to apologize in the first place and actually come through in the second place.
It is especially important to remember that these kinds of things happen across time and across people. Many Martians have an increased tendency to give “excuses”, because in the past they dealt with a Venusian who hung on to resentment. And the complement is also true that many Venusians have a hard time forgiving and letting go of resentment because they have been disappointed in the past. The issues often travel all the way back to childhood.
Just as Martians need to learn about “the art of apologizing to Venusians using “nadjectives”, there is an art to forgiving a Martian. The thing not to say is “I forgive you” especially if it is said from “on high”. This tends to be taken that she is rubbing it in. A Martian will feel much more accepted if a Venusian uses phrases indicate that acceptance. For instance he says, “ I am sorry that I was late. It was inconsiderate of me.” She says, “I appreciate that you are working hard. Thank you for considering my feelings. Lets just let the whole thing go and have a great evening.”
So I am sure that some readers are thinking, “Okay dry cleaning is one thing. What about really big things like drinking too much or an affair? What about when a person repeatedly lies to you? Am I supposed to be forgiving of those things and get hurt again? Come on!” I have several comments when these kinds of objections are raised. First, they are common and understandable objections. Second, as I stated in the first article, each of us needs to remember that it is we who suffer if we are resentful. We can use the lessons of Mars and Venus to help us get out of the stance of victim. We use the lessons of Mars and Venus to be more loving and accepting of the inevitable foibles of our partners.
Third, for many relationships when partners take care of the small things and keep their hearts open the big things never become a problem. This includes: miscommunications, defensiveness, and small fights. There have been many couples that I have seen where the man “is late” coming home because he is avoiding the woman who is going to be upset with him. She is upset with him because he is always late. Their evenings turn into fights that spill over into the night. And it gets worse and worse. Dr Gray's point is that a Martian's ability to self correct and be understanding of others is linked to how accepted he feels. If he feels that his partner is withdrawing love from him then he is less likely to be sensitive to her needs. Obviously, it is hard for a Venusian to stay loving when she feels that her partner is not being sensitive to her needs.
This brings us to the fourth point. Withholding love and forgiveness until some specific criteria is met is an understandable reaction, but it does not really work. Lets look at the issue of an affair. It is easy to be blaming and castigating of the person who had the affair. However in the vast majority of cases, people have affairs as a last resort to unmet needs. There are usually many problems in the relationship for which both people are responsible. Affairs and other large problems almost always require counseling to resolve. Forgiveness comes from a place of spiritual centeredness. When people feel threatened and hurt it is almost impossible to get to that place without outside help. In our practice we use specialized approaches to help people access their ability to forgive.
In the event that a person is in a relationship with someone who is truly toxic (e.g. multiple affairs or physical violence), the lesson for Venus is to let go of bitterness and resentment for the fact that the other person clearly has problems; AND let go of the demand that the other person be different; AND, take appropriate steps to do deal with what IS happening rather than the possibility that things might one day get better. (Generally, this means leaving the relationship or insisting on professional help to forestall leaving.) Venusians sometimes get into a tendency of what Gray calls “living in the possibility of” rather than accepting what is. The Venusian in this situation needs to look at how come she chose to be with this person. In this situation the Venusian may need to be much more forgiving of herself for choosing to be with someone who is not interested caring about her.
Dr Robert Schwarz is a licensed psychologist and clinical member of AAMFT. He is the director of the Mars and Venus Counseling and Wellness Center with offices in Media, Haverford and Center City. He and his associate Helen Struckmann, MA use holistic approaches to health, and provide counseling and coaching, run workshops on parenting, couples communication and Mars Venus Workplace trainings throughout the year. You can reach them at 610-565-6627 or 610-642-0884 E Mail: Marsvenusatwork@aol.com For articles and lots more information check out the website at http:www.doctor-bob.net