[The following article was published in the April 2001 Issue of New Vision Magazine.]
A therapist walked up to me at an event and said, “I can't believe you do the Mars and Venus stuff. It is so stereotypical and sexist!” My response was “I understand why you think that. The fact of the matter is that there is more to the Mars and Venus material than many people realize. And, it actually fits very nicely within both psycho-spiritual and energetic frameworks."
Every other month I will be writing this column to provide information about how the Mars Venus approach can fit into an overall life path towards health, emotional well being and spiritual growth. As my practice is holistic in nature, I will also be discussing other techniques and approaches that can benefit you. Since there is no one single path, I will attempt to present the thoughts here in an integrative manner.
1) Mars and Venus as Yin and Yang forces : Yin and Yang energies are both part of what eastern thought and medicine considers the life force. Part of the duality of Yin and Yang is that Yin represents feminine energy and Yang represents masculine energy. So whatever is considered to be a “Martian” characteristic is “Yang” and whatever is considered to be a “Venusian” characteristic is Yin. Each of us has Martian and Venusian parts. Generally, men have better developed Martian sides and women have better developed Venusian sides. The so-called stereotyping described in Mars and Venus has to do with two things. First, from the1960s thru the 80's there had been a big push to make the case for men and women to have equal rights. Somehow in this desirable process there was a confusion of “equal rights” meaning being the same. Second, there are real difference between the genders that follow predictable paths. These paths correlate very well with yin and yang models of masculine and feminine. The reason Men are from Mars/ women are from Venus was the best selling book of the entire last decade was that people needed a positive way to understand that men and women were in fact different.
2) The Mars Venus approach emphasizes the importance of acceptance. In many ways this concept is a spiritual practice. The lack of acceptance of the way things are creates suffering. The Mars Venus Approach emphasizes two areas in particular. The first is gender differences. When we do not understand how our partners are different from us we will misinterpret their actions and intentions. We will not understand what our partner needs. They will do the same to us. These misunderstandings create a great deal of trouble in romantic relationships, parent child relationships and work relationships. Over the coming months I will be writing about these issues in this column to help people better understand their partners, children and colleagues.
Of course the concepts of accepting differences does not just have to do with gender. There are numerous other systems that try to educate people about their own natures as well as others. Two good examples are the Myers-Briggs system and the Enneagram. It is of interest to note that all of these systems help us to understand ourselves as well as others. In all of these systems there is a goal of increasing one's balance and access to the different resources represented by the different types. I have worked with many people who are not accepting of their own gender based natures. Some people are more on their opposite side (A man on his Venusian side or a woman on her Martian side). This is not wrong or bad. It just creates predictable situations that often run counter to what people want. This will be a special topic of a future article.
It is of interest to note that the principle of acceptance balances the principle of change. Over the twenty years I have practiced, I have learned many powerful change techniques (e.g. Hypnosis and NLP, energy work). It was far from an accident that I was drawn to John Gray's work, which had a strong emphasis on acceptance. For those that either have never read Dr Gray's work or have only read Men are from Mars Women are from Venus, Dr Gray is deeply spiritual and certainly believes in the unseen forces that connect us to one another and direct us along our spiritual paths of development, as do I.
The second area is the importance of accepting our feelings. Most of us try to resist our “negative” feelings. Some of us will resist all of them. Some of us will allow ourselves sadness but we will not accept our anger. Others will accept anger but not allow sadness, and so on. We block the natural flow of energy. This creates all manners of emotional problems, physical problems and imbalances in the meridian system. One of the techniques that we use allows people to move through all of their different “negative” feelings to finally release them and return to their positive feelings. By the time that many couples come in for coaching or counseling they have been denying and repressing their “negative” feelings. The result is that they believe that they no longer are “in love” with their partner. Once they can get in touch with all of their feelings and move through them the positive feelings can come back. This does not always require the cooperation of the partner. (Although that it is easier if both people are working on their issues. It always takes two to tango.)
3) The Mars Venus Approach with couples emphasizes that it is love that heals relationships . Love begins to falter in relationships when we feel that our partner is not giving us what we need, and we misunderstand what our partners needs. As frustrations grow we begin to become less and less loving. This is why it is so important to understand that it is as if they are from different planets.
All of us operate out of our own perceptions and models of the world. We tend to assume that everyone is like us. This leads to one of the cardinal rules I teach couples. I point out to them that they probably operate out of the “golden rule” Do unto others as you would have then do unto you. But, the golden rule is only effective if you say it in the negative. “Don't do unto other what you don't want to be done unto you”. Don't yell at people if you don't want to be yelled at. Don't judge lest you want to be judged, and so on. The problem is that people operate out of their own maps and attempt to give love in accordance with their own needs.
Women tend to have different ways that they need to feel love than men. So I suggest to couples that they need to follow the Platinum rule: Give love to your partner in the ways that he or she need trusting that he or she will do the same for you. For instance, there are six primary ways that we feel loved. While men and women need all six, men usually have a stronger need to feel trusted, appreciated and accepted; and, women have a stronger need to feel understood, cared for and respected. These needs are complementary. So the more a man is caring for a woman the more she will appreciate him. The more a woman appreciates a man the more he will be caring for her. This will be a topic of a future article.
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 Workplace trainings throughout the year. You can reach them at 610-565-6627 or 610-642-0884 E Mail: Marsvenusatwork@aol.com Check out the new website at http:www.doctor-bob.net