Men are from Mars and women are from Venus.
This was a popular book when I was young, and became a bit of a catch phrase. You started to hear people saying this quite a lot in the 90s – Mars, Venus… it made sense to people.
What resonated in that idea for so many people, do you think? Was it this sense that men and women are really so different from each other? Is this why communication within relationships seems so hard?
Sometimes, it feels like you are speaking a different language to your partner… Though to counterbalance that, I am a person that, more than once, has spoken a literal different language than my partner.
Any other travelers in the house?
What I’ve observed is this – in some strange way, speaking literal different languages and coming from literal different cultures actually facilitates communication by incentivizing clarity and patience.
So, to me, this Mars-Venus men-women communication mismatch is suspicious. While it might feel like you are speaking different languages, there’s likely something else going on underneath the surface.
Men and women both come from Earth.
Could it be we’re really not that different from each other? Could it be, by and large, human men and human women are members of the same species, sharing the same home planet, and what appears different between us is something that we make rather than something as immutable as being from different planets?
You can’t really examine what is at work beneath the surface of dating, sex, and relationships without looking at gender. You’re born, and your parents decided that you are ‘boy’ or ‘girl’, and treat you differently on the basis of that label.
This starts long before you have any say in the matter. And your parents are perhaps not even conscious that those choices will affect you throughout your entire life.
Do others see you as ‘boy’ or ‘girl’? What is allowed and what isn’t allowed on the basis of those labels? What is a boy ‘supposed’ to do? What is a ‘girl’ supposed to do?
This varies culture by culture, family by family, which is one of the reasons partnering with someone from a different cultural background can be refreshing – there’s often comical mismatches between expected behaviours, because the meaning of ‘boy’ in Poland and ‘boy’ in the USA are different. What’s allowed and what isn’t is different.
Isn’t it strange that it seems, on the surface, like it’s so difficult for men and women to communicate, especially about dating, sex, and relationships? Why is it so challenging to talk about desire, for example? What blocks us from speaking more openly and vulnerably to each other about what we want?
Most of us are unaware of our socialization, and it takes effort to notice it.
The way we are raised, and the way we are treated by the world on the basis of being a ‘boy’ or ‘girl’ has ripple effects that stick with us into adulthood. Often, these effects extend out into the future when we pass these along to our children.
I talk about the communication challenges between men and women, and the role played by socialization, in a recent YouTube video. Check it out!
MINI MISSION:Reflect on the definitions you carry around in your mind. What does it mean to be a man? What does it mean to be a woman? On a sheet of paper, jot down some notes. Then, look over your notes and ask yourself the question: Where did I learn this? Spend 15 minutes on this exercise. What came up for you? Is any of it kind of weird? What do you like about what you learned? What do you dislike about what you learned?
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