Relationship advice from the man who wrote the manual
John Gray, love expert and author of Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus, travels the world sharing his philosophies on the differences between the sexes, and has appeared on Oprah, Larry King Live and CNN. What’s On caught up with him on a recent visit to the UAE.
Be open-minded when looking for love
“When dating, most people are looking for their soul mate or a marriage partner – somebody they want to share their life with – and then that becomes their mission. This can mean you put a lot of expectations on every person you encounter. You meet someone and think, ‘Oh, they don’t have this quality, or this one, or that one’ and start testing them. And that’s not the situation that’s ideal for getting to know someone.
“If you’re looking for a house to buy, you look for termites, at the foundations, to see if there’s mould, if it’s big enough for your future and so forth. You’re judgemental. That’s appropriate if you’re buying a house. But let’s say you’re visiting my house. You wouldn’t be looking for mould or termites at the foundations. You would be able to enjoy what’s there and discover what you like and what you don’t like. That’s the way to view the dating process.
“Don’t specifically look for your soul mate. Instead, create a series of positive dating experiences so you get to know the men or women who you’re dating without these high expectations, requirements and demands. Be friends and learn about each other, and maybe those feelings of marriage and greater intimacy will arise, or maybe they won’t. Have a relaxed point of view and you will then be able to recognise the right person for you more quickly.”
“Men tend to offer unsolicited advice. A woman will have a feeling: ‘I feel this, I feel frustrated, I’m disappointed about this, I’m having trouble with this.’ Instead of saying, ‘Really, tell me more. What happened? What else happened? What did they say? How did you feel?’ men make the mistake of giving advice and telling the other not to worry about it. They want to provide a solution. Women then will accuse a man of not listening, when he is.
“Any message like that is an insult, because he’s often doing his very best to listen. Occasionally, a woman could say, ‘Hmm, that was a good idea but right now, I’m not looking for a solution. I would just like to share. I just want you to understand what’s going on in my life. You don’t really have to fix anything.’”
Acknowledge that you might be wrong
“A high percentage of people married today aren’t mature enough to handle the complexity of a successful relationship or marriage. In previous generations, it wasn’t so complex. But today, you need enormous maturity.
“Insight provides maturity, and when people come into my office, usually I’m able to give them enough insight so they realise that they’re not just victims in a relationship but they are unconsciously making it worse and, that they see how they contribute to the problem. They suddenly realise, ‘Oh I can make that change, and I can make that change, And by making those small changes they’re bringing out the best in their partner. They continue to learn the new skills for making the relationships last.”
Nip arguments in the bud
“My wife and I have been married for years, but still argue, but I try to keep the emotional tone down to relaxed conversation. As soon as the emotional tone starts to increase, then I say, ‘Let’s take some time to think about this.’ It’s the most important thing.
“Once somebody’s getting upset, communication stops. Literally, there’s a physiological difference and blood flow stops to the front part of the brain. If arguments begin, we nip it in the bud. Occasionally, my wife might say, ‘that’s really hurtful,’ and immediately, rather than defend myself, I will simply say, ‘I certainly don’t want to hurt you, let’s take some time to think about this and we’ll talk later.’”
Take a time-out
“Take a time-out as soon as you notice the emotions are starting to get negative, then you can come back more calm and refreshed and continue the conversation. Don’t say, ‘I don’t want to listen to this anymore’. That would be negative. Instead, find a positive exit phrase that works for you.
“What I recommend is simply, ‘I need some time to think about this and then we’ll talk’. Then get out of the room, get out of that space, do something else that makes you feel good. Once you feel good, then think about what you were talking about and how you contributed to the problem so that you won’t do that same thing again. Or how you can help your partner feel more relaxed and more supported and bring out the best in them.”
Don’t say these things…
“The worst things you can say to a woman are that she’s selfish, overreacting or irrational. And what’s the worst thing a woman can say to a man? ‘We need to talk about the relationship.’”