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Health & Sex

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John Gray on His Book, 'Why Mars and Venus Collide'

The author of 'Men are from Mars, Women from Venus' explains how men and women manage stress differently and what they can do for stress relief.


Q. So they resist routine, which makes them passive?

A. A man says, "Only do what's necessary." I've seen very capable, dynamic single men who, once married to a very dynamic, capable woman, their whole passion starts to lessen. Their wives start handling everything and doing everything.

What I tell women, you have to start realizing that ... he can do it well and make a difference. If you allow him do it his way, it may not be perfect, but at least you're not doing everything. And your stress levels will go down. Elevated stress levels in women tend to be associated with feeling overwhelmed and for some women, also a desire for perfectionism.

Q. It means giving up perfection then?

A. Yes. When stress levels are low, everything doesn't have to be perfect. When stress levels are high, women tend to have low serotonin. The traditional symptom of low serotonin is depression. That's where perfectionism comes up -- it's the need for someone else's approval. That becomes extremely hard on a relationship.

Q. So it's a vicious cycle.

A. Exactly. And it feeds itself with stress. If there are 20 things on her "to do" list, she asks him to do five of those things. He says, "Sure. If that's going to make your life easier, I'll do those five things." Meanwhile, she has 15 things and he has five. While she's doing the 15 and he's doing the five, she adds five more things. He says, "I did all this and it didn't help at all. I didn't fix it or solve anything." So if a man comes along to help you, and you take on more things, why bother helping you? It doesn't seem to help.

Q. So how can a woman actually motivate a man to help?

A. I tell women to stop giving to him. Stop helping him. What women often do when they want more is to give more. [They] give men a lot of attention and do all sorts of things for him, even when they don't want to, because it's the loving thing to do. That's the big mistake. Instead, help him give to you more. When women are happy, that's when men feel happiest. When men feel successful in making a woman happy, men's stress levels go down.

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