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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.

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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.

What motivates a man is to feel like he did this project for her, so she could do what she really likes to do.

Q. What are some ways women can manage their own stress?

A. There are three stress-reducers for women. The general one is to do the things they love to do. The context of my book is to give women permission to support themselves first, knowing that that's even a greater gift to their partner.

Next, what a woman can do to get a man's support is to ask for a date [with this] simple request: "Honey, would you get tickets to this play? Would you pick a movie -- here are three I was thinking. Would you make dinner for me?" That's the romantic factor.

Two, ask for conversation. You can't have any intention of solving a problem with this conversation, but you say, "I'm so glad you're here. I just want to download my day to somebody, and it feels so good when I can do it with you." You have to be very clear. This is FYIO ("for your information only.") You say to him, "You don't have to say anything or do anything. Just look in my direction. I'll do it for 5 or 10 minutes and I promise you, it will really help. It will make me let go of my day."

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