Magazine article The Spectator

Planetary Turmoil

Magazine article The Spectator

Planetary Turmoil

Article excerpt

Having moved in with my girlfriend four weeks ago, I have decided the time has come to seek some 'relationship counselling', particularly as Caroline's only agreed to live with me for three months, at least initially. I don't mean anything as ambitious as 'couples therapy', which is far too expensive, but I thought it might be a good idea to start reading up on the subject, find out what the experts have to say. I resolved to start at the top. I bought a copy of Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus by John Gray, Ph.D. This book, which was first published in America in 1992, is currently number three on the Sunday Times non-fiction, paperback bestseller list. John Gray's thesis - the subject of his book, that is, not his Ph.D. thesis - is that the reason most relationships founder is because men and women treat each other as if they're basically the same, when in fact they're fundamentally different. They're so different, he believes, it's useful to think of them as coming from separate planets: Mars and Venus. Accepting this fact, and learning to respect each other's planetary culture, so to speak, is the first step in building a long, successful relationship.

I decided to plunge straight into the section that summarises the differences between the sexes. 'Martians,' Gray writes, 'value power, competency [sic], efficiency, and achievement.' Wait a minute, I thought. That doesn't sound like me at all. It sounds like Caroline. 'Venusians,' Gray continues, 'value love, communication, beauty, and relationships.' Now, that sounded like me. The terrible truth dawned: Caroline's from Mars and I'm from Venus.

I have to confess, I've long suspected that a gender role-reversal has taken place in our relationship. As a freelance journalist, I stay at home during the day, while Caroline, who's at law school, leaves the house at 8.30 a.m. and returns at 6 p.m. Being a writer, I'm always looking for an excuse not to work, so I'm perfectly happy to spend my days doing mundane household chores. Caroline, by contrast, can't even iron a pair of trousers. I like to talk during the evening, ideally about the minutiae of our relationship, while Caroline prefers to collapse in front of the telly with a can of Fosters.

Okay, I made that last bit up, but she definitely has more Martian characteristics than me. …

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