Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Men ARE from Mars
Men! The banes of our existence and the loves of our lives. Such a dilemma- do we keep them or go about life without? I know, as writers, we all make idealized heroes who understand women, can automatically be exactly what every woman wants and are extremely good-looking. Who wants to read about real life? This is fiction after all...
I recently read "Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus." The book came out in 1992 so yes I know I am late to the party. I wanted a better understanding of why we picture our heroes as the strong, silent type. Why can't the heroes be more attentive and supportive of the heroine? Having a sensitive male would be the death knell of a romance novel. THAT we all know. And have you ever asked yourself why? I mean, we all want our males to be supportive and say they understand. So why don't we write that? I had to figure this one out.
In the book, Dr. John Gray discusses the differences in how women and men perceive things, especially stress and conflict. On Mars, men go to their man-caves to solve their problems alone. On Venus, women get together and talk out their problems. Never shall the twain meet. I found that interesting because in thirty years of marriage I have never understood what hubby becomes silent and un-reactive when he has a problem. I have always wanted to talk it out, put it on the table, deal with it and move on. The mistake men make is not understanding that a woman will feel neglected while the man is in his cave solving the problems of the universe. Dr. Gray said that men should try to understand and be more respectful that this makes a woman feel unimportant (as well as her problems). Women, he says, should understand that by constantly questioning, like "What's wrong? Why aren't you talking?," puts the man in a defensive posture because he feels like she is criticizing and attacking him. So, I guess women should realize that men need their down-time to process problems while men should realize that women need to express theirs. A BIG dilemma if no one is talking (my opinion only).
Then how do we avoid arguments over this? The woman can accept that the man is withdrawing to solve the problem and she should be supportive of that. Dr. Gray said once the man finds the solution (aha!) he will be back, ready to discuss the problem at length. The man, however, must understand this within himself - that he can't solve her problem right then BUT when he gets back he will be able to give her all the attention and support she needs (and the talking). I guess that we, as women, must wait for it. While we are waiting, he suggested shopping, meditation...you get the picture (twiddle your thumbs and fume).
Applying this to romance writing, I had an epiphany: that is why we see our heroes as the strong silent type who never complain about their problems. What? you ask. Well, instinctively we know that men just aren't going to talk until they are ready. In our books we use that response to make our heroes more appealing. Our heroes will never sit down and discuss their problems over a good cup of herb tea. He withdraws, pulling away from the heroine. He goes off on some secret mission and all the while he is thinking about "Why do I love her? There's no future in it for us." Of course he tells the heroine all this before he leaves just to upset her (wink). What does she do? She runs to her faithful side-kick and talks the whole thing out finally deciding he's just a stupid man. But, wait for it, the hero, after thoroughly processing the problem, has come to a conclusion. He does love her and this can work. Now all he has to do is talk to her. The heroine takes him back with open arms, ready to love him and to talk (finally). The End.
So you see, we already have it figured out. Let the man run off to his cave to ponder. The woman will have it figured out long before him but he's just too stupid to know. When he finally figures out a solution we have a happy ending.. All neatly tied into a bow. I guess what I am saying is we are following human nature so the strong, silent type IS what we know whether we recognize it or not.
I really enjoyed this book. There is plenty of other information in it which gave me a lot of insight on motivation for my characters. It also explained a lot about the dynamics of relationships. I hardily recommend it if you are one of the last people on the planet (like me) who hasn't read it. If you already have, maybe pick it up again and browse through it. It is full of wonderful ideas for conflict.
Have you read the book? What's your opinion on the theories Dr. Gray has set forth? Are you like me, not so understanding of the silent type? Do you rant and rave about your problem until he gives up and turns off the television? Or do you let him have his quiet time and go off shopping? Does it frustrate you not to get your man to talk?