The Observer (Kampala)

29 January 2013

Uganda: Why Mars and Venus Collide

book review

If men are from Mars, women are from Venus, John Gray tells us how the two sexes differ. Why Mars and Venus Collide is about the delicate art of communication between husband and wife.

Though men and women are similar, when it comes to stress, they are very different. Increase of stress intensifies the differences. Many couples drift apart to a passionless distance, or are ripped apart by feelings of resentment, confusion and mistrust that lead to explosive fights.

Modern life, with its prolonged toxic and life-damaging stress, does not help. Women are increasingly pressured to work outside the home and the diminished potential of men to earn enough to be sole providers has shaken the foundations of our society. Never in history have women been expected to do so much, and that can be overwhelming on Venus.

That stress is immediately transmitted to Mars and ends in misunderstanding, friction and a sense of helplessness. What helps men release stress can be the opposite of what makes women feel better. While he withdraws into his cave to forget the problems of his day, she wants to interact and discuss things. When she shares her frustrations, he offers solutions, but she is simply looking for some empathy.

A dramatic new source of stress in the past fifty years has been the shift in the roles of men and women. A man used to go to work to provide for his family. The sense of pride and accomplishment, along with the love and support he received when he returned home, helped him to cope with the many stresses of his day.

Women were home-makers and contributed to the community.

Though this was demanding, having time to focus on what she had to do enabled a woman to pace her life to minimize stress. There was men's work and women's work. A woman expected her man to be the provider and nothing else, except perhaps some heavy lifting. Men still expect their wives to be the domestic heroines their mothers were.

A man wants to come home and be supported by a loving wife. Since, he reasons, he is doing what his father did, his wife should do what his mother did, and not come home tired, drained and resentful. Women are the custodians of love, family and relationship. When they stop being women and are too stressed to carry out these functions, we are all lost, Dr Gray reasons.

Women remind men of what is important in life. Women hold the wisdom of the heart and inspire men to act from their hearts. Men can have great vision, but women provide the meaningful foundation. When women are not happy, no-one is happy. Behind every great man stands a great woman; hence the wise tradition in many societies of the importance of the role of the queen mother.

Though written with Western middle-class readers in mind, many of his insights are applicable to large sectors of urban society here. Many practical tips for couples.

Author: John Gray

Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers, 2008

Volume: 249 pages

Cost: Shs 23,000

Reviewer: Martyn Drakard

Available from Aristoc.

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