Tuesday, July 19, 2005

John Gray's Mars and Venus on a Date

Lately, during the in-between time of riding the subway, I've been reading one of John Gray's Mars/Venus series of relationship books: Mars and Venus on a Date. It was on the reading shelf in my apartment's laundry room. I guess I live in a literate building.

As I hopefully made clear to the anonymous whoever-it-is who's followed me on-line and called me crazy whenever I mention Traci, my experience with her serves as a point of reference. Talking about that experience doesn't mean I still desire the girl.

I did the best I could with her . . . which is not at all the same as saying I did it right or well. I failed, and failure is a very good teacher. Maybe the best. There reaches a point where a pattern emerges and instead of placing blame outside of myself, I need to look at what I'm doing. That's where the Mars/Venus book comes in. According to Gray, there are 5 distinct stages of dating (see below). There aren't shortcuts and it's actually destructive to jump ahead, commit too early or try too hard. Of course, I did all of that. It's only a template, but still, my actions fit on it as do Traci's reactions. It's a neat explanation for why everything I felt so strongly I was doing right drove Traci further away from me, ie, the Shane Falco quicksand metaphor. I'm not saying I believe that if I had followed Gray's formula Traci and I would have worked out as a couple. Maybe, maybe not. It is likelier, I think, that we either would have developed a real friendship or at least ended better. Gray emphasizes the importance of ending a relationship well in order to learn the right lessons and move forward positively. He makes a compelling point. Traci and I certainly did not end well.

I left Korea without a doubt that I had to revamp my perspective and approach to courtship. I had done the best I could with Traci and it was a total failure. I would like a healthy relationship, obviously, but I also don't want to compromise myself if that's what it takes to succeed in a relationship. For a long time, the two states - compromise for relationship versus staying true to self - seemed diametrically opposed, and the only other option I saw was the player template. As a romantic idealist, a "This is how we do it" player (to quote one of my Army roommates) is just about the lowest of the low. The idea that the players were right was unacceptable. In fact, Gray's recommendations have parts in common with the player template. Perhaps the third hidden option has been 'learning the trade' while also understanding myself well enough to use the tools to get what I want, without losing the precious goal I set out to achieve. That third choice is what Gray offers. The player-esque parts of his template still rub me the wrong way, but I'm at least thinking about it with more of an open mind now.

My ROTC advocacy experience factors in, too. I learned that moral-spiritual rectitude and an honorable code aren't (always) enough. Our 'collegiality' did us in against ROTC opponents who played dirty politics and rabble-roused without conscience. Play with purity if you can, but that's a luxury based upon winning. It's not how you play that matters the most, it's about winning the prize and reaping the opportunities that arise.

I'm an idealist, and I'm not about to give that up. I can't, not without damaging my soul. I've been a romantic idealist. It's about time I became a pragmatic romantic idealist. We'll see.

June 5, 2007 Update:

Here are Gray's 5 stages of dating, described at Charlene Ryan's website:


* Physical * Emotional * Mental * Spiritual

At this stage couples share their positive side with each other, yet maintain their authenticity. They continue to look around, date many people, and gain experience with others. To sustain the attraction with one person, they ask themselves, is it possible to get what we need from this person on these attraction levels?


This is a stage where couples are not sure if the person they are with is the "one" for them. Often couples bail out to soon. Men tend to back off from contacting the woman. Uncertainty is normal at this stage and does not mean they are not "right" for each other.

Before he can decided if he wants to be exclusive. He should ask himself three questions: Could I possible be the "right man for her? Could I possible have what it takes to make her happy? Do I care for her and do I miss her when I am away from her?

During this stage while a woman waits she asks: Where is the relationship going? Did I do something wrong since he is not calling? Is there some one else? Will he call? When will he call? What can I do to gain his attention? This is the time to stay open, and active in her own life. Not a time to give more of herself in hope that he will give back. Using this time a woman reflects on what she is getting from the man, and does she want to continue to the next stage with him.

If the answers to these questions are affirmative then they are ready to move into the next stage where the couple temporarily stop dating others, and start focusing attention on each other. This is the time to experiment with this one person and to give this relationship a chance and dig for the gold.

For a man it is the time to do little things for the woman to test if he has the power to make her happy. Men bond with women through being successful in providing for her happiness, comfort and fulfillment. This is the stage where a man pursues the woman and decides if he wants to bond with her. After they have bonded and have moved to the Exclusive stage, then the woman can begin to share some of the expenses and doing little things for him. Still, on a romantic date he should always be the provider.

When they feel their dating partner has the potential to be a mate they are then ready to move onto stage three.


John Gray says that about the third date men usually decide he wants to be exclusive. As in baseball, it is generally three strikes and he either gets on base or he's out. At this stage the focus is on having a primary romantic relationship and avoid any other relationships on the side. They build a foundation that allows them to open their hearts, give freely, fully, and truly love each other. It is also the stage to address the four levels of intimacy they want to go. They are as follows:

* Kissing and affection

* Heavy petting

* Exploration

* Full stimulation without intercourse

* Intercourse

The temptation at this point is for men to stop talking now that he has her. It is not a time to back off but to continue to give to her. This is the stage where he establishes an emotional desire to please her. This develops into a genuine interest in who she is. Which has a chance to turn into love. For women to assume that he knows what she wants and she doesn't need to ask, she does and this is a time for her to focus on what she is receiving.


When we feel a connection with our partner on all four levels: physical-emotional-mental-spiritual then we are ready for intimacy. When we are turned onto our partner on all four levels we are ready for stage four.

Physical: creates desire and arousal

Emotional: creates affection, caring and trust

Mental: creates interest and receptivity

Spiritual: opens our hearts creating love, appreciation and respect.

The more intimacy a man feels for a woman the more he needs to periodically pull away and be alone. This in and out urge is in all men and connected to high levels of testosterone. Distance makes the heart grow fonder. It is important that the woman doesn't chase after him but allows him space. Although the man is the primary giver on occasion they switch roles and the woman gives.


Moving through the first four stages we gain information that lets us know if we want to spend the rest of our life with this one person. The proposal is the most cherished memory of a life time and the most important gift a man can give a woman, and paves the way for a great marriage, A time to celebrate their love for each other. By maintaining the approach of apologies and forgiveness builds further trust.

- Eric

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Anonymous Sharon Wyper said...

That's lovely....and I don't have to read the book now either, thanks.

10/03/2011 4:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is very enlightening. I have never read the book but just ordered it. I am convinced, before even opening the book, that everyone should read this if you are dating-man or woman! Thank you for sharing.


12/01/2011 3:20 PM  
Anonymous Jody Holden said...

You did an excellent job of summarizing the five stages. I listened to the book on audio but wanted further understanding of the stages Gray spoke of and reading what you wrote helped. Thanks!

6/24/2012 6:47 PM  
Anonymous Communicationiskey3 said...

I've half way done with the book and find myself laughing out loud in amazement. It blows me away at how in tune Gary is with women. I've come the conclusion that if he's right on point with women and their thought process then I should believe he's equally on target with men and so that is why I am taking his advice seriously!

11/16/2013 2:11 PM  

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