It’s the marriage book I recommend more often than any other: Venus on Fire, Mars on Ice: Hormonal Balance–The Key to Life, Love and Energy by John Gray. If you are uncomfortable with frank discussions of innate gender differences, this might not be the book for you; otherwise, have at it. It’s practical advice with a good bit of hard science to back it up.
Notes and Quotes:
- Many of the differences between men and women are due to differences in hormones—both in their levels and in the ways they behave in their bodies.
- When feeling stressed, men seek testosterone-raising and testosterone-releasing activities. When feeling stressed, women seek oxytocin-raising and oxytocin-releasing activities.
- For men, testosterone is released during work-like, problem-solving activities and raised during rest/zone-out/no-talking time.
- Women are different. “Testosterone feels good to her because it gives her a sense of power and capability and makes her feel sexy, but it doesn’t lower her stress level.” It may even raise it.
- Instead, women seek oxytocin raising activities—primarily talking and bonding—and oxytocin-releasing activities—care giving.
- Men are different. “Oxytocin feels good to him, increasing his tendencies toward trust, empathy, and generosity, but … [it] doesn’t lower his stress level.” it may even raise it by lowering his testosterone.
- Cortisol, the stress hormone, is only good for them in a true emergency. As a daily response to modern life, it prevents people—both men and women—from maintaining healthy levels of their other needed hormones because the body prioritizes the making of it. Thus, when we’re stressed out, they feel the need to engage in even more oxytocin-raising and -releasing activities (for women), and even more testosterone-raising and -releasing activities (for men). Soon, their schedules are fuller than ever, and they become even more stressed out.
- Tomorrow morning, you are going to have to wake up. You’re going to have to take the baby to the park and to the playdate you have scheduled, and pretend that everything is fine. How are you going to get through it? How in the world are you going to get out of bed, knowing the foundation of your life—your marriage—is crumbling?
- Though the hormonal needs of individuals vary widely (some women need more testosterone than other women and some men need more oxytocin than other men), these needs explain the presence of traditional gender roles. Women enjoy nurturing others, then being nurtured through conversation and relationship, while men enjoy working and problem-solving, then spending time alone to rest.
- Women aren’t cranky—their serotonin is depleted due to stress and fluctuating blood sugar levels.
- Men aren’t lazy—they are chemically built to need more time off.
- Women don’t prioritize chores over self-care—they choose to release oxytocin by taking care of the home environment.
- Men aren’t insensitive—they don’t crave the bonding women do.
- Women don’t want to avoid sex—they need oxytocin-building, caring words and actions in order to get in the mood.
- Women don’t overreact—they experience a larger response in the brain when under stress than men do.
- Women don’t complain endlessly—they talk about their feelings at length in order to rebuild their relaxing oxytocin.
- Men don’t procrastinate—they choose to rebuild their testosterone levels through rest. They put off doing chores until an emergency, at which point their testosterone kicks in and tells them to act.
- Women don’t worry an unreasonable amount—they simply enjoy nurturing others and thinking about their needs.
Read the rest of the series at Fights You’ll Have After Having a Baby: A Self-Help Novel.