From Mars to Venus

“Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus”, claims John Gray, author, relationship and communication expert in California in his bestseller book.

It is obvious that the differences between women and men exist. Let’s approach some of the biological, psychological and social differences with curiosity and understanding.

Biochemical perspective

The chemical function of woman’s brain is different than the man’s. John Gray introduces a study which reveals that during a tense situation, the woman’s brain produces eight times more blood exchanges in the emotional part than the man’s brain in the same situation. We can even consider that the man’s brain can’t react to a moderate stressful situation and the woman’s brain can react strongly.

According to John Gray, when a woman faces a situation she considers dangerous, she accesses her emotional memory (not the cognitive memory). To anticipate a potential danger, she remembers in details the unfortunate consequences which happened in previous similar situations.

The hormone cortisol comes here in action to face this new dangerous situation. This explains why men accuse women to get angry for nothing and women express that men don’t have feelings.

The male brain only reacts with an intense hormonal discharge, when the situation is critical. Men on the other hand, can reach the same emotional intensity, but only if it is a matter of death or survival.

Communication, self-disclosure and conflict solving perspective

Guy Bodenmann, psychologist, couple-psychotherapist and researcher of Switzerland points out the several studies that show that:

It is not love, physical attraction, the study level, the profession or the social status provoking that two humans stay together, but the way they communicate, they resolve their problems and they regulate their stresses.

In addition, according to John Gottman, American psychology professor in Washington (University of Washington) and his colleagues think that man and woman handle their conflicts differently: the intense physiological activation is more intense in men’s than within women in conflict situations. Men need more time to calm down and regain their initial state.

Another interesting difference, is that according to Howard Markman, psychologist and professor in Denver University and his colleagues, in a relationship, women have it easier to approach conflict matters. At the opposite of men, they express more easily when things aren’t going well. Céline Morin, communication and information professor in Paris (University Paris-Nanterre) explains that the communication is an essential modality for meeting each other and respect two different and so complex identities.

Nowadays, most studies reveal that women self-discloses more about emotional issues than men, says Sharon L. Manne, medicine Professor and researcher at the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey. Self-disclosure is a process of communication by which one person reveals information about themself to another.

Gender roles and social perspective

The author, sociologist and Sociology Professor Arlie Russell Hochschild (University of California in Berkeley) claims that women are “emotion managers”. In reality, according to this researcher, the finality of emotional work is to generate feelings in others and to keep their own roles and social belonging by adhering to standards and social expectations.

It appears that women create the majority of emotional work in their families and are often guided by feelings of kindness, joy and compassion claims Eva Illouz, Sociology Professor from the Jerusalem University.

They are also the guardian of emotions of others believes sociology professor and researcher Marjorie DeVault (Northwestern University), specialized in gender studies.

Moreover, in another study, conducted by American researcher Irwin G. Sarason and colleagues (University of Washington, Seattle), women have been judged by observers like more skilled than men in support interactions. Women differ from men by their way of bringing support to others according to author and researcher Deborah Tannen (Georgetown University). In fact, this author states that women communicate support in terms of “connection” and “similarity” (for example by revealing a similar problem) while the men deal directly with resolving problems.

Nevertheless, the previous selected perspectives above enlighten us about how different women and men are in some specific areas of life and at the same time, they offer us a lot more understanding of each other. The big picture may be a bit complex, but by embracing gender diversity and by knowing our differences, we become more respectful and accepting. When we understand what is going on, we suffer less, isn’t it?

 

Dina Patricia Freitas

Clinical Psychologist with a Psycho-Educational Approach

MS in Psychology and Education Sciences, Clinical Psychology, Free University of Brussels (ULB)

 

 

 

 

Bibliography

Articles:

Bodenmann, G., Pihet, S., Shantinath, S. D., Cina, A., Widmer, K., (2006). Improving dyadic

coping in couples with a stress-oriented approach. A 2-year longitudinal study. Behavior

Modification, 30, (5), 571-597. doi: 10.1177/0145445504269902

Bodenmann, G., Shantinath, S. D., (2004). The couples coping enhancement training (CCET): A

new approach to prevention of marital distress based upon stress and coping. Family Relations, 53,

(5), 477-484.

Freitas, D., (2015). La communication dans le couple: Méthodes d’évaluation et interventions

psychologiques. Une revue de la littérature. Sous la supervision et la direction du Professeur Darius

Razavi. Université Libre de Bruxelles.

Manne, S., Ostroff, J., Rini, C., Fox, K., Goldstein, L., Grana, G., (2004). The Interpersonal Process

Model of Intimacy : The Role of Self-disclosure, Partner Disclosure, and Partner Responsiveness in

Interactions between Cancer Patients and Their Partners. Journal of Family Psychology, 18, (4),

589-599. doi: 10.1037/0893-3200.18.4.589

Markman, H. J., Floyd, F. J., Stanley, S. M., Storaasli, R. D., (1988). Prevention of marital distress:

A longitudinal investigation. Journal of consulting and clinical psychology, 56, (2), 210-217.

Markman, H. J., Renick, M. J., Floyd, F. J., Stanley, S. M., Clements, M., (1993). Preventing

marital distress through communication and conflict management training : A 4-and 5-year followup. Journal of consulting and clinical psychology, 61, (1), 70-77.

Morin, C., (2014). L’amour et les théories de communication. questions de communication, 26, 281-

298.

Pistrang, N., Barker, C., (1998). Partners and Fellow Patients : Two Sources of Emotional Support

for Women with Breast Cancer. American Journal of Community Psychology, 26, (3), 439-456.

Yoo, G. J., Aviv, C., Levine, E. G., Ewing, C., Au, A., (2009). Emotion work: disclosing cancer.

Support Care Cancer. doi: 10.1007/s00520-009-0646-y

Books

Bodenmann, G. (2003). Une vie de couple heureuse. Paris, France: Odile Jacob.

Gray, J. (2010). Venus on fire, Mars on ice. USA, Mind Publishing Inc.


Mady Lutgen

Mady is looking back on 18 years of experience in the Luxembourgish media world. She quit her job at Revue to launch an online magazine in which importance will be given to what makes us feel good – inside and out.

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