20 Years Later, Men and Women Are Still From Different Planets

November 30, 2012

One of the most troubling effects of applied feminist theology has been the demonization of sex differences. Naturally, this denial of biological reality didn’t make sex differences disappear, it just made them off limits for discussion. That’s ironic, because some of the most pronounced differences between men and women may be seen in the way they engage in discussion. It’s very clear here at HUS that men and women communicate very differently. 

Recently I reread one of my favorite books about cross-sex communication, and despite the fact that it was written in the early 90s, I haven’t found anything that tops it. Even after four years of blogging about dating and relationships, I find John Gray’s Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus enlightening. 

I’m not sure if there ever was a time when the sexes understood one another better, but most of the questions I get from female readers are an attempt to figure out what’s going on in a guy’s mind. 

The best advice about men usually comes from men, but I’m happy to pass it along when it’s really good. John Gray is really good. Some of the insights seem a bit dated for today’s culture – that is, the nature of men and women has not really changed in twenty years, but some of our behaviors have. You may need to adjust here and there, but most of this is gold.

When men feel good about themselves, they are most motivated to please a woman.

The more a man’s life is in order, the more he hungers for a woman to share it with.

When a man does something to make a woman feel special, he becomes more attracted to her.

Men are attracted to women who clearly can be pleased. A man does not want to hear a woman dwell on negative feelings or problems. Women should initially share their most positive, autonomous side.

Not to be needed is a slow death for a man. He needs to feel appreciated, trusted and accepted.

Men are motivated and empowered when they feel needed. Given the opportunity to prove his potential, a man expresses his best self. Only when he feels he cannot succeed does he regress back to his old selfish ways.

But: Too much intimacy, too quickly, can cause women to become needy and men to pull away.

When a man is attracted, he gets excited because he anticipates that he can make her happy and that makes him feel really good; it brings the best of him out. The anticipation of more is very important to keep him interested. If he feels completely satisfied, then there is no distance for him to continue traveling to pursue her. Distance not only makes the heart grow fonder but gives the man the opportunity to pursue. Men always need the opportunity for more.

When women “overgive” it compromises their position, and it prevents the excitement of anticipation and romance from building.

While a man tends to question whether he wants to pursue a relationship, the woman tends to question where the relationship is going.

This may make her insecure and she will begin to pursue him. When a man stops pursuing, a woman’s task is to resist the enormous urge to find out what has happened or to do something about it. In this instance, she should stay open to his future advances, but fill her life up with friends.

The male intimacy cycle is like a rubber band. It involves getting close, pulling away, and then getting close again.

A man pulls away to fulfill his need for independence or autonomy. When he has fully separated, suddenly he will feel his need for love and intimacy again. A man automatically alternates between needing intimacy and autonomy.

When a man springs back, he picks up the relationship at whatever degree of intimacy it was when he stretched away. He doesn’t feel any need for a period of getting reacquainted again.

If a man does not have the opportunity to pull away, he never gets a chance to feel his strong desire to be close. If women insist on continuous intimacy then he will almost always be trying to escape and distance himself. He will never get a chance to feel his own passionate longing for love.

When a woman chases a man or punishes him for withdrawing, he feels incapable of fulfilling her and gives up. His fear of her anger or rejection might cause him to give up entirely.

Women need:

  • caring
  • understanding
  • respect
  • devotion
  • validation
  • reassurance

Men need:

  • trust
  • acceptance
  • appreciation
  • admiration
  • approval
  • encouragement

A man’s interest should be active. 

If a man detects that a woman’s mission is to please him, he will also focus on how she can please him. If she wants to pursue him, he will happily sit back and passively receive what she wants to give. This will not make her happy. When he senses that she is unhappy, she becomes less interesting to him and the attraction lessens. A woman who is eager to please a man will find that he is pleased, but not necessarily interested.

Active interest motivates the man to action to achieve a goal, thrives on achievement and comes from a place of desire and confidence.  The more risks he takes, the more invested he becomes.

The way a woman makes him feel good, (and more interested) is by creating opportunities for him to succeed in truly fulfilling her needs. Without her to please, he is a man out of work. He needs a job, needs the opportunity to succeed in a relationship with a woman. This is an enormous boost to his fulfillment in life.

 A female’s interest should be receptive.

Receptive interest is motivated to create opportunities to receive, thrives in response to support, and comes from a place of preference and worthiness. A woman’s receptive interest in a man generates his active interest in her. When she reacts to his advances, he feels more connected to her. Then he is automatically more interested and motivated to get to know her.

A man gets turned on when a woman’s radiance makes him feel more like a man.

 Feminine radiance embodies the three characteristics of femininity:

1. Self-assurance: An air of grace and trust, self-respect. 

2. Receptivity:  The ability to receive what is given and not resent getting less; ability to benefit or find good in every situation.

3. Responsiveness: A man loves a woman with a smile. He loves to feel that he can make a difference, that he can make her happy.

The wisdom of waiting to be sexually intimate is that a man’s desire has a chance to grow into the higher levels of expression. 

His physical desire expands into the emotional desire to please the woman.

Having an exclusive relationship provides the foundation for lasting intimacy. A woman creates intimacy by honestly sharing more of who she is, and a man experiences increased intimacy by successfully supporting and nurturing more of who she is. As she discloses herself more, he can gradually get to know her. If he continues to be supportive as he gets to know her better, then the love he feels in his heart has a chance to grow.

When a woman becomes sexual before she is ready, she has stopped being receptive and becomes accommodating. She compromises her position. When she gives more in the relationship, she begins to expect more from the man, which makes her very unattractive. Female expectations are a turnoff for men.


The thing that surprises me most, though it makes a lot of sense, is the value to a man of pursuing and winning a woman. And the value to a woman of giving him the opportunity to do that.

We can either return to a way of relating that respects sex differences, or we can continue to ignore sex roles, asking women to be aggressors and men to be passive recipients.  While I think that it’s important and helpful for women to offer encouragement and show interest to men they find attractive, both sexes will realize the greatest benefit if women do this in response to male initiative.