"The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even heard, but must be felt with the heart."
John Gray is the author of mega-bestseller, Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus. It’s been named one of the most influential books of all time and was the #1 best-selling hardcover book of the 1990s.
Dr. Gray is a prolific author, with more than 20 books available in 50 languages in 150+ countries, with sales of more than 50 million copies.
His work unites communication, nutrition, and health, to create the brain and body chemistry for lasting well-being, happiness, and romance. An advocate of health and optimal brain function, he also provides natural solutions for overcoming depression, anxiety, and stress to support increased energy, libido, hormonal balance, and better sleep.
Dr. Gray has appeared repeatedly on Oprah, as well as on The Dr. Oz Show and Good Morning America. He’s also been featured in Time, Forbes, and USA Today, and was the subject of a three-hour special hosted by Barbara Walters.
His latest book is Beyond Mars and Venus where he shares relationship skills to thrive in today’s complex modern world.
Dr. Gray lives in Northern California where for 34 years he happily shared his life with his beautiful wife, Bonnie, until her passing in 2018. They have three grown daughters and four grandchildren.
In this episode:
- Proven tips to immediately strengthen your relationship
- The biggest mistakes people make in the home
- Secrets of a happy marriage; and
- How to achieve your highest level of fulfillment.
Before we begin, the right bit of inspiration can completely change the trajectory of someone’s life, so if there’s a friend or loved one who needs to hear this episode or could use some help to Win the Day, share it with them right now.
Let’s WIN THE DAY with relationship expert, Dr. John Gray!
John, it’s so great to see you. Thanks for coming on the show.
Dr. John Gray:
It was a great intro! Thank you so much.
Congratulations on your enormous body of work. From the time we spent together on the weekend, it made me realize that despite my best efforts – and even naivete – I know nothing physiologically about the person [my wife, Jenn] that I've committed my life to! And she would probably say the same.
So what are the biological differences between us that those in relationships need to know about?
Well, when I wrote Men Are from Mars, the whole theme there was just my basic experience of counseling for 10 years at that point, and being married, having three daughters, and growing up with five brothers.
Guys are one way, and then suddenly I have daughters, and then 90% of the people I’m counseling are women. It's like, they're all complaining about the same guy, me! But when a woman expresses her complaints to a therapist, he doesn't take it personally. So you can actually hear it.
When it happens over and over and over, you take note of how women tend to misunderstand men, and men tend to misunderstand women. We really have different priorities, quite often.
For example, one day, I must have seen four or five women on that day. A woman said, "The only time my husband touches me is when he wants sex." I say, "Tell me more" which is a therapy thing.
Then that night I went up and I was giving my wife a hug in the kitchen. I just came up to give her a hug, because all these women were talking about hugs. So I thought, I'll go give her a hug. And then she stopped. She kind of froze. And she says, "You know John, the only time you touch me is when do want sex."
It was a very funny thing. So I had to look into, okay, what's the problem here? Because women need to be more in the mood for sexual touch, whereas men are almost always in the mood for sexual touch.
Women need to be more in the mood for sexual touch, whereas men are almost always in the mood for sexual touch.
So now, 30 years later, I was able to find all the biological reasons for this. And it's very timely because my new book Beyond Mars and Venus talks about how we're no longer in the traditional roles, but men are still men and women are still women.
We go, "Was this just made up?" In the universities they say “This is just social engineering that made us this way.” But actually it's biology that made us this way. And social engineering can help us maintain a healthy biology.
So when the Supreme Court nominee was asked, "How do you define a woman?" she says, "You have to talk to a biologist." Well, in my new book I share all about the biological differences of men and women. Ironically, they are all there to explain on a biological level.
The simple examples that I give in Men Are from Mars that, at the time, so many people related to – people were buying 50,000 - 80,000 copies a week of that book for such a long time, and that’s a lot of people who are in relationships relating to it. When you read it, you can easily apply it because they’re just insights that you're not really aware of if you don't understand how men and women are different.
But even then, a small percent of women, and now a lot of women, will say when they read Men Are from Mars, "I feel like I'm from Mars, and my husband's from Venus." And that is due to a biological change, which is happening. Because when women are more independent and they're making money, they're making more male hormones and they tend to make less female hormones.
And whenever her male hormones are dominant over her female hormones, she'll have higher stress levels – and that's measurable. For men, whenever a man is stressed, he's going to have lower male hormones and higher female hormones. And we'll go into the details of that today.
So the thrust of my work now is, for many people, when you're no longer doing more traditional roles for man as provider, woman as homemaker, and so forth. Now you've got women making more testosterone than they traditionally did and less estrogen, new challenges.
And so the second bit here is all about helping men understand their wives when they're stressed and need help – how can I help bring her back to her female side, and how can I produce more female hormones in her? And vice versa – what women can do to communicate new ways to a man, which bumps up his testosterone.
Your work is all about strengthening relationships. But to me, perhaps even more primarily, it strengthens the relationship that you have with yourself. The awareness that you have within is such a big part of that.
Out of four decades of counseling, was there a specific tip you gave that led to the most breakthroughs?
Oh my gosh. It's the one you talked about earlier today.
People recognize me, particularly in airports because I'm more accessible in airports. and people go, "That's the guy. That's the guy. He's the one who wrote the book." The only book they've read in 20 years! But the guy will come up to me.
The woman feels like she doesn't want to invade my space. But the guy, he knows I'll love it because he's only going to acknowledge that I helped him. Every man wants to feel you're successful, so guys will come up and they'll say, "Man, I just didn't know. I realize now she just needs to talk sometimes. And if I don't interrupt, she's really happy, and she's grateful."
The idea is that men particularly need to make male hormones, which are more important for a man's well-being than a woman's. Male hormones get produced when you feel confident in solving problems.
So if your wife's talking about problems, a man will want to interrupt and solve the problem, and that makes him feel good. But what makes her feel better than just solving problems – although that can feel good for a woman – is being heard, talking, and having somebody listen. And what's shocking for everybody is that talking about problems is actually a major estrogen producer.
What makes her feel better than just solving problems is being heard, talking, and having somebody listen.
I even witnessed it when I went down and started living with different primitive tribes that haven't been exposed to our social engineering. You see a picture emerging. A lot of pregnant women, babies, and women are all kind of tribal and take care of their children. Men do the jungle work, the dirty, difficult, dangerous stuff. And everybody's rather happy and peaceful. As long as nobody invades their tribe, but as a group, they're good.
Imagine at night she's getting water from the river and she sees a tiger in the woods. Now she's got a baby, she's very vulnerable. So what's her first reaction? She sees the tiger. She scuttles back very quietly, but she goes back to her home, the hut. And she has to tell somebody. Imagine how much stress she's going to feel in her body if she doesn't tell somebody about it.
So she'll tell her husband, he'll get some guys together, and then they'll very quietly go and remove the tiger or do something.
Check out the YouTube or podcast version where John Gray does the Win the Day Rocket Round, answering questions about his favorite quote, what advice he’d give his 18-year-old self, the one thing on his bucket list, and a whole lot more. 🚀
You don't hunt an animal making noise. But if you're a woman and you're in stress, you have to tell somebody. So you verbalize. And there's even biology to support that – under moderate stress, women have eight times more blood flow to the hippocampus, which is the emotional part of the brain.
For men, it stops. We become quiet. We become thoughtful. We mull over, “What am I going to do?” You have to think in your head, whereas she needs to communicate. Now, that still is in our biology, and so that's why we had this huge industry of counseling. There's more counselors than doctors and nurses. I mean, it's a big industry. And then coaching beyond that.
When it comes to counselors and therapists, 90% of the people who go are women. They literally want to pay somebody so they can talk. And most therapists will just ask questions, not giving so much advice.
I have to say, I wish they would give more advice after a woman feels heard, because the women I experience in my office and in my seminars, all around the world, they often feel that “I give and give and give and I don't get back.” That’s why, in their relationships, they feel like “I’m the good guy and he's the bad guy.” But they don't realize that what they're giving is what women would want and not what men want.
And men are over there thinking they're doing everything fine. And they actually have different ways of expressing this. We just don't understand why it's not landing. We're throwing a basketball and it just never hits the hoop. What's going on? Or throw a baseball, how do you throw one that's straight? You need a mentor. You need somebody to teach you and we need new skills for this.
So you were mentioning the big breakthrough for so many men, which is when she's talking, don't interrupt with solutions, but ask more questions. And as a tip for everybody who's listened to this podcast to here, when she's talking, you try not to say anything.
Then you can say things like, "Help me understand that better" and "Well, tell me more." And you make little noises. "I see. Yeah. Right." Don't suddenly take it back. And then when it seems like it's done say, "What else?" Because they're never done right away.
When she's talking, don't interrupt with solutions. Instead, ask more questions.
There's like a spiral that women go through to great extent with their intimate relationships. And I don't want to imply that she's this way in the work world. In the work world, she's more like a man. She's to the point and uses communication to solve problems.
But they're two different worlds, work and intimacy. There's different rules that go with each. And if you're really good in the business world, usually you're not that good at the intimate world. So it's good to have both sides.
In communication and relationships more broadly, it's important to think about what the other person views as success, rather than making it so much about you.
If you had asked me two days ago, I would have said that I never butt in to solve problems and I’m a really good listener when my wife is talking. But from my conversations with you recently, I realized that I constantly butt in to try and solve the problem.
And as you said, my wife doesn't want me to solve the problem, she wants to feel heard. She wants to communicate and feel like she's got that out.
That simple understanding has already changed my life.
It's a huge thing.
And yet everything I teach has complications, because sometimes she does want you to solve the problem! But wait until she's talked about it and you get her to talk more.
Quite often, in an intimate relationship, she's also talking about a problem that we need to find a solution for, and she's upset about it. If ever she's upset, that's where you first listen much, much longer. Because you have to know that any upset is going to cloud our ability to find harmony together. It will cloud a woman's ability to appreciate your point of view.
Any upset is going to cloud our ability to find harmony together.
I learned that as a therapist, if I ever give a suggestion before 30 minutes, there's going to be a long line of, "Yes, but. Yes, but. Yes, but." However, if I can listen and understand better and really understand her point of view more, my solutions or suggestions will be better – but she will be willing to receive them.
It's literally like, she's got to get it out and then she can bring something in.
Like the Stephen Covey principle, "Seek first to understand, then be understood."
That's a good one. That is a wonderful principle. But let me add to that.
When women complain, you listen. A lot of men then say, "Okay, I understand this, and this, and this, and you're wrong. And now you should understand why you're wrong." That doesn't work. You just want to prevent escalation in relationships.
What I've seen again and again is women will say things that might be a little bothering to a guy, it's a minor thing. And what he'll do is he'll detach to think about it. It's like, “Is that really true?” She said, "Oh we never go out anymore. You're not the same guy." He's thinking, what does that mean? I mean, we went out last week. He's being very analytical about it, and detached.
Analysis, detachment, solving problems, these things make testosterone. And I'll mention it again because I keep coming back to testosterone, estrogen. There are a few other female hormones as well, but I'll simplify it with estrogen.
When a woman has well-being and is happy, her estrogen levels will be 10 times higher than the average man. And when a man has well-being, his testosterone levels will be 10 to 20 times higher than the average testosterone for a woman. These are key things. So then you look at that and you go, wow, any man who is depressed has low testosterone. Any man who's angry, his testosterone's going down and his estrogen's going up.
And so if I want to be like a man – and feel confident and strong and motivated, the best part of masculinity – I want to keep my testosterone up. One of the things that lowers it right away is if you get angry and start talking.
So, that's another takeaway. If you're starting to feel annoyed and irritated, as soon as you say something, it's like a landslide. The pebble's going and you'll get more and more angry and more and more upset. What men don't understand is, a man articulating anger to his wife, hits a nerve inside of her, which is thousands of years old, which is her life is in danger. So she's going to put up walls and she's not going to be able to hear what you say anyway.
Men need to understand that when they articulate anger to his wife, it hits a nerve inside of her that is thousands of years old, which is that her life is in danger.
You want to create safety for women. See, what I've done is just upregulated our job. We have policemen and government and divorce lawyers and everything that create safety for women, so what do they need us for!?
They need a lot of emotional safety. See, that's the thing. When Maslow talked about hierarchy of needs, the lower needs, when they're fulfilled, the higher needs come into play. And intimacy, making love. I teach around the world. I say, "Okay, let's look at all the options I can teach you about." Everybody wants me to talk about how to create lasting passion. We want to feel the juice.
And ironically, the juice is produced – that passionate feeling – when you're blending your masculine and feminine together. I mean, if you think about sex, what's happening is literally a man is slowing down to respect her. And eventually he's entering into her. He wants to get into her. That's the blending. Instead of becoming feminine himself, he joins with a woman who is feminine and then you can be both masculine and feminine at the same time.
If I just work on being feminine, I lose my masculinity. That's why relationships can be so powerful to find that balance. When you're listening, you're solving a problem. Now you have a new context for listening, I'm solving the big problem, which is helping women process their feelings, their thoughts.
And on a biological level, you're raising their estrogen. We just have to get when estrogen goes up in women, the things that were upsetting them are no longer going to upset them. It's going to become no big deal. No big deal.
That's another million dollar tip – if you are ever complaining to your husband, preface it with, "Just want to talk for a few minutes and it's no big deal." Then his blood pressure will go back down.
When you say to your husband, "We need to talk about something." Gabang. Stress levels go up. “Oh, what did I do? What's going on?”
He’s going to go on the attack?
So just say, "It's no big deal." Then he'll be able to listen because our man brain is always “How big a deal is this?” And when emotions are involved, if there's an emotional tone, he misinterprets her to think she's saying, "It's a big, big deal."
Because for men, little problems, you have no emotions. And for women, little problems, you actually have more emotions than big problems.
They're two different worlds – work and intimacy – and there's different rules that go with each.
When a woman has a big problem, she shuts down and she has no emotion. And a man when he has emotion, it's because he can't solve a problem. Because we get frustrated or angry or whatever. That means your testosterone's going down and your estrogen's going up.
But the experience for men is they only get emotional when the problem is big. I mean negative emotions here. The problem is big. Whereas women get emotional when it's just life going by, and they just want to talk about it. And that will lower their stress level by increasing estrogen. Being seen, being heard, knowing what she thinks without somebody minimizing her, or judging her.
You mentioned there that the role in a relationship is to prevent escalation. On Sunday, you mentioned to me that the role of the man is to protect his partner from the dragon within him.
That really resonated with me because – full transparency with everyone watching and listening to this show – I feel like my biggest weakness as a husband is that during an argument with my wife (which is rare, thankfully!) I tend to lash out verbally and say something that I totally don't mean, which massively escalates it.
Then I slink off, and she's very frustrated, understandably. “That dragon in you,” that resonated with me so much.
And it takes maybe a couple days before your heart opens again, it's literally a shutdown. It could be a few hours, but it can also be several days. And then you’re like, “How do we get back together over here?”
When you said “the dragon thing,” that actually was my wife telling me that. Because another big takeaway of Men Are from Mars, that men love and women tell me about the most, they said, "Thank you for teaching me about a man's cave."
Now it's sort of every man has his cave, but it started with the Men Are from Mars book, which is helping women understand men's tendency as a general thing, as he goes to work, action, he needs to rest. He needs to do something that's not stimulating estrogen, but restimulating testosterone. Because when you're in stress during the day, you're making testosterone, but you're also running out of it.
If he's staying too long in the cave, you have to have skills to move him out.
The more you're stressed or frustrated whatever, you tend to go lower in your testosterone. So there's a recovery period that a man needs, which is, it's not about her. It's about, “I just need to have a hobby” or “I need to read the news” or “I need to go for a good workout.”
You see, there's a lot of different activities that stimulate the production of testosterone, but they're completely stress-free. That means you're not making money from it. You don't worry about it. You're fixing your car in the garage. Everybody's got crazy hobbies, that's men's thing. That's his thing he does by himself.
So a guy comes home and he's working in the garage or he's ignoring his wife. And she can feel like, "What did I do wrong?" Or, "He doesn't love me as much anymore." Then she wants to say, "What's bothering you?" Or she's searching to see if you're upset with her.
And what I explained is that “He's just in his cave.” And the cave is a place where it's non personal. Then he can rebuild his testosterone and come back into the personal world. It's not like he has to do it every day. Well, some men do. Some men do it longer than others. Some men get addicted to it.
So that's another dance, which is, if he's staying too long in the cave, you have to have skills to move him out. And the skills, one simple skill, you can't teach everything in a short interview, but this is a great one which is, if he's really got addicted to just sitting there watching TV or he's on his computer, you can say to him something, never judge him for it because he's doing what's instinctive.
But you say, "Oh honey, when you have a chance, I need your help. It will only take 10 minutes." And then let him pick his time. Usually he'll say, "Well, what is it? What is it?" And you say, "Well, I'll let you know when you're ready."
And then he might forget, because this is a new thing. But he's going to go to the bathroom at some point, say, "Oh, while you're up, I need your help. Would you... It'll just take a few minutes." And you draw him out of the cave because when something's feeling good, you just want to keep going.
So there's certain activities in the cave that can be unproductive and certain ones that are very productive. I'd say that the main one in the cave that's unproductive is too long in the cave or doing porn.
You open her heart by listening.
Porn is highly tempting for men because it's something that's unproductive that produces a lot of testosterone right away. Anytime you have an erection, your testosterone shoots up. But it goes right back down and you actually lose the potency that you could have had if you were doing something more constructive.
So when you invite him, "What help do you need?" Just 10 minute help. Then you make sure to appreciate him for it. The most powerful one is to use him when he comes out of the cave to help you become more feminine. Return to your feminine side.
And there's nothing more feminine right now in this age that we live in is when women are more on their male side, what can bring them back is to talk about the feelings that they experienced through the day that they suppressed.
See, when you're on your male side, you can't be in touch so much with your feelings. You're solving problems and solving problems over and over again. But the truth is every day there’s stress. They've measured women's stress levels in the workplace and they're twice as high as men. And they double again when they come home.
Women need to talk about what's going on inside because it’s an outlet. It's a hormone producer, and it's a connector. Women have many uses for language, and men can use some of them. But one of the uses is like a man who gathers information to solve problems. Talk about this.
Another one is just talking about what you feel, and it makes you more connected to your partner. That connection is estrogen producing. And that's the whole point with men – we’re not aware of how much we need connection because we don't need as much estrogen. Women need 10 times more than us.
Porn is highly tempting for men because it's something that's unproductive that produces a lot of testosterone right away.
To be romantic, and people want to feel the passion and the romance, they need 20 times more. In my book, we have all these tips of what men can do to help raise a woman's estrogen level so she feels more connection.
And she particularly needs it when you're in the cave, because when you're the cave you're disconnected, and men need that time. A lot of men today feel their wives will say, "Oh, you're spending too much time alone," and whatever. And maybe he really is, or maybe he just needs an hour in the cave, which is not too much time. It could be half an hour. It could be whatever.
But even with that again, the "Yes, but," with that, it's not like I come home and ignore my wife. No, I'll come home and the first thing I do is I find her. My kids, when they were young, they would come at me and say, "Daddy, daddy" and the first thing they'll say now after I taught them this is, "Where's mom?" because my first question is always "Where's mom?" She's number one.
I go find her and I give her a good six-second non-sexual hug. It takes about six seconds and you can measure the hormone of oxytocin starts to go up. And that then opens the doorway for her estrogen levels to go up.
In a sense, estrogen goes up anytime you're feeling “I have a need and someone is there to support me.” The unfortunate thing today is that many women are not aware of their need to talk about their feelings. They'll go to a therapist, the ones who do, they realize that once you experience it, then you realize, "Gee, just talking about it, I'm suddenly in a better mood." And you can multiply that maybe even 10 times in terms of a better mood or shorter amount of talking, if she brings in her emotions.
My wife is number one. As soon as I get home, I go find her, and I give her a good six-second non-sexual hug.
Many women experience the world quite differently. So if she's complaining and "Oh, nobody appreciated me today. I did more work and they ignored me and they did this and this." I never experienced that in the workplace. That's not my pet peeve. But for women it's common.
They feel ignored. They feel excluded. They feel not acknowledged. They feel not appreciated. They feel overworked. They feel not seen, heard. And so if she's talking about those things, it's like I don't have that experience of being a woman and being in the workplace, which was built for men and not for women. It's slowly changing. But when she comes back, I can't really fully empathize with that unless, and this is the key, she brings some emotion in it. And she's "Oh, so frustrating…"
Instead of "Nobody appreciates me at work" it becomes "It's so frustrating. I do this and this and nobody even notices it. And I'm working really hard. I feel so disappointed. I thought this job was going to be so great. And now nobody's supporting me in this way. I'm concerned it's going to stay this way forever. And today I said something, I told so and so just a few details about her life. And I was so embarrassed, I thought I should have said it differently later."
See, that's vulnerability, revealing these emotions. But you first have to become aware of them because they just, they're right under the surface. When a woman can reveal emotions, not only does she produce more estrogen, but a man can actually empathize.
Men experience frustration all the time. We experience disappointments and whatever. But we don't have the need to talk about it, and therefore we're not even so much conscious of it.
But when she's experiencing it, we can relate. And the thought that men don't have emotions, some people think that. It's because we don't talk about it. Watch any man watching a football game! It's like, "No, no, no. Yes, yes, yes."
Of course, we have emotions. We don't really have the great need that women have. And see, everything I've said is politically incorrect because we have social engineering saying we're all the same, and therefore we should all be women, yet all have jobs like men.
It's like, where are your feelings? So back to what you initially said about the cave and a man deescalating. Whenever you start to get angry, there's two steps. One is when you're angry in your man, you're out of control.
See, like right now we're having a very peaceful conversation. I know what I'm doing. I'm good at this. You're good at that. But if I wasn't good at this, I'd suddenly have some emotion of fear and whatever. So confidence for a man creates detachment from emotions. But it doesn't mean he can't feel other people's emotions. Detachment from any sort of anxiousness within himself.
So you're having a conversation, the smiles on your face, your heart's open, you're listening to your partner, she's talking about her day. And if she brings a little emotion into it, you don't get tired real quick. If you can't relate to a woman talking, you just got to go, "Well, what am I doing here?" It just adds to it if women can reveal.
Because emotions is estrogen. And what men are looking for in their wives is to experience estrogen. And what women need but they might not know is more estrogen. And a man can provide that. And if you're providing what she needs, you're building your testosterone, and her estrogen is going up.
She doesn't need to ask you what's going on. But often women feel like, "Oh, I need to know what you're feeling," because they're afraid of sharing their feelings with you.
See the key is, you go into her and you open her heart by listening. If you listen to a man, you can actually encourage him too much to go to his female side. Do you remember at Ramy’s house during one of the small groups, I just asked the women, "When men start talking about their feelings and their complaints at work, how many of you feel disgusted?" And how they're like, "Yes."
When a woman can reveal emotions, not only does she produce more estrogen, but a man can actually empathize.
Because they feel guilty because they want you to be interested in their feelings. But when they're like, where's the man? It's like he's whining, he's complaining. He's whatever. And why is he in that place? Because we're told to be that way. And women are saying, "What are you feeling? What are you feeling?" And psychology saying you need to talk about your feelings, and how we abuse men by not letting them talk about their feelings.
No. We need to learn how to process our feelings first with our analysis that judge whether it is a big deal or not a big deal? There's no problem if it's a big deal to have emotions, without a doubt.
There's an old Chinese phrase which is, "Men should not express negative emotion. Men should not cry unless their heart is broken." My wife died four years ago and I cried a lot. I've been defrauded a few times and cried a little bit. Big things, men appropriately become emotional. But the normal stuff in life is not to be talked about so much.
Some people get upset with me for saying that even so that you can come back to a nice harmonious place. If a woman is feeling more feminine than you, it's always fine to go to your female side. But if you go to your female side and she's not more on her female side, your relationship is going downhill.
Another way of saying that is, if a woman feels she's not being heard and you want to be heard, it's the wrong direction. All I'm doing is pointing people in the right direction. If you need to be heard men, first hear her. It's like orgasm, always give the woman the orgasm first, the foreplay for her. If you just jump in and do what feels good to you, she's left in the cold. Instead, give her what she needs, open her up.
What I have found, if you learn how to share in a vulnerable way without attacking your partner – and that's a lesson women can learn, I'll get to that – but when she opens up and shares, because I relate to the frustrations and the disappointments, it makes me aware of what I'm frustrated and disappointed about, I don't need to talk. See, she's actually healing my female side by opening up and I'm healing her by being present for her. And when I say healing, I just mean stress levels are going down.
So I never finished that question you asked me about the dragon inside. So one time Bonnie and I were starting to escalate into an argument and I said, "Look, honey, I just need to think about this, and we'll talk some more." And went to my cave.
It was like four hours because it didn't get escalated too much. The less you escalate, the more quickly men can open their heart again. And I came back and so the signal that I'm out of the cave is I'll come back and stand around her and stroke her hair and be a little affectionate. And she starts to go, "Okay, that angry guy is not here now."
But one day she said to me, she said, "John, thanks so much for going to your cave and protecting me from the dragon inside." I tell that story because it changed me, because I felt, “Oh now I'm not a bad person because I stepped out of the conversation.” For women, when you leave a conversation, they feel like you don't love them. As opposed to “Look, I'm protecting you from becoming angry.”
Now, there's a step before that. It's not like I have to do that all the time, because I regulate myself when I start to see escalation happening. And I basically back her up a little bit without her feeling like I'm stopping her by just saying, "Well, you just said this. Help me understand that better? I want to understand that more."
And as a man, if you're directing the conversation, you're making testosterone. Rather than resisting, you're now embracing, but it does give you more control within yourself to be directing the conversation, knowing I'm doing something productive here.
If men want to be heard, first hear her. It's like an orgasm – always give the woman the orgasm first.
Another thing is to imagine a big gold ribbon, first place, because if you can do this, you're like her hero, if you don't become reactive. Because the brain will become reactive. We're designed to, we have these mirror cells that kick into gear. If you're angry with me, I get angry with you. If you're not trusting me, I don't trust you. If you're resisting me, I resist you.
That dramatically increases when you're in an intimate relationship. It's like those mirror cells just turn on. Because that's how children learn – they duplicate.
When you're making love with your partner on a regular basis, you're constantly bringing in all your childhood issues. Because the only time in life we get naked with somebody who makes us feel really good, not sexually but naked, is children. And who is more dependent on someone than a child?
Well, part of a marriage is we are dependent on our partners for many things. But a healthy relationship, you're not dependent on your partner to be happy. You use your relationship to become happier. That's a healthy place.
It's called getting a life. Thinking of men, women, as dessert. This is like, I do all this stuff in my life and I'm happy and fulfilled. I might have children. I have pets. I have my relationship to the earth. I have my work. I have my friends. I have my spirituality. I have my health. I have my education. These are all needs that we have as human beings.
But as soon as we touch into sex, it's like the brain goes, “This is it!” And we get addicted to that. From my perspective, anytime you're unhappy in a relationship, it’s because you're prioritizing your partner more than yourself and your life.
Think of your partner as dessert, rather than the main course.
How do relationships and marriages that are devoid of intimacy get things back on track?
Absolutely. It happens all the time.
Even at the airports where people come up to me, and usually when the man comes up and interrupts my space, it's because they were divorced and they got back together. Not to imply that everybody divorced was with the right person.
Sometimes it's just too much, people aren't motivated to work through the issues they have to work through. But there's so many people who just think, "We're just too different and we argue too much." And they read Men Are from Mars and go, "My gosh, I've been making all these mistakes all along."
It's not just men who realize this, women realize it too. Women are always asking me, "I ended a relationship. How do we get started again?" I said, "First thing you need to do is, and understanding these new ideas, reflect on your relationship and see that you're 50% of the problem. Then you can have confidence in picking the right man again."
So many women say, “I just don't trust that I can trust myself”. And women on average, after a divorce – this is an average, not every woman, but an average – nine years before they get involved again. They're just shell shocked. Because it's not so much him. It's just, "I thought he was the perfect one. And so how can I trust myself?" Whereas men, it's three years, and usually a few months he's out there having sex.
In a healthy relationship, you're not dependent on your partner to be happy. You use your relationship to become happier.
You might even look at that as another reason that sex tends to be so significant for men. And some women, it's just the same. But it's through sex you can feel your emotions more. Men have more muscle mass, they're born with 25% more DNA for muscles. And muscles are testosterone makers, which is the opposite of estrogen makers.
Softness, women have 25% more DNA for fat cells. Some have more, some have less, but way more than men, generally speaking. Now we can put on fat, but women are designed to have more fat because it allows them to produce more estrogen.
And often women who aren't having a lifestyle that promotes estrogen will put on a lot of weight. That's one of the reasons women gain weight is that if they're not making enough estrogen, your body says, “Okay, we need more fat cells to make estrogen.”
It's also why men retire. One aspect of a man's retirement, you'll see a lot of retired men with these bellies. And those bellies produce estrogen and they knock his testosterone down more. And now he's going to be more estrogen oriented, doing things that are estrogen producing. That's called retirement for a man.
It's through a lack of purpose that's provided from work?
Yes, work gives you meaning and direction.
Everybody needs it today because we all have access to our male and female side. But men need it more to keep their testosterone up. And some men need more testosterone for well-being than others.
When you see men with big shoulders who are born with lots of muscle mass, it takes a lot of testosterone to sustain that. And so that means they need a job that makes them feel more like a hero. So more of our heroes are going to be big muscular guys.
And guys in jail, I've taught prisoners in San Quentin. A lot of them, not all, but a lot of them are very, very muscular guys. And because they grew up in an environment where they didn't have mentors, male mentors to teach them how to be successful and so forth, which is very important for boys, to have those mentors around. They didn't have fathers. They didn't have functional relationships growing up. And they don't have jobs that make them feel successful.
Then they become very angry. They have no heart, and they disconnect from their ability to anticipate what somebody's going to feel. Somebody goes around stealing things, they don't have a heart. They can’t go, "Well, how's that person going to feel if you take that away from them?" They're just thinking about themselves. So they're the real narcissists.
Today, women throw it around all the time, "All the men I meet are narcissists." No, all the men you meet are men. And you train them to think about themselves more than you. Women don't realize that. We have a basic phenomena.
Before Men Are from Mars became a big, big seller book, what helped me understand women – besides 10 years of counseling women, being married and all that – was a book called Codependent No More. And to summarize ‘codependence', it's simply when you're making somebody else's needs more important than your own. And that tends to be what women do.
When you make a man's needs more important than yours, you're training him to make his needs more important than yours, which is a simple definition of narcissism. You've got to motivate men. And this is an unrealistic expectation. People don't understand our differences.
Men typically are motivated, lots of motivation in the beginning. I mean he’s just got the energy to do it. And I'm sure everybody's had this experience where you have guests over for dinner and suddenly you have the motivation to clean up your house. It's just there, the motivation is there. That's because you don't want them to see this and this. But the energy's there. And it's also a little bit of a crisis, which stimulates dopamine.
Check out the YouTube or podcast version where John Gray does the Win the Day Rocket Round, answering questions about his favorite quote, what advice he’d give his 18-year-old self, the one thing on his bucket list, and a whole lot more. 🚀
Newness in a relationship stimulates dopamine. Somebody's new, different. But what happens in a good relationship is familiarity sets in. You feel safe. You feel more serotonin gets produced. It's more relaxing. And that newness of dopamine in the beginning of relationship just raises women's estrogen so high and raises men's testosterone so high.
So sex therapists will say, "You need to have little getaways. Go somewhere new and different, and be in a new and different bedroom, a hotel." So these are all good things, and these are little helpful things. But the reality is life starts to become very routine in relationships and it's very easy and comfortable. We get lazy.
The laziness comes in because the newness isn't there. The reason that motivation is there and that happiness is in women is because when dopamine goes up, men's testosterone automatically goes up. Women's estrogen automatically goes up.
Anytime you're unhappy in a relationship, it’s likely because you're prioritizing your partner more than yourself and your life.
So when you don't have dopamine stimulation all the time, you can still stimulate high testosterone in a man and high estrogen in a woman by the way you communicate with each other, and understanding that polarity.
When you're more masculine than her and she's more feminine than you, there's attraction. Women are turned on to you. They want to have sex with you. They can't wait to have sex with you. And what you see in marriages is men are having to negotiate and beg their wives and, "Why aren't we having more sex?" It's a sad story.
But she's not a bad person. She's lost interest because she can't feel interest until her estrogen levels hit over 10 times more than his, or sometimes 15 times more. It's got to get up to that point. And if it's not up, then any sexual thought even, is disgusting to her.
And that's where the non-sexual touch is important?
That, and listening to her, and planning dates and hearing her.
Hearing a woman is the most powerful estrogen stimulator. But non-sexual touch is also really, really good.
So here's a little system I've always done, which is I wake up in the morning, I find my wife, and I give her a six-second hug. I leave for work every day, I find my wife, and I give her a six-second hug. I come home from work, I find my wife, I give her a six-second hug. I'm going to go to bed or she's going to go bed before me, I run up after her, give her a six-second hug. Four hugs a day as a minimum. That's a really good one.
At least every day, some compliment or expression of, "I love you." And you can do that. It's kind of awkward for men when they're not turned on to feel their love. They love their partners, but because of our high testosterone or low testosterone, anyways, our bodies are built more testosterone oriented. The brain doesn't have a lot of connection between talking and feeling love.
You can stimulate high testosterone in a man and high estrogen in a woman by the way you communicate with each other, and understanding that polarity.
In the same way for men, the sex center and the brain is much bigger in us than in women. And the sex center is not located very close to the love center. Whereas for women, they're closer, but also women have, some researchers have pointed out, nine times more white matter in their brain. And white matter is connective tissue.
So they found this out when one study was strokes. If a man gets a stroke in the part of the brain that talks, he can't talk again. If a woman gets a stroke there, she has six other places where she can talk from. Talking is a major thing for women.
But us problem-solvers who use language to solve problems, we're the worst at communicating with our wives because we spot a problem and, "Oh, you don't have to feel that way. Or don't worry about that. I'll handle that." "You're looking at it the wrong way."
And then even worse, if you go back to Freud back then, his common thing was every time a woman's upset to a great extent, "Honey, you're just overreacting. You're overreacting." That came from a misunderstanding of men and women.
Yet, there is overreaction, but let's just say a woman is being a female in touch with her female. Little things make a big difference in terms of an emotional response. And for men, we don't notice little stuff. It's just, "What am I going to do to solve it?" Go right into testosterone. For women is, "What am I feeling inside? And let's talk about it."
And then men would think, "Well, why do we need to talk?" If she even says, "It's not really a big deal." He'll say, "Then we don't need to talk about it. What do we have to talk about?" And she says, "Because it feels good." So the women solve problems, they talk to feel good. They talk to balance their hormones, lower their stress levels.
Sometimes they talk just to know what they're feeling. And that's what all therapy is about anyway, is that you talk about what's going on, talk about what's going, then you see the world in a different light.
For me as a writer, a lot of writers will say this, "I write to know what I think."
Yeah, I do that too!
And for me as well, I talk to know what I think. I talk to know what I know, actually.
I walk around just thinking, I don't know anything except what I need to know in that moment. Then, suddenly, a book comes out. It's a journey.
I'll give a little tip here for guys. Everybody in America knows about The Great Houdini. At least they used to. And he had all these big challenges. But one of his challenges, that he was a magician and he could hang upside down. He could get out of any lock. He could get out of prisons. He was an amazing guy.
These were his challenges. One of his challenges was that he could take any punch. So these big guys would line up and punch him. And he had abs, he'd strengthen his abs. Hard as steel abs.
But one time on Halloween evening, some college students said, "Is it really true you can take any punch?" And he said, "Yep." And he just gave him a jab, quick jab. And that killed Houdini. That's how he died. Because he wasn't prepared.
Women are like the weather, and you cannot control the weather. Men tend to be very interested and very attentive and then we just ignore our wives completely.
See, men, when they're not prepared, we get all bent out of shape with women. There's always going to be a surprise. If you just accept women are like the weather, you cannot control the weather. You could just control what you wear. If it's a hot day, take off your shirt. If it's raining, hold an umbrella. If it's cold, put on a jacket. This is what we have to do. Otherwise, we'll tend to feel like why is her mood here one day, and her mood is there another?
Moods are changing, just as women have to embrace our moods. Our moods don't tend to be, ‘life is great’ and crash down. Unless we're artistic, more on our female side. But men tend to be very interested and very attentive, and then we just ignore our wives completely.
We go back and forth, back and forth. They go up and down, up and down. It's a nice rhythm. It keeps us flexible. And when men go to their cave, women often say to me, "Well, what am I supposed to do when he goes to his cave?" That's called having a life.
A lot of people talk about the Five Love Languages:
1. Words of affirmation (compliments)
2. Quality time
3. Receiving gifts
4. Acts of service
5. Physical touch
How does your work intersect with the Five Love Languages?
Well first let me say Gary Chapman, I love him. I know him. He's a great man.
His message doesn't take into consideration that men and women are different. The bottom line is that every woman needs every one of those things. Those love languages all produce estrogen.
Now, we men like estrogen, but we become very lazy with estrogen. So I have a different version of love languages in terms of different forms of love that’s different from the way he looks at it…
There's appreciation, which is a form of love. Acceptance is a form of love. Trusting someone is a form of love. Caring about someone is a form of love. Listening and understanding where they're coming from in a nonjudgmental way is a form of love. Respecting someone, honoring them, putting them above you, serving them is respect – that's a form of love.
First of all, it took me a long time to figure these things out without the understanding of hormones. But now I can just say very simply, whenever you appreciate someone their testosterone goes up. Whenever you forgive someone and accept them just as they are – they don't have to be better, they're fine, acceptance – their testosterone goes up whether you're a man or woman.
What stimulates estrogen in women is demonstrating caring – when I'm caring for her, prioritizing her, hearing her, and doing things of consideration.
And if you're trusted, someone depends on you to get the job done... I come home, my wife, "Hey he's here. He's finally here. Great!" It's like man of the day. Someone's depending on you. That is testosterone going up.
Also, women get that experience. Why they can give so much to children is because children look to their mother as like a God. They’re trusting you so much. So women appreciate these forms of love too. But men need 10 times more trust, acceptance, appreciation, because they stimulate testosterone in our body.
What stimulates estrogen in women is demonstrating caring. When I'm caring for her, prioritizing her, hearing her, doing things of consideration, like opening a car door. And just with that one, I remember Bonnie, I opened the car door and one time she said, "I can do that." And I said, "Of course you can do that. But honey, you give so much to everybody. Let me just give to you tonight."
On a romantic day, always opening the door and going around and opening the door to get her out. Appreciation is testosterone. What I did by opening the car door, first of all, is respecting her and understanding she does so much for so many people. It's nice to have somebody take care of you and demonstrate that caring.
All the romantic rituals of the past, traditional romantic rituals, were social engineering so that men could raise women's estrogen twice as much. And men's testosterone goes up twice as much if he does something, provides something for her, and she appreciates it.
All the romantic rituals of the past were social engineering so that men could raise women's estrogen twice as much.
So I take my wife to the movies and she says, "Wow, that was an amazing movie." My testosterone's off the chart. I'm feeling, “Yeah, I wrote that movie, I produced that movie, I directed that movie – that's my movie!” And if the movie's bad, I'm like, “Oh my God.” And every man knows that feeling.
Then we go to the movie, we're leaving. And I say, "Honey, did you like the movie?" She'll pause, and she says, "That sunset scene was really wonderful." And I go, “Yeah, I had nothing to do with the movie. I'm just the camera guy. I picked that scene!”
So be playful with each other. The same way like a woman says, "Do you see this cellulite, honey? Can you love that!?" I say, "Honey, I love you. I don't see cellulite. I don't even see it." There are times to be loving and generous with our love, and not dwell on the practicality of reality.
On your best day, what's an affirmation that you would write on a flashcard to show yourself on your worst day?
It's up on my mirror and it says, "Don't speak. Ask questions. Don't speak."
It reminds me that the most key thing is: don't let it escalate. Don't argue. You have to make decisions as couples, but you don't have to make them right away.
First you can take a long time to understand where she's coming from, and then you get fully understood. And now I've understood you, I just want to share with you some of the things that are going on inside of me.
As long as you're not feeling aggressive or judgmental or critical or defensive. Don't talk when you're feeling defensive.
What's one thing you do to Win the Day?
I'd come back to meditation, or making love.
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Resources / links mentioned:
📚 ‘Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus’ by John Gray
📙 ‘Beyond Mars and Venus: Relationship Skills for Today's Complex World’ by John Gray
🧭 ‘Codependent No More’ by Melody Beattie
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