Men are from Mars and women are from Venus.
This was a popular book when I was young, and became a bit of a catch phrase. You started to hear people saying this quite a lot in the 90s – Mars, Venus… it seemed to make sense to people.
What resonated in that idea for so many people, do you think? Was it this sense that men and women are really so different from each other? Is this why communication within relationships seems so hard?
Sometimes, it can almost feel like you are speaking a different language to your partner… Though to counterbalance that, I am a person that, more than once, has spoken a literal different language than my partner.
Any other travelers in the house?
And what I’ve observed is this – that, in some strange way, speaking literal different languages and coming from literal different cultures actually can facilitate communication by incentivizing clarity and patience in communication.
So, to me, this Mars-Venus men-women communication mismatch struck me as suspicious. That, while it might feel like you are speaking different languages, that there’s likely something else going on underneath the surface.
Men and women both come from Earth.
Could it be that we’re really not that different from each other? Could it be that, by and large, human men and human women are in fact members of the same species, sharing the same home planet, and that what appears different between us is something that we make rather than something as immutable as being from different planets?
In my view, you can’t really examine what is at work beneath the surface of dating, sex, and relationships without looking at the way people are socialized. You’re born, and your parents decided that you are ‘boy’ or ‘girl’, and treat you differently on the basis of that label.
This starts long before you have any say in the matter. And your parents are perhaps not even conscious that what they are making in those moments is a choice that will continue to affect you throughout your entire life.
Do others see you as ‘boy’ or ‘girl’? What is allowed and what isn’t allowed on the basis of those labels? What is a boy ‘supposed’ to do? What is a ‘girl’ supposed to do?
This tends to vary culture by culture, family by family, which is one of those reasons that partnering with someone from an actual different cultural background can be refreshing – there’s often comical mismatches between expected behaviours, because the meaning of ‘boy’ in Poland and ‘boy’ in the USA are different. What’s allowed and what isn’t is different.
Has it ever struck you as strange that it seems, on the surface, like it is so difficult for men and women to communicate, especially around topics like dating, sex, and relationships? Why is it so challenging to talk about desire, for example? What blocks us from speaking more openly and vulnerably to each other about what we want?
Most of us are unaware of our socialization, and it takes effort to begin to notice it.
The way we are raised, and the way that we are responded to by the outside world on the basis of a whole load of assumptions that come along with ‘boy’ or ‘girl’ has ripple effects that stick with us into adulthood. Often, these effects extend out beyond that outward into the future when we pass these along to our children.
I talk about the communication challenges between men and women, and the role played by socialization, in a recent YouTube video. Check it out!
The first step is to become aware of your own socialization and notice when it impacts you. With time, this will allow you to begin to see these things playing out in the lives of others, too.
ACTION FOR THE WEEK: Spend some time reflecting on and examining some of the definitions you carry around in your mind. What does it mean to be a man? What does it mean to be a real man? What does it mean to be a woman? What does it mean to be a good woman? Start with these four questions, and a sheet of paper, and jot down some notes. Then, look over your notes and ask yourself the question: How do I know this? You may have gotten this information from lots of different places during your life, and now is the time to go over that. Spend 15 minutes on this exercise. What came up for you? Is any of it kind of weird? What do you like about what you learned? What do you dislike about what you learned? Awareness is the first step.
Labels – they can be really useful, and at the same time can be restrictive. We’ve just been talking about boy and girl, man and woman, and some of the nearly unconscious assumptions that come with it.
Do labels around sexual orientation help as well as restrict? What unconscious assumptions do we make when we learn that someone is gay? Straight? Bisexual? Pansexual? Asexual?
Dr Valeria Chuba and I spent an episode of the Get Sex Smart podcast diving into the topic of bisexuality and some of the attendant myths and challenges that bisexual people confront because of identifying as bisexual.
You can listen to this episode here.
What comes up for you as you listen to this? When you hear the word ‘bisexual’, what comes to mind? How did you learn that?
If you’d like to share your responses to any of these questions, or what came up for you with this week’s Action of the Week with me, please feel free. I read every email and comment, and will treat anything you share in confidence.
Moreover, if you have any burning questions related to dating, sex, and relationships, don’t forget to share them below!
Feeling shy? You can always send the questions in complete confidence to firstname.lastname@example.org. I read every email, and your question may be answered in an upcoming post, video, or podcast!
Want to be kept in the loop and learn more awesome dating tips? Subscribe to my newsletter and never miss an episode!