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BOOK REVIEW: Beyond Mars and Venus – Relationship Skills for Today’s Complex World by John Gray

| 6 October 2017 | 1 Reply

BOOK REVIEW: Beyond Mars and Venus – Relationship Skills for Today’s Complex World by John Gray

BenBella Books
June 2016
Hardcover, $37.99
Reviewed by Natalie Salvo

Non-Fiction/Family & Health/Family & Relationships


In 1993 Dr John Gray published the popular relationship book, Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus. It became an international best-seller and was translated into multiple languages. Some two decades on and Gray is often asked in interviews whether the ideas presented in that self-help guide are applicable to the constantly-evolving, modern world. In Beyond Mars & Venus, Gray updates his previous book and attempts to be relevant, but all too often sprouts advice that is judgemental, patronising, sexist, and sorely outdated.

Gray’s book constantly highlights the differences between males and females. This view is a very cis-gendered, heterosexual view of the world. There is not one reference to LGBTQ+ individuals or such relationships. Gray also frequently claims that men and women are biologically different so therefore this influences and shapes our intimate relationships. Yet he fails to acknowledge that there have been studies which have shown little or no difference between the sexes with respect to things like vocabulary, assertiveness and verbal reasoning.

Just because women today work side by side with men in the workplace and men participate more in raising their children, it does not mean men and women are the same. Our roles are certainly changing but our biology is still very different. And because men and women are different we react to the changes in our roles in different ways, ways that are often misunderstood and misinterpreted by our partners.

This book contains a number of quotes at the start from various authors and celebrities like Suzanne Somers and Warren Farrell who praise Dr Gray’s work. You get the sense that they are included in order to give legitimacy to an expert where it may not necessarily be due. Dr Gray makes a number of different assertions in his text but there is not a single reference or bibliography listing the studies he cites in order to back-up his claims. Instead he includes these – rather vaguely – in the text itself and this denies the reader the opportunity to go and do their own research to determine how robust the study was or how statistically correct the claims purport to be. This can be quite destructive.

Research with traumatic stress in the U.S. Army has demonstrated that getting men to talk about their feelings while in the combat zone is non-productive and results in more PTSD. What has proven to work better is talking about their feelings later, when they are out of combat. Waiting until they are relaxed and safe is the most effective way to heal a deep emotional wound.

Another large part of this text is devoted to discussing hormones like testosterone, estrogen and oxytocin. Dr Gray is a therapist, not an endocrinologist. He makes sweeping generalisations and does not offer any expert advice from individuals that specialise in this area. Dr Gray also seems to be firmly against medications like the contraceptive pill, hormone replacement therapy, and antidepressants. His opinions on these things can be quite damaging to people who read this book looking for instruction without having discussed the matter with a medical practitioner who is fully aware of the patient’s history.

If you are taking hormones on the advice of your doctor, seek medical advice before discontinuing use. If your doctor is resistant to alternate methods of treating hormonal imbalance, try a more holistic doctor. Even after getting a hysterectomy, there are natural ways to support a woman’s body in achieving hormone balance. Neither a hysterectomy nor menopause will prevent a woman’s adrenal glands from making the hormones she needs as long as she gets the extra nutritional support her body needs.
Taking hormones is a social experiment with unconfirmed side effects and should never be done lightly.

This guide also devotes time to ideas and language that is outdated. In one example Dr Gray mentions a woman going to a “beauty parlour” (does anyone under 50 even know what this is?) as well as providing a discussion on female hysteria. The latter ailment was common in the 19th century and has since been rejected by modern science. Dr Gray acknowledges that this is no longer recognised by modern medicine but it seems bizarre that one would even include a discussion on this topic in the first place.

Dr Gray also has rather backward views with respect to household chores. He proudly states that his wife has a job of her own but that she also does the lion’s share of the domestic duties in their house. He also lists the things that men should be expected to help out with. These range from rather patronising points to some things that are either inconsequential or outright bizarre, as shown in the sample below:

– He drives the car when they go on trips.
– He studies the map to navigate.
– He washes dishes if she asks for his help and at least brings back his plate and washes his own dishes.
– He talks to the kids when she is too upset to do so.
– He talks with neighbors (sic) when there is a compliant.
– He breaks down the boxes that come from shopping online.
– He takes time to read the financial pages in the news to follow trends and make sure they are making the best financial decisions.
– He cleans up the brush and pan when painting the house or apartment.
– He sets up rattraps and buries dead animals.
– He oversees any gun or weapons purchase, cleaning and usage for either hunting or protecting the family.
– He climbs ladders to change lightbulbs and test for mold (sic) in the house.
– He resets the clocks during time changes or power outages.
– He sets up umbrellas by the pool on sunny days.

It is hard to take a book like this seriously when it tries to provide simple solutions to the complex issues associated with modern relationships and gender roles. Perhaps in the nineties Dr Gray’s views were more applicable or useful, but in 2017 he appears to be grossly out-of-touch. Beyond Mars & Venus is ultimately a book that is dumbed down, condescending drivel that is about as useful a guide to modern love as the back of a cereal box.

Category: Book Reviews, Other Reviews

About the Author ()

Natalie Salvo is a foodie and writer from Sydney. You can find her digging around in second hand book shops or submerged in vinyl crates at good record stores. Her website is at:

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