In the early ‘90s, the author John Gray published his now famous book about the differences between the genders. And since then there has been fascinating research about biological and psychological differences between men and women.
From my own research conducted through my work with men and women, I have to differ form Mr. Gray’s famous assertion. It’s not that men are from Mars and women from Venus. Rather, it’s that each person is from a planet entirely of their own.
While there are of course some generally held descriptions of men and women, I have found that each person comes from a world composed of their own histories, temperaments, and desires. Each person is unique and a world unto him or herself.
And this can account for the myriad of relational problems that exist. One person says to his partner, “Will you be able to run the Bay to Breakers if you don’t go for a run today?” The partner takes the question at face value, perhaps they discuss training. However another person takes the question as an affront, an implicit criticism. He is hurt.
What accounts for this difference is the different worlds these people come from (what histories inform their reactions and feelings).
And that is the work of psychotherapy: not seeking general explanations for human behavior, but with each of my clients trying to understand them, what shaped them and continues to influence them today. And when working with couples, we strive toward an appreciation of difference. Often there are very powerful ideals for couples about sameness. And surely sameness is a powerful force: we see it throughout the natural world. Just today I saw two mourning doves either fighting with one another or engaging in a mating ritual (I don’t know which it was) on a telephone line. What struck me was their sameness: one mourning dove to another.
But there is much to be said about difference. In fact, acquiring an appreciation for difference is absolutely necessary for a good, lasting relationship. And something that is not so easy to do. It takes work and good communication.
Recent scientific discoveries suggest that there are over 50 billion galaxies out there in deep space. Surely then there are enough heavenly constellations for the currently 6 billion humans on earth to have hailed from.