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Book Review | Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus

Abu Ibrahim

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Sheikh Yaser Birjas talks about the five stages of marriage.

The first stage of the husband-wife relationship is known as the “in-love” phase where the husband and wife start to get to know each other.  Often times, this phase can take place during the nikkah or engagement phase.

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The second phase of the relationship is the “newlywed” phase which acts as a honeymoon phase where the man and woman fall madly in-love with each other, wanting to spend all their free time with each other. couple1

The third phase in the relationship is the “disappointment” phase where the husband and wife start to notice each others’ shortcomings.  The spouse seems to no longer be fulfilling the high expectations set by their partner.  Additionally, each spouse starts to push the limit with their partner as the spouses work to establish boundaries in the relationship.  The husband and wife will have disagreements and disputes during this period as they realize each others’ differences and concerns.

After the third phase, the fourth phase of marriage is known as the “adjustment” phase where the husband and wife work to iron out their disagreements and differences.  They establish boundaries and start to understand their partner’s limits.

Finally, the fifth stage of the relationship is the “auto-pilot” stage where husband and wife understand their relationship, the disputes decrease, and the couple is able to function without major problems or concerns.

Before I got married, I read the book, Blissful Marriage: A Practical Islamic Guide by Dr. Ekram and M. Rida Bashir.  The book was an excellent book when it came to explaining how an Islamic family should function.  It gave advice to both husbands and wives in terms of how they should interact and respect their spouses.  I would recommend Blissful Marriage to anyone interested in marriage (or anyone already married as well).

More recently, I read the book, Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus: The Classic Guide to Understanding the Opposite Sex by Dr. John Gray.  The book, while making generalizations and often stereotyping men and women, can be used as an excellent source on how to interact with the opposite sex.

The book does not really discuss innate differences between men and women, nor does it delve into the nature of communication very deeply.  Instead, the book focuses on common differences between men and women when it comes to basic communication skills.  It’s intended for people to understand how men and women think differently while it doesn’t even touch on the why of it.

The book focuses on the importance of respect and the art of listening when it comes to communication.  Though much of it may seem like common sense, I found the book to be extremely informative when it came to giving the reader a basic understanding in terms of how men and women communicate ideas differently.  I must admit that the book does make significant generalities of both men and women to a frustrating extent.  Nonetheless, the book does provide insight to the a man or woman on how to deal with the opposite gender, especially when it comes to the “disappoint” phase as described by Sheikh Yaser Birjas.  I hope to give a brief synopsis of the book in the following few paragraphs.

Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus starts out by discussing the inherent differences between the values of men and women.  Dr. Gray starts the book by making a note that men do no ask each other for advice.  Men only seek advice when they are at a dead-end and need help. men-are-from-mars-women-are-from-venus

Women, on the other hand, tend to offer unsolicited advice to those they love.  They try to help the people they love by advising them on how to improve themselves.  A man often times misinterprets the advice he receives by a woman as though the woman is trying to control and change him.  Similarly, women like to discuss their feelings when they are upset.  Men tend to offer solutions when they hear someone who is upset.  However, a woman is not looking for a solution, rather she is looking for someone to listen to her and validate her feelings.  A man often times tends to invalidate a woman’s feelings when he offers a solution without listening to the woman’s feelings.

Dr. Gray also delves into how men and women cope with stress differently.  Men tend to pull away and want isolation as they think about what is bothering them.  Women tend to want to discuss their problems.  A woman may start asking questions and delving into her man’s problem when she feels as though he’s not himself.  The man often times will get annoyed by the woman’s inquiries when he prefers to be alone and deal with his stress by himself.  The woman’s inquisition into the man’s problems may prevent the man from dealing with his stress, escalating the situation.

The book continues with how to motivate the opposite sex.  Dr. Gray discusses how men feel motivated when they feel they are needed, while women feel motivated when they feel cherished.  Men tend to grow close to those they love before eventually having the inevitable need to pull away.  The author calls this phenomenon the rubber band theory where a man will come springing back to his woman after he has some time alone.  However, if the woman clings to her man, he may never be able to fully stretch away from her and so he won’t be able to spring back to her when he is ready.

Dr. Gray also discusses what men and women need from a relationship.  Men tend to need a love that is trusting, accepting, and appreciative, while women need a love that is caring, understanding, and respectful.  What often occurs is that men and women tend to give their partner the type of love they need themselves instead of the type of love their partner truly needs and cherishes.  The author also discusses how men and women keep score differently in the relationship.

Dr. Gray also offers a dictionary on phases men and women use differently.  When a man says “OK” or “it’s fine,” it means something significantly different that when a woman uses the same words.  The author explores why women sometimes don’t ask for support when they need it and expect their men to know it without being asked.  Dr. Gray also advises the reader on how to avoid arguments along with solutions on what to do when you are inevitably upset.

He recommends what he calls the “Love Letter Technique” which entails writing down your feelings where you make sure to cover how you feel in terms of why you are angry, why you are upset, what you are afraid of, why you are sorry, and what you love in your partner.  I personally have not tried the “Love Letter Technique” but plan to keep it in mind for the future, in’sha’Allah.muslim-couple-sitting-close

Overall, the book, Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus: The Classic Guide to Understanding the Opposite Sex was a beneficial read and one I think will help me when it comes to interacting with my wife.  It will help you when you don’t necessarily see eye to eye with your spouse on a certain topic.  The book has certainly helped me understand that my wife and I are inevitably different.  And so I would recommend the book to anyone looking for some insight when it comes to interacting with the opposite gender.  Again, Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus is not a be-all, end-all book.  It also is not a book that will discuss theories of communication or psychology.

The book relies on generalizations and stereotypes.  It’s an introductory book into how men and women behave differently. And if there’s one thing that’s true, it’s that men and women behave very differently!

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22 Comments

22 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Abu Asiyah

    February 27, 2013 at 7:24 AM

    JazakumAllahu khayran for covering this book. I was recommended to read this when I was considering getting married and it was very useful in helping me prepare for marriage and select the right partner.

    I have to note to sidi Abu Ibrahim that Dr. Gray explicitly mentions in the introduction to the book that while his stereotypes generally apply to men and women, it is possible for men to have what he classifies as female qualities and vice versa. So the key is in understanding that people work, think, and expect different things in a marriage, but it is possible that these roles are reversed. In fact, in my marriage I’ve clearly found that some of Dr. Gray’s stereotypes are the reverse, but some are dead on. So it’s a more useful read if you keep in mind that the stereotypes are fluid. In general, read the introduction to books always :)

    I do agree however that the book does not talk much about communication differences. The different types of communication that exist are very important to know for a successful marriage. Some of our shuyookh have covered these.

  2. Avatar

    Shahzad Taj

    February 27, 2013 at 1:55 PM

    This book really is classic! there are some extarct of this book in video form on YouTube by Dr. John Gray they are also very informative. Thanks for this great review!

  3. Avatar

    Shahzad Taj

    February 27, 2013 at 1:56 PM

    This book really is classic! there are some extracts of this book in video form on YouTube by Dr. John Gray they are also very informative. Thanks for this great review!

  4. Avatar

    Olivia

    February 27, 2013 at 8:42 PM

    I really recommend ‘Screamfree Marriage” by Hal Runkel. It focuses on common conflicts and conflict resolution in marriage. It’s also a great book.

  5. Avatar

    melanie h

    March 1, 2013 at 7:15 PM

    I really disliked this book but it is easy to read. Your spouse might not fit into Dr. Gray’s stereotype, so just read it with an open mind.

  6. Avatar

    Alkalaam

    March 3, 2013 at 6:08 PM

    Masha Allah well said

  7. Avatar

    Alkalaam

    March 3, 2013 at 6:18 PM

    Masha Allah well said…May allah accept all our deeds.

  8. Avatar

    Muhammad Abdul Haqq

    March 3, 2013 at 9:38 PM

    I am sorry but anthropologists and others who actually study culture, society, and the human mind have long ago debunked the ideas presented in Dr. Gray’s book. The doctor is simply playing on people’s acceptance of stereotypes-as-truth to create a bestseller in the “self-help” genre. Men and women do not think or communicate differently in the sense of a male or female brain. What people observe is the result of the socialization process that makes conformists fit into the boxes their particular society has created for their gender.. The reason some of these over-generalizations ring true to some is because we see them in our own societies where women and men behave according to the stereotypes. The exceptions in this case prove the rule false. Dr. Gray’s book is horrible, misguiding falsehood. What Yasser Birjas has said, however, I completely agree with.

  9. Avatar

    Aasia

    March 10, 2013 at 4:42 AM

    This is a very good book and I would recommend it to others. However, since what it teaches is not derived from the Quran and Sunnah we should be wary of what we take from it. We need to think what is in accordance to our Islamic teachings and what is not. This requires some serious thought and authentic/comprehensive knowledge/understanding about our deen.

    This is book should not be the main source of your knowledge about men and women. It is more apt as a complementary read. There are so many great Islamic books and lectures on marriage which should be the first books we should look into after the Quran and Sunnah.

  10. Avatar

    Moatasem

    April 14, 2013 at 7:24 AM

    Very nice article, brothers please pray for me that Allah gives me a religious wife whom i can live happily with :(

    • Aly Balagamwala | DiscoMaulvi

      Aly Balagamwala | DiscoMaulvi

      April 15, 2013 at 1:49 AM

      May Allah (SWT) grant you and all our Muslim brothers and sisters with reightly guided spouses who are the coolness of their eyes and a means of their attaining Paradise.

  11. Avatar

    abou ahmed

    May 4, 2013 at 5:54 PM

    i dont recommend this book even though i didnt read this book at all but simply this book is not based on our values that is to say islamic principles which are our guidlines when it comes to our social life . we have plenty of islamic books which dissect this topic into pieces.

  12. Avatar

    Shoaib

    May 31, 2013 at 4:31 AM

    Can someone please recommend these Islamic books alternative to Men are from Women are from Venus so we can read? I am finding hard to find one.

  13. Avatar

    DDC

    October 11, 2013 at 1:09 PM

    Hi guys found the pdf here
    men are from mars women are from venus pdf

  14. Avatar

    Jan

    January 14, 2014 at 3:22 PM

    I think John Gray’s books are pretty much outdated. There’s a whole new world out there who think John Gray is just a money hungry charlatan with no doctor’s license or professional degree. He hired a great marketing person Darren Stephens to co-write and market the Mars Venus book. Since then Gray has been outed on the news for buying his degree, partnering with a convicted felon Rich Bernstein who was convicted for stealing almost a half million dollars from Mars Venus investors and hiring a convicted pedophile Scott Lippitt to lead his Mars Venus seminars on parenting. Not many people in America believe John Gray is attempting to help anyone just see how much cash he can bleed out of them by distributing nonsense and lies.

    • Aly Balagamwala | DiscoMaulvi

      Aly Balagamwala | DiscoMaulvi

      January 15, 2014 at 2:07 AM

      Personally I found parts of the book very useful.

      -Aly
      *Comment above is posted in a personal capacity and may not reflect the official views of MuslimMatters or its staff*

  15. Avatar

    Neha Agarwal

    April 24, 2014 at 1:14 PM

    A must read for all who are in relationship and want to be in a relationship, my self and my wife both read this book and we both are extremely happy with the book and we know each other better(they way we behave differently in many situations, reasons for it).

    This is a perfect Engagement gift (1 for guy and 1 for gal), and to people who started searching for Bride/Groom.

    Other can also read this book to know your Sibling/Friend, mainly opposite sex better.

  16. Avatar

    Kamran

    August 14, 2015 at 10:45 AM

    This is really a classic book. It can help you to improve your relation with opposite gender.

  17. Avatar

    Karen

    August 24, 2015 at 3:22 PM

    I found the email of Rich Bernstein the married CEO of John Gray’s organization “Mars Venus Coaching” on the leaked Ashley Madison list. Obviously even John Gray’s partner doesn’t practice what Mr. Gray preaches in his book. Today in America most people think John Gray is pretty much a quack.

  18. Avatar

    Dario

    March 22, 2016 at 3:33 PM

    Interesting Karen wasn’t aware of this. But i did enjoy the book. Also checked out your link and thought I should leave mine.

    Men are from Mars Women are from Venus PDF

  19. Avatar

    Suleman

    December 26, 2018 at 8:00 AM

    That’s a great book. its very helpful for me.

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Books

Podcast: David’s Dollar | Tariq Touré and Khaled Nurhssien

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We often preach about our children learning the importance of money, group economics, and developing healthy spending habits. How awesome would it be to have a fully illustrated picture book that explores how a dollar travels from hand-to-hand?

Join Khaled Nurhssien and award winning poet and author Tariq Touré as they discuss Tariq’s new children’s book David’s Dollar. In this Interview they touch on art, Islam’s approach to community and Tariq’s creative process.

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Then and Now: Rereading Mohja Kahf’s “The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf”

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In 2007, at the brash, naive, and frankly moronic age of 16, I penned a scathing review of Mohja Kahf’s novel “The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf” for this very website, MuslimMatters.org. Thirteen years later, I read it again – only to find myself deeply, utterly in love with this book.

Khadra Shamy is the American daughter of Syrian immigrants, Wajdy and Ebtahaj, who dreamt of little more than dedicating themselves to the Da’wah in their tiny Muslim community in Indiana. Khadra grows up immersed in the culture of conservative da’wah: of the Deen being black and white, of certain rules followed scrupulously, of culture frowned upon in exchange for the purity of Islam. As she moves from a 10 year old child overwhelmed with guilt for accidentally eating gelatin-containing candy corn, to a black-clad, angry teenager who reads Qutb and supports the Iranian Revolution, to a college student who dutifully marries young, Khadra finds the foundations of her worldview slowly cracking. 

Going for Hajj was not spiritually revolutionary, but a dark glimpse of what Arab youth get up to in the heartland of Islam; after devoting herself to tajweed and hifdh, Khadra is told that she must stop reciting Qur’an in mixed gatherings and that Qur’an competitions are only open to men. Her ideal Islamic marriage begins to crumble when her husband evokes the Qawwam card to prohibit her from riding her bike in public – and when she gets pregnant, only to decide on an abortion, and then a divorce, Khadra creates a schism between herself, her community, and all that she has known. In the years that follow, Khadra breaks down and recreates her identity as a Muslim and her beliefs about Islam. 

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In many ways, The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf is both a love letter and a breakup note to conservative Muslims. Kahf’s book traces, with intimate authenticity, what it is to be a Western-raised child of parents immersed in the Da’wah; our quirks and eccentricities and ties to a back home culture that we don’t always understand; our hidden hypocrisies and our secret shames. She breathes into words the tenderness of our bonds of faith, the flames of our religious passion, the complexities of our relationships. She knows who we are, how we are, and she speaks to us in our own words. Perhaps ahead of her time, she gently forces Muslim readers to confront the issues of intra-Muslim racism, of the history of Blackamerican Muslims, of the naive arrogance of immigrant Muslims, of the almost insurmountable distance between the theory of Islam for Muslim women, and the reality of what Muslim women experience.

Of course, it comes with a price. Kahf ends her novel by having Khadra follow the by-now-predictable trajectory that we have seen from many Muslims of a progressive bent: Sufism is the only acceptable fluffy-enough type of Islam; all paths, even outside of Islam, lead to God; conservative Muslims are embarrassing, suffocating, and are holding their communities back from true spiritual enlightenment. To be fair, Kahf doesn’t hold back from pointing out the hypocrisies of secular liberal types either, and she is far softer and more tender in her portrayals of conservatives as well. 

It is worth taking a closer look at how Kahf chose to take Khadra down the path of progressiveness. Khadra’s story is a mirror of so many true stories, of children from religious families whose resentment over their experiences pushed them to choose an easier way, one less rooted in following Shari’ah and more a vague idea of spirituality. This narrative portrays turning progressive as the only logical conclusion to such experiences, which is in itself deeply problematic. In truth, there are many Muslims – born Muslims and converts alike – who have suffered far worse than merely restrictive upbringings, or unhappy marriages, and who have chosen instead to commit themselves even more determinedly to orthodoxy. Spirituality is not the sole domain of Sufis or liberals; it is part and parcel of Islam itself, even in its most conservative form. To imply otherwise is a dishonesty that is found all too often amongst those who have their own biases and agendas against any form of Islam that does not feel flexible enough for their own tastes.

As a particularly ridiculous 16-year-old Salafi, I was too consumed in my outrage at Khadra leaving the aqeedah of Ahlus Sunnah wa’l Jamaa’ah, and too busy agreeing with her ex-husband on the inappropriateness of Muslim women riding bikes in public, to understand or appreciate this deeply emotional journey. Fast forward 13 years, and 29-year-old me identifies far more with Khadra than my past self could ever have imagined. Little had I known, that first time, that I too would experience what Khadra and so many other Muslim women have: the painfully cliche toxic marriage to controlling Muslim men who use Islam to suffocate our souls and our spirits. (But really, 16yo Zainab??? You legit thought that Khadra’s husband was justified in stopping her from riding her bike??? You almost deserved going through practically the same thing, you idiot.)

Rereading The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf as an adult, having lived through my own traumas and growth, through spiritual crisis and rediscovery, was a very different experience. My own upbringing was very similar to Khadra’s: in a religious da’wah bubble, surrounded by an insistence on Islamic ideals, blithely ignoring Muslim realities (and occasionally denying them outright). The self righteous ignorance in my 2007 review has me dying a thousand deaths of mortification, and I am all too aware of just how much like teenaged Khadra I was back then. Thirteen years later, my cynicism knows no bounds, my bitterness sours all idealism, and I feel a deep urge to slap my past self upside the head. There’s some Divine irony in all of this, I suppose; certainly, it is cause for reflection on the value of personal growth and maturity, of how the years and one’s experiences can turn one into the very person they once derided. I relate far more to Khadra today than my teenaged self could ever have imagined, and in many ways, I only wish that I could have retained the blithe innocence (if not the ignorance) that I once had in abundance. Following Khadra on her journey was to retrace my own steps, to remember precisely how and when I, too, made the choice to become someone new.

The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf is an iconic piece of work. It is both heartwarming and heartbreaking; utterly tender and yet unflinching from pain; brutally honest, authentic, and unapologetically Muslim.Click To Tweet

The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf is an iconic piece of work. It is both heartwarming and heartbreaking; utterly tender and yet unflinching from pain; brutally honest, authentic, and unapologetically Muslim. Kahf does not waste time explaining things to a non-Muslim audience, nor does she hold back from dishing out hard truths to Muslim readers. She knows us, inside and out, and it is this startling familiarity that pulls one in and doesn’t let go until we find ourselves shocked that we’ve reached the end of the book. In the era of #OwnVoices and #WeNeedDiverseBooks, Mohja Kahf was undoubtedly a pioneer in the field of diverse fiction.

The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf is a damned good book – one that will have you blinking away furious tears and lay awake at night, feeling your heart ache with unforgotten, unseen bruises.

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Podcast: Day Of The Dogs Part 1 | Wael Abdelgawad

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