Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus
A week after our daughter Lauren was born, my wife Bonnie and I were completely exhausted. Each night Lauren kept waking us. Bonnie had been torn in the delivery and was taking painkillers. She could barely walk. After five days of staying home to help, I went back to work. She seemed to be getting better. While I was away she ran out of pain pills. Instead of calling me at the office, she asked one of my brothers, who was visiting, to purchase more. My brother, however, did not return with the pills. Consequently, she spent the whole day in pain, taking care of a newborn.
I had no idea that her day had been so awful. When I returned home she was very upset. I misinterpreted the cause of her distress and thought she was blaming me.
She said, “I’ve been in pain all day…. I ran out of pills. I’ve been stranded in bed and nobody cares!” I said defensively, “Why didn’t you call me?” She said, “I asked your brother, but he forgot! I’ve been waiting for him to return all day. What am I supposed to do? I can barely walk. I feel so deserted!”
At this point I exploded. My fuse was also very short that day. I was angry that she hadn’t called me. I was furious that she was blaming me when I didn’t even know she was in pain. After exchanging a few harsh words, I headed for the door. I was fired, irritable, and had heard enough. We had both reached our limits.
Then something started to happen that would change my life. Bonnie said, “Stop, please don’t leave. This is when I need you the most. I’m in pain. I haven’t slept in days. Please listen to me.” I stopped for a moment to listen. She said, “John Gray, you’re a fair – weather friend! As long as I’m sweet, loving Bonnie you are here for me, but as soon as I’m not, you walk right out
that door.” Then she paused, and her eyes filled up with tears. As her tone shifted she said, “Right now I’m in pain. I have nothing to give, this is when I need you the most. Please, come over here and hold me. You don’t have to say anything. I just need to feel your arms around me. Please don’t go.” I walked over and silently held her. She wept in my arms. After a few minutes, she thanked me for not leaving. She told me that she just needed to feel me holding her.
At that moment I started to realize the real meaning of love ‘ unconditional love ‘. I had always thought of myself as a loving person. But she was right. I had been a fair – weather friend. As long as she was happy and nice, I loved back. But if she was unhappy or upset, I would feel blamed and then argue or distance myself.
That day, for the fast time, I didn’t leave her. I stayed, and it felt great. I succeeded in giving to her when she really needed me. This felt like real love. Caring for another person. Trusting in our love. Being there at her hour of need. I marveled at how easy it was for me to support her when I was shown the way. How had I missed this? She just needed me to go over and hold her. Another woman would have instinctively known what Bonnie needed. But as a man, I didn’t know that touching, holding, and listening were so important to her. By recognizing these differences I began to learn a new way of relating to my wife. I would have never believed we could resolve conflict so easily.
In my previous relationships, I had become indifferent and unloving at difficult times, simply because I didn’t know what else to do. As a result, my first marriage had been very painful and difficult.