“The Man’s Guide to Women” by John and Julie Gottman is a great step forward in helping men understand the women in their lives. The book’s serious topic is addressed with some lightheartedness including cartoons to not overwhelm the layman. Each chapter ends with a summary of the key messages and to show which behaviors makes a man “a hero” versus “a zero.”
The book takes its insights from the work John Gottman has done studying couples in his “Love Lab” at the University of Washington over the last forty years.
The authors take an evolutionary approach to what women need from the men in their lives. This approach is simplistic in some ways but does make sense. Qualities such as trustworthiness, empathy and strength of character make a man desirable to procreate with and raise a family. This is true but doesn’t include the impacts of the inherent sexism and disrespect for the feminine that is part of our culture. We are more complex than our evolutionary roots.
The book pragmatically lays out what women want and why. It also explains many behaviors that men feel dumbfounded by and makes sense of them. We maybe from different planets as John Gray wrote in his popular book, “Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus”.
Men who read this tome will have “aha moments” as they start to understand women’s need to talk, shop and are sensitive about their appearance. An example is the classic man and woman talking to each other after arriving home from work. As they explain, women are not talking to find solutions to their problems with co-worker but rather to connect. By listening and attuning to her feelings, asking thoughtful questions and having empathy the desired connection is made. As she feels understood and close more of the things men desire in the relationship are available. Their research shows men want less conflict and more sex.
The benefits of giving women the attunement and empathy they need becomes a compelling argument as Men benefit greatly by being in healthy marriages: Better mental and emotional health, longevity and better connection to family and friends
I have been referring all them men I see in couples to read the book as well as men I see individually. We take a chapter or two at a time and we discuss the tools and insights they glean from their readings. It does not take long to hear about better connection and outcomes at home.
They do make brief mention about men’s groups being a place for men to get the emotional support that they are missing from traditional male relationships. I was glad to see that reference and wished they had said more about the benefits for men having a safe place to take off their psychic armor and connect with other healthy men.
Among the “takeaways” from The Man’s Guide to Women:
- Your trustworthiness is hugely important. Not just related to infidelity but being the man, you said you would be and showing her that you take responsibility for your actions and don’t respond defensively to her questions or critiques.
- That the quality of your relationship is based on how well you “attune” to her when you talk and show true empathy for her concerns and feelings.
- That you develop understanding and acceptance for her different ways of connecting, like talking, and not judging and being critical of her for being different than you.
John and Julie Gottman have done a great service to couples that attend their weekend workshops and couples in the larger society by writing this book. I highly recommend you read it.