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Reducing Stress Key to Saving Love, Marriage


In his first best-seller, Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, relationship expert John Gray explored the impact of biological differences between men and women on their relationships. His new book follows up on those differences, suggesting ways to improve relationships and create a lifetime of love.

The secret to improving relationships, Gray says, is understanding how men and women cope with stress.

"The new book is focused on new research, which has come out explaining that men and women are having more difficulties today than ever before," he says."That's because there are new levels of stress. And men and women react differently to stress. And so that leads to more misunderstanding each other."

Gray again uses the planets to represent the two sexes - Mars for men, Venus for women. In Why Mars and Venus Collide, he explains it all comes down to hormones, especially testosterone. The human body releases testosterone to cope with stressful situations. Yet, the hormone affects men and women very differently.

"In a man, it's been shown when testosterone goes up, stress levels go down," he says."In a woman, when testosterone goes up, it doesn't lower her stress level. And this is a very significant difference between men and women. It was only four or five years ago that this was discovered on a physiological basis. So during the workday, women are experiencing emergency stress, but they are not able to talk about the things that are bothering her because that's not part of the workplace. And so the stress levels don't get reduced."

How men and women cope with stress

And after the workday, Gray says, men and women have opposite ways of relieving stress.

"For a man, [the best way] to cope with stress is to rest and relax and forget about the problems of the day," he says."When men sit, for example, and watch a football game on TV, literally their body is rebuilding testosterone levels. A woman, on the other hand, when she gets home, anticipating what she has to do, her stress levels shoot up even higher than at work."

Gray says a stressed-out woman needs to talk about what's bothering her. That stimulates the release of the brain hormone oxytocin.

"It was only four or five years ago that this was discovered on a physiological basis, that there is a hormone, oxytocin, which is created through cooperation, relaxation, communication, commiseration. All these relationship and nurturing type of activities stimulate oxytocin. And oxytocin lowers stress in women and women are just not getting enough oxytocin today."

Knowing that oxytocin helps women feel better, Gray says men have to do more of what gets it produced.

"That means more acts of love," he explains."Men have to learn, it is doing lots of little things - not big things - that will help their wives cope with stress so much better. So little things could be holding her hand, putting your arms around her occasionally, giving her a hug several times a day, noticing how beautiful she is, and making compliments.

"All these little things - and they are little things, but they add up. They are the most important things to lower stress for a woman. Otherwise, she won't have enough oxytocin to cope with all the emergencies in her life."

When Mars and Venus are likely to collide


Men, Gary adds, have to learn how to listen - because when they don't listen attentively, it's more likely that Mars and Venus will collide.

"Women today come home, and they start talking about problems," he says."When women are under stress, they are talking to just feel good. She's not looking for a solution. Men then interrupt and offer solutions because that's what men do to cope with stress. And often, because there is no solution, he will say things like, 'Don't worry about it. It's not a problem. It's not a big deal. Just do this.' And of course, that sounds just dismissive to her. So suddenly we have a collision."

The 90/10 solution

In his book, Gray advises women to take responsibility for their own happiness.

"When women learn how to make themselves happy - stop being so concerned about making him happy and focus more on making the woman happy - you get two results," he says."The first result: She is happier and more fulfilled, and he is happier and more fulfilled.

"I call it the 90/10 principle: If she takes responsibility to make 90 percent of her happiness come from herself and her own activities that she does for herself, that lets him provide the extra 10 percent."

With Valentine's Day around the corner, Gray suggests that men and women take advantage of this romantic occasion to improve their relationship.

"Men don't know about these things, and women don't know how to ask," he says."So before Valentine's, you [the woman] just say the things that you want him to do. Now, women listen to that and go, 'But that's not romantic. It's only romantic if he thinks of it all on his own.' And that's not true. Women have to let go of the unrealistic romantic myth that men will automatically know the things and do all the things that she wants and she won't have to ask."

Gray says men and women will become more realistic in their expectations when they recognize their differences. And that, he says, will help both sexes find more fulfillment and harmony and enjoy a lifetime of love and romance.

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