Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus - no, scratch that, we're all from Earth
Much has been written on the differences between men and women and helping us understand each other through those differences.
However, this approach to developing understanding and meaningful connections is heavily dependant on cultural conditioning. If everyone has the same kind of background then it works OK, as far as it goes, but there is a level deeper.
Although there are some real and fairly obvious differences between men and women (and if you need those pointing out, you might need more help than this blog can provide), actually when it comes to what matters most in relationships we have more things in common than we have differences.
Woman or man, we have a common pool of emotional and physical needs.
Underneath our various masculine and feminine roles, we all (in different ways) deeply value things like affection, support, understanding, respect, honesty, acceptance, humour, passion, companionship, freedom, security, and more besides.
In some ways having clear gender roles can help us fit together more easily - it provides a sense of place and certainty. The flip side of that is that we can feel trapped or oppressed.
For instance, if you're a man who identifies with a tough, independent no-tears image, then sometimes you may struggle to meet your natural needs for support or tenderness. On the one hand you may feel the need to express feelings, but on the other the fear of appearing 'unmanly'.
Similarly, if you're a woman who identifies with a deferential, dependant, must-like-pink to be feminine image, then maybe you feel hemmed in sometimes, and struggle to meet your natural needs for freedom or assertiveness.
So if you're lacking the kind of connection in your relationships you'd like, one approach is to try and 're-educate' yourself to better fit in with what you feel is expected of you, and to also learn your way around the opposite gender's conditioned identity.
But whether the Mars and Venus perspective works well for you or not, underneath most of our differences is that same set of emotional and physical needs. If we can remember that then we have more flexibility in connecting with each other in meaningful ways and finding real understanding. What's more, we can then better understand the common obstacles to connection, like judgement, lack of communication, and various kinds of fears and conflicted beliefs.
The idea is not to do away with clear culturally based feminine or masculine identities, because they can be fun and useful, and they form a part of who we are. Rather, it's to understand there is a level of humanity (our common needs) that underlies them, and which unites us, man and woman - if we can get in touch with it.
- Sub-section: 'Getting to the root: innate values' For getting in touch with what lies behind our many different desires and beliefs.
- Sub-section: 'Issues for all and compassionate authenticity' How to get past looking at 'the trouble with men' or 'the problem with women' and develop more compassionate, authentic connections.
- Section: 'But what is love?' Talks about some of the typical hormonal differences of men and women and how that can affect the personal meaning of love and sex.