John Gray is a world-renowned American relationship counselor, lecturer and author. He is also the author of the best-selling book, Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus.
In this fascinating and wide-ranging interview with Adam Parker from the Your Ideal Day podcast, John reveals some of his special tips when it comes to helping men and women enjoy thriving relationships.
He also gives some background into how he first began exploring the differences between men and women, and underlines the importance of maintaining healthy testosterone levels in men.
John was speaking to Adam during the first-ever Health Optimisation Summit in London, where he was one of the speakers.
It is a fascinating interview and thanks to Adam for sending it our way!
I’m keen to hear more about your origin story. What got you into the world of helping people navigate the differences between men and women?
Well, I was a celibate monk for nine years. I was very active sexually as a teenager, then The Beatles inspired me to learn meditation and I met the Maharishi and became his personal assistant. He was a great inspiration to me and he taught me how to meditate.
Now I’ve been doing it for 50 years. That was my foundation and after being celibate, with the semen retention and no release for nine years, then all you think about is sex.
The reason I stopped being a monk is because my brother was bi-polar and meditation didn’t really fix that. I wanted to study psychology. In the process, I had lots of sex, and because I had been a monk for nine years, I would ask women to teach me about their bodies because I wanted to learn.
So we had these great conversations and I learned so much about sex during that time. I never knew any of this stuff so I started teaching classes and sharing what I had learned and also having people share their own experiences. Everyone wanted to talk freely about sex.
One of the problems in our sexual relationships is that we don’t have proper education about our bodies and our partners’ bodies, as well as our needs.
And there is a lot more to sex than people know. It can take you higher and higher – if it’s making love. There are books that say that love is not a feeling, it’s a behaviour. Well, when you’re feeling love, your behaviour is going to be very positive and supportive.
Love is a feeling and when you feel ‘in love’, over the days it becomes less. It’s like an energy drain – the world drains us of the love energy. It’s a high frequency energy.
Sex is one of the most powerful ways to make love, so you actually create the love again. And because couples don’t have good communication skills so that women feel safe to open up, then women can’t fully enjoy sex.
If she enjoys the sex and it takes here higher than she would ever go alone, then he feels like superman.
I want to go back to your iconic book, Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus. In that book, you really distinguish that there is a real difference between men and women.
I studied psychology and became a counsellor. What I learned in studying psychology is that they were going in the wrong direction along with the whole culture. It’s a new direction called ‘equality’.
OK, that’s great. Men and women are equal, we want to support that equality. But to be equal doesn’t mean that we’re the same. Actually, to be equal, we have to recognise differences even more and to embrace those differences.
Why? Because people are different, and when it comes to men and women, there are huge differences. I had learned through nine years of celibacy, spirituality and meditation, I don’t get upset that often. I can come back to this place.
If anything ever upset me about my wife, I would just go meditate and feel good. And then reflect on the conversation and how I contributed to the problem.
I also saw how she contributed, but that’s for her to find. I learned not to complain or blame. With any problem, I take my time, come back to love, open my heart and then go and behave in a loving way. My wife felt safe to ask for more because I was willing.
One of the problems is that men today are so out of balance. We have a male side and a female side. When men go too far to their female side, which is the fun, playful side, we play too much and get emotional.
Then we get irritable, angry and defensive. And women will complain more back instead of learning what masculinity is.
I’m not suggesting that there is some role that men have to play. I’m saying that when you are out of balance, there are things you can do to increase your testosterone back into balance.
And women, when you’re not happy, there are things you can do to stimulate the female hormones – and you can use your relationship to do this and find a balance inside so that you can express both your male and female sides.
So essentially it’s about finding balance…
And knowing where that balance is. People think they know what they want, but if you’re unhappy, you don’t know what you want. What you want is what somebody else wants, you’ve been conditioned in a certain way. They don’t really know what they need.
Often I say, this is what you need, and people will say, ‘how do you know what I need?’. I can teach you to do certain things and you will be happy. If you were happy, you would know what you need.
When you’re out of balance, it’s hard to come back into balance unless you have the clear awareness of what it takes to come back into balance and what the symptoms of imbalance are.
If you’re too far on your male side, your overwhelmed and stressed. How to come back to stimulating female hormones is not natural. It’s not natural until you can do it – then it becomes natural.
Eating healthy is very easy for me, but if I start eating cookies, then I want to eat the whole bag. ‘Feels good to me’. Doing what feels good is not necessarily always the right thing to do. You have to go find what you need to feel good, then you feel really good.
What certain things can men do to come back into balance?
One of them was from my first book, which is men go to their caves. You fall in love with a woman, you feel so close to her. You’re going to start to feel a need to just be alone for a while.
Play a video game, watch TV, go meditate, go hang out with the guys. And she’s feeling all connected and will say, ‘you want to leave me, you don’t want to be with me?’. She’ll take it personally, instead of realising that men, by biology, require distance to rebuild testosterone.
Women, by biology, require connection, which stimulates female hormones. I need connection up to a point. When I have connection, estrogen goes up, testosterone goes down. I need to disconnect and detach in order to rebuild my testosterone.
She needs to attach. So how do you solve that problem? You understand it. If she needs to attach and I need to detach, she needs to have a life of a variety of different things she can attach to.
For her, it’s about learning how to detach by attaching to someone else.
So men need to detach, go into the cave…
And without feeling guilty, without feeling shame, without feeling like you’re hurting your wife or your girlfriend.
What women need to do is be able to talk freely about their emotions and feelings. Modern women have a very difficult time doing this. Historically, women had a hard time.
This is new stuff. This is what, as a therapist, I learned to do. I can take an unhappy woman, all stressed out, put her in front of me in a room for 15 minutes and she leaves with the biggest smile on her face and a big hug. Why? Because I get her to cry. I gave her space, I asked questions.
In the first session, or after a few, if she feels safe to reveal her emotions – she becomes emotionally naked – and when she does that, all these emotions flood up that are all non-logical and non-rational.
It’s like a backlog – when women need to be like men all the time, being very independent, they have to dismiss and put down their emotions, kind of like a man would do.
It’s good for men to do that and say ‘no big deal’, ‘forget it’, because that bumps up testosterone. Women have to do that to a great extent to succeed in the male world and the work world – and that eventually will change – but it’s not going to change right away. What you can change right away is your personal life.
That links into one of your latest books, Beyond Mars and Venus, where you’re saying that things have changed over the last 20 years and the roles of genders have changed. It would be interesting to get your insight on what has changed.
We’ve gone to gender neutrality. As a spiritual being, I’m a very conscious person. Everything in my life is about meditation and spirituality, connection with the divine and being of service to the world.
I started out this way. My mother was this way and my dad taught me yoga when I was three years old. I’m like a person in your generation who is more conscious. As soon as you’re conscious, you have access, if you’re a man, to both your masculine and feminine energy.
If you’re a woman, you have access to both your female and masculine energy. What happens with this greater ‘wholeness’ that we have is a new problem. And that new problem is that if you’re a woman, it’s easier to go to your male side than your female side.
Culture doesn’t hold you into your female side any more. Culture doesn’t hold men into their masculine side.
It used to be that women don’t do anything that men do, and men don’t do anything that women do. The old culture supported women producing female hormones all the time to make them very happy when they were supported by the culture.
Men, if they were supported by the culture – which means that they had a job that paid well – then they were very well. Then when the system started that didn’t pay men as well, men started becoming dysfunctional because they don’t get the reward for what they do. That was the culture.
Now culture needs to change. Culture needs to embrace this new challenge we have.
That’s what my books do. They’re creating a new culture. But beyond that, we need Beyond Mars and Venus, because it helps women who are on their male side to still be on their male side – there’s nothing wrong with that – but also to balance it with their female side and how to do that, how to recognise that you’re out of balance and how to use your relationship to improve it.
Men need to get that if they are on their female side, they are just going to shut a woman down. She’s not going to be interested in sex, she’s not going to feel love, she’s not going to be happy.
When you argue with her, to defend herself she goes to her male side. She needs more help to get to her female side, she needs safety and support.
Every man wants to be that superman guy and feel powerful and admirable. You exude that when your testosterone level are very good.
But when you feel insecure as a man, testosterone turns into estrogen and you start becoming female dominant. And that’s what anger is in men.
When men are angry, they have all this female energy and if you talk at that time, the female energy increases more and blood-flow stops to the part of your brain where you can feel accountable and solve the problem.
Instead, you get into victim mode and blaming mode, which is unsightly and a turn-off to women, but it also disempowers a man not to understand how to come back into balance, open his heart, and then be of service to the woman you love most.
We now live in a new world, a complex world where women are able to show more of a masculine side and men can show a more feminine side. Essentially, we have to learn how to go back to our masculine or our feminine.
Yes, and as a husband I learned how to bring my wife back to her feminine and she learned how to build up my masculine.
It’s a whole art to it. An example of that would be that when we’re talking, she says, oh what a good idea! Or I come home and she’s so happy to see me and wants to hug me.
My definition of a great relationship is someone who delights in your presence and has no agenda to change you.
That’s a wonderful definition. That is the secret of learning how to get more in a relationship with out having to overtly trying to change your partner.
So we’re here at the Health Opimisation Summit and London and you’ve just come off stage after doing your keynote. It was around gender-specific stress management for optimal health and resilience. We live in a stressful world but how can we lower our stress and cortisol to live more optimally?
I’ll start out with a few cliches that we forget. The first cliche is, who is responsible for your happiness? I asked the audience that and everybody raised their hand.
Then what happens when you get married? Your partner makes you unhappy! You’ve got to remember that you’re responsible for your happiness.
You start getting caught up in having to change your partner. Women need to understand that if you’re upset and a guy tries to talk you out of being upset, you just become more upset because someone is trying to change how you feel.
The same thing happens when you try to change a man’s behaviour. The more you try and change a man’s behaviour by being upset with him – complaining, being demanding and withholding sex – you’re trying to change your partner and they will resist more.
You actually can ruin somebody by the relationship practices we have today. I don’t see good or bad, I just see what works. And what works is a higher state of consciousness.
We don’t need to change people into doing the right thing. You can’t think of something else if you’re in the cortisol zone, because that’s the stress zone.
If you’re in the cortisol zone, bloodflow stops to the prefrontal cortex in the brain, which is where we have the human DNA. The rest of the brain is like all conditioned responses back from the monkey ages.
When we go into that powerlessness of not knowing what to do, suddenly blood-flow stops to the front part of the brain and cortisol levels start to increase because we don’t know what to do and feel threatened.
There’s no place in life that’s more threatening and challenging than making sure that I am loved.
As a human being rises in consciousness, your lower needs for survival and security are not so important. Your higher needs for fulfilment and self-actualization become more important. And you have to have all of those met.
To a great extent, our society provides our security and safety. We’re actually emotionally unfulfilled and then we say that we don’t have a new car.
What happens in life is that if we don’t find that fulfilment inside is that we’re constantly thrown into the world. One of the biggest sources of stress in our life is social media. It’s a huge source of stress because comparison is the thief of happiness.
My wife can make me happier than any meditative state. That is through building up the love, then getting naked and making love.
Making love is how we build our energies back up. You have to keep making love and it has to be great sex if you want to grow and love, and ironically it’s the biggest question people have for me.
They all want to know how to keep those feelings you have in the beginning. We want that today, but we don’t know how to create it. You need a higher consciousness to create it and you need to be able to access both the male and female sides. But they have to be in balance.
Then when you’re in balance, you’re in flow state and self-actualisation. Great sex is self-actualisation. It takes you to a higher level of fulfilment than anything else can bring to you.
Great sex is loving sex and making love.
When you first meet your partner, you’re in love and are having sex all the time. It’s the best thing ever…
There are two factors here. The reason you feel so good and are so optimistic and so positive is because newness stimulates the brain chemical dopamine.
And dopamine just gives you access to super brain power and your heart opens. But after a while, everything’s familiar. You fully understand, you know what you can say and what you can’t say. Now the dopamine level [decreases] and you become more comfortable, and that’s serotonin.
I love the comfort but also I love the passion. What happens is the passion goes away, because familiarity sets in. In the beginning, our passion is based upon newness and intimacy.
Now, by making sure that I’m authentically masculine when I’m with my wife, and she’s authentically feminine, that polarity increases massive sexual attraction.
But if she was more masculine I would not have that attraction and if I was more feminine, [she would not have that attraction].
Play is feminine. A ‘playboy’ was generally the son of a wealthy father who never had to earn money.
If men don’t feel that pressure to earn, to do things. It used to be built-in – women needed men for money, they need them for protection. So you woke up and you were in a world where men were honoured and revered and rewarded.
The biggest reward for men was a woman who loved them. Today, what men want is a woman who loves them and they want great sex, because sex is the way you keep increasing the love. It takes you higher.
To circle back on the stress point. The main takeaway I got is that women need to talk and men need tasks…
Well, men need to feel successful. I’m very successful in what I do and so right now I’m generating testosterone. But I’m also using it up, so I will need to have my downtime to recover and rebuild testosterone.
That’s called a hobby for men. That is having some fun, and it’s not intimacy with a woman. You have to have time away from her or away from your children where you don’t feel responsible for their happiness. You need to be able to forget all of your responsibilities.
Basically, the best stress reducer for a man is anything that a woman would consider a waste of time but also that does not deplete him sexually.
A lot of guys would go right to the porn, which is like taking cocaine. It desensitises you and desensitises your ability to stay turned on to a real woman.
Fantasy stimulates more dopamine and affects your brain until intimacy doesn’t stimulate the same amount of pleasure it could.
It’s been an honour to sit down with you John. Where can our readers best connect with you?
Through MarsVenus.com. That’s my website and I’m there with my daughter Lauren and there are online classes on there.
The final question – what three pieces of advice would you give to help our listeners help achieve their ideal day?
One, get enough sleep. Two, don’t eat so much. Three, have lots of making love.