John Gray is the author of Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus. Originally published in 1992, Gray’s book became the best-selling relationship advice book of all time. with over 15-million copies sold worldwide and translated into over 90 languages. That book was followed by fourteen others, including Mars and Venus on a Date, and Mars and Venus Starting Over.
I use a recurring metaphor in my relationship advice: that communication issues arise between men and women because they don’t understand each other’s languages—almost as if they are from different planets.
Since a first date is where a woman and a man first attempt to learn each other’s lingo, it’s also where many relationships go off-kilter, where the first misunderstandings and misperceptions are formed.
Can these mishaps be avoided? Of course. Let me give you some specific examples:
1. Compliment him.
Let’s set our imaginary date at a nice restaurant that the guy has chosen for the first official date. By nice I don’t mean the town’s very best restaurant, just a comfortable place where he has probably gone and had a good meal before.
If a woman says that her dish is, for example, too salty, she will think nothing of talking negatively about the food, or even extend the conversation about why the kitchen staff is not more careful in their use of spices. If it were two women sharing an evening out, complaining about the food or service is perfectly fine, because talking about problems is a bonding experience on Venus. However on Mars, men tie their egos to the choices they make. This is never truer than in the case of a restaurant that they have chosen. Now if on the other hand, a woman says, “Wow this place is a real find! I love the way they do their chicken….” In a man’s mind, he’s scored major points. It’s as if he went into the kitchen and cooked that meal himself.
It may sound a little odd to a woman that a man would take such pride in the choices that he makes. But keep in mind: he is so intent on pleasing and impressing—on a first date particularly—that he simply cannot separate his date’s approval of him from her approval of the choices that he makes.
This is true if the date continues on to a movie, a concert, or any other event. To him, the experience she has determines how she feels about him and their time together.
2. Draw him out, but don’t leave him hanging.
The old advice, passed along from mothers to daughters, was that, typically, on a first date you should get him to talk about himself. You must have already noticed that, in most cases, that goes against the grain; that as a general rule, men are better at listening than speaking. Now of course, that is not to suggest that a woman show no curiosity about his life or his interests. The point is not to leave the burden of carrying a conversation on his shoulders because there is a good chance that will lead to a series of uncomfortable moments where he is just not sure what to say.
You can see this Martian/Venusian communication gap for yourself. Take a party with five couples. Often you’ll see the males gravitate to a TV set and they bond, mostly in silence, by watching a game together. Meanwhile the women will be busy in conversation over a dozen different topics.
On a first date especially, a woman should not attempt to test a man’s verbal skills, because they’ll come up short—and he’ll know that. This leaves him with the feeling that the date was not a success.
3. Keep it light, bright and gay.
While a woman wants to anticipate carrying the conversation, she should be careful not to focus on negative past experiences—particularly in dating. Males project themselves into situations that they hear about; so when a woman shares her past relationship disappointments, the guy may nod empathetically, but all the time he is thinking, “That sounds like me!”
Additionally, women should not look to use men as sounding boards. The natural instinct on Mars is to solve problems. Venusians share and empathize. Martians communicate with the aim of problem solving or impressing upon one another their unique point of view. That’s why men will so often ask in wonderment, “If you didn’t want my help, why did you tell me about this in the first place.” In other words, sharing for the sake of sharing is an alien concept on Mars.
In summary, a woman’s intention on a first, second, or third date is to be upbeat and positive. Do let him know that he can succeed in making you happy. Don’t make him feel tested or challenged. Whenever possible, do praise his choices, and don’t be critical based on some simplistic notion that “honesty is always the best policy.” Don’t place a boyfriend in the role of a girl friend. You’re not looking for another gal pal. You’re looking for Mr. Right.
The bottom line: Make it an experience you both enjoy.
If you want the relationship to blossom, be sure to let him know that he is capable of pleasing you. Success brings men back. If he gets the impression that he cannot please you, he’ll continue to look for a woman who he can.
John Gray is the author of the classic bestselling relationship advice book, MEN ARE FROM MARS, WOMEN ARE FROM VENUS. Visit his website, www.marsvenusliving.com, for advice on dating, marriage, divorce, parenting, romance and workplace issues. Or email him at Comments@marsvenusliving.com