OPW INTERVIEW -- Nov 3, 2005 -- One name stands preeminent in the world of relationship experts and authors. Dr John Gray has authored fourteen books and is a world renowned speaker on the subject of relationships and understanding the marked differences between the sexes. Here is the first of two exclusive OPW interviews with Dr Gray - Mark Brooks
What inspired the planet analogy to describe women and men?
As a marriage councilor I found it effective to understand the differences between the sexes in a playful way. I found, 25 yrs ago, one of the biggest problems couples had was in misinterpreting what they were saying and how they were reacting to situations differently. So by teaching people to understand their differences they could then work together rather against each other. I developed the Mars Venus metaphor to make it more playful and easy to apply.
How is internet dating different from off-line dating?
Online dating is the opposite of offline. Online dating first explores mental and emotional compatibility. When people finally meet in person they then discover if physical chemistry exists. In offline dating, they discover the physical attraction/chemistry and then take time to discover mental and emotional chemistry. For relationships to be lasting you need all three. The fourth level is soul compatibility, which is the feeling you want to share a life with this person...for marriage. In terms of meeting a person when offline and meeting a person online, when online you don't get the opportunity to experience physical chemistry. Gender differences are present here also because men feel physical chemistry right away whereas women may feel it immediately or it may develop over time. Because men tend to feel it right away, if it's not happening they will move on. With good communication skills men can increase women’s physical chemistry and attraction towards them. Women can sustain the attraction a man feels towards them in the beginning with good communication skills and nurturing habits.
In designing the ultimate online dating site, what factors would you focus on for making good matches?
A benefit of online dating is that users sometimes have a greater chance of a long term relationship because they have first explored the mental and emotional compatibility before the physical. Offline couples often rush too quickly into physical connection and don't give enough of a chance to discover mental and emotional compatibility. Quite typically for men, after a quick sexual encounter, they temporarily lose interest during which time they can become interested in another woman. With online dating there's already a mental and emotional bond so this tendency to lose interest will lessen. The flip side of that is that if a woman has established a mental and emotional interest in a man before physical intimacy there tends to be less “neediness” because they are more secure in the relationship not being just physical. Often, after a sudden physical encounter the woman, without knowing the man mentally and emotionally, will feel more emotionally needy which can push the man away.
In an ideal world offline couples would take a little longer before they have sex. Online dating provides that time of introduction in getting to know each other before the first physical encounter. The chances of a long term relationship are greater from online dating, but the chances of rejection at the first meeting, when people physically meet each other are also greater with online dating. A common experience of online daters is they meet online and mentally and emotionally they connect but within a moment of physical meeting they can sense there's no physical chemistry, and that can be very disappointing and hurtful to someone. This possibility of rejection can be cushioned by making sure that before they meet physically they've shared accurate photos of each other. This is important because if they experience rejection after meeting in person they don't make the conclusion they're being rejected because of looks, rather that there's just not enough physical chemistry. There's no way to accurately predict if chemistry will be there. They may think they feel it but once they meet in person, then that's the test.
Webdate.com allows users to have their first date online using webcams, hence the name webdate Does that help?
I think that would be helpful along the way but users still won't truly know until they are in each other's physical presence. 90% of communication is from visual cues with a real in-person meeting. You can have emotional chemistry with someone on the phone or internet. You can have mental stimulation but physical chemistry...you have to be there in person. But web cameras can be a good thing. They can see each other online and then when they meet they won’t take it personally if there's no physical chemistry, in respect to 'I'm not good enough.'
Can personality tests really predict romantic attraction? How?
Nothing can predict physical chemistry. What they can do is sometimes assist people in finding someone they have greater emotional and mental compatibility with. The most beneficial aspect is simply in having the opportunity to explore who you are and who they are. Just like having a conversation with someone. If done correctly compatibility testing can also assist people in making wise choices regarding their willingness to get involved, based on preferences and past experiences. For example, if they've been in a relationship in the past where the partner was dominant or controlling, compatibility testing can tell if this new person might be like the people in their past. I think after one does a compatibility test then it's very helpful to get assistance from a relationship coach to interpret findings, to help learn from past experiences and based on that, what they want in new relationships.
These tests can be done on one's own but are better with a relationship coach who can provide guidance on how to overcome challenges. All relationships have built in challenges. For a couple to have attraction, they have to have differences. Differences create attraction and mean the possibility of problems and challenges. So, if you find someone 'just like me' you probably won't have physical attraction. Often people have a hard time finding a lasting relationship because they don't have the relationship skills they need, as opposed to having found the right person. The easy answer is, ‘I found the wrong person.’ Or, “the wrong dating service” It's often the only answer they can come up with if they don't have the training and relationship skills. We have the ability to bring out the best or worst in our partners.
As a PhD and Certified Family Therapist, how do you feel compatability testing should be used on online dating sites?
As mentioned before, compatibility tests are at best introductions. They're more about self exploration. To take a test you have to explore who you are and define what you want in a relationship. For someone to say you are or are not compatible is not possible, particularly in the case of physical chemistry. People should look at testing as a tool to assist them in the education process regarding having a good relationship. Compatibility tests, in a very simple way, can hone in your focus and bring you into a smaller group of people compatible to your basic beliefs and needs. They help lessen the field of people to focus in on. But, they can't determine physical chemistry. You simply have to go through the process of meeting people. But instead of going through a thousand people, you only need to go through perhaps 25 people.
Unfortunately the most accurate personality tests can take an entire afternoon to complete. The average user does not have that kind of commitment to the process. So the challenge for the industry is to create something accurate but still engaging enough for the consumer. Also the average user may not know how to best use a personality test to determine who they are most compatible with. The most admired personality traits may not mix well with your personality. The key is to provide the proper guidance to help the user know what’s best for them.
What are your plans for working with the online personals industry?
I’m very excited to work with the online personals industry. I think it’s an industry that tackles a very humanistic challenge. What has been missing is that people have an inherent need to talk about their experiences. Rejection is ten times more painful when you have to face it alone. Also fear is one of the primary feelings that keeps us from trying. Fear of the unknown, fear of judgment, fear of failure and very often fear of success…’am I ready?’
We provide a program of phone-based relationship coaching where people can explore these feelings, as well as help them determine compatibility with a person and improve their relationship skills. This is what I see missing from all the services; ongoing coaching to provide people with the understanding they need to make a relationship work. People tend to go on a few dates and leap from one online dating service to another, just as they go from one partner to another. They need to realize that their relationship skills in fact need improving.
There are so many ways that men and women unknowingly send the wrong signals to the opposite sex. They are not aware of how the words they use or their behaviors may be a complete turn off, which is why coaching has been so effective for people. Lack of knowledge causes a big rift between the sexes. Once people understand the differences it's so much easier to pull the best from our partners and relationships. At Ask MarsVenus.com we provide coaching and hope to daters on an ongoing basis through the different stages of dating.
Relationship coaches can help explain why dates don't turn out well, and help people understand what's going on and how to get better results. This way they don’t blame themselves or their dating site and give up all together. For example, men need to understand that it's normal to feel attracted and then less attracted to someone, ”Rubberbanding” is a normal part of the attraction process. If they are patient the attraction can come back stronger than ever. Women need to understand that they should allow a certain amount of space while not abandoning their own needs. In the old days matchmakers not only provided matchmaking services but also coached people through every date and helped them understand what happened. They gave them instructions so they could form better bonds. We help build the hope and skills to keep them dating.