Mars, Venus, Estrogen, & Testosterone: Getting to the Root of Fulfilling Sex with Dr. John Gray
Dr. John Gray is the author of one of the most well-known and trusted relationship books of all time, Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus. It was listed as one of the Top Ten Most Influential Books in hardcover of the last quarter century by USA Today and it was one of the number one bestselling books of the 1990s.
Beyond writing, Dr. Gray helps men and women better understand (and respect) their differences in both personal and professional relationships. His approach combines specific communication techniques with healthy nutritional choices that create brain and body chemistry that encourages lasting health, happiness, and romance.
I sat down with Dr. Gray and what resulted was an eye-opening and enlightening conversation. He shares topics that range from why men and women need space, what’s biologically needed for both men and women to feel desire, what testosterone and estrogen mean for both sexes, the importance of healthy communication, and why it’s so important to be happy independently of your partner.
Please note that this article is centered on heteronormative relationships.
We all need space — but men may need more
Dr. Gray believes that monogamy is the answer to keeping couples together today. But, he also affirms that you can’t have monogamy unless men take the time to have space from their partner. He calls this “going to the cave.”
Going to the cave refers to taking time for yourself, essentially withdrawing from the relationship for a time. This doesn’t mean going out and seeing other people. Again, Dr. Gray says that humans are meant to be monogamous. Withdrawing is simply necessary for men to rebuild their testosterone, which is necessary for being good partners, both in and out of the bedroom.
Almost paradoxically, the more a man loves a woman, the more his estrogen levels rise and testosterone levels lower. When men take “cave time,” it rebuilds testosterone. This is why it’s so essential for men to withdraw.
On the other hand, women need interest, reassurance, and connection. And for men to be able to provide that, they need their cave time. When he comes back to his female partner, he’ll be better able to provide this to her. This concept is what he refers to as the “rubber band effect.”
Now, Dr. Gray strongly believes that men and women are very different biologically. He says that there is scientific proof that backs up the fact that men need ten times more testosterone than a woman otherwise they’re stressed. And women need ten times more estrogen otherwise they become stressed. A man will lose testosterone if they ejaculate too often and so it’s important to regulate it.
All of this begs the question: if men need to pull away and withdraw to build back testosterone, what do women need? Dr. Gray says that she needs to feel safe, have a connection, and feel intimacy with another person. And, the more independent the woman is, the more difficult it will be for her body to produce estrogen. Dr. Gray says that estrogen levels will naturally spike when women are in the presence of a man who makes them feel loved.
But, the paradox behind this is that when a man feels loved, his testosterone levels go down. Hence the importance of cave time to bring those levels back up.
More about the truth about testosterone and estrogen
Much of what makes great sex — and great relationships — lies in understanding how important testosterone and estrogen are.
As mentioned, men build up their testosterone by taking ample alone time and making sure to ejaculate just once a week. When they have sex too much, their estrogen levels increase and this can cause them to feel less desire.
Alternatively, when women talk and are open, their estrogen levels rise. When a woman is making a lot of testosterone, she’s not making estrogen, or at least not enough. This is one of the great differences between men and women. Instead of trying to ignore these differences, Dr. Gray implores that we embrace them.
Many things are the same between men and women, but there are significant things that are not. Hormonal differences are huge. When men are angry they need to stop talking as this makes estrogens level spike. Women feel a greater need to talk when they’re upset, as again, this brings estrogen levels up. Men feel more balanced and complete when they have high testosterone and the same goes for women but in terms of estrogen.
It all goes back to biology. This doesn’t mean turning back the clock to where women do only routine jobs at home and with children. It means that once you’re in a committed relationship, you can depend on other things to get those levels up. Activities like exercise, yoga, volunteering, spending time outside, meditation, and the like. It can also mean spending time with people you love.
Then and only then will two people be able to have meaningful and fulfilling sex — on both sides.
The importance of healthy communication
When you’re in a relationship, Dr. Gray says that it’s important to embrace these biological differences and lean into them. Society today tells men that it’s taboo to pull away, but this goes back to his biological need to go into the cave. Women should be more understanding of this and feel comforted by the fact that they will come back.
Remember, biologically, couples should only have sex once a week. The male body needs those seven days to build its testosterone back up. This doesn’t mean that you can’t be intimate throughout the week. It just means that men shouldn’t be ejaculating more than once every seven days. And, that increased level of intimacy can cause women’s estrogen levels to spike. Both of which can make for much better orgasms for both parties.
Most experts recognize the importance of healthy communication in relationships, but Dr. Gray’s idea of it is a bit different than most. While you should feel comfortable enough in your partnership to be open, he urges that there is a time and place for talking and a time and place for walking away.
For women, it’s important to resist the urge to complain and be negative when your partner isn’t giving you what you need. Men crave to feel loved, appreciated and trusted too, so when you focus on everything your partner isn’t doing, it will only make them feel bad. He urges that instead of unloading on your male counterpart, journal it. You’ll be able to process your emotions better. Be conscious that if you express negativity, you’re not going to get the result that you’re after. Give words to your emotions instead of simply becoming emotional. Dr. Gray recognizes that this takes years to master, but it’s worth the hard work.
For women, the ability to detach themselves from their emotions will help you be able to better explore and understand them. For men, the ability to minimize and step away until you feel ready to talk is essential. Only then will you be able to communicate effectively and healthily.
Finding happiness outside your relationship
Much of Dr. Gray’s advice can sound disheartening if you take it at face value. Women shouldn’t talk too much and men should take more time for themselves. But, he wants to make one thing clear: it’s all about having better control over your emotions as well as finding happiness and fulfillment outside of your relationships so that you can bring more into them.
This doesn’t mean that all women should be resigned to staying at home and taking care of children. You can absolutely have a career and feel satisfied in it, but it’s also about taking the time outside of your job to build yourself back up — in terms of estrogen but also in terms of your mental well-being.
Yes, this can include taking care of others like children, but it doesn’t mean that women who aren’t mothers can’t have high estrogen levels. You can also build up your estrogen by taking care of your physical and mental health. Nurturing friendships is helpful too.
Men can find happiness outside of their relationships by having the courage to step away from time to time. Again, this doesn’t mean seeking out sexual partners outside of your relationship. It can also mean taking moments to take care of your physical and mental well-being.
Simple concepts like these are becoming more and more taboo in our world. But, experts like Dr. Gray want to recognize just how essential they are. Lean into the apparent differences between men and women and embrace them instead of pushing them down. You just may find that your relationships improve for it.