Gottman and Gray: The Two Johns

Gottman and Gray: The Two Johns

by Hara Estroff Marano
One is the gold standard; the other the gold earner. Take a wild guess which is which.
Filed Under: Couples Therapy, Humor


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Walk into any bookstore in America —perhaps the world—head for the psychology shelves, and there bound together until sales do them part are the two gurus of relationships, John Gottman and John Gray.

John Gottman virtually invented the science of observing behavior in relationships and can predict future happiness with scary accuracy from groans and grimaces we're scarcely ever aware of. He's a very prolific writer, but most of his work appears in the academic literature. A couple of years ago he penned a popular book, Why Marriages Succeed or Fail. It sells respectably.

Of course, nothing like the books by John Gray: at last count six million copies of Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus. Even his several other books— his latest is Mars and Venus on a Date—sell in the hundreds of thousands. Hey, why save a hot concept for married folks, or even adults? The Mars/Venus juggernaut is readying a kids' version. We haven't even talked about the audiotapes. A run on Broadway. Celebrity Line cruises. CD-ROMs. Seminars, and now the first franchise deal to hit psychotherapy. For a few thousand dollars, plus a yearly renewal fee, you too can buy the right to call yourself a Mars/Venus counseling center. You lack the professional credentials to practice? Don't worry—so does Gray. For somewhat less, anyone with a pulse and a purse can buy the right to lead Mars/Venus groups in the nabe.

John Gottman and John Gray, side by side. The placement invites—no, commands—a comparison of the two. How does their information and advice stack up? The short answer is that Gottman is the gold standard while Gray is the gold earner. Gottman creates top psychology, while Gray mines pop psychology: Even that he's turned into "poop psychology," in the words of one Psychology Today reader. We've extracted the pith from their writing and sayings to compile a handy crib sheet. Judge for yourself.

 A Tale of Two Relationship Gurus

Issue John Gottman John Gray
Chief Motivating Force Research Revenge (first wife Barbara de Angelis taught him seminar biz then ditched him).
Formal Research Naturalistic observation of couples living in apartment laboratory, plus video and physiological monitoring. None.
Number Of Couples Actively Studied 760 0
Longest Period Of Follow-Up 14 years 0
Academic Credentials Ph.D., University of Illinois Ph.D., Mail order, Columbia Pacific U. (unaccredited institution).
License Psychologist Driver
Number Of Journal Articles Written 109 0
Cardinal Rule Of Relationships What people think they do in relationships and what they do do are two different things. Men and women are different.
Defining Statement The everyday mindless moments are the basis of romance in marriages. Before 1950 men were men and women were women.
What Makes Marriage Work Making mental maps of each other's world. Heeding gender stereotypes.
What Makes Marriage Fail Heeding gender stereotypes. Misunderstanding gender differences in communication style.
Heroes Men who put the toilet seat down Men who escape to their cave
Role Of Gender Differences Mark of an ailing relationship. Recipe for success in relationships.
View Of Intimacy Comforts men Scares men
View Of Humor Right up there with sex; communicates acceptance. "Men will tolerate humor. Women won't."
Signs Of Marital Apocalypse Criticism, contempt, defensiveness, stonewalling. Arguing
How Spouses Do Best Accepting influence from one another. On separate planets.
Key Gender Difference Men's and women's bodies respond differently to conflict Women talk too much about feelings.
Why Men Withdraw Their stress systems are over-activated during marital conflict. They can only tolerate so much intimacy.
Cause Of Conflict Virtually inevitable between two people. She hates Super Bowl Sunday.
Men's Big Mistake Failing to deep breathe during conflict. Solving her problems.
Women's Big Mistake Stating complaints with criticism. Giving advice.
Why Men Don't Help More at Home Their brain cells were not trained to notice domestic themes. They give their all at the office.
Marriage Math There must be 5x as many positives as negatives in marriage. Men and women keep score differently.
What They Say About Each Other "I envy his financial success." "John who?"

This article was previously published in Psychology Today, November 1997 (Vol. 30, No. 6), © Hara Estroff Marano. Reprinted with permission

Copyright © 1997 Hara Estroff Marano. Reprinted July, 2000.
Hara Estroff Marano Hara Estroff Marano is editor at large of Psychology Today magazine and has written for the New York Times, New York magazine, Smithsonian, Family Circle, Ladies Home Journal, and many more. She is the author of two books, most recently, "Why Doesn't Anybody Like Me?": A Guide to Raising Socially Confident Kids (Morrow, 1998). She may be contacted at