Gottman and Gray: The two Johns

By Hara Estroff Marano
Psychology Today, 1997, 30 (6, Nov/Dec), p.28

Walk into any bookstore in America, head for the psychology section, and there, shelved side by side-until sales do them part-you'll find two of the gurus of marriage and relationships, John Gottman, Ph.D., and John Gray, Ph.D.

Gottman, a professor of psychology at the University of Washington, virtually invented the science of observing how people behave within relationships. From groans and grimaces we scarcely notice, Gottman can predict the likelihood of marital bliss with almost frightening accuracy. He's a prolific writer, but most of his work appears in scholarly journals. A few years ago he penned a book for nonprofessionals, Why Marriages Succeed or Fail (Simon & Schuster). It sells respectably.

But Gottman's royalty checks pale compared to those of John Gray, who at last count had sold 10 million copies of Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus (HarperCollins) and its four sequels. His latest effort is Mars and Venus on a Date-hey, why restrict a hot concept to married folks? Or even adults: Gray is already developing a Mars-Venus approach to raising kids.

Of course, we haven't even talked about Gray's audio tapes and videos. Or his one-man show on Broadway earlier this year. The Celebrity Line cruises. CD-ROMs. Seminars. A recent prime-time television special. And 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 your therapy practice a "Mars & Venus Counseling Center." Lack the appropriate professional credentials? So does Gray, who isn't licensed to practice psychology but is allowed to work as a "spiritual counselor" in California because of his nine-year stint as a monk.

John Gottman and John Gray, side by side. The placement invites-nay, demands-a comparison of the two. How do 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 (or "poop psychology," in the words of one PT reader). Below, we've compiled a handy crib sheet from their writings and sayings. Judge for yourself.

A Tale of Two Relationship Gurus

Issue Gottman Gray
Academic credentials Ph.D., University of Illinois Ph.D., by correspondence course, Columbia Pacific University (an unaccredited institution)
License Psychologist Driver
Best-selling book Why Marriages Succeed (55,000 copies sold) Men Are From Mars (6 million and counting)
Number of journal articles written 109 0
Academic research Naturalistic observation of couples living in apartment laboratory, physiological monitoring None
Number of couples formally studied 760 0
Cardinal rule of relationships What people think they do in relationships and what they actually do are two different things Men and women are different
Defining statement It's the everyday, mindless moments that are the basis of romance in marriage 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 marriages fail Heeding gender stereotypes; reactions to stress Gender differences in communication
Relationship heroes Men who put the toilet seat down Men who escape to their "cave"
Key gender difference Men's and women's bodies respond differently when negative emotions become intense Women talk too much about feelings
Basic reason for marital conflict It's virtually inevitable between two people She hates Super Bowl Sunday
Men's biggest mistake Failing to take a deep breath during conflict Trying to solve her problems
Women's biggest mistake Stating complaints as criticisms Giving advice
Why men don't help out at home They weren't trained to notice domestic concerns They give their all at the office
What the Johns say about each other "I envy his financial success." "John who?"