Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Venus and Mars - Love and Respect

I wonder why Venus and Mars have become such popular icons for the female and male in love. Why do we imagine that eros is the child of war and beauty? Why is "beauty submitted to war" even an erotic image in the first place? And why do some Christians invest such an notion with even a particle of truth?

In fact, we may find another romantic hero in mythology. Not Mars, the god of war, but Hephaestus, also known as Vulcan, the god of technology. Perhaps he was not the best-looking, the most buff and fit god of all the gods. He was a plain-looking creature, by some accounts a bit lame but nonetheless, the god of craft and fire, the god of forging and forming. What's to choose between war and craft?

Who loves a Vulcan, but Jane Eyre, that pragmatic young woman, who wisely rejects St. John Rivers, the staid clergyman, for Rochester, her personally flawed but much loved Vulcan. I am sure that by now you must think that I am in love with Spock, not so, although I wonder just how many real life males fall between Nimoy and Shatner.

In any case, it was not Mars but Hephaestus (that is Vulcan) who warrants our interest. And who did he marry? According to some traditions, Hephaestus was married to Aphrodite, (that is, Venus) but according to another story (the Iliad) Hephaestus' true mate was Charis (Grace.)

If I wanted to hijack a story to use as an icon for Christian mating, for seeking the perfect complementarian relationship, I would not touch Mars and Venus with a ten foot pole. I would chase after Hephaestus and Charis. (okay, so it doesn't make a great book title, "Men are Hephaestus and Women are Charis" (or Aglaia, the youngest grace.) Nope, that would not sell books. But it might be a love worth having.

In contrast to both John Gray, of Men are from Mars ..., and Eggerichs, of Love and Respect, I highly recommend John Gottman. All this to say, in an interesting way, that there is a great comparison between John Gray (Men are from Mars ...) and John Gottman right here. If I had to recommend any books - by anyone at all - on love and relationships, it would be John Gottman.

All this nonsense, or sense - depending on who you are - is because I received an email today thanking me for my series on Love and Respect, which I wrote about a while ago. I am no fan of this kind of pop psychology.

Love and Respect 1
Love and Respect 2
Love and Respect 3
Love and Respect 4
Love and Respect 5
Love and Respect 6
Love and Respect 7

There are a few more posts on this topic under Eggerichs.


Carl W. Conrad said...

On the other hand, there's the story of his attempt to rape Athena, chasing her across the acropolis and ejaculating on the rocky ground from which was born Erichthonius. Much of the mythology of Hephaestus displays Greek aristocratic contempt for artisans coupled with keen appreciation of what they could produce.

J. K. Gayle said...

"Role Of Gender Differences: [for Gottman, it's the] Mark of an ailing relationship. [for Grey, it's the] Recipe for success in relationships."

Tiresias, the blind prophet who first killed a female before being turned into one, might serve as a parable. Of course, he killed a male and was turned back. But the chief goddesses and gods argued forever over difference henceforth and forever. And Carol Ann Duffy now brings us lines "from Mrs Tiresias":

Then he started his period.

One week in bed.

Two doctors in.

Three painkillers four times a day.

Thanks for getting us thinking and for sharing your series on love and respect again!

Donald Johnson said...

As an egal, I think a way to redeem the hierarchal teachings in L&R is to symmetricize them, make them apply to both spouses.

That is, one can accept the good aspects of the L&R teaching and change the bad aspects to good.

Suzanne McCarthy said...


That's why I used the term "hijack." I was really just trying to demonstrate the arbitrary nature of selecting the Greek gods as a model for male and female.

But perhaps John Gray was not thinking beyond the planets when he used "Mars" and "Venus."

Anonymous said...

Yes, weird images you have - war and beauty? There is no sense in them.

In Slavic Russia we have different images: a man is the Creator; a woman is the Love and Harmony.

He is responsible for making things; she is responsible for having harmony in what he does.

Suzanne McCarthy said...

He is responsible for making things; she is responsible for having harmony in what he does.

If I still believed that at this age, I would shoot myself.