Be Water My Friend

Candice:  Is it really true teamwork when one partner implements MAP and then issues an ultimatum to the other or when someone spies on their partner to check out alleged cheating?
Athol:  MMSL is a fluid strategy. I’m starting to see how that confuses people and it is a good question Candice.
I think the confusion can come from the way the Tit for Tat strategy of MMSL can come across. Tit for Tat is a consistent principle that is unchanging in MMSL, but it is a highly responsive strategy, so its practical application is one of constant change.
The consistent principle is that if (1) she is acting nice to you, you should be acting nice back. But if (2) she isn’t being nice to you, you need to respond to that with a non-nice response. Which is not to say that you should be hostile, punishing or mean to her, but simply that when she isn’t nice to you, she doesn’t get what she wants from it. It’s about striking the balance of being able to be the Nice Guy, but also have a Hard Edge that stops the Nice Guy getting taken advantage of.
So yes, marriage should be teamwork and I advocate for that strongly. That’s the desired outcome we work toward. However, should it break down into a Husband vs. Wife dynamic, MMSL has tools for that too. They aren’t very nice, but they are very effective. No apologies.
The key importance of having a Hard Edge is that your wife will respect you for it. That will in and of itself be a positive factor in her attraction to you, and provide a disincentive for her to ever try screwing you over. She knows she’ll get caught, she knows she’ll get exposed, she knows you’ll end things. So she doesn’t try it.
The cheating issue is absolutely vital to assess correctly. Cheating spouses are extremely devious and are actively trying to deceive you, so you need to be creative in finding out the truth. (Covered in Chapter 27 of the Primer)  What you need to do when your wife is involved with another man is nearly opposite in style to what you do when she isn’t. Getting it wrong means you make the situation much worse.
In anycase, by the time you’re getting to ultimatums, the teamwork has been dead and gone for a long time. You’re getting to ultimatums because they are refusing to be a teammate.
What you do with MMSL, is situational. It can be as softly romantic as leading her in a slow dance, alert and engaged as a play fight, or as unflinching as a full contact MMA take down. It all depends whether or not she’s being sweetly submissive, testing your strength, or trying to purposely screw you over.
You may not wish to have to use the Harder Edge stuff I teach, and I do sympathize because I don’t want to use them either, but you do need to know them. Without it you’re defenseless in a serious engagement, just when you need it the most. MMSL is a practical real-world blog and book, so I cover the Hard Edge bits too. If it doesn’t work in the real world, I have no interest in it. If it works I don’t care where it came from, I’ll just add it in and adapt it for my own. This is not a university course in Advanced Uselessness.
So be water my friend.
I mean let’s face it, nice has gotta stop if you think she might be giving you herpes.


  1. Anonymous says:

    Simply being married or in a LTR does not make it a team. To paraphrase the map-terrain saying, the form is not the substance. If things are bad enough that one partner has to implement the MAP, or has reasonable cause to suspect cheating, then there is currently no "team". Running the MAP and other actions are a way of helping the other party notice or remember that it is supposed to be a team.

  2. I'm starting to wonder if these people have actually read your book….

    @Anonymous – spot on.

    My grand father's "hard edge" was giving my grandmother the silent treatment.

    As I look back on older marriages, I realize that guys did what Athol advocates, and as a whole people were happy.

  3. I love that video of "Be Water", Athol!

    Okay, I wish some advice posted here by contributors would come with a disclaimer.

    So here goes: Not all advice given here by others will work on your woman. You absolutely must know your wife or girlfriend before beginning certain practices on them or they could back fire.

    Honestly, the silent treatment would backfire here. Granted I am a woman who loves and wants the best for her man, but I am not perfect. I'm all for taking breaks when things get heated and to calm down.

    Manipulating me with the silent treatment would only make things worse. I would shut down my heart and tightly close my legs.

  4. Anonymous says:


    I agree with about the disclaimer and Athol has pointed this out over and over. Only 30% of what you try will work for you as a couple, so I think he's covered that pretty well.

    I also am not sure if I agree with the silent treatment approach. Not as a way to force an apology. But as a man, stating your position and maintaining your frame and then leaving her to herself (which is silent at that point) this definitely does work. She will come back and be nice, but any further discussion before she calms down is totally counterproductive and makes the man appear weak. You may or may not get an apology, but its the changed attitude you are after anyway.

    Of course, in the silent treatment example discussed here, I doubt if the women that had the silent treatment given to her would have said that it would work on her if she was asked before the incident. I think it would ultimately work but perhaps its too extreme. When that goes on for multiple days it becomes a type of Ultimatum, which I don't think is necessary for just a single emotional outburst.

    When my wife does this to me, I have learned to almost encourage it, chuckle a little bit, enjoy the energy from her. Once she knows that I'm not going to be rattled, then her negative energy can turn quickly into positive energy which later = great sex.

    The problem with the silent treatment is it becomes a stand off and creates too much negative energy, especially if it has to go on for multiple days.

  5. I agree with Anon 11:41. I think there is a big different between the "silent treatment" and STFU.

    In the silent treatment, you a looking to withhold affection, communication, intimacy, and support. It is a punishment and honest attempts at communication are rebuffed.

    In STFU, you state your opinion/boundary/decision. After that you go on and are happy. You just don't belabor the point and you don't engage with anyone (wife) that isn't willing to talk to you calmly. You engage any and all productive discussions. You are happy open and welcoming and don't let other people's moods affect your own.

    There is a big difference in trying to force someone to see something (silent treatment) and letting them come around to your point of view (STFU).

  6. I notice that the general consensus here seems to be that emotional lability in women is a given and the appropriate response to it is to put the smackdown on it whenever it crops up. Perhaps it is just an evolutionary quirk that propels such puerile female behavior?

    I'd like to suggest that many of these hysterical women may be reacting to not being heard when communicating more gently. After being ignored for ever so long, they may pop.

    At some point, no MAP strategy or silent treatment is going to work because they have given up hope for change in the relationship.

    Athol's post of a few days ago about sexual frequency, suggesting figuring out at what point things went south and WHY, should be the starting point to every problem. Then the strategy can be tailored accordingly.

  7. The only time I have used the silent treatment is when my wife is behaving in a way that I don't want to respond to, so I don't.

    I'm sure she does it to me too.

    I don't see that as the manipulative version of the silent treatment, "I'm not talking to you, until you apologize for looking at those girls." I see it as your actions speaking to your partner. "I'm not going to engage you when you are acting this way."

    This happens rarely for us, but when it does she has some time to reflect and then comes back to "make up".

    Withholding affection or not talking to someone cause you are pissed off about something is childish and kind of pathetic. Not talking to someone because they are behaving poorly is very different.

  8. Polly,
    I think much of what you say is right.

    I want to address one point. Many women have valid points on valid issues and they need to be "heard" and are being ignored. At the same time, many women expect men (especially their husbands) to respond to communication like women. They don't.

    Women tend to increase the volume, and frequency (in both senses) of communication until the man reacts. It may not be the reaction that they wanted.

    I don't think men have a direct need for communication. We only need to communicate about things we need/want to communicate about.

  9. The Woman Formerly Known As Beautiful says:

    How did you know I was the Capoeira Girl. Ok. I wasn't. But they did CGI my abs onto her.

    I'm quoting my husband when I say, "A marriage is only as strong as its the person who is doing the least."

  10. Thank you, 446. I agree. It is that mismatch in communication styles that often makes me despair of my own marriage, as well as the future relationships for my children. The differences between the sexes and the near impossibility of bridging the gap, seems good for nothing except the darkest comedy.

  11. There's a difference between the silent treatment (to punish) and being non-reactive and waiting for them to stop being overly emotional before proceeding with the conversation (to fail to reward).

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