Fights About Nothing Are Fights For Control Of The Marriage

Athol:  Most fights in marriage aren’t really about anything other than establishing / maintaining who is in charge.

Pegala: Hey Athol, this feels like a very significant observation – could you expand on it in a blog post some time please?

Athol:  It all comes back to the thing of social dominance and submission. Bearing in mind that dominance and submission are woven into the fabric of everyday life in a very subtle way. Things as simple as who goes through a doorway first rely on subtle social cues of who the dominant person is. Dominance and submission isn’t all whips and chains and people wearing ball gags.

There is always in any social group, even a group of just two people, a leader of the group. Thus in any marriage, there is always someone more in charge than the other – typically it’s going to be the one that has a higher Sex Rank than the other. A major reason I advise running the MAP to increase your Sex Rank is to become the more dominant person in the marriage, and thus take more control over it and get more of your needs and/or demands meet by your partner.

However in most marriages, who is the dominant partner and who is the submissive partner isn’t set in stone. One may be more dominant than the other in a certain area and vice versa in other areas. Where the balance of power is finely balanced however, it’s very natural to expend greater effort in debate for no other reason than to establish and/or maintain your dominance over your partner. So senseless little fights “about nothing”, aren’t actually about nothing… they are about keeping your dominant frame in place.

If you yield the ground repeatedly over “fights about nothing”, you establish that your partner is in fact the dominant partner. After all, they get their way all the time. So when something more important comes long to debate, you’re at a disadvantage because you’re the submissive partner by default. Sometimes the dominant partner even drums up fights about nothing for the submissive partner to defer to, just to keep their dominance acknowledged. This is in no small part related to Fitness Testing… please jump through this hoop for me… which only frames you are the guy who jumps through her hoops.

So fights about nothing, are always fights about something.

A major plus to the Captain and First Officer model is that it side steps needing all these fights about nothing to maintain the dominant partners dominance. Once one partner is acknowledged as the Captain by the words and actions of the First Officer… the Captain doesn’t have to bully the First Officer into staying in the submissive role. The Captain can actually allow a lot more leeway with ensuring the First Officer is well taken care of, because it won’t undercut his dominant frame for the bigger decisions.

The Captain can also more easily listen to the First Officer bringing up concerns, because they aren’t going to be viewed as potential attempts to Fitness Test him or otherwise vie for dominance. The Captain can more easily let his guard down with his First Officer. Likewise the First Officer doesn’t have to drum up drama to gain attention and to be heard. It’s just less effort and stress all around. Having a clear Captain can also resolve all the longstanding fights about nothing too. He can establish basic behavior minimums and direct the First Officer to take an action that ends a stalemate.

The irony of the Captain and First Officer model is that it actually gives women the Blue Pill stated desires of a “nice guy who really listens, pays attention to you and helps out”, but does so by way of acknowledging his dominance over her. Welcome to Red Pill paradox. Mostly though, Jennifer and I can’t stand the idea of going through married life together feeling like we’re both “lawyering up” over endless little bits of nothing. Just give me the gavel and let me bang this stuff out.

Jennifer: You know, we argue so infrequently that I hadn’t actually ever thought about what effect those “fights about nothing” can have. It’s so true.



  1. pdwalker says:

    *ding* Another light goes on.

  2. greenlander says:

    great post, Athol

  3. alphaguy says:

    Most fights about nothing around our house happen when it’s late, she had a couple of drinks or we haven’t had sex in a few days. Also, as a recovering Nice Guy, I still don’t listen as well as a I should sometimes, but it gets easier and easier to ascertain what the nitpicking might be about and if it is something I should pay attention too or not. Most times getting a good night sleep and romp in bed and fix that problem. Sometimes and more rate these days, it requires that I sit down and calmly address a legit problem that she has raised that I have ignored.

    In the depth of my being a nice guy to her, we got into some knock down dragout fights (nothing physical but lots of screaming and stomping!). I simply won’t go there anymore with her. It’s been months since we had a good yelling match and I don’t miss them a bit. If your wife is constantly picking fights, step back and try and figure out why. It’s mainly to get attention and be heard and many times it the husband has become a Nice Guy and is giving too much control of the marriage to his wife. At least with my wife, she has a hard time sitting down and calmly asking for me to address some structural problem in our marriage and just wants me to read her mind. A lot of times I do read her mind, but not always…

  4. Random Angeleno says:

    Big light bulb moment there. Now I’m starting to understand all the seemingly small minded crap my ex started on me. Of course I was too nice then and that was fully taken advantage of. Took me a long time following the separation but I firmly established with her that I wouldn’t tolerate any more crap conduct from her. Today contact is rare, but when it happens, she is invariably respectful to me and actually says thank you sometimes, something she never did when we were together. There’s no going back for me for other reasons, but it’s good to see another aspect of fighting in relationships and it shows the possibility of regaining hand.

  5. These fights over nothing can slowly turn into all you do with your loved one. Thanks for the post, spot on and as usual, very insightful.

  6. Jet Tibet says:

    Yes in my case this was certainly correct.

    But doesn’t that mean that the “fitness tests” aren’t just tests, but actual assertions of upper hand?

    Or to put it differently: you must stand up to a fitness test and when you do, you “win”. But when you stand up to assert control in the marriage (which you must), you are continuing the conflict and perpetuating the pressure (which will then continue until either she stands down or the marriage ends).

  7. holdingallthecards says:

    Good post, Athol. It’s unfortunate, but many times when one spouse has screwed up royally, they sometimes have to try to regain dominance/respect by picking another fight over something trivial or pushing a shit test. It took me a while to see this happening in my own marriage. It stops when one spouse refuses to participate in the argument, because then it appears that they don’t care anymore. (It takes two to have a fight).

    But I think that I approached this with “If he loved me and his family, he wouldn’t talk or act this way.” Perhaps my husband just wanted respect, and this counter-attack was his method. But we all screw up, so I don’t see why we can’t all just apologize, make right the wrong, and then not repeat the mistake. If I pulled this kind of stunt repeatedly at work, my boss would bounce me.

  8. holdingallthecards says:

    Wanted to also add that some spouses/people are very high maintenance. They need constant attention, even if it’s negative, so they pick fights. If your world does not revolve around them, they get pissed. It’s not just about power, it’s also about constantly proving how much you love them by doting and catering to their whims.

    Solution: bring your rank up higher.

  9. Thanks for this well-thought-out post. Whenever I’ve mentioned that my husband and I basically never fight, people say that’s not “healthy” or “normal.” Meanwhile we both think it’s great that we don’t have these power struggles or conflicts. Now I have better reasoning (even if I don’t say them out loud) for why it’s perfectly healthy to not fight.

  10. OpenYourMind says:

    Before swallowing the Red Pill a year ago my wife and I fought all the time. And yes it was always about nothing besides the underlying power struggle. The fights all but stopped after applying a heavy does of MMSL to my marraige. They still creep back in here and there and its the same thing when it happens, power struggle. Our fights always go down the same way: 1. Wife gets upset or irritated about something I said or did or did not do. 2. If I completely ignore her emotions and never bring up whatever the issue was again, we’re good. 3. If I decide to be a pro-active captain and try to discuss her concerns, then she gets more emotional and more angry and this can never be resolved between us. She will simply refuse to talk further in anger and then we’re done. Any attempt to talk further once she is upset is futile.

    So even after a year of success with MMSL and a way better sex life, my wife and I pretty much just don’t ever talk about our relationship because it only makes her feel disapproved of. Even a question like “What can I do to make our relationship better for you?” is met with strong resistance and perceived disapproval. Any disapproval (real or perceived) is met with a very strong angry emotional response and no discussion can ever happen.

    So for the most part, we just don’t talk about our relationship, and as long as I maintain a strong Alpha frame and show very little beta, then we thrive.

    Does anyone have any idea why this happens? I can’t ask my wife, I’ve tried many times, because it will go down like I described above. She will get upset and we won’t be able to talk productively about it.

  11. In my experience (7 years married this fall), fights about nothing have a direct physical cause. Without fail, they come when I’m exhausted or feeling a little sick. I’ll be miserable, feeling overwhelmed (and martyred) and I will want him to fix it. What I need to say in those times is, “Honey, I’m exhausted and feeling a little sick. I don’t want to cook and the house is a wreck. Could you please order a pizza and clean the living room?” What actually happens is I start carping about the chores and how pressured I feel, which isn’t exactly motivating to him. My behavior yields the exact opposite of what I want – help and comfort. Still learning to use my words, and when I get in the habit, I predict fights about nothing will dwindle to almost never.

  12. alphaguy says:

    @Anna – I think that’s exactly how it should go down. If someone in the relationship is feeling out of sorts (sick, distracted, lack of sleep, etc) you should make it clear that you feel that way and any further discussion is going no where. Obviously that is the exception, not the rule. Don’t go around every day say you are too tired to discuss your marriage! Someone mentioned above about high maintenance and I have the opposite of Jennifer, who seems pretty low maintenance. Even when things are going really well in our marriage, it’s still a pretty high maintenance relationship. I wished I read MMSL Primer about 18 years ago, but here I am and things are pretty good right now!

  13. Christy says:

    @alphaguy. Your first comment… Ding! Exactly!! Statistically, women try to bring up structural issues more often than men (Gottman). But, if a beta-turning-alpha is practicing not responding to fitness tests, this is the result. Patience and “try, try again” is required, but so hard. Both of us need to keep trying.

    Also, it might not be a “fight,” but, rather drama. “Falling apart” is common for me when he’s not fucking me often enough or when he’s lacking the beta comfort stuff.

  14. We’ve been getting along well, but the abnormally high amount of heat is affecting our energy and at the end of the day after the kids are in bed is usually when we have time to have sex, yesterday she wanted a break and I gave it to her. No big deal to me, I did my routine to make it clear that I still have desire for her.

    This morning she decided to start a fight over nothing. I stood my ground, but I still can’t help feeling like I need some sort of coaching on a better way of handling these fights.

  15. Another important clue that the fight is about control of the relationship: neither one of you can remember how it started.

    I second the above commenter who said she’s more likely to start fights when she isn’t getting enough sex. There’s actually some kind of chemical in semen that acts as an antidepressant. I tell my husband that if I’m not getting my own special antidepressant, I get irritable.

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