The Red Yellow Green Sexual Communication Tool

This is going to be an important post for a lot of couples.

There’s a ton of advice about whether you should or shouldn’t be having sex on any given night. There’s the default yes, fake it until you make it, no means no, push through her resistance, always be closing, don’t push against her shields once they are up, pound her hard and if nothing works be outcome independent.

Got all that?

What I’ve realized is that some of that confusion is coming from me, in that Jennifer and I from the get go were lucky enough to have mutually aligned assumptions about sexual communication. I’ve just assumed that everybody else communicated the same way. So what this post is going to do is reverse engineer what Jennifer and I actually do in terms of a decision matrix about what we do on any given night. Not that every night we have sex, but that every night we make a conscious decision about having it or not. We don’t wait to be “in the mood” to communicate about sex. The goal here is to give you some kind of shared language and avoid misunderstandings and lost opportunities for sex.

For the most part, this is aimed at “MMSL couples” looking to build a better sex life. The assumption is that both of them want to work together to have a better sex life and connection. They may not feel ultra turned on by each other, but it’s enough to want to work on things. It also assumes no medical issues et al interfering with baseline desire.

Also Jennifer is the lower desire partner and I’m the higher desire partner. So most of the time Jennifer is the one making a color choice and I’m more typically the one making an initiation attempt.

Green = This means Jennifer is very sexually interested tonight. Basically anything is up for grabs and I can push for an “above average” night of sex. This is the night of something more rough and dominant from me. Basically the harder I push / desire / want her, the better her response. Green = Just fuck me. Go Alpha.

Yellow = This means Jennifer is neither particularly turned on, nor resistant to sex tonight. This can go one of two ways usually, (1) a longer foreplay toward warming her up and ultimately her coming to orgasm and enjoying it for herself, or (2) her not wanting that but being willing to give me something like a handjob, blowjob, or the quickee intercourse option. This is from me a softer initiation push than a Green night. On a Green night I’m pushing her toward her maximum sexual response. On a Yellow night, I’m initiating for the purpose to get sex and have a mutually pleasant sexual experience together. Yellow = Warm Jennifer Up / Something for Athol. Go Alpha/Beta.

Red = Jennifer does not want anything sexual tonight. I don’t push her at all about this. Not a damn thing. I usually offer some sort of care bear routine for her as well, usually her Red nights she’s sick or genuinely tired. Red = No means no. Go Beta.

Whether it’s a Red, Yellow or Green night, I don’t get upset and complain about it to her. I remain outcome independent about it.

For the most part, my first steps are simply to discover whether or not it’s a Red, Yellow or Green night. Once I know what kind of night it is, I tailor my approach to that.

But until I make a move, I might not know it’s a Green night, because she might not tell me.

Relationship Momentum

In terms of the overall relationship momentum, imagine a 1-100 scale with 100 being the best possible and 1 being the worst possible.

In the 71-100 range, you’ll probably get a mix of Greens and Yellows and a  handful of Reds.

In the 31-70 range, you’ll mostly get Yellow, but also a variety of Greens and Reds.

In the 1-30 range, you’ll mostly get Red, with some Yellow thrown in. Maybe a Green if you’re getting ovulation sex.

Gaining Points

Every night you make the correct call, i.e. she wants Green and you act Green, you get a +1 to your relationship. Same thing on Yellow nights, she wasn’t wildly into it, but you still had a good experience together, you get a +1. On Red nights, you don’t force the issue at all, you get a +1.

Losing Points

Every night you make the wrong call, you get a -1 to your relationship. She wanted “Just fuck me” Green, and you were too soft on approach (Yellow) or ignored her (Red). She wanted something sedate or just for you Yellow and you tried to get her to have pornstar sex (Green) or didn’t make any move on her (Red). She didn’t want anything at all on a Red night and you tried to get a Green or Yellow response.

Adaptive Strategy

What happens with a lot of struggling couples, is that they get advice to “Always Green!”, or “Always Yellow!” or “Ignore Red, just push yourself through it and act Green.” The result of that is some nights get a +1 and some nights get a -1 and they all balance each other out. Thus over the long term, the relationship doesn’t get any better. If your relationship momentum score is a 30 and you go +1 -1 +1 -1 +1 -1 +1 -1 +1 -1…. you’re still going to be stuck at 30 even though you’re both working hard on your relationship.

You have to have an adaptive strategy to heal a fragile relationship.

You cannot force a sexual response from someone who doesn’t want to give one, without risking seriously negative effects to your relationship. So when the relationship is down in the dumps below 30, that may well mean a whole lot of not having sex at first.

If she’s not interested in sex with you (Red), you must stop orbiting her or expressing anger about not getting porn star sex (“Why aren’t you Green?”), or not even bothering to give you a handjob (“I just want a Yellow, why can’t you Yellow?”). When she’s feeling Red about sex and you demand / pout / threaten / tantrum and she lets your fuck her, you get Red Sex and you complain about that…. (“She just lays there like a Starfish!”)

So my advice from here is to actually start using the words Red Yellow Green until you get a handle on it. Over time, you won’t need to say the words because you’ll internalize them.

This has all been largely focused at the guys/higher desire partner, so a final thought for the women/lower desire partner…

If you force yourself to have sex you don’t want and hate every minute of it. In what bizarro world does that fix your relationship and make you love your partner more?


  1. haniel says

    after reading this the first thought I had was an image of my wife and I playing some adult version of red light green light.

  2. type_plus says

    “If she’s not interested in sex with you (Red), you must stop orbiting her and being angry about not getting porn star sex (“Why aren’t you Green?”)”

    This could be misunderstood to being a demand to be angry. Dont know if it’s just me but had to read that sentence a few times to get its true meaning.

  3. BetaTester says

    I figured this out a while ago but could not put it together in so few words. I was following advice from the forum and misinterpreted “just push through” as something I should be doing. I pissed her off many times. I am now getting a better focus on the green/yellow/red light but it is not spoken so literally. I wish I had this post 6 months ago.

  4. Trimegistus says

    Just to be perfectly blatant: if you’re not getting as much Green or Yellow as you want, why should you try to strengthen the relationship at all?

    You’re advising women sexually disinterested in their husbands to just cut bait and run? Or perhaps just get something on the side?

    You see what I did there.

  5. Sean says

    Does Jennifer give you more than just the Green, Yellow, Red? Does she explain or expand at all?

    I used to ask how / why she felt a particular way. These days I’m not asking but I’ve got a wife that would say zero words all day if she could. It’s nice to know how your partner feels but seems like a DLV to always be asking.

    We don’t actually use the words Red Yellow Green, we just talk / I make a move. I don’t have any expectation she needs to justify her feelings. More often than not when she’s really feeling Red, she’s trying to nice about it and say Yellow. I typically decline her if I think she’s really a Red that night. “You don’t look well, go to sleep.”

  6. acmartin1960 says

    A relationship is way more than sex, although sex is an integral part. You work to strengthen the weak parts while not weakening the already strong parts.

  7. Chris says

    I kind of thought that the reason most guys are on MMSL is because they are always in the red zone for reasons other than sexual interests.

  8. Dale says

    Only problem is the Red: Go Beta comment; fine if the relationship overall is good and Red is occasional, but for guys who wives aren’t attracted the go beta may not be right!

  9. LT says

    Hmmm…I actually find that when I’m feeling “yellow” it helps me get more in the mood if my husband is more aggressive/alpha. (I.e., for us it’s better if he treats yellow like green – I can always ask to shift to quickie mode in the moment.) It turns me off if he’s hesitant or caters to my “yellow-ness” too much…

  10. Red says

    It seems to me that you pay attention to Jennifer’s behavior / indicators / signs and correctly interpret them most of the time. Being able / willing / committed to doing that is half the battle.

  11. Paul says

    I know ‘love’ is supposed to be a compromise, but I cannot stomach deliberately being beta and pretending to be outcome indifferent.

    Is it possible that the more reds(aka blue balls) you accept the more you prove yourself a true beta and the more you’re gonna get reds thrown your way for increasingly trivial reasons until eventually you feel lucky to sleep in the same bed.

    The lower desire partner needs to cater to the higher desire partner, male or female – I believe the ‘if you don’t take care of yo man (/woman) somebody else will’ frame should be taken as gospel by both parties.

    “The lower desire partner needs to cater to the higher desire partner.” You’re stating a contract that can’t be enforced by complaining it’s not happening as you want it to. It’s not a solution that works.

  12. paniym says

    This sounds very simplistic with the naive understanding of women and I know you know better. For those of us living our married lives in beta servitude there are never any green light nights and for me never any yellow light nights. It’s only been red for years at a time. Especially since menopause.

    Even with my new found red pill wisdom about being alpha there is nothing but red. Even when applying game it’s still the same. When you’ve been so sexually frustrated for years on end stupidly trying make things work and trying your best to live by the Bible it’s extremely hurtful listening to your simplistic view of Red Light, Yellow Light, Green Light. Especially since your wife hasn’t experienced menopause and especially since you assume most women are like Jennifer. Many women are not. Many women are just selfish B**#$%. Sorry but it’s the truth.

    You completely ignored the bold red text that very clearly said who it was directed at.

  13. KickboxerGal says

    I just love care bear routine – how cute. I’m assuming that means lots of cuddling which is sooooooo romantic and may just change her mind and make her yellow or green light. I know it would for me regardless of how exhausted I was. Love this article Athol.

  14. Jen says

    What would be a good way for your wife to approach you and end the long Red Zone period? I have Red-zoned my husband for quite a while. I know that I need to make the first move now but don’t know how.

  15. Dan says

    If you’re in that 1-30 range, couldn’t you get stuck in a really bad equilibrium? The string of Reds makes outcome independence physically difficult for a high libido partner, which makes the string of Reds longer, which makes outcome independence more difficult, which…

    The lack of outcome independence is often a source of her not wanting sex in the first place. The point of calling “red” is so they actually understand to be outcome independent better.

  16. Joe_Commenter says

    @Jen. It’s beyond awesome that you recognize that you need to make the move. But don’t overthink this. He’s your husband. Just walk up to him and say “CAn I borrow you for 1/2 hour? you know I’ve missed you” and you lead him to the bedroom.

  17. Jen says

    @Joe_Commenter –
    O.K. I will try it – just need to prepare for possible rejection. I suspect he pretty much hates me for my lack of interest in sex and may want to retaliate. Maybe men don’t think that way, though.

  18. Joe_Commenter says

    @Jen. If he does reject you he’s an idiot. I get it that he may be pissed. But when someone begins doing the very activity you have always wanted them to do, best thing to do is praise it, not criticize it. So it may make hubby feel better for a second to retaliate, but long run, it’s a stupid thing for him to do.

    For you, if he does blow up at you, don’t take it personally. Initiate again at a later time. It will be worth it eventually.

  19. ZLX1 says


    He doesn’t hate you. He might be ticked under the surfac and it is highly likely that he does not trust you. I expect that for some period of time you have rejected him or used sex in an effort to manipulate his behavior, hence his distrust of yo and your intentions is highly likely. However, he’s a dude, he’s not going to turn you down, but if you are nervous about that, start off with ye ole BJ to get the party going. Afterwards, I would suggest refraining from any appearance of tying the sex to something you want from him. That would only exacerbate his feelings of distrust concerning your motives.

    Long story short, just bang the guy. You’re married. You’re supposed to be banging each other. Get to it and keep the good times rolling.

    The lolz.

  20. says

    Paniym – libido and the actual ability to have sex becomes a more complex issue after menopause. If I can get time, I’ll try to write a detailed post on the matter. You are right, Athol cannot understand totally how things are after menopause because he’s not been there. I expect he will grow into the role. I find I can apply the things he talks about, but need to use the lens of my own experience. I do hope things will get better for you. C

  21. Chakotay says

    I agree with ZLX1 that your husband may not hate you, but it’s almost a certainty that he mistrusts you. I know I can’t project too much of my own experience onto your situation, but if my wife were to start initiating ANY kind of sex, much less a BJ, I would probably be on instant red alert. I wouldn’t turn her down, but I’d be wondering the whole time ‘What is she up to, and how is this going to come back and bite me?’ Even if her actions managed to convince me that her intentions were good, I would certainly be thinking that there’s no way this little happy time is anything more than a hormonal accident that probably won’t last. I’d be on my defenses thinking you’re just going to get my hopes up – yet again – that we’re finally turning the corner to head into good times, only find that this was only a one-time event and I’ll be disappointed and rejected in short order – again.
    So, the most important thing for you to do is make sure you’re initiating because it’s what you want, and because it’s the right thing to do, and because you know in your heart that you are committed to making this a permanent change in your relationship. If you can’t do it for the right reasons, and stick to it, then you’re just teasing him, and that’s just cruel.

  22. Rashawn says

    I believe you are still the Alpha Male on a red light night. You just show it in a dfferent way (wink)

  23. says

    The problems in our relationship wasnt at all through me “not being alpha” then but on me being too cavemna on her.
    Our most reccent fight was when I kinda hit her when she is declining,
    thanks for clarifying this
    this is an eye opener..

  24. Tenderheart Bear says

    Oh my. Thank you for this! I just found this site tonight (after a bad ‘red’ night on my part and a pouty response by my higher-desire partner). I was reading some stuff online about not being attracted to my husband (we’re married 6 years now), and on a forum, it linked to your site. I have NEVER heard of you before (no idea how, because it’s all really great). I’m not *really* not attracted to my husband; he’s an AAAAAAF partner (as am I) — except he has crazy high desire (like, every single night, EVERY SINGLE NIGHT!!!). I know I am the lower-desire partner, but some nights, I do have green nights! Most of our nights are yellow, I would say, and I have the occasional red. But he never LETS me have my red nights. He is terrified of the outcome one person mentioned — that if he doesn’t keep pushing, we will just keep having red nights until we are *that* married couple that never, ever has sex and he just feels thankful I haven’t kicked him out. Even though reality doesn’t bear that out. He is a good bit overweight, but, man, he’s a great dad, a great, moral man, a hard-worker, smart as hell, and fun to hang out with. I love him. Our sex life is our one issue. I am so thankful I found this site…I’m going to buy the Mindful book right now.


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