Welcome – Learn the bare essentials of what Athol is about.

Athol Kay is an innovative thinker, coach and author focusing on marriage and personal growth. Pulling from multiple disciplines, he creates simple, actionable steps to create positive change in your relationship and life.

Core Theory

Athol pulls from five separate veins of knowledge and knits them into a powerful single approach.

The first is from a biological understanding of the three primary biological “love systems” that make up our feelings of attraction, relationship comfort and sexual drive. An example of a book from this genre would be Dr Helen Fischer’s “Why We Love”.

The second is from the dating community about how exactly romantic attraction works, and how to create it. This aligns with the first love system of attraction.

The third is from the traditional marriage advice community emphasizing positive communication skills and expressions of love and commitment. This aligns with the second love system of relationship comfort.

The fourth is from the sexuality community about the actual expressions of sex men and women really enjoy the most, not all of which is exactly politically correct. This aligns with the third love system of sexual drive.

The fifth is an all-purpose general knowledge of health, common sense, basic morality and a holistic approach to life that ties everything together.

Message First, Marketing Second

Athol is fanatically driven to find “the answers” to the underlying reasons why people act as they do in relationships and life. Without understanding why people act as they do, the solutions offered will always be of limited value. That being said, theory must always translate into some kind of effective practical action that works… or it’s all a waste of time. Theory must work in reality.

What Athol teaches is strong enough that it will succeed without some kind of sleazy marketing campaign to bait people into overspending to get his core information. You will never be told a 30-page eBook is “worth $197, but just for today it’s on sale for $79”. Naturally there is marketing as its all part of paying the bills and sticking around long enough to spread the message, but at the end of the day, prices are reasonable, books are on Amazon, you won’t be screwed over.

Some History

Athol started writing about marriage and sexuality on forums in 2009, and then started his Married Man Sex Life (MMSL) blog in January 2010. MMSL has since grown to a number of books, a forum and a life coaching practice. Originally aimed at men fixing sexless marriages, it slowly widened its scope to a co-ed, dynamic approach to relationships and your life as a whole.

The move to opening AtholKay.com is to allow the full scope of Athol’s work of “everything related to marriage and personal growth” to be expressed, and allowing MMSL to revert back to a tighter focus on helping men create change in their sexless marriages. Much of 2015 will however be focused on the final polish to MMSL style material.

Athol and Jennifer

Athol has been married to Jennifer for 20 years. If Athol is the front man, Jennifer is the behind the scenes woman assisting with editing print and video, social media, marketing, coaching coordination and generally making sure Athol pulls away from his computer once in a while. They still have sex nearly every single day.

What is the MAP?

The MAP was originally called the Male Action Plan (2010-2012) but reframed as the Mindful Attraction Plan (2013). Essentially Athol refined the concept from his first book (The Married Man Sex Life Primer) and made it the complete focus of the third book (The Mindful Attraction Plan). The MAP takes all the key points of MMSL and channels them into a coherent plan of action to maximize your attractiveness and sense of self-worth. Then from that stronger personal frame, it allows you to more positively influence people to have better relationships with you.

“Running your MAP” means to start your own personal process of positive and productive self-improvement. Many people start the process of their MAP with a fixed objective they want to meet, i.e. saving their marriage, restarting a sex life, finding a new job and so on. However the further you get into running your MAP, the more you will find the true power in self-development is becoming Outcome Independent and seeing where the MAP takes you. You will become stronger and more capable than you could have ever imagined and far more often than not you reach your relationship goals when you stop worrying about them.

Branding, Rebranding and Landing on Our Feet

If you’ve been a long time reader, you’ve seen the posting frequency slowly dropping down in the last 12-18 months. I’m still alive, but 2014 in particular for me has been a difficult year to come to terms with. There’s been some highs and lows, but mostly I’ve been struggling with direction. In no small part because I’ve hit some finishing lines and achieved what I’ve wanted to…but there are other things that have seemed so far out of reach I’ve considered giving up. In the end, 2014 has probably been my greatest year of personal growth.

So now it’s time to talk about what I’ve learned, what I’ve done wrong, what I did right and what is coming up next in 2015.

 

The name Married Man Sex Life

I actually remember standing in the hallway outside our bedroom door talking to Jennifer about choosing it. I figured it was going to be great for SEO purposes, which it is, as about 30% of my daily hits are gay guys searching for “Man Sex”. I kid you not. It’s never fallen out of the top one or two search terms for the blog.

I’m also filtered out by spam filters in many places and you can’t even access the blog from many locations.

That being said, it does identify a target audience quite well. Married guys wanting a better sex life.

 

I attracted a female audience along with a male one

This was unexpected. I really had no clue this was going to happen, though now I look back, it should have been expected. If you explain to guys how to attract women, if women aren’t showing up to your blog, you probably aren’t teaching the guys what the women actually want.

This has turned into both a good and bad thing, good in that it’s attracting a new potential audience, bad in that the original audience starts feeling neglected.

 

Over time I have fine-tuned my theories, tools and approaches

This is both a good thing and a complicating thing. Compared to what I knew in 2010 when I started, I’m several degrees higher in experience, knowledge and above all – smoothness in application. There’s not much I disagree with in what I’ve said in 2010, or in The Primer, but there’s so many missing thoughts and nuances from what I know now.

This fine-tuning has all come from reading tens of thousands of emails from 2010 through 2012 and reading thousands of people’s threads on the forum from 2012 through 2014. The biggest influence though has been the coaching from 2013 through 2015. I don’t give advice in a vacuum. Thousands of people follow my advice, then report back. If I see a problem somewhere, I start altering my advice to compensate. In an abstract sense, MMSL is also been a giant research project where I watch a massive data set playing out. More personally, I have lain awake at night worrying about hundreds of painfully real situations, trying to figure out how to best solve them.

This is all good, because I’m not stagnant and the advice is better now than before. It’s bad though because it’s almost impossible to see that change unless you wade through 1300 posts, read all the books and have a conversation with me. If you read something from 2011… you’re getting 2011 era advice and there’s some disconnect with what I think now.

 

I’m in competition with a free (slightly confusing) version of myself

Back at the beginning, MMSL wasn’t a business. It was just some guy with a day job, blogging at night. Back then it didn’t matter what I said, or how I said it, because worst case scenario I could just delete the blog and that would be that.

There are 1300 blog posts. All free. So most people just read the blog and maybe buy a book. You can essentially get five years of my work for $20. That’s fine in the sense of it having built something, but long term it’s not sustainable as a business model. Just as importantly, if you go the free route, the advice is less clear and easier to misapply.

In part posting is down in 2014 because I don’t want to continue to give it all away for free anymore. Plus it’s exhausting to write for nothing.

Essentially *all* the marketing types I’ve ever talked to about this have been utterly horrified at the idea I have that much content freely available.

Likewise the free forum is in some senses competition with the paid coaching. The coaching is superior to the forum on multiple levels, but there’s probably plenty of people who would pay for the coaching, who just opt for the forum. Plus it takes time, money and effort to support and moderate the forum. I don’t have a solution for that at the moment.

 

I’ve only been a writer, instead of a communicator

I’m a big reader and I love books. So I wrote a blog and wrote books. Because that’s how everyone else in the whole world learns too.

Er… no they don’t. It’s been a huge error to have focused on nothing but writing. Just because I would never listen to a podcast without a gun to my head, doesn’t mean other people wouldn’t love to have my stuff as a podcast. Or a webinar, or whatever.

And apparently Jennifer has been trying to tell me this for the last couple of years, but I’m obviously so much smarter than her that I didn’t listen very well. Which explains why when I told her about this amazing breakthrough in insight I had about this, she put her forehead against my chest and hammered her fists against my shoulders. My bad lol.

 

I’ve not been sharable

Here’s the thing, there a huge barrier to most people to link a blog post from “Married Man Sex Life” on a place like Facebook. Yet that exact same post from “AtholKay.com” might have been linked.

Plus I’ve now had hundreds of people say they want to share the Primer, but can’t because of the language. That’s tons of lost business and people who could have been helped, who aren’t.

 

Jennifer finishing up her old job

I’m not sure I can ever really explain what it’s like to write something on your blog, and have someone start mailing it anonymously to your wife’s employer. We were fortunate enough to be in a place to be able to pull Jennifer from her job, and she has never given me a hard time about it. But the fact that sometimes, people really are out to get you, kills any sense of enjoyment or creativity and both are factors in writing well.

The up side to that though is Jennifer is home now. We get to see each other all through the day. Despite the doomsayers, it’s gone pretty well. She’s fallen into a mix of SAHM and my assistant. She’s enjoyed a year of reduced duties compared to her frenzy of full-time work, and she looks happier and more relaxed than I can remember her being for a while.

But for a long time us getting to hang out and be together was the goal driving the bus on a lot of motivation to work. Goal reached. Now what? Beats me, wanna go to lunch again? Zzzzzzz….

Our two girls are happier too and the travel bug trio have been more places this year than ever before.

 

So anyway… where from here?

2015 is going to be a long branding and rebranding project.

(1) MMSL will continue to exist on what is planned as a permanent basis. I’m not pulling posts et al. It’s too time consuming to change it, and people can just dredge it all up with the wayback machine anyway. I’m not planning to add lots and lots of new posts though. 1300 posts is already a colossal blog.

(2) The nexus of all my future work will start happening on atholkay.com. As of right now it’s currently in a maintenance mode as I finalize the layout and seed it with some content. MMSL will fairly closely match atholkay.com for its template and probably this weekend I’ll switch that over as well.

(3) If I’m identifying with a particular topic, it’s “marriage”. There are a number of sub-topics within that though, so atholkay.com is intended to be the nexus of “marriage everything” and each sub-topic gets its own little website focusing nothing but that sub-topic and linking back to atholkay.com.

(4) That allows MMSL to start defaulting back to nothing more than the question of “how does a married guy get laid more with his wife”, and over the years atholkay.com gets to expand into anything and everything else marriage related. Thus MMSL defaulting back to focusing on men, doesn’t simply dump the women off at the side of the road and wish them the best of luck.

(5) Defined content chunks. I’m moving toward a model where every content chunk needs its own small website and advertising, with some basic good but free information, followed by more advanced but paid information, in every format and delivery system I can reasonably produce, namely webinars, audio and books as a starting point.

(6) Point 5 is of course an information marketing model, but I don’t see myself doing the greedy evil of “it’s a $197 value, but if you buy in the next 24 hours, it’s just $79!!!” thing. There’s enough need out there that I think I’ll do vastly better long term with reasonable prices and having it be sharable. I have more than enough potential content chunks to create for years to come.

(7) The vast bulk of my efforts for 2015 will be in “finishing” MMSL as close as I imagine it can be finished right now. This will be a five part series aimed directly at the guy who *just* got the wakeup call that his wife is horribly unattracted to him and a step by step plan to turn that around. In terms of balance, think about two parts Primer, one part MAP Book, two parts unpublished + more recent posting, and all vastly more focused on simple, clear action steps. Webinars are the easiest to produce so we’re starting there, books et al starting the second half of the year.

(8) 2016 and beyond. The next thing I want to do is a series aimed directly at couples, though the college age guys / dating / spouse selection thing is high on the list too.

The big topic that I am drooling messily to get to do, is an integration of Enneagram personality typing into the MAP, but that’s going to need a serious cash on hand / Kickstarter approach to do what I what it to.

(9) Coaching is pretty close to where I want it now. I’m seeing ways to better target it to the clients I feel I best work with though.

(10) Jennifer and myself. We have 2.5 years before youngest goes off to college. Our goal is to work like crazy and then move to a warmer climate city as we both hate the snow with a passion. Then we get to do more traveling for fun and doing live events. She’s really put in serious effort supporting me this last five years and I think she deserves success too.

 

Thank you

And as always, I am very grateful that so many people have read and supported me over the years. It’s been a long road and Jennifer and I would have failed several times over were it not for people reading and supporting us.

 

WordPress Update Pain and Comment Loss

Just a quick one to say that WordPress has been extremely demanding about installing version 4.0.1 to cover a security hole in earlier versions.

Unfortunately it has some sort of database error for me and it’s making page loads 12-15 seconds long. I’ve tried to go back to an earlier restore point on 12/1/14, hoping to be rid of 4.0.1, with the unfortunate side effect of removing all comments and posts since 12/1/14. Which seemed like a good idea at the time, but hasn’t removed 4.0.1 anyway. I couldn’t reinstall the 12/7/14 database back up because it had an error. So crap.

If you’ve commented in the last 5-6 days, I do apologize for their loss.

Doing the Thing Again and Compounding Errors

There are plenty of marriage situations where one person has a problem with doing the thing.

It’s a thing they clearly should not be doing, but they do the thing anyway. Their partner at first tolerates the thing, then loathes the thing, and finally hates the thing. At some point it all goes to harsh words, threats and various assorted drama, and the evil thing-doer eventually promises that they will not do the thing anymore, they are sorry for the thing, and will get the thing all sorted out.

It goes well for a little while, they make some good progress… then they do the thing again. Whereupon their partner becomes Batshit Crazy about the thing.

So here’s the issue with these situations were you keep doing the thing.

Each time you start recovering and then lapse back, it’s typically a compounding error, meaning each lapse will tend to have a greater and greater negative impact, and take longer and longer to recover from. You might have collected a lot of +1 points as you made progress, but what look like minor screw ups can net you a -10 reduction.

Each time you lapse, you’re training your partner to believe you’ll never beat it, and you set the bar higher and higher to regain their trust. You’re also probably lapsing at the particular moments where they want to see you as being at your best, and doing the thing again is going to be a Display of Weakness every single time. Often that Batshit Crazy explosion from your partner is an expression of loss of attraction as much as anything.

Is it “just doing the thing one time”? Sure it is. I get it, it’s one bad day in a while, and you’re on an upward path. But the days where you lapse into doing the thing get you vastly more negative points because of the “boy who cried wolf” effect of all the previous failings, lies to cover up doing the thing and so on. It’s death by a thousand papercuts.

The risk is that you get yourself into the situation where you are in fact making progress, but the repeated steps backwards of the “two steps forward, one step back” shuffle, are framing you as not making any progress at all because the one step backwards carries more emotional weight than the two steps forward. It often requires some sort of outside person talking your spouse down repeatedly and reaffirming that progress is indeed happening.

If you’re the person who is doing the thing, you have to (1) very much frame the positive progress made as actually happening, and (2) acknowledge as justified any anger your spouse has about you doing the thing again, (3) not defend against their anger, just accept it, and (4) continue to make progress and stop doing the thing without trying to burden or make your partner accountable for stopping you from doing the thing.

The thing is your problem. You are your spouse’s problem. If you make you doing the thing your spouse’s problem to solve, you’ve now given them two problems to handle and you  simply aren’t attractive enough in this moment to carry it off successfully. You’re effectively giving them a reverse ultimatum of (A) just accept responsibility for my shit, or (B) dump me. So…

Depending on just how bad and big your thing is, I understand stopping might not be either an easy or simple matter. But it’s really the only way forward. It’s going to take some time, but the thing is draining your life away for no gain.

I’ve also seen a large number of Batshit Crazy people become rather less Batshit Crazy after their spouse finally stops doing the thing.

Do you have a thing you need to stop? What’s your thing?

And for those unfamiliar with the story of “the boy who cried wolf”…

20 Years and General Catch Up

 SD:  Hi Athol and Jen, it’s Thanksgiving Day and I’m taking a break from the family and working on my computer. Checked MMSL blog and see no entries since October. Just wondering if you guys are doing okay?

I’ve bought all 3 books. Athol’s advice is great and I appreciate all the work you’ve put into MMSL. Hope all is well. Just checking since no new posts for a month. New content is not the (only) point — just wanted to make sure one of my favorite bloggers is doing ok. And will be posting again when ready :-)

Athol:  Hiya, it’s been a busy month. I am alive!

Firstly, the easy one, Jennifer and I just celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary. We went to Florida and essentially did a repeat of our honeymoon, namely visiting Universal Studios and Disney World. It was a great time and we did two days at Universal and two days jumping around the Disney parks.

If you go to Universal, it’s completely worth it to stay in the on-site hotels. The benefit of walking distance to the parks, early access to the parks and the free upgrade to your tickets to the Express Pass completely rocks. We caught some lower traffic days but were completely exhausted from riding rides rather than standing in line. Both the major Harry Potter rides are exceptionally well done.

Disney World… I guess I’ll just assume you’ve heard of it. Stayed at Animal Kingdom Lodge and it’s all giraffes and zebras in the back yard of the hotel. Nice. The major change from last time we were there was the advent of the Magic Bands – your all purpose park tickets, credit card and Fast Passes – in the form of a handy little electronic wrist bracelet. I’m told they can track down lost kids who wear them too, so there’s probably some kind of GPS thing in there as well. It’s the sort of thing that if you really think about it, this is the way the entire country will be in about 15-20 years and it smacks of population control and Big Brother. But holy crap the lines move so much faster to get into the parks and for some reason the white swirly light thingy turning green just makes me happy.

So fun, fun, fun, fun…. and came back home and immediately got a low level pneumonia that I’ve fought off heroically for the last two weeks. I knew I was getting sick before we left for Florida, but at that point the money is already spent, you aren’t getting it back and all complaining can do is make everyone else enjoy themselves less. So just grin and bear it while away and come home and crash.

Thanksgiving was remarkably low key this year in that we didn’t host it. We just got to eat the food, though for some unclear reason there is now more food in our fridge than we took to Thanksgiving. Which I suppose defines it as a good Thanksgiving.

Writing the blog is complicated these days.

One issue is time, I’ve been in a situation where I can only reasonably do two of the three potential things of, (1) coaching, (2) the forum, and (3) new content creation. I’ve been slowly extracting myself from the day to day of the forum, and the coaching is going well and I’ve finally got it down to a solid three days a week of calls, rather than spread all through the week.

Just doing the coaching itself is teaching me a lot more fine tuning of my overall approach. I’ve posted less, but some of the posts are my most important ones. The Leadership Moments one is crucial for example. It’s also a case of seeing a ton of people working through the process step by step and seeing where the common stumbling blocks are. I’ve not so much been wrong in the past, but there are unquestionably ways the emphasis on certain things can be better defined and some things are just quicker to apply now.

I’m also seeing how much of a jack-of-all-trades I was trying to make MMSL. It’s Sexy Moves, it’s for men, it’s for couples, it’s affair busting, it’s about adding basic Alpha when you have too much Beta, it’s Nice Guys, it’s dealing with toxic spouses, it’s about personal energy, it’s anything and everything. Plus everything was essentially on the blog in some form and it’s hard to sell something as a book when you also have it on your blog for free. #Facepalm. Thus new content, actually has to be somehow new.

I’m seeing more and more how each thing can be sliced off and defined as it’s own topic and really the only long-term solution is simply more coherent content. So… defined audience + defined problem + defined solution = defined product topic and therefore long term success.

If there’s a problem in the marriage right now, it’s Jennifer going crazy that I’m spending all this time thinking rather than producing *anything* of the next layer of content that I could create.

So, um… working on my marriage lol.

Jennifer:  Happy Anniversary to us! Wow, 20 is a strangely impressive number. And yes, I do go crazy with Athol endlessly thinking about the many permutations of producing huge amounts of content and what should come first…and…and…and. But the end product is always so impressive that I find it hard to truly be angry.  (And as a completely unrelated side note, the place holder note for this section for me to write a little something said “Jennifer: something something dark side”. Thought you all would get as much of a kick out of that as I did.)

 

 

Boo the Villians, Cheer the Heroes

Most women have a need to verbally decompress their day. Which is a fancy way of saying they need to talk when they come from work, or you come home from work when they’ve been home all day. Women tend to be more emotionally fluid than men, and it can often seem to the guy like he’s been dropped into a verbal puking of half a dozen emotions and disconnected storylines. This is just her  clearing her daily event cache.

There are two mistakes a guy can make here.

The first potential mistake is to simply tune her out and ignore her. It’s low effort, but the cost is that more and more she simply feels like you don’t care about her. Also there’s the obvious risk of along with tuning out the clearing of the cache, you are missing more important communications. This is why you never should make grunting noises of agreement without being consciously aware of what you’re grunting agreement to. Unless you want to risk being forty-five minutes drive away from “the thing” when the thing starts in ten minutes and she’s holding seats for you both.

“Got great seats! See you soon!”

Shit. Soon for what?

The second potential error is too listen too hard, and start engaging your powers of problem solving when she doesn’t actually want to have a problem solved. She’s just clearing her cache and reconnecting with you. If you start trying to problem solve when she isn’t actually looking for it, it tends to both be interpreted as you “not listening” and as somewhat demeaning in that you’re acting like she can’t solve her own problems. It’s frustrating to her because you’re stopping the problem solving she was doing, which was simply clearing her head and feeling connected to you.

The actual solution is to do what I call “Booing the Villians and Cheering the Heroes”. Which is to say you treat it something like watching a TV show with a bag of popcorn, and simply enjoy the show. When good things happen you say “woo-hoo”, when bad things happen you say “that sucks”. Her friend does something good in her story, say “she’s awesome”, and when some bitch does her bitch thing, say “that bitch”.

That’s it. Seriously, that’s about all you have to do. Boo the villians, cheer the heroes.

Caveats…

You don’t have to sit through endless reruns of the same show. If you start hearing the same sad story of her failing or losing or whatever negative again and again, call attention to it as her making some variety of a Display of Low Value.  Then ask if she needs help troubleshooting the issue. You don’t necessarily have to run out and assist with the application of the solution either. If it’s her workplace drama for example, there’s usually zero you can do to help anyway.

Also a very high risk option is to tell her to “stop bothering me with all this and take it to your girlfriends instead”. They don’t always end up talking to their girlfriends… it’s a situation tailor made for a Beta Orbiter to get a leg up on her attention. As soon as she says you told her to get lost unless she wants cock, it’s almost impossible for another guy to screw up the stock-in-trade husband/boyfriend destroying tactical responses. Unless of course her talking to another guy, with him saying you sounded abusive was your intention. In which case, carry on.

And ladies… same thing applies to listening to talk about sports.

His team was sporting very hard, and they sported sportingly. Go sports team of his preference. Go!

 

Self-Deprecating Humor

Forum Question: Can a comedian with a self deprecating sense of humor be an Alpha Male? I remember hearing that John F Kennedy had a self deprecating sense of humor and he was an Alpha Male. I have always had a self deprecating sense of humor and wonder if I should alter it. 

I think you have to separate the comedy from the comedian when you’re thinking of whether it’s Alpha or not.

Being a comedian… especially a professional one… is unquestionably Alpha in that anyone with the balls to stand on stage with nothing but a microphone, and entertain a crowd of people for an hour, is very much walking a tightrope of victory or failure. A big part of it is not caring what the audience thinks, and how they might be offended et al. That’s Alpha.

The caveat to that being you actually have to be good at it and pull it off to be Alpha. If it goes well, it’s amazing. If it goes poorly, you reek of the most awkward social failure.

It’s also Alpha to a decent percentage of women to have a high intelligence, and the average IQ for a professional comedian is in the 140 range. Connecting different nuggets of information into something funny requires a high IQ. Almost everyone is smart enough to get the joke, but the creation of the joke requires a moment of very high IQ.

The comedian, or perhaps more correctly the comic persona, can be more or less attractive, based on what vein of humor the comedian is attempting to mine. Usually comedy is based on some sort of social disconnect, vulnerability, fear or frustration. Less common professionally is wordplay, because after an hour of wordplay humor, it’s no longer punny.

Self-deprecating humor is a variety of using personal vulnerability as a power source. As such it tends to reduce your attractiveness. However it’s possible to use the observation of that same vulnerability, and the under lying social disconnect creating it, and do it from a stronger frame of attractiveness.

It’s the difference between making a joke about you being some variety of loser, and you making a joke explaining how losing happens. You essentially frame yourself as a winner by default.

As a rough example of this, Louis CK is unquestionably at the top tier of the comedy world, but a fair bit of his material is centered on being unattractive and failing with women. Someone like the late Patrice O’Neal mined a lot of humor out of explaining male-female social dynamics. The average guy in the street is probably going to be a lot better off doing Patrice-like humor than Louis CK-like humor.

Oh and in terms of Presidential humor, well again, you already have massive social proof in that you’re the President of the United States.

And drones. I’m pretty sure having the ability to unleash attack drones makes you funny.

 

Who Is Your Jury?

There’s often a generalized line of advice that you shouldn’t worry about what other people think, and just do what seems right to you. It’s meant to cut through the self-doubt, the people pleasing and get you finally doing the things that you’re best suited for doing. There are some people who feel like their life is an endless jury trial where everyone passes judgment on them. It’s generally good advice.

However, there are two basic problems with this advice…

(1) The type of people who really don’t care what other people think and just do what seems right to them, tend to also be called sociopaths.

(2) Most people who aren’t sociopaths, are pretty terrible at trying to act like sociopaths.

So let’s just admit that we all do worry about what other people think to at least some degree. We all like to be liked, we all like friends, most of us don’t want to screw our fellow man over either. In short, we do care what other people think.

The real question though, is not whether we care what people think, but who you allow to sit on your internal jury to pass judgment.

Seriously now, sit back and have a long think about who you worry about pleasing, who’s opinion you to try and follow and why you want to follow it. Who have you put on your jury? Most of us tend to have some automatically assigned people like parents, siblings, spouses, close friends and peer group members. All these people have been selected uncritically.

Now think of all the different situations you have today, the choices and challenges you face.

Are any of the people currently sitting on your jury, qualified to have a genuinely valuable opinion on the subject at hand?

Are any of the people currently sitting on your jury, free of self interest when it comes to the decisions you’ll be making?

If you were starting from scratch in picking out a jury for yourself today, would you pick any of the people currently on it?

Who would you pick instead? If you had to please / impress / get the approval of five or six different people for the rest of your life, who would you pick?

What’s interesting is how much power we give away to people who essentially have no real leverage over our lives, apart from that which we give them.

So who is on your jury? Who should be?

 

 

Five Date Nights = One Fight Night

I’m a big believer that your overall approach to your relationship needs to be as positive as it can be.

Have a quick watch of John Gottman…

So what does that mean in terms of practical application?

Well, sometimes the best thing you can do is just knock off the pointless fighting for no reason. Stop the snarky one-liners. Stop the eye-rolling. Stop the passive-aggressive ignoring. Stop the nagging. Stop the whining. Stop slamming the doors. Stop assuming disrespect. Stop trying to find a negative motivation behind what they are doing.

I’ve seen so many misapplied attempts to be Alpha just coming across as a contemptuous asshole, that I’ve started wondering if some guys are actively trying to tailspin the relationship into the ground. Should you stand up for positive boundaries and not be taken advantage of? Sure you should, but that’s not being an asshole, that’s being a functional adult.

In all seriousness, I see the greatest and fastest gains in relationships, when people just stop doing the things that are negative. You don’t even have to do anything new, just stop the endless Displays of Low Value and Negative Energy.

Or put another way, if the five-to-one ratio of positive-to-negative is correct, maybe you have to start thinking of it more like five date nights being equal to one fight night.

If you had to try and change your relationship to fall into line with a five-to-one ration of positive-to-negative, what would you have to change?

All Else Being Equal, Assume Love.

I’ve seen something really interesting with the couples I’ve been coaching.

I tend to lean heavily toward getting as much information as possible before we get to the call stage of things, and I usually have a pretty good idea of which way things are going to go. But there is always something about seeing people in person and hearing their vocal tones. There’s always a ream of information in the way a couple sit next to each other, who turns to look at the other when they speak, who speaks first, who rolls their eyes and sighs. When I ask a particularly pointed question… who locks eyes with mine and gives that tiny little up and down nod with a quarter-smile that someone finally gets it.

There are also all the questions about their history. How did you guys meet? Tell me the story of you two.

And they tell me.

At some point though, I usually have to drop the bombshell… and just to be clear, I don’t do it unless I genuinely believe it to be true.

“You guys love each other a lot. I can see it.”

Usually that’s closely followed with something like…

“There’s a lot we can work on here, but it’s not like I’m seeing any great deal-breaking issues. This is all fixable.”

Their looks of utter relief are so palpable. It’s as if I said something like “The biopsy is back and there’s no cancer.”

Now I realize I’m the great and mighty Athol, who is the expert of all things marriage, and there’s probably some kind of placebo effect here. But the effect is so much greater than what I bring to the table. I mean I’ve sat through hour long tales of everything a couple has done up until now. There’s risk, pain, sacrifice, triumph, joys and failures on their journey of togetherness… but they still aren’t sure there’s love there sometimes.

It’s like their greatest struggle is against the fear that divorce is their destiny. I’m totally blown away at how powerful it is to a couple to simply hear that someone else thinks they love each other.

Now to be sure no one gets married for perfectly benign reasons of saintly love for their partner, but invariably people do indeed marry from a desire to love and be loved. Misunderstandings and tiredness imputed with an assumption of a lack of love, will quickly spiral the relationship into a dark place. It can be incredibly destructive to a relationship to have the wife’s girlfriends endlessly explaining what’s wrong with men and how secretly abusive all of them are. It can be incredibly destructive to a relationship to have the husband’s manly mentors endlessly explaining what’s wrong with women and how secretly abusive all of them are. It can be incredibly destructive to a relationship to have the culture endlessly repeating a badly written sitcom assumption that love, sex and happiness ends at the altar.

So all else being equal, assume love.

And try it out yourselves. If you know a couple who are being good to each other, tell them so. It has a way of changing things for the better.