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.


When You Feel Like You Married the Wrong Person

There’s always some point in your marriage when you find yourself waking up in the morning next to your not-soulmate. It’s natural to start to wonder if you even should have married them in the first place. It’s tempting to just want out, not even to be with someone else, just to simply be free of ever having to look at them again.

But in the face of a lack of significant personality defects, abuse or cheating, leaving them simply because you feel unhappy is one of those deeply conflicting questions.

i.e. “My wife is an alcoholic and can’t keep a job” is a very different situation than “my wife is lacking some girl game”, or “what’s with all these hair products everywhere?”

Some of the questions you have to ask are …

(1) Whether or not you’re screwing up the situation yourself, and just dealing with a sub-optimal relationship you can improve.

(2) Whether you’re simply expecting too much of any one person in a relationship.

(3) Whether you’re struggling through some stresses external to the relationship, which are making the relationship harder, but aren’t precisely their fault (or even your exact fault)

(4) Whether you’re still hurt by Critical Moments of Neglect by your partner and holding onto the anger etc.

I’ve had instances of all four of those factors with Jennifer.

(1) I bumbled along for years not knowing about Alpha and Beta stuff, and changing some of the things I did made positive changes. Things on this front were never terrible, but they are significantly better now. We’ve also do a lot of different things in the bedroom now than we did before.

(2) Jen is very soft, quiet, gentle, peaceful, forgiving, trusting and yielding… and at times that is something I experience as horribly under-stimulating. I now consciously create a lifestyle for myself where I have more stimulation. Part of the reason I wrote MMSL was it was something to do that was high-stim. I can’t expect Jen to provide all that for me. Likewise she is more conscious that I get bored faster than she does. We have a better balance with this now.

(3) Being broke sucks. She was stressed out a lot. Not sexy.

(4) There have been a handful of miscommunications and major incidents where I got seriously hurt and some took a couple years to work through.

At the end of the day, Jennifer loves me like no other person on earth does. But she’s not my magical soulmate where everything is perfect and we don’t have to consciously work at our relationship. She’s my wife. It’s not like I’m a perfect match for her either.

Thankfully in most cases, when you just have a background sense of vague unhappiness, without some kind of clearly dysfunctional spouse to work around, things can get remarkably better once you start working on improving your life and marriage on a conscious level.

It really can get better.

On the Dating Skills Review Podcast #66


I did the Dating Skills Review podcast with Angel Donovan.

This was a fairly laid back interview. Ended up going more into my personal life than the Alpha Beta stuff et al, but all good. I forget sometimes people don’t always know the early bits of the relationship.

The one weird moment was a disagreement over the math of how many times Jennifer and I have had sex. He made a corrected note on the transcript. My math wins!


Specifically, in this episode you’ll learn about:

  • Athol’s origins (03:58)
  • Athol’s introduction into relationship advice based on his own relationship (05:20)
  • Athol’s personal background and meeting his future wife (07:08)
  • Keeping focus on his long distance relationship (10:05)
  • Athol’s sexual life with his wife (see correction in introduction) (13:00)
  • Is marriage different compared to any other very long-term relationship? (14:55)
  • The positives and negatives of marriage versus a long-term relationship (16:33)
  • Why should marriage be a consideration when in a long-term relationship? (17:40)
  • Scenarios in which marriage should or should not be considered, from one’s own perspective as well as with the other person (19:50)
  • Changes and transition periods leading up to a sustaining marriage (24:05)
  • Scenarios involving men giving up certain traits that lead to marriage problems down the line (24:45)
  • Why men drop their alpha activities when in a long-term relationship or marriage (27:35)
  • When critical moments of neglect or failure take place that result in a lack of trust or support, whether intentional or unintentional (30:20)
  • Excuses pertaining to critical moments of neglect or failure (31:52)
  • Miscommunication scenarios: Athol’s personal example (33:54)
  • Fixing breach of trust and miscommunication issues (39:20)
  • Identifying alpha / beta problems versus trust problems (42:03)
  • Worry benchmarks to consider when there is a decrease in sex (44:48)
  • Reasons for sexual lifestyle changes (46:00)
  • Balancing alpha and beta behavior concepts in a relationship (48:00)
  • Recommendations for high quality advice in this area of dating, sex, and relationships (54:30)
  • Top three recommendations to help men get results as fast as possible in this area of their lives (55:38)

If You Wanna Go Fast… Add Beta

I was digging around on YouTube and found this gem of an interview of Sir Jackie Stewart from 1971.

It’s a discussion on how to take a corner at Monaco – the most unforgiving Formula 1 circuit in the world. It’s interesting enough if you’re into motorsport, then about two thirds of the way into it I suddenly realized he’s talking about the motorsport equivalent of Beta.



And if you want to see a lap of Monaco back in the day…


And again, this is about adding Beta, assuming you already have the Alpha in place. You still have to have the assertive instinct and willingness to sit in the drivers seat.

Maybe go back a few months and read this post again. The Leadership Moment Quota. See how smooth it is?


Is Monogamy Making You Unhaaaaappy? periodically get asked if monogamy is natural. Usually the asker is bored in their marriage, looking for the loophole justifying cheating and nothing I seem to say pleases them.

If I say it is natural they refuse to let me exit the conversation until I admit there is a volume of evidence suggesting it’s not natural.

If I say it’s not natural, they seem to think that I’m a charlatan for writing in a way that is pro-monogamy.

If I say it’s a mixture of the two, they start insisting that an adaptive strategy like swinging mixing the two is the way to go.

If I’m tired and grumpy and say they just want me to grant them permission to cheat, they tend to get offended.


Rather than by starting with debating whether or not monogamy is natural, let’s start with stating what is natural.

What is natural is the creation of long-term pair bonds between two people. It’s very natural that couples seek each other out, find each other acceptable as mates, start building a nest together, pop out some kids and raise them. It takes a long time to get a baby human to adulthood and pair-bonded parents generally speaking are the default setting for human history. This is, if you like, the Beta Strategy.

However what is also natural is seeking out opportunistic sex with those not pair-bonded to you. In the opportunistic sex method, men seek out as many partners as possible to maximize spreading their genes into the next generation. Women seek out the best possible partner for opportunistic sex, to thereby get the best possible genes added to theirs to spread them into the next generation. This would be the Alpha Strategy.

These two natural strategies lie in a dynamic tension with each other. It’s a gross simplification, but a lot of what I’ve written over the years is a way to play the Beta Strategy, by consciously augmenting it with elements of the Alpha one. I.e., being someone your pair bonded partner would also desire to have opportunistic sex with if they weren’t your partner.

Now while that’s all natural, monogamy isn’t.

Monogamy is an agreement that everyone needs to play nice and do the Beta Strategy. That agreement can be as mild as a social contract of manners and expectations, or it can be enforceable by the death penalty. It’s a sort of collective sexual strategy that makes a lot of good sense on a societal level, but can for more opportunistically motivated people, seem to be rather stifling.

If you’re playing the Alpha Strategy heavily, you tend to expend a lot of effort to get sex. It’s high risk as well. It may work out amazing, or it may turn into a Jerry Springer episode of fist-fights and paternity testing drama. It takes up a lot of resources to play Alpha all the time.

If you’re playing the Beta Strategy, you tend to expend more effort on non-sexual things, like amassing wealth and maximizing your investment into the kids.

If you’re in a position of power in your country, getting as many people as possible playing the Beta Strategy is a fantastic idea. It helps create a stable population who do all kinds of productive, functional work to develop your country. The Beta Strategy people go to work in the morning even when they feel shitty and they don’t clog up the jails. The Alpha Strategy people though, they’re a pain in the ass.

Let’s be honest here, you want to live in a country where everyone else plays by the Beta Strategy rules. It’s pretty darn awesome. Safe, secure, non-violent, productive and… and… and…

But there’s one small, itsy, bitsy, teeny, weenie problem.

Monogamy as a social contract, does exactly what it intends to do. It works exactly as advertised. You’re getting what you signed up for.

Seriously now, go check the fine print.

All that was promised was a functional, stable, family unit and a day job. You’re imagining the clause about cock exploding into vagina while two bodies writhe together like they are being Tasered. If you both want that, you have to Alpha up. You have to develop the side of you that would do well in the opportunistic sexual market place.

In that sense, what I write about is a mixed strategy, trying to take what you can from the best of both strategies. Which I guess is getting to the place where the swingers want to chime in, so let’s do it. In terms of whether something is natural or not, purposely allowing another person to have sex with someone you’re pair bonded to, is about the least natural thing in the world. The most natural thing in the world is to try and kill them. It requires a huge degree of socialization to be a swinger, so let’s not pretend that it’s all wondrous and natural. There may well have been Sex at Dawn, but there would also have been Killing at Dusk too.

So no, monogamy is not natural. But that doesn’t mean it’s without value. Jennifer and I often talk about how peaceful and relaxed our family life is compared to many others we know. No step-kids, no ex-husbands or ex-wives, no 3rd or 4th set of grandparents, no stepping around how Christmas works because five different families have to be involved. It’s quite lovely. It’s also time and energy efficient and I couldn’t have written MMSL without that as a structural factor in my life. I’d just have been too busy with family stuff.

The core of the issue is that we’re just not perfectly adapted for a modern civilization. We do all kinds of things that aren’t natural but we still think they are a good idea and worth tempering our natural instincts. Some non-natural things that spring to mind…

Flushing Toilets.

The Rule of Law.

The Internet.

Birth Control.

Private Property.

Electric Power.

Powered Flight.

International Soccer Matches.

I could go on and on, but you get the picture.

So let me flip the question around on you a little. If we assume your partner isn’t in some way broken or objectively defective, they love you and are a generally willing sexual partner, is it possible that the problem isn’t monogamy, or you being married, but simply that you aren’t being as Alpha as you want to think you are. Which is to say, maybe you’re boring. If you’re bored with yourself, your partner is probably bored with you too.

One of the things that people I coach keep telling me in moments of self-realization is that, “The MAP really isn’t about sex is it? It’s really about just being a better person, about doing what you want to do with your life. That’s what’s attractive!” It’s usually right after this revelation that they find themselves having the best sex of their lives.

It’s a big world. I’m pretty sure there are still some achievements left for you to unlock.