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?

Valentine’s Day and the Gift of an Alpha Experience

@Dewy:  Here’s my dilemma: Earlier today, my girlfriend announced by text that since I am not there on Valentine’s Day this year we should celebrate it this early, this weekend. And she’s expecting a present. Apparently her therapist suggested that we need to be more romantic, and as we don’t normally do much for Valentine’s, we should make a big thing of it this year.

At first the exchange started off pretty lighthearted. She dropped hints about silver or chocolate presents. I dropped hints about more intimate “gifts” instead. She fought a bit for the cause of materialism, and I jokingly pointed out how unmaterialistic I am (and made more sex jokes). But she kept on about presents and eventually suggested that I was making her “feel judged for suggesting we try something fun and different”. (I guess I don’t like being told I’m expected to by expensive presents for someone, or else…).

What do I get her? She just texted me to say she is “buying the components of my present now”. I need to do something in response, however minor, but there are two problems. (1) I have virtually no free time in the next 24hrs to get her anything, and (2) I’m annoyed how she is putting me in this situation of demanding something at the last minute.

Is this sort of a fitness test? If so, is it a shit test or a loyalty test?

Athol: Okay, let’s do the Fitness Test vs. Loyalty Test thing first. Fitness Test meaning she’s looking for some sort of Alpha attraction building response, and Loyalty Test meaning she’s looking for some sort of Beta relationship comfort building one.

This one is pretty ugly because it’s actually a Fitness Test AND a Loyalty Test presented in a Double Bind. Meaning you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

If you act like it’s a Fitness Test and somehow bump back on it and don’t get her something, then it will very likely be announced that you’re failing a Loyalty Test and your lack of gift signifies that you don’t care about her. That claim will be backed up by the authority of the therapist having recommended in. No gift = bad.

If you act like it’s a Loyalty Test and just immediately run out to the fancy gift store like a dog chasing a thrown tennis ball… she’ll eat some of the chocolates, then as her blood sugar dips she’ll find a way to express her quiet disappointment you’re so biddable. Probably by complaining all this chocolate is going to make her fat and you’ll sabotaging her. Gift = bad.

So…. what to do…

Well, (I’m armed with a little extra information from another forum thread,) I suspect a part of the reason she’s depressed / in therapy / on SSRI’s is because she’s in the situation where she’s struggling to find ways to hamster herself into staying with a guy that’s currently low Alpha and high Beta.

My suggestion is to give a gift of something that equates to an Alpha / high dopamine / high stimulation experience for the two of you. i.e. Ride rollercoasters somewhere, parachute jumping, date night out somewhere unusually good, ziplining, waterparks, a seriously extreme bouncy castle with no regard for safety.

There is a gift, so it meets the Loyalty Test side of the Double Bind.  But it turns the Fitness Test around on her and turns the acceptance of the gift into a Compliance Test that she has to pass. She has to step up and do the high stimulation experience, otherwise she’s chicken and/or bitchy for not accepting the gift. Double Bind that back at you baby. Which sounds a little manipulative but all you’re really doing is running your MAP in a way that dovetails with Valentine’s Day. Just add an Alpha experience and give her what she actually needs from you, rather than what her therapist thinks she wants.

@Dewy: Has anyone ever told you that you are a genius?! Most of those activities are a bit out of my budget, but I started rock climbing 3 months ago as part of my MAP and she mentioned she would like to try it. Plus it will be a good opportunity to Display High Value with my mean climbing skills…

Athol: So dear reader…

What’s your plan for Valentine’s Day?

 

Quality Time = Shared Tasks

This one is pretty simple, but it’s amazingly effective for working with a spouse that has a Quality Time love language.

99% of the time men assume that their Quality Time loving wife, wants to just sit around together watching TV. Or go on a date and gaze into one another’s eyes. Or something else completely boring as hell to the male psyche.

Her:  “Let’s have a picnic!”

Him:  *fakes having a seizure*

So…

The solution is in fact stunningly simple and easy. Stop trying to spend Quality Time together, and start Sharing Tasks.

There’s plenty of basic everyday tasks that have more than enough space to share the load together. The most obvious one is the whole cooking dinner –> eating dinner –> cleaning up routine. While you’re both in the kitchen together, there’s plenty of time to Suffer Through Vacuous Crap  (1) Talk About Your Day, (2) Help Out Around The House, (3) Spend Quality Time Together, (4) be Cocky and Funny and (5) avoid a charge of sexual harassment through sheer hotness.

Seriously, that’s all it is. Quality Time = Shared Tasks.

Make the kids lunches together in the morning. Split the Saturday morning cleaning together. Go grocery shopping together. Anything works if that’s her love language.

I also guess you have to act like actually sharing the task isn’t some onerous burden of misery that must be suffered through. Act like you like who you’re working with.

I mean think of all the emotional and physical affairs that start off because people were working together.

Jennifer: Yes! Exactly! People are busy…don’t stress about scheduling Quality Time, just find it where the opportunities already exist.  My favorite is the occasional grocery shopping trip together, which sometimes includes a stop at Panera for a bagel and coffee before we shop.  Task completed + hanging out together = Happy Jen.

Athol: Oh yeah. There’s another type of Quality Time error I see. That’s the one where she seeks you out to offer her assistance, but you’re so amazingly awesome at the task you tell her you don’t need her help. Which naturally she internalizes into you not needing… her.

 

 

Displays of High Value Need to be Tangible Displays (Behold the Wall of Smart)

I keep coming across this thing where genuinely high value people… don’t display their value tangibly. By tangible I mean that in the movie version of your life, the director could just do a 20-30 second pan across your stuff  in the opening credits and we’d have a pretty good head start on your character development. Look at all the awesome stuff about this guy, the opening credits stop… aaaaaaaand… then the reveal shot of our story’s hero. Boom! We already like this guy, don’t we? Yes we do.

Instead…

…I see a lot of Nice Guy faux humility where supposedly material stuff doesn’t matter. I get there’s some obvious concerns about not appearing to be bragging or displaying a bunch of faked high value. That sort of thing is always found out eventually. But I’m talking about guys who take their hard earned value and then bury it so no one can see it. So in the movie version of their life, that 20-30 second pan shot covers a bunch of non-descript crap. Then cue up the narration about how the wife is great, loyal, pleasant and has a horribly low libido.

See how that works?

Look, if you don’t actually display your genuine high value, she’s not going to react to it the same way as she would if it was displayed effectively. You don’t make the opposite sex get horny for you via logic. You have to offer tangible displays of high value. Here’s what I mean…

You have $20,000 cash in your checking account. Logically that’s more than $2000 in cash, but take a roll of twenty $100 bills out of your pocket and it’s far more tangible and real. The cash will have a greater pull on the emotions of everyone around you. The cash is far more tangible.

You have a college degree. That’s nice. But where is the actual degree itself? I mean it’s all nice written on a resume, but why isn’t it framed on the wall somewhere so everyone can see it? Why aren’t you displaying your degree?

You own your own business and can easily afford a nice suit, but instead you dress semi-casual. You’re telegraphing that business isn’t going that great by the clothes you wear. Everyone responds better or worse based on your clothes. Put on a suit and suddenly everyone thinks you’re doing fabulous.

You’ve worked out hard in the gym and your body is finally in the best shape it’s been in for the longest time. But you still wear baggy clothes that hide your body. Where’s the clothing upgrade?

In terms of myself…

One of the things I worked out about a year ago is that Jennifer is attracted to smart guys. Money is nice, hard body is nice, power is nice, dangerous is unwanted and smart is really important to her. So I’ve somewhat unwittingly been Displaying High Value the entire time I’ve been writing MMSL It’s a giant display of smart guy as I’ve written three books and endless blog posts and the forum and coaching yada yada yada.

But unless she’s actually looking at the books, or reading the blog or forum, it’s not really in her face enough to be truly tangible. Which is why I slapped together one of those Ikea cube bookshelves and artistically arranged my books as a pride of place display. It’s got my books, a few other framed things and enough other books to make it look like a functional bookcase, which it is. It’s now very tangible. I call it my “Wall of Smart”.

So in the movie version of my life, when the camera pans over the Wall of Smart, you’d know I was an author several times over, what I wrote about and read, you’d know I was married to Jennifer and get the sense that I was a kind of a deep thinking person. Even better, I’ve placed the Wall of Smart behind my desk, so that on coaching calls on Skype or Google Hangouts, my clients get to see me sitting in front of it. Thus Displaying High Value to them as well.

More importantly, it covered up the horrible 1970’s wood paneling I had been sitting in front of previously.

But even more importantly than that, I just feel so good looking at it and knowing it’s there. I’m displaying higher value and it makes me feel higher value. Which then makes everyone else react to me better because feelings are infectious. I feel better about me, so you feel better about me.

So enough of me. What about you?

In the movie version of your life, what would be in your 20-30 second opening pan shot? What would it tell us about you?

What’s your version of the Wall of Smart?

You Can’t Make a Positive Change With Negative Emotions

Negative emotions are great for defining and identifying a problem.

We are angry when our personal boundaries are crossed. We’re depressed when in a draining relationship. Sad or rejected when others don’t want us or we suffer loss. Cranky when we’re tired.

There’s nothing wrong with feeling these emotions, they are natural and expected reactions to have. But they are all low energy, negative emotions. More importantly, when you start expressing them to others, they are almost always going to be a Display of Low Value of some sort.

Just think about it. Who wants to be with someone who is angry, depressed, emotionally hurt and irritable. Even more to the point, who wants to take their clothes off and get down and dirty with a morose whiny prick?  Vag-clang!

Now you can explode a huge wave of negative emotions at someone and get them to comply with your relationship demands successfully, but it will only be a short-term victory. You’ll buy a few days of peaceful compliance, but at the cost of slowly worsening your relationship happiness. Your partner starts to resent you more and more, as their love for you slowly gives away to far more negative emotions… like fear, pain and eventually hate.

Your endless expression of negative emotions simply makes the relationship worse.

The only true solution of negative problems, is by being positive. Just as negative emotions make things worse, positive emotions tend to make things better.

Calm insistence on good personal boundaries works better than victim puking rage. Being energetic and getting into positive action slowly wins the war over depression. Not wallowing in sadness when others don’t love us and getting out and finding those that do is the path to happiness. Sleep and relaxation trumps cranky and tired.

You cannot make a positive change with negative emotions.

Now this may all sound like Pollyanna playing the Glad Game, but it’s not quite that simple. This is the real world, where things are hard, life can be difficult, money is hard to make and true love is rare, precious and probably not for you.

Hang on…

How did that last sentence just feel?

When I said “This is the real world, where things are hard, life can be difficult, money is hard to make and true love is rare, precious and probably not for you.”  Did you just feel the weight of world smashing down upon you and want to give up even trying to be happy?

I bet you did.

That’s because feelings are infectious.

So stop trying to infect everyone around you with your crappy day. All that happens is your crappy day gets reflected right back to you and you feel worse for it.

Find some part of your life to start working on more positively and productively. In time you’ll find it grows stronger and happier, then those positive feelings start to infect other parts of your life and the people around you. Then your good days start getting reflected right back to you and you’ll feel the better for it.

Now this may all sound like Pollyanna playing the Glad Game…

…but you’ll find out soon enough that only most people respond positively to you being more positive. In fact some people will respond to you even worse than before. Those people are incredibly toxic to you and sometimes the best thing you can do is cut them from your life as much as possible. Sometimes that will be a very negative experience at the time, but ultimately a positive one over the long haul.

But even then, removal of a negative effect in your life doesn’t make you happy, it simply removes something making you unhappy. You still have to act positively to become happy in the aftermath of it.

Sometimes being positive in the face of negativity is the hardest thing in the world. But it’s the only thing that can result in a positive change.