Archive for the ‘Relationships’ Category
A few of my friends are in open marriages. I keep company with what are often referred to as “sophisticated” or “well-educated” people… college professors, advanced professionals, CEOs, etc. I find that these are the types of people most likely to be in open marriages.
The first point I want to make: open marriages are very high risk. Some people are more risk averse than others. Just because something is risky doesn’t mean it’s not doable. Just that the risk of failure is pretty high. The rewards for those who can navigate it may be pretty high as well.
The second point I want to make: every single person I know who’s in an open marriage went through a rough patch and had to adapt the rules to fit their personalities.
The third point I want to make: I had a relationship with a married woman who was in an open marriage. Shortly afterwards, her and her husband got divorced.
The fourth point: most people are not built for open marriages. Our primitive emotions (jealousy, a desire for security, etc.) are threatened by the context of open marriage.
The fifth point: I know many well-educated and sophisticated people who aren’t in open marriages and are happy with monogamy.
Types of Open Marriages
Most of the open marriages I’ve seen can be categorized using these four categories:
where both partners tell each other everything
Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell:
both partners consent to discrete affairs that don’t intrude on family time and family life
where both partners in the open marriage have a relatively similar number of partners. an ideal, but rarely realized.
where one of the partners in the open marriage is more active than the other. much more likely outcome than symmetrical promiscuity.
Open Marriages That Work
Historically, there are many cultures in which it was assumed that the man was free to roam as long as he did not disgrace the family. That would be an example of “Asymmetrical Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and this kind of arrangement seemed to work out for the most part.
The people I know who are in open marriages today have found that Full Transparency doesn’t work and that a transition to Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell while fully honoring family responsibilities is the best model. That way there is no keeping count. And the primitive emotions aren’t constantly being tapped. As long as there is implicit consent, and discretion is taken… things seem to work out ok. But getting there appears to always involve conflict.
One further point: being in a successful open marriage requires that both partners trust each other to the nth degree. Trust each other to stay committed as primary partners. Trust each other to make smart decisions (about protection, etc.) And it also takes a culture of non-suspicion and full independence.
These things are very rare in relationships. So my advice is: don’t try an open marriage unless you’re willing to take big risks, you’re married to someone who can make smart decisions, and you’re both independently strong enough to survive the possibility of losing each other and thrive afterwards.
And here’s the final thing I’ll say: risk, in general, provides a high… a thrill. But our brains are built so that we’re never satisfied. At some point, you’ve got to draw a line on risk taking (or die at 27).
I’ve seen enough open marriages fail to say that it is very likely a bad option unless you are in extraordinary circumstances. But I’ve also seen a few open marriages produce a happy couple… so it’s not out of the question.
The other night before bedtime my son (who is way too young to be asking questions like this) asked me “Daddy, how do you find a woman to marry?”
Alright. Suck it up. Time for a man-to-man talk.
Here’s what I said. For better or worse. It’s not perfect, but nothing is.
Hey man, you don’t have to even think about getting married for a long, long time. Not until you become a man. But when you do become a man… The most important thing: you should only get married to a woman who makes you a better man. A woman who admires you and supports your dreams. If a woman causes you a lot of trouble, or complains a lot, or asks for lots of things, you won’t want to get married to her. So take your time, see what a lot of different women are like, and if you get to a point where you want to settle down with a girl and marry her and have kids, ask yourself if she’s good enough for you. Not all women will be. Some will. None will be perfect though. Everyone makes mistakes sometimes.
There are a lot of women out there who would not be good to get married to. That’s why it’s important to take your time. A lot of men decide not to ever get married… and that’s ok too. Getting married takes a lot of work. And sometimes, people who get married stop being married.
Just remember: you should only let woman who make you a better man into your life. A woman who causes you problems and keeps you from doing what you want to do is bad. In a marriage, you are your own boss. Remember that. When it’s time… and that’s a long, long, longtime from now… only get married to a woman who helps you to be the boss of your own life.
An old lover of mine, in trying to explain that I was “the best” (which I took with a grain of salt because words are mostly meaningless) used the following metaphor::
Most other guys are the cake, Nick is the icing, and you are the candles.
I shit you not. Somehow that was supposed to be a compliment. In my mind… the cake is the substantial part, the icing makes it a little better, and the candles are just for flash.
But anyway, she tried to appease me on many occasions by explaining that I was on a whole different level than the rest of the guys in her life. Let me just stop and point out: she had lots of guys in her life, and I was happy to be one of them, because she had a 6 face with an 8-9 body.
So really, it didn’t matter much to me how I compared to the other guys in her life. As long as I got some good, intimate time with her, I was happy. At the time, I wasn’t able to be in a committed relationship anyway.
But there came a point where a whole bunch of drama and complexity entered our relationship. And this is the lesson I want to teach you all:
In her mind, I was the candles on the cake (whatever that means). All the power I had in the relationship consisted of this: take away the candles. But even if I took away the candles, she still had the icing and the cake.
For a lot of relationships, power struggles develop and people take things away (e.g. silent treatment). But the truth is, when you “take away the candles” you need to take them away not as a punishment for her. Not because you expect anything from her…. But you take away the candles because it’s what’s best for you. Because being a candle takes energy… and if the energy isn’t paying off… then you take your candles away and move on.
Moral of the story: All of your decisions should be built around this question – Does it make me a better man? Being candles on her cake… does that make me a better man? Or is it time to be candles on someone else’s cake? Perhaps, if it’s what you ultimately want… even finding someone who’ll let you be the cake, the icing and the candles all at once.
The lesson I learned was that power struggles can confuse you from focusing on the important thing: making yourself a better man.
Over the last year I’ve had more than a handful of men write to me at PhaseFrame asking me about how to handle a cheating partner/wife/girlfriend, etc.
For me it’s pretty easy:
1) know what you want in life and know what you value. if being with a woman who’s faithful to you is important, than know it. own it. know your rules. and be ready to enforce them by leaving her.
2) stick to what you value even when it means giving up something you used to value.
3) do what’s going to make you a better man... for some that might mean giving the woman a second chance. for others, that’s going to mean “see ya babe”
I’m a firm believer in letting the natural consequences of action play out. So if a woman cheats, and I’ve made it clear that that’s unacceptable, then I would say “You’ve made your choice with your actions. Now go enjoy the fruits of those choices.”
I would feel comfortable doing that because I know that I have options. Several. I don’t hide that either. My partner knows it. It’s part of my conditions for being with her… and if she doesn’t like it, she can move on… and I’ll move on too.
I don’t value any woman so much that she’s irreplaceable.
Now, you may. And you may forgive her. Give her a second chance. Or many chances.
Whatever you do… make sure you’re becoming the man you want to become… and not compromising.
This is a message for you and her.
Your rules aren’t the only rules.
The major forces acting in any relationship are:
1) the universe (laws of nature, laws of attraction)
2) your particular goals and expectations
3) her particular goals and expectations
To you, the guy, I say this:
Fight like hell for #2
Support #3 if it doesn’t conflict with #1 or #2, and she’s making you a better man. But if they do conflict, don’t compromise. You gain nothing.
To her, the woman, I say this:
You want to be in a relationship with me? Then you’re going to make me a better man. It’s that simple. You demand that I compromise myself for you? Fuck you. Take your new age bullshit and feed it to some other guy. I don’t have time for it.
Now I’m not saying you haul off in anger at every little quibble. You’re a guy, you can deal with a little misbehavior. I’m talking about game changing stuff and patterns of action.
Here’s a video, admittedly from a movie, that shows how quickly and easily attraction can build simply through proximity and physical presence (which can communicate common interests, skills, confidence, etc… all psychological factors that are attractive to women). This is how the vast majority of my relationships have started… simple, innocent, physical interactions without words. Notice… this woman became so overwhelmed by Depp’s character that she would have have slept with him if he had decided to escalate after the second encounter (e.g. inviting her to grab some coffee). Maybe he had something more important to do. Or maybe he decided to honor the ring she was wearing. I’ve found myself in situations where I had to say no to obvious sexual opportunity. But the signs are all there. She’s fallen for the guy before he’s spoken a word.
Things that are attractive about Depp’s character:
1) he’s dressed well
2) he’s non-apologetic about standing close to her and doing what he came to do
3) he’s calm and composed
4) he makes eye contact, with a slight smile
5) he initiates non-verbal communication and an intentional connection (further eye contact, finger point and head nod)
6) slows down his movements like he’s in control of the situation (his gum chewing, his head movement, etc.)
7) he shows some passion for their shared interest as he’s listening to the music while communicating a slight vibe (bobs his head up and down like he’s enjoying it)
8) he stand his ground and then once he’s done with what he came to do, he moves on
9) when re-encountering each other, he reinforces their connection … shared choice
The guy has haunted the woman’s imaginating before speaking a single word… and he’s gotten her to start chasing him… simply by being himself, being attractive, being non-obsessively friendly and most importantly staying composed … being unphased.
Most guys are familiar with the modern man-cave… something that I think is healthy, but really, for most guys, is also a compromise and quite limited. It’s normally a small, confined, oasis within the home where the guy can unwind and chill out and do his thing.
It’s sort of like Wikileaks guru Julian Assange… free in confinement, yet surrounded by police. According to Wikipedia:
Assange lives in a small office room converted into a living quarters. Visitors stated that the room is equipped with a bed, telephone, sun lamp, computer with internet connection, shower, treadmill, and small kitchenette. Assange reportedly lives on a diet of pizza and other take-away food. Officers from the Metropolitan Police Service have remained stationed outside the Ecuadorian embassy since Assange entered the building on 19 June 2012. They have been tasked to arrest Assange in the event he attempts to leave the building.
For the last 3 years my man-cave has been a separate 2 bedroom apartment. One of the bedrooms is my primary office (I also have a home office). One of the bedrooms is an actual bedroom… and I use it to take naps, and every once in a while if I need a vacation from the family… I sleep there too.
It has a fully decked out kitchen. I get to prepare myself healthy, delicious foods most days for lunch. Perfect for someone like me who experiences happiness by eating well, and taking responsibility for my own well-being.
It has a large living room with big screen TV and couch and sound system with turntable. I workout to P90X in this room. I play video games to chill out. I read books. I take naps on the couch (usually after about 20 minutes of reading). And I blast music while I work.
My apartment is my sacred space. It’s my kingdom. It’s a place where I feel a particularly deep and satisfying peace. And it’s a place that I have full control of… it’s mine. I don’t share it. There are no toddlers throwing tantrums upstairs. It’s a place where the Jehovah’s witnesses and Mormons on a mission have learned not to tread. And only a select handful of individuals have been given limited access to this place.
I fuck differently at my apartment. It has a unique aura. An energy. A mystery. A place where the world’s worries melt away and all inhibition gets thrown to the wind. I tie women up. And I pull their hair a little harder here. The night’s are a little longer. I thrust a little faster. Slam against the walls a little harder. And the bruises always seem a little deeper.
I know that not every guy is going to have the resources to have his own apartment separate from his home. And I know that most guys aren’t going to be in relationships that allow for this sort of absolute independence and freedom. But if you can…. it’s liberating. It’s wonderful. It’s 100% recommended.
Watch the video. It’s an epic song sung with passion and intensity. Worth every second.
The take home lesson: every guy has to experience over-investment in a woman to learn this lesson. Some guys do this on their wedding day… forever locking into a commitment that simply isn’t worth it, because they’ve been lazy (or self-hating) and not done their due diligence.
When you overprice a woman, you destroy your chances at finding happiness with her. You put her up on a pedestal. And you throw your energy and resources at her. You chase her. Self-defeating.
Here’s the thing: no woman is worth destroying your self worth over. No woman is worth your bending over backwards to please her. No woman is worth you emptying yourself of friends and interests.
The illusion arises from the dopamine reward pathway: the anticipation of sex. Guys do crazy things to get sex. Guys will even self-deceive themselves into thinking there’s something else motivating the chase (she’s special)…
But then the sex happens, and “it really wasn’t worth it, right?”
So how do you respond to this with PhaseFrame? You treat raw animal sex as the easy commodity it is. You reject scarcity. And you keep your investments in proportion to availability.
You let the women chase you.
In this article Explaining Disappointment James Larsen, Ph.D. does a nice job of explaining the basic dopamine reward pathway in the brain. However, his proposed response to managing the dopamine reward pathway as a mature adult is way, way, way off base… unless your main goal in life is to minimize disappointment.
As I read this article, I assumed his recommendation would be obvious:
1) to give the brain opportunities to re-sensitize to dopamine by embracing down-time
2) to extend the excitement of the anticipation phase since that’s where the pleasure is. Find more opportunity to plan, and fully explore the anticipated reward.
Instead the article suggested limiting the pleasure phase in order to have less of a let down. That seems backward to me.
Why not simply confront disappointment with understanding and then manage and deal with the post anticipation blues?
From a PhaseFrame perspective, I’d say you just want to accept the cycle of ups and downs as an emotionally mature adult and to extend/maximize the pleasure by maximizing the anticipation.
A recurring theme I’ve encountered with women over the years is what I call “Why me?” syndrome. I used to think it was the women feeling inferior or not worthy. But that’s rarely it.
It’s more like: “He could have pretty much any woman he wants… so why me?”
You have to understand: women try to make sense of relationships a whole lot more than men do. For men, it’s pretty simple: “she’s hot and she sleeps with me”. For women, it’s more like “ok. i’d love to sleep with you, but what’s going to make you stay with me? why me? what makes me the woman you’re going to invest your resources into?”
See, that’s the thing. Men have the biological privilege of being the resource providers. We don’t have an emotional need to be provided for. So we don’t really desire that out of a relationship. We’re fine fending for ourselves. Women on the other hand have a biological impulse to secure resources through men… for her and her offspring.
So how do you deal with “Why me?” syndrome? You make it clear to her why she’s impressive. What makes her different than other women. You don’t do this by lying or making shit up. She can read into that pretty well. A much better solution is to do your homework, put some work into identifying what it is in fact that attracts you about her (beyond her beauty) and tell her. Focus on psychological things. It’s ok to make passing reference to her beauty… but she knows beauty is a dime a dozen. She wants to feel special. So you’ll stick around.
So you break through the “Why me?” syndrome by convincing her that she has special, attractive features that bring you to choose her over others. And hopefully it’s the truth.