Two quick caveats before we move forward:
As always, I want to be clear when I post on here that I am NOT someone with everything figured out. When I write posts on MRP I am mostly writing to myself, laying out what I most need to work on. I usually find that I only really know what I think when I’m able to write it out. I welcome constructive criticism.
If you’re just interested in the actionable bits, you can skip the “Personal Background” section, as it just gives personal context for what follows.
I got a ton of really useful feedback on [my most recent OYS] (https://www.reddit.com/r/marriedredpill/comments/7tzmhp/own_your_shit_weekly_january_30_2018/dtgwf02/). It’s a really great thread - I highly recommend going through it.
An addendum to that original post: Things actually got much worse. About an hour after I first posted the OYS my wife and I had our first therapy session after a long break. I went in with the goal of setting some expectations for what we would be working on and making that our last session. (Keep in mind, this was before getting any of the feedback in the thread).
During the session I completely lost frame. I was trying to lay out my version of events and mentioned that I track sex frequency. Both my wife and the therapist know this, but my wife interjected that it made her uncomfortable, that it was weird, and the therapist made a relatively harmless joke about it.
The actual comments were very mild - but I completely lost it. I nearly screamed out loud in the office, emitting a kind of strangled shriek. I stormed out and went to the car to hyperventilate.
Not my proudest moment.
Eventually my wife came out to get me (sigh) and we went back inside. I had trouble pulling myself together; I basically went on a rant about she doesn’t think tracking sex is important because sex isn’t important to her, and I’m the only one working on the relationship, and I’m alone in this process, etc.
Basically, the real life equivalent of a first-month victim puke in /askMRP. Fucking awesome, bro.
I eventually calmed down and we finished the session. We ended on a relatively positive note, and I resolved to just put it behind me and focus on the present.
But a sense of depression settled over me. I got nothing done at work; I barely managed to make it to the gym all week. Not only did I not initiate sex, I found myself barely able to touch my wife or show her affection at all. My sex drive completely vanished, and when I thought about initiating I felt only anxiety.
These events - plus the thread in OYS - threw a lot of things into sharp relief for me:
Clearly I am carrying around a deep reservoir of anger and resentment that I am barely aware of day to day. It continuously resurfaces; I think I’ve moved past it, only to have it come back at times like these. Despite a lot of personal progress since finding MRP, my success - and even my general happiness - is limited by my inability (or unwillingness) to address these deeper emotional issues. I’ve been doing a lot of “mindset work” - visualization, affirmations and so on - focusing on my day to day attitudes, especially ones that will aid in attraction. But ultimately, this work is shallow, and isn’t getting at the deeper rooted issues that are actually holding me back.
Clearly, getting at the root of this emotional turmoil is extremely important - not even within the MRP context (although that’s certainly true as well), but for my development, maturity, and happiness as a human being. I have a lot of deep emotional work to do.
But - how do you do deep emotional work? What does that even mean?
/u/man_in_the_world has called me “Mr. Carefully, Carefully Plan” before, and that hits extremely close to home (although it’s still pretty funny). I love a good plan - more than that, I often feel like I need a clearly laid out plan for how to proceed in order to curb my tendencies to overthink, get distracted, etc.
So I’ve done some research into different methods for “deep emotional work;” ways of working on deeply ingrained mental habits. In this post, I’m going to lay out the general theoretical framework that explains where these issues come from, and how to address them. Then, I’ll cover some specific exercises and techniques for “doing the work” to change them.
While I’m going to be writing within the MRP context specifically, it’s important to note that none of this is coming from “RP” sources, nor is it specific to the kind of stuff we talk about in here. These could be applied to pretty much anything, from general self-esteem issues to getting better at brazilian jiu jitsu.
WHERE DOES THE ANGER COME FROM?
The “Anger Stage” of MRP is one of the most common tropes we see on these boards. Beta Husband wakes up one day, realizes he’s fat, miserable, unloved, unappreciated, and (in his mind, anyway) not getting the sex her SO RIGHTLY DESERVES...and immediately gets bitter and angry.
This initial anger stage - the sense of not being told “the truth,” of being “taken advantage of,” etc, hopefully doesn’t last too long; the new man slowly starts improving himself and begins to enjoy the process. The anger drifts away, and the progress he makes becomes intrinsically rewarding.
Why, then, do many men - myself included - seem to return to the anger stage over and over again? (By my count, I’m on anger stage 3.)
The problem seems to lie with our motivations.
Note above that I said the process becomes intrinsically rewarding - eventually, we have to identify with and ENJOY the new self we are building. For almost all the guys who have been here a long time, were their wives to disappear tomorrow, much of their MRP routines/habits would stay exactly the same. It’s not ABOUT HER any more.
However, it’s possible to move past the initial anger stage without fully adopting this sense of intrinsic motivation. The rush of self improvement, the joy of seeing a better body in the mirror, increased sex frequency - all these can provide a sense of real accomplishment that soothes the anger we felt when first starting.
But if the GOAL remains “I want to have more sex with my wife,” or “I want my wife to treat me differently,” or “I want my life to love me more” - we remain, at our core, validated by the actions of by the other.
Ultimately, THEY are the judge of whether or not what we’re doing is “working” - and this is a surefire recipe for misery.
“Be outcome independent!” “Get rid of your covert contracts!” “Make yourself the prize!”
All of these are MRP truisms, and they contain a great deal of wisdom. At their core, they address a single truth: In the end, you need to do all of this for yourself, and only for yourself. So why is that so difficult for many men (like me) to internalize?
For one, we are all used to being externally validated. From grades at school, to whether you’re accepted by your peers, to how much money you make; our lives are filled with external scorecards that let us know how well we’re doing.
If you’re naturally goal-oriented (as I am), you are very used to setting a target using one of these external scorecards and then building a plan to get there. Not only are you used to it, you’re regularly rewarded for it! How do you know if you’re kicking ass? You hit your sales numbers, you get invited to to the party, you tap that big dude at BJJ practice. Clean and objective.
If this has been your orientation all your life, MRP can seem straightforward.
“Got it - women are attracted to dominant, alpha types. My wife is a woman. Therefore, if I become more dominant, my wife will be attracted to me, and want to have sex with me. Oh, awesome - there’s even a 12 step program. Lift, act cocky and funny, smack her ass on the way out the door, tease her, STFU….no problem. Let me put that in my calendar.”
This mindset views MRP as a simple IF/THEN process: IF you perform the following actions, IF you look a certain way, THEN your wife will have sex with you. This view of MRP is often exacerbated by shallow understandings of hypergamy, which view women as automatons with vaginas that get switched on when a dude with big muscles walk by.
When goal-oriented guy asks, “How do I know MRP is working?”, the answer they come up with isn “MRP is working when my wife is having sex with me.” Wife not having sex with you? You’re not doing it right, dawg - lift more, shut up more, tease more, etc. MRP is the input, sex is the output.
But the more you hang around MRP, the more you get exposed to MRP’s “Zen Side.” You learn that you need to be “outcome independent” regarding sex. You learn that MRP “saves the man, not the relationship,” and that “the more you want sex, the less likely you are to get it.”
All of this flies directly in the face of the “IF/THEN” version of MRP.
“Be outcome independent?” But...isn’t the whole reason I’m doing this to get more sex? “The more I want sex, the less I’ll get it?”...but then, why the hell am I doing all this lifting? “MRP doesn’t “save the relationship?”....but that’s why I came here in the first place!
The goal-oriented among us (namely, me) will be confronted with this conundrum and resolve it the only way we know how: by incorporating “outcome independence” as just another step to take in pursuit of our goal.
“Ohhh, got it - women aren’t attracted to needy men. So, when I get rejected, I shouldn’t act needy...and that will make her want to have sex with me.”
This is essentially LARPing outcome independence. We’re not REALLY independent of the outcome; we don’t actually FEEL, on a deep level, that we will be OK, no matter what happens in bed that night.
Instead, we know we’re SUPPOSED to feel that way in order to achieve our goal of more sex, and so we act in a way we assume someone with OI would act.
RECIPES FOR MISERY
What’s the big deal about any of this? After all, “fake it till you make it,” right?
In a way, that’s correct; I don’t think anyone on here would say that they simply read about outcome independence for the first time, had their light-bulb moment, and then waltzed away, never to be upset by rejection again. Clearly something like that takes work.
The problem with “faking it” for too long is that we haven’t actually achieved outcome independence; we’re simply using outcome independence to try and achieve a specific outcome. This will always produce sub optimal outcomes.
This is very important to understand, so let’s dig into this a little bit.
Why does having a clear goal of getting more sex with our wives impede our progress?
It was David Schnarch, in his excellent book The Passionate Marriage, who really opened my eyes to this dynamic.
In every marriage, there is a lower sex drive partner. Think about this for a second; it’s nigh-impossible for two people to have the exact same sex drive. Add to that the biological differences between men and women, and it becomes clear that in any relationship - but particularly in heterosexual ones - there will be a mismatch in sex drives.
Someone’s always going to want sex when the other doesn’t, even if that only happens very occasionally. Your wife could be the lower sex drive partner; it could be you. But there is always a lower sex drive partner.
Remember that our goal-oriented MRP man has made “sex with my wife” his goal, and the validating factor that tells him if he’s successful or not. Assuming that his wife is the lower sex drive partner (as that’s by far the most common situation here), this means that he will always run into situations where he feels like he “fails” because he wants sex and his wife doesn’t.
Goal orientation in MRP is thus ALWAYS going to produce a “fail state”, even if you successfully get sex the majority of the time.
What happens when we’re confronted with this “fail state”?
Some men will employ increasingly high levels of dread, even if their wives are mostly on board with their vision. They’ll constantly try to eliminate the chance of being turned down for sex...and since that’s impossible, they’ll use harsher and harsher “strong arm” tactics, creating an environment where their wife is afraid to turn them down for sex.
I don’t have any hard data on this, but somehow I doubt that’s going to make for a healthy long-term situation, and it’s hardly the relationship I think most of us want. Even if it did, it’s impossible to scale dread in this way forever. This is simply another form of negotiating attraction (“If you don’t fuck me, I’ll fuck your sister in front of our kids!”)
(To be clear, this is NOT how dread typically works in relationships; rather, this is how dread works when someone is using it as a tool to force external validation from someone.)
Even if your wife has sex with you 100% of the time under these conditions, she still isn’t providing the validation we’re seeking - she’s not a willing participant. She doesn’t “want” you - she’s simply “afraid of losing you,” and I think there’s a pretty big difference between the two.
If some men resort to increasingly heavy-handed uses of dread, others will simply become frustrated and resentful. I count myself among this group.
In effect, goal orientation is simply a subtle covert contract. “If I improve, and become truly outcome independent, and drop all my covert contracts….THEN she’ll want to have sex with me.”
The closest equivalent to this would be constantly thinking “I’m going to think no thoughts!” during meditation….when, of course, “thinking no thoughts” is itself a thought. The act of trying to solve the problem simply exacerbates the problem.
How does this subtle covert contract play out? We improve, we lift, we become more attractive. We see some improvement in our sex lives - but because there will always be a sex-drive mismatch, we still feel stuck in our “fail state.”
Even if the sex we receive meets our original criteria for “success” - say, having sex three times a week - that becomes the norm, and we want more. “Yes, we’re having sex, but it’s only starfish,” for example, or “We’re having sex, but she won’t let me try anal.”
Hedonic adaptation ensures we’ll never be happy where we are, and thus we never feel like we’re making any progress.
To give a personal example (even typing this out, I can see how fucking stupid this shit is….and yet, I’ll be honest, this thought has a lot of real anxiety for me):
My wife and I started from a completely dead bedroom, and have slowly built up to 4-5 times a month. Even before we had kids, our sex life had dwindled to about once a month - so in many ways, our sex life is the best it’s ever been.
Yet, I read in one of Rollo’s blogs that an “alpha tell” - a sign that your wife really respects you and looks up to you - is that she’ll be comfortable with your ejaculate on her body...and that a “beta tell” is that she rushes to the bathroom after sex to wash out your inferior seed (I’m paraphrasing).
My wife hops up shortly after sex to go pee. She has always done this. Before MRP, I assumed this was because she could get a UTI if she didn’t. Maybe she just doesn't like the feeling...or who knows? Maybe she just needs to pee! The truth is, I have no idea why she does it, nor does it really matter in the grand scheme of things.
But since reading that blog post, I feel a pang of insecurity, anger, and resentment when she does this...This completely normal, habitual action. The goalpost has shifted - now it’s not enough that we have sex, but now she needs to like the feeling of my ejaculate.
Can we see how irrational this is? Hell, I don’t even like the feeling of my ejaculate!
Goal orientation, combined with the absolute certainty that you will be faced with a partner with a differing sex drive, essentially guarantees that you will “fail” a great deal of the time.
Thus if you base your sense of success, or self esteem, on the external validation of sex with your wife, you will constantly be confronted with feelings of frustration.
The irony here is that improving with a clear goal of getting more sex will only sabotage that goal; whereas improving without the goal of getting more sex will actually result in more sex.
Frustration in and of itself is not a terrible thing; we’ve all been driven to improve by frustration with various parts of our lives, whether it’s living situation, physical fitness, etc. Often, it’s one of these “I’ve had enough!” moments that kicks off our journeys of personal improvement.
But frustration, combined with these deep covert contracts, can actually be deeply damaging over time.
What’s so damaging about frustration?
I do think it’s possible to go through all of this without experiencing real long term damage. After all, we’ve all been faced with periods of struggle, and most of the time we rise to meet those challenges.
Marriage, however - especially a marriage in which one partner is overly emotionally invested in the actions of the other (what Schnarch would call “enmeshment”) - is especially prone to both judgement and internalization. These dynamics can be extremely damaging over time, and are often at the core of the anger phases so many of us go through.
Let’s take a look at these in turn.
Judgement is an essential faculty of all humankind. I would argue that it’s at the very root of all creativity, industry, productivity….the ability to see the world as it is, judge that it could be better, and put a plan in place to improve.
Our judgemental minds are thus at the core of our self-improvement and play a large part in any MRP journey. After all, if you’re completely content, why change, right?
But there are different types of judgements. There are material judgements - simply deciding that you’d prefer something to be different. If you have a small kitchen, you might make the judgement that your kitchen would be more comfortable with additional counter space, and plan to install island a kitchen island.
Then there are value judgements - the decision that something is either “good” or “bad.” We might look at a parent slapping their child in the airport and think they are a “bad person;” it’s not simply that we wish something was different, but that we’re making a moral judgement about that person’s nature.
In the kitchen island example, our kitchen is neither “good” nor “bad”; we feel no moral indignation about the fact that our kitchen is small. It’s simply a situation that we can change a bit to better match our goals.
We can make the same kind of of judgement about our marriages - we may judge, for example, that we’d like to have sex more often, and put a plan in place to achieve that goal. Stripped of moral judgement, we can see the situation as it truly is, and simply act in accordance with our interests.
(This is the mindset I often notice in /u/weakandsensitive ‘s comments - when I complain about not having enough sex, he often asks why I don’t just cheat, or hire a prostitute. Even though I CLAIM sex is my problem, I feel revulsion towards these suggestions...clearly illustrating that sex is not actually my problem, after all.)
But, if instead of making a material judgement about the sex we’re having, we make a value judgement...things change. For one, we will start to feel resentment towards our partners - after all, if it is “bad” for them not to want to have sex with us, then they are “bad” for withholding that sex. This is why frustration over our sex lives can so easily turn to anger and resentment (whereas no one is feeling resentment towards their lack of a kitchen island).
The more emotionally invested in our partner we are, the more dramatic this dynamic becomes.
“I’m doing ALL THIS WORK to become more attractive and she’s NOT DOING ANYTHING...she ALWAYS gets sex when she wants it, but I get rejected all the time, it’s NOT FAIR...I’m becoming more and more attractive and I’m STILL getting rejected...there must be something wrong with me...I’ll NEVER be attractive/alpha enough…” etc, etc, etc.
(These are all my real thoughts, by the way. They are not fun.)
Even this wouldn’t be so bad, if we could simply observe that thought process and walk away from it. But these kind of value judgements often become internalized, leading to a downward spiral that intensifies the process.
There’s a clear process that occurs when we make value judgements about our own performance over time.
Let’s look at a typical example: initiating sex and getting rejected.
Resolutions316 decides he wants to have sex. He initiates.
His wife isn’t into it, and turns him down.
R316 knows he’s supposed to be outcome independent, so he shrugs - “No big deal” - and rolls over.
Immediately, he starts to analyze what just happened. Why didn’t she respond? Am I not attractive enough? Was my initiation too weak? Damn it, I shouldn’t have waited till bed time!
These value judgements then shift from judging the actual event - the initiation - to making value judgements about my own character. Why do I always do this? Ugh - this isn’t working at all. We haven’t had sex in over a week. I’m such a piece of shit…
Then to making value judgements about my wife..she’s just playing me for my money. She isn’t attracted to me and never will be...I should just get a divorce, why don’t I do that? I have no self respect!...
And on and on. Value judgement after value judgement.
We move from event, to making value judgements about that event, to identifying with those value judgements.
“I was rejected for sex” ---> “I suck at initiating” ----> “I’m unattractive”
Over time, these internalized value judgements become our identity. We repeat them over and over, essentially hypnotizing ourselves into believing they are true. We’re no longer simply someone that wanted sex and didn’t get it one time; we’re now someone who is unattractive.
If there’s anything we’ve learned from sports psychology, it’s that we tend to act in accordance with our image of ourselves. Our beliefs about ourselves inform the decisions we make, and those decisions drive behavior.
If we BELIEVE, for example, that we are successful with women - if we can easily call to mind many examples of success with women, and we’ve been rewarded consistently in the past for this belief - then we’re more likely to approach women and ask them out. That act makes us more likely to have future successes, and increases our capacity to dismiss failures as aberrations. The belief fuels a virtuous cycle that strengthens the belief.
Likewise, internalizing our negative value judgements creates a negative cycle that decreases the likelihood of our taking positive action, and thus strengthens our negative beliefs (“I’m unattractive - why bother initiating? I’ll just get rejected” → less initiations, less confident initiations → decreased success rate → “See? I always get rejected - I’m just unattractive, it’s hopeless”)
Understanding The Anger Cycle - Putting it All Together
This doesn’t happen all at once, of course. This is a gradual process that often goes undetected, as it’s mixed in with some success.
Let’s examine the entire cycle, using the concepts above.
- New guy joins MRP. He reads, realizes the mistakes he’s made, and gets angry (Anger Phase)
- Guy sets a goal of using MRP to improve his relationship and getting more sex (Goal Orientation)
- Over time, he starts to see some success. He feels validated by wife’s reaction. (External Validation)
- As process continues, however, the mismatch in sex drives becomes apparent, and new guy faces several “Fail states” despite his sense of progress (Lower sex drive partner)
- Guy makes value judgements about these “fail states” (Value Judgements)
- Over time, these value judgements become internalized (Internalization)
- Internalized value judgements create negative cycle, increasing likelihood of “Fail states”
- Progress towards goal stalls or stops, frustration builds as Hidden Covert Contract is not met, and we enter Anger Stage 2...often in explosive fashion.
- New guy resolves to “REALLY drop covert contracts this time”, because all he has to do is become really outcome independent to get more sex...and the cycle begins again.
By my own reckoning, I’ve been through this cycle three times now. Each time, I lose great amounts of progress...and resolve to redouble my efforts and “get it right this time”....only to end up repeating the cycle.
The trick here is that every time I resolve to drop the covert contracts in order to get more sex...I am simply reinforcing the covert contract. I’m sitting down to meditate and thinking “DON’T THINK!”
So - how can we escape the cycle? How can we make things actually better….and ensure that, regardless of whether our sex lives get better, that we don’t grow up to be bitter old men, unable to accept themselves or the world on its own terms?
Because that’s my biggest takeaway from the last few weeks. The problem is NOT that I’m not getting the sex that I want. The problem is that despite all I’ve done and all the wonderful things in my life, I’m MISERABLE. And that’s a much bigger and far reaching problem.
This post is already super long so I’ll break it up into two parts. In the next part, I’ll address what I’ve found in terms of concrete ways that other people try and address these problems.
As always, thoughts, criticisms, etc, are appreciated.