Friday, March 16, 2012

The Difference Between Leading And Dragging

inspired this.  The question concerned the all-too-common issue of a young couple in the early part of the "Oughts" investing in more house than they could afford.  

Essentially the wife presses for a bigger house and presents all sorts of compelling reasons why, and the husband relents under the pressure, Beta-outs, and five years later someone’s laid off and they’re fighting foreclosure.  This happened to millions of folks, and with a mortgage industry that was feverishly talking everyone into upgrading (appeal to the wife with a nicer house, appeal to the husband with a sound investment) it was very easy to let the Great Rationalization Hamster talk us into it.  Something like that happened to Athol.  Hell, it's happened to about half of the people I know.

I’m going to bat for Athol on this, because it seems in his particular case that the upgrade in question wasn’t too terribly unreasonable, the reasons were compelling, and the world looked a lot different eight years ago.  I give him tremendous credit.  When faced with a hard, stressful situation he handled it.  He doesn’t blame his wife for pushing for a better home.  She doesn’t blame him for not being a super-provider.  They handled it like grown-ups.  Together.  As Captain and First Officer of the same ship.

And that points out an essential difference between Single Game and Married Game.  In Single Game the focus is the acquisition of short-term sexual partners through using a bold Alpha presentation and being able to close and move on without serious entanglements.

But in Married Game, the goal is much different: to work in a high-sex functioning partnership that promotes the happiness and well-being of all involved.  That requires significant changes to Game.  For one thing, Beta becomes very important to the process.  But so does leadership

It’s one thing to lead a woman to drop her panties and squeal with delight.  It’s quite another to lead a woman through the morass of everyday life, the mountain of bureaucracy, budgeting, and financial worries that every adult in our modern society is heir to.  Single Game is focused on being the captain of your own little dinghy and letting a girl ride for a while.  Married Game means you’re the godsdamned CAPTAIN of the leaky-ass ship with a permanent crew that is utterly dependent on your ability to get shit done.

The difference will be recognized instantly by any married man – even if he shrinks from the responsibility and flakes out, letting his wife take control.  When you are the Captain of not just yourself but a whole crew, you not only have the authority to order and decide policy, you also have a personal responsibility for the safety and well-being of everyone in your crew, beginning with the First Officer.  This is the “burden of command” that is so prevalent in military literature.  Because the fact is, as Captain, when the ship hits an asteroid or the crew is unhappy regardless of whether or not it’s your fault it is still your responsibility.

The analogy is not inappropriate, when used to represent a marriage and a home.  The great R. Buckminster Fuller called houses “Machines for living in”, not unlike a space ship.  When you, as Captain, are deciding on whether or not to upgrade to a bigger ship, the needs and desires of the crew should be taken into account, of course.  But first the needs of the Mission need to be seen to.  And while you might be Captain and she the First Officer, the Red Pill reality is that the Mission is decided by consensus.

In my marriage both Mrs. Ironwood and I have busy, successful, interesting careers.  We’ve both devoted communal resources and made sacrifices on the basis of those careers.  But our careers are not the MissionThe Mission is to successfully create three happy, hyper-capable, highly competent adult human beings who will successfully give us lots of grandchildren.  That’s the mutually-agreed Mission we both signed up for, and our careers are means to that end.  A sacrifice for a career or any other reason that has an effect on the Mission is a cause for suspension of the regular Captain/First Officer roles and mutual re-assessment of the Mission parameters.  Call it a Red Alert, if you want to be dramatic.

The ship (house) we currently have is vitally necessary to fulfilling the Mission, so when we went house-hunting when we discovered that Baby Ironwood #3 was coming, we very calmly and rationally had what could be termed (to torture the metaphor further) a “Mission Assessment”

We figured out how much we could afford to spend based on our jobs at the time.  We made a detailed list of requirements, desired amenities, and luxuries, as well as a list of deal-breakers.  And we made certain that neither one of us would push for a house the other did not find acceptable.  We listened to the glowing recommendations of the real estate people who pointed out just how much we could profit from buying and then selling in a few years (and their rosy figures were embarrassingly optimistic).  They gave us a number they told us we could afford.  We dropped it by a third and told them to look in that region.  Our requirements were far more important to the Mission than potential investment return.  We had to raise our kids there, for goddess’ sake, not fund our retirement. 

We lucked out and a friend of my mother-in-law’s who was an agent found us the perfect place, well within our price range, that fit 99% of what we wanted (no hot tub . . . yet): stately Ironwood Manor.  But the point of the story is that Mrs. Ironwood and I together agreed what the Mission would be, and then we pursued it together, as a team.  Had we been foolish or unfortunate enough to get in over our heads, we would have dealt with the consequences as a team – based entirely on what was best for the Mission.

Which brings me back to my title: there is a difference between Leading, as the Captain, and dragging your wife through your marriage.  Leadership is providing an ordered set of options for consideration, soliciting practical input, and then making a decisive policy choice that allows your First Officer and rest of the crew to cheerfully follow.

Dragging is when you make a decision with little or not consultation with your crew, you refuse to listen or take under consideration objections and concerns, and then forcing the issue past the point of dominance and to the level of dictate.  Dragging is when you see any resistance to your will as a Shit Test, and respond with stubborn authority.  And Dragging is when you refuse to acknowledge that you, as Captain, royally fucked up something important and refuse to deal with it.

There are times when such forceful tactics are helpful: earthquake, hurricane aftermath, fire, zombie apocalypse – but they are temporary assertions of absolute authority in an emergency situation.  When the Klingons are blasting away is no time to have a committee meeting on Mission Assessment.  But when you’re cruising along, day-to-day ship operations require a more artful hand.  Part of leadership is knowing when to relax and let your First Officer do what she needs to, and not get in her way as she does so.  You have to lead . . . and give your wife the time and room to follow.

Consider it in sexual terms: if you present an active Alpha presentation all the time, and keep stimulating your wife’s desire to have sex with you . . . but then you don’t give her time to respond before you pile on yet more Alpha, you will end up frustrating her.  Stimulus-response is a great thing, but you have to let her give the response before you give her more stimulus. 

And when you do make a mistake that imperils the Mission (say, buying more house than you can afford) then blaming the First Officer for a decision that you, as Captain, made is poor art and bad Red Pill practice.  She may have persuaded you to buy it, and you may have accepted her rationalizations for any number of reasons.  But it’s your name on the damn mortgage, and blaming her for the situation – even if she nearly bullied you into it – is no excuse for you trying to avoid the moral responsibilities of leadership. 

One of the reasons I so dearly love Mrs. Ironwood is that one of her favorite phrases is “It Is What It Is.”  I usually geekify the expression myself, saying Takada Na Gai (“it can’t be helped”, Japanese from the Red Mars trilogy.  Made my Nerd Roll!)  It’s her Red Pill mantra, an acknowledgment that blame and recriminations are inherently non-constructive, and that facing the realities of the situation is the only pragmatic and responsible course forward.  It’s a repudiation of her Rationalization Hamster.  It’s one of the things that makes her an outstanding First Officer, as well as an adept administrator, outstanding mother, and delightful wife. 

But it also means that she won’t let me get away with any bullshit, either.  While the Captain has a responsibility to set policy and then hold the First Officer to account, the First Officer has a responsibility to point out when the Captain has Really Fucked Up About Something Important, in a constructive way.  “Constructive” meaning without wholesale blame, without name-calling, without expressing anger (even when felt). 

“Constructive” also means offering suggestions for corrective action, agreeing that the problem is a mutual problem, and offering whatever support or resources possible to aid in that correction.  And “constructive” means, ideally, offering support by voicing confidence in the Captain’s leadership even in light of the Important Thing that got Fucked Up.  As in, “Honey, we’re screwed.  But I know that we’ll find our way out.  I have every confidence in you.”  That one phrase can do more to help the situation than a spontaneous blowjob.

Okay, perhaps I exaggerate . . .

To summarize, the Captain/First Officer dynamic is not a simple “Me Alpha, You Jane” play, like Single Game.  Married Game requires a more sophisticated application of Alpha and Beta, and in general a more complex tool kit than Single Game.  Both are Red Pill roads: they require an awareness of the realities of the situation and a willingness to take needed action, even when unpleasant.  But Married Game in its ideal form also requires you to work in concert with your wife as part of a team on the same Mission, leading, not dragging her through life.  And that takes patience, art, and humility as much as confidence, authority and discipline.

It's the difference between being Fred and Wilma . . . and Fred and Ginger.


  1. "The difference will be recognized instantly by any married man – even if he shrinks from the responsibility and flakes out, letting his wife take control. When you are the Captain of not just yourself but a whole crew, you not only have the authority to order and decide policy, you also have a personal responsibility for the safety and well-being of everyone in your crew, beginning with the First Officer. This is the “burden of command” that is so prevalent in military literature. Because the fact is, as Captain, when the ship hits an asteroid or the crew is unhappy regardless of whether or not it’s your fault it is still your responsibility."

    "...the crew is unhappy..."

    And there is the rub. She would be unhappy until I gave in. A car, a dog, a house, another house, a cat, another cat, a rabbit, another car, another car, carpet, paint, etc. It would turn in to, "You do not love me, you do not care about me. You do not want what is best for our children." Continually, until I acquiesced. And I would sometimes takes months to give in, but eventually since divorce was occasionally bandied about as a threat, I would give in. Yeah, not very Alpha. Of course I thought I was being the loving husband by giving my wife what she wanted. Blecht.

    1. ROI, sooner or later she's going to make a demand you simply won't be able to give in to. It'll cost far more money than you have, or more time than you can spare, or is going to clearly lead to ruin for you and/or your family.

      Either way, you're going to HAVE to say no, stick to it, and weather the resulting storm of accusation and emotional blackmail. And if she really would divorce you over that, well, she'll end up doing it anyway after everything you've given her. And you'll be extra bitter over it then, believe me. The next woman will think you're a total miser 'cause you'll be giving her virtually nothing in direct response to all this.

    2. "And I would sometimes takes months to give in, but eventually since divorce was occasionally bandied about as a threat, I would give in."

      I am not trying to be hurtful to ROI, but when I read the above statement I figured that's why she wouldn't quit...eventually, you would give in. It's just like the kids...they know when no is no and when no is whine enough and I can have it. I'm not making judgements, just observations.

      I don't know how to tell you to do it differently, I only know what I respond to. When my husband says no I want it to be because he has thought about it and knows it wouldn't be good for me, for our relationship, family, or finances. And when I disagree and give my opinion, if I don't have valid reasons that make sense, then the answer is still no. You've got to respect a man that stands behind what he thinks is right despite the opposition, even if that opposition is me.

      I want him to be strong and lead because he is strong and can lead, not because I hide or reduce who I am. I don't mean for that to sound bitchy but I don't know how else to write it. Maybe she is waiting for you to put her in her place (and that means different things for different women) and it could be she doesn't realize what she is looking for you to do, but maybe a place to start is letting no mean no...every single time.

    3. It's a gigantic shit-test, dude. There's a difference between a reasonable request and an unreasonable fitness-test. Indulging her whims when they run counter to the Mission is just asking for trouble.

      When Mrs. Ironwood suggests something I know is probably not a good idea, I have a variety of responses that let her know that I'm not in favor of the situation, but am open to hear a compelling argument. That doesn't mean I'll knuckle under, it just means that I'm a reasonable man, and if she presents reasonable arguments I will take them under consideration.

      Here's a couple of stock phrases:

      "Show it to me on paper." Usually when she proposes an expense that I would have a hard time justifying. "Show it to me on paper" tells her that if the numbers don't add up, forget it.

      "Now, tell me how this would make our lives better?" this challenges her desire versus the needs of the whole family.

      "I'll consider the matter, but I'm leaning towards 'no'. We just don't have the resources to handle the additional ______________." This is using my masculine power to Order.

      If she starts to use an emotional response (very, very rare): "I can see this has you upset. Let me consider this and we can discuss it again when you've calmed down."

      The fact is, "she's unhappy" is an attempt to get your attention and validation. If you instead challenge her as an adult, and accept only reasonable discussion and not "You don't love me!" BS, she might say she's unhappy at first, but after the first few times of her realizing that you aren't going to yield, she will likely settle down.

      Act like the Captain, and she's just naturally gonna treat you like the Captain. But not if you capitulate to her every time.

  2. "Honey, we’re screwed. But I know that we’ll find our way out. I have every confidence in you.' That one phrase can do more to help the situation than a spontaneous blowjob.

    Okay, perhaps I exaggerate . . ."

    You do not exaggerate, Sir. At really really tough times, that statement can outweigh the blowjob.

  3. nice one,leadership, leadership, that is the spirit of game.
    an attractive male is a great leader by nature

  4. Hey Ian, thanks for all the great tips. You're performing an invaluable act by sharing your knowledge with us young guys just coming up. I want to add your blog to my Igoogle homepage so I can follow easier but I don't see an option anywhere. Am I missing something?

    1. No, I just suck. I'll try to add a button tomorrow.

  5. A good man and a good woman make a good team. A jack-ass and a vain, greedy slut make a lousy team. My definition of an Alpha has never been "cock of the walk." An Alpha Man has the compelling need to take care of other people through leadership.

    Both husband and wife need the skills of delayed self gratification, impulse control, planning and managing towards a goal, good manners & common sense. Not attributes that can be found in a bar or crowded nightclub.