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Vulnerability and Avoiding Manipulative Relationships

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Vulnerability and Avoiding Manipulative Relationships

We’re due for another big post on vulnerability and how it affects relationships and dating. Got an interesting email last week that I wanted to answer publicly. And, well, I kind of splurged on this one.

The following email is from a man concerned about his relationships with women. In it, he makes some disparaging remarks about the type of women he’s dated. I want to make clear, before we dive into this (oh, and it’s a deep dive), that you can reverse the genders (or even sexual orientations) and everything applies equally. In fact, I get just as many emails like the one below from women disparaging the manipulative men in their life as I do the opposite, so this has nothing to do with gender.

What we’ll find is that there seems to be a very fundamental component of human relationships and that is this: you only deal with as much manipulation as you’re willing to deal with. Now, I know nobody thinks they are willing to deal with manipulative behaviors from their partners. But the truth is that most of us are terrible judges of manipulative behavior, both in our partners but also in ourselves.

Therefore, without further ado, here’s the reader email that kicks everything off:

Hi Mark,

I attend a local men’s group where we discuss Robert Glover’s work on Nice Guys. A friend of mine recently recommended your book to me and I’m about halfway through it.

I am mostly enjoying your book Models, and I do not wish to prejudge, but I feel compelled to send you this email right away and get your honest feedback. I am 37 years old, single, and four years removed from my last relationship which lasted one and half years. I am not perfect, but I am confident that I am working to improve myself and I know I am blessed and have great things going for me.

I have learned the hard way that women, no matter what they may say, do not go for Nice Guys or gentlemen, but instead go for the scumbags and the assholes, etc. I have also learned the hard way that women do not process logic or think rationally in the same way that men do. The problem that I am having with your book so far is the issue of Vulnerability.

I am still trying to figure HOW to put this into practice. I am sorry but I don’t think you understand how cruel some women can be. Women can be very emotional and manipulative liars.

Women, subconsciously or not, do try to impose Shit Tests upon men — especially in this age of fucked up Feminism where the women are searching for ways to break a man’s balls. I think you are totally discounting or ignoring this in your book.

As for Vulnerability, my experience is that women perceive this as being soft, weak, a doormat, unmanly, a wuss, needy, etc. I can deal with rejection as much as it sucks. But in the course of meeting a girl and trying to keep it real, getting to know her and create attraction, I have problems with the Vulnerabilty part.

If being Vulnerable with a woman means that I have to expose myself to humiliation or disrespect or her games or shit tests, then I want no part of it.

I will finish reading your book and write more. I hope to read your response.

Merry Christmas, and thank you.

I get a lot of emails about Models and particularly about the concept of vulnerability in general. It’s the central concept of the book and the one readers struggle with the most. I wanted to reply to this email publicly because it runs the gamut of objections and confusion surrounding the subject.

I’ll take them one by one:

1. “I have learned the hard way that women, no matter what they may say, do not go for Nice Guys or gentlemen, but instead go for scumbags and assholes.”

Intentionally or not, you are equating “Nice Guys” with “gentlemen” here. The assumption is that any man who is polite is therefore a Nice Guy.

If you recall, in No More Mr. Nice Guy, Dr. Glover’s definition of a Nice Guy is a man who subverts his own will and desires to get people to like him. One of the points Glover makes is that behavior itself is not necessarily Nice Guy behavior or attractive behavior, but it’s the motivation behind it.

For instance, you can forgo all manners and be a complete dick, but if you’re doing it so that other people will like you, then you will also not attract anyone. Despite opposite behavior, you essentially achieve the same result as a Nice Guy.

In my own book, I make a very similar assertion: that neediness isn’t determined by what you actually say or do, but the intention behind what you say or do.

The reason some women (it’s important to emphasize here not all women, but some women) go for assholes and scumbags is that generally assholes and scumbags are not subverting their own will to make other people like them. Despite being assholes, they have strong boundaries and stand up for themselves.

The point is that the determining factor of what attracts women is not whether they’re polite or an asshole. That’s icing on the cake. It’s the motivations behind their actions that matters.

I’m generally a pretty nice guy. So are all of my friends. I attract a lot of women. As do most of the men I hang out with. It has nothing to do with how “nice” we are, it’s that we’re not editing ourselves to impress others or to alter people’s perceptions around us. We have strong boundaries. We have strong identities. And we happen to be friendly.

2. “I have also learned the hard way that women do not process logic or think rationally in the same way that men do.”

PEOPLE do not process logic or think rationally. Not women, humans. I mean, you’ve been behaving as a Nice Guy your entire life with little to nothing to show for it. That wasn’t exactly a rational decision, was it? You consistently chose to get involved with manipulative women. Why? That’s not very rational either.

Humans, both men and women, are slaves to their emotions and subconscious itches. Logic only comes into play when we want to justify what we already feel to ourselves and to others.

Sneaky insincere man holding axe giving gift present box to woman. Husband concealing hiding his true feelings from happy trusting wife. Untrue false intention.

Don’t believe me? Here’s an example that may hit close to home:

A man could be well-educated, he could study medicine and psychology, he could understand that every statistical measurement, both physical and mental, every psychometric, every personality trait, can be distributed across a bell-curve in a large enough population. He could understand the power of cultural influences on personal belief systems and how neuroplasticity molds our mental processes to match our environmental stimuli.

He could know and understand all of this, yet still believe that for some reason, all women are manipulative and irrational. Not some, ALL. Why?

Well, throughout his life, he’s made irrational decisions to date irrational and emotional women, women who have manipulated him and generally made his life a living hell. It was his decision to date them. But rather than admit that to himself (that would, after all, be rational), it’s easier to believe that EVERY woman, all 3.5 billion of them, is born with some sort of neurological or ethical deficiency that men (read: himself) doesn’t have — even though there is absolutely no scientific evidence for it and there’s an entire social movement fighting against irrational gender beliefs such as this.

Sound familiar?

3. “I am still trying to figure HOW to put this into practice. I am sorry but I don’t think you understand how cruel some women can be. Women can be very emotional and manipulative liars.”

Oh, really? You think I haven’t been manipulated or lied to by women before? Wish I could say I haven’t, but not true. The way I got here all began with a manipulative and lying woman.

(And by the way, ANYONE can be cruel, emotional, manipulative and a liar. In fact, we all are, depending on the time and circumstance. Get used to it.)

As for how to put it into practice, I will give you some examples at the end of this post. I’m not done yet.

4. “Women, subconsciously or not, do try to impose Shit Tests upon men — especially in this age of fucked up Feminism where the women are searching for ways to break a man’s balls. I think you are totally discounting or ignoring this in your book.”

Well, it depends what your definition of a shit test is. The classic definition of a shit test is when a woman challenges you to determine how congruent and confident you are in your identity. This is usually seen as a negative thing by men, which is strange since it indicates that she’s interested and/or intimidated by you.

But, in my opinion, women shit test fairly rarely. And here’s why…

What’s the difference between shit testing someone and simply doubting them? What’s the difference between a woman making fun of your job to see if you’ll defend yourself to her or her legitimately being unsure if that’s what you do for a living?

The answer: Her intentions. One is manipulative. One is simply being genuinely uncertain and wanting to know more about you. BOTH are done because she’s interested in you, but we’ll leave that alone for a second and focus on the manipulation.

How do you tell the difference between a woman who is being manipulative (shit testing) and a woman who is genuinely curious about you (interested)?

Well, you can’t. At least not 100% of the time. I wrote an article a long time ago called “Shit Test Paranoia”. The article was about how some men are so paranoid of having a woman manipulate them, that they ALWAYS assume the worst and distrust all women in this situation.

So the friendly way she jokes about your hair is suddenly manipulation.
That honest question about whether you miss your ex sometimes is manipulation.
That concern that you don’t speak to your mother enough is manipulation.

This is a shitty way to live and a shitty way to date women.

Yes, everyone is manipulative some of the time, and some women are manipulative a lot of the time. But walking around freaking out that women are shit-testing you all the time is labeling them all guilty without a trial.

You are choosing to interpret everything women say to you as manipulative and emotional, and then go around complaining that all women are manipulative and emotional.

The issue here isn’t women. It’s you. You don’t trust them.

I want to encourage you to stop making assumptions about people, especially women, and start taking them by their actions point blank. You asked earlier what vulnerability looks like. Well one way to be vulnerable is to be open about your expectations and values. You commented that vulnerability is “soft” and “weak,” but on the contrary my friend, if it was so weak, then why is it so hard for you to do it?

Here’s my take on shit tests: Who cares? Shit tests only have power over you if you’re overly concerned about her opinion of you. If you’re truly confident in who you are, then you shouldn’t feel the need to prove it to her, especially some sassy broad you just met.

The point is: If shit tests bother you, it’s because you’re weak.

A strong confident man looks a shit test in the eye and laughs. She’s trying to fuck with him? Really? How cute. Let’s dump her and go find a confident woman who won’t try to fuck with my emotions. Ah, there, that’s better.

I’m going to wrap this up with a series of examples. As with many of the examples in the book, the four examples below are a matrix of behavioral traits. In the first two, the man demonstrates a lack of vulnerability, in the second two, the man demonstrates vulnerability. In each case, a manipulative woman and a non-manipulative woman are shown.

Example 1: Non-Vulnerable Man with Manipulative Woman

Him: So after school I actually hitchhiked my way down to San Diego. It was a little bit crazy and my parents hated it.
Her: Wow, you’re pretty irresponsible.
Him: I’m as irresponsible as they come. Why, does that intimidate you? *sly grin*
Her: *laughs* Intimidate me? I don’t think you could if you tried.
Him: Keep it up and we’ll find out soon enough.

This is the classic tease response to a shit test, as taught by most PUA methods. Notice that you’re basically entering into a verbal sparring match with her, manipulation against manipulation. Yes, this does work… on manipulative women. This lacks vulnerability because you’re masquerading your actual identity in order to out-wit her or to be “more dominant” or whatever the fuck the phrase is they use these days.

The other variation of the lack of vulnerability here is to go the Nice Guy route and agree with her in an apologetic way. For instance: “Yeah, but I’ve grown up since then. I’m very responsible now.” This works on, well, just about nobody. But when it does, it plays into manipulative women as well.

All in all, a shitty and unpleasant interaction. Even if you do get laid, you have to constantly sit there and battle with the woman long enough to trick both of you into thinking you’re attracted to one another.

Example 2: Non-Vulnerable Man with Non-Manipulative Woman

Him: So after school I actually hitchhiked my way down to San Diego. It was a little bit crazy and my parents hated it.
Her: Wow, that’s pretty extreme. What motivated you?
Him: Motivated me? Hah, what motivated it is I do whatever the fuck I want.
Her: No, but I mean, did something in particular inspire you to do that?
Him: I’m inspired all the time. You know, I used to play in a rock band. There was this one time, blah, blah, blah…

Notice in this example the woman is actually genuinely curious about the man’s life and his motivations. She questions it not out of manipulation, but out of genuine curiosity. But a man could easily interpret this as her “testing” him or patronizing him in a sarcastic way.

In the example, the guy is so caught up in being a tough-guy asshole (read: insecure), he doesn’t give her a straight response, and instead comes off as very try-hard. I also threw in a little DHV transition there to emphasize the douchiness. This type of stuff will turn off non-manipulative women in two seconds flat. The Nice Guy variation of this would be to avoid the intimate questions and make some sort of self-deprecating statement, like “Haha, I don’t know, I was being stupid.” This would be harmless but would kill attraction and likely lead to the friend zone.

So what have we noticed? A lack of vulnerability turns off non-manipulative women and gives manipulative women more ammunition to come at us with drama. Non-manipulative women get tired of us and reject us. Manipulative women become energized and we have to spar our way into their pants.

So what about an honest, vulnerable approach?

Example 3: Vulnerable Man with Manipulative Woman

Him: So after school I actually hitchhiked my way down to San Diego. It was a little bit crazy and my parents hated it.
Her: Wow, you’re pretty irresponsible.
Him: Not really.
Her: Ditching your family to go and try to be some badass surfer guy. Give me a break. How self-centered can you be?
Him: That’s a pretty judgmental way to look at it.
Her: I just think it’s stupid and disrespectful.
Him: Well, it’s clear our values differ. It was nice meeting you.
Her: Wait, what?
Him: Goodnight.
Her: Are you serious? You’re leaving? NOW?!
Him: Yes.
Her: I’m sorry. Wait. Don’t go. I didn’t mean it like that.
Him: *Walks out*

This is an example of how vulnerability can embody strength. The power of vulnerability comes in setting strong boundaries. In this example, the woman is judgmental and probably exaggerating her objections in order to make the man feel insecure around her. He identifies her judgment for what it is and has the balls to come out and say it. He identifies that she’s not living up to his values or expectations, lets her know and then promptly dumps her on the spot. This is not easy to do.

The reason it’s so hard is because you’re disregarding another person’s perception in favor of your own. You’re exposing your values and your desires openly. And as a result, this woman is likely going to think you’re an over-sensitive asshole for the rest of her life. That’s vulnerability. That’s risking far more than standing there and arguing with her or teasing her back.

One horrible mindset that a lot of men get into is the idea that they have to “win” situations like this. There’s no winning here. Even if you out-wit a bitch to sleep with her, you’re still sleeping with a bitch. It’s a lose/lose situation.

The beauty about setting such strong boundaries is that you screen out manipulative women insanely quickly. Guys always think I’m crazy or lying when I say that I never get shit tested. But I don’t. I never date manipulative or bitchy girls. I consistently date really beautiful women with high values, high self-esteem, and strong-self awareness. How? I dump so many from the get-go for stupid stuff like this that I never have to worry about it again. I am ruthless when it comes to this. I’ll leave in the middle of a first date. I’ll walk away mid sentence. I don’t care. I don’t have time for girls who suck.

The irony here, of course, is that manipulative women can’t take this. In their mind, they just “lost” and so they’ll do anything to get you back. Sometimes they’ll step up their games, call you a dozen times, plead with you for another chance. But other times they’ll straighten up. Often women will apologize and then never fuck with you again. As soon as they know you’re willing to walk away at any moment, they will not mess with you.

Finally, I should note that I don’t hold these standards to look for a soulmate or anything. Even in casual sex situations, I maintain these standards. And the paradox is that meeting and dating women actually feels EASIER once you adopt this mindset. You would naturally think, “Oh, that means I have to meet twice as many women, I have to put in twice as much effort, since I’m rejecting half of the ones who like me.”

Actually, you end up putting in far LESS effort, because you’re no longer wasting so much time and energy trying to convince her that you’re a cool guy. You’re not longer exhausting yourself wondering whether she likes you enough or not, or worrying about how to impress her or win her back. When she doesn’t live up to your standards, the situation is made extremely easy for you: you walk. No thought involved. No arguing. No super witty comebacks. It’s just that her behavior doesn’t meet my standards, I’m going to meet someone else now.

Example 4: Vulnerable Man with Non-Manipulative Woman

Him: So after school I actually hitchhiked my way down to San Diego. It was a little bit crazy and my parents hated it.
Her: Wow, that’s pretty extreme. Is there anything that motivated it?
Him: Well, part of it was just classic rebelliousness. But my family is pretty conservative. And I never felt like I completely fit in. Looking back, it was obvious that I needed to do something that made me feel independent, something that gave me my own identity.
Her: Yeah, that makes sense. I think everybody needs to do that to a certain extent, maybe not in such extreme situations.
Him: Definitely. I had a blast though. I mean, at the time, it felt like I was about to ruin my life or something, but now I look back and it’s just a cool thing I did one summer. *laughs*
Her: Haha, yeah, it’s funny how things that used to be a big deal when you were younger aren’t any more. *laughs*
Him: Yeah, like a first kiss or a first date. *laugh*
Her: Oh totally. I remember my first kiss. We planned it like a week in advance. My legs were shaking the whole time.

And here is an example of two emotionally mature, non-manipulative adults who are attracted to each other. I threw in the transition to a sexual subject to show how easily it can be done once you’re already on personal topics. This is kind of a tangent, but a lot of men who have trouble sexualizing their conversations are never talking about something that can create sexual tension.

A big reason for that is that their conversations are shallow. When you’re discussing the weather, the baseball scores, what you majored in and so on, it’s hard to jump to your favorite sexual position.

But if she’s talking about the time she went crazy and stole her brother’s car and you relate it to how one time you and your ex-girlfriend snuck into a hotel and had sex in an empty conference room… it gets very, very easy. Why? Because you’re being vulnerable. Getting involved sexually is an act of vulnerability, so if you’re both already being vulnerable up until that moment, it’s just a logical next-step.

But that may be a topic for another day. The point that I hope these examples drive home is that vulnerability is not weak. Vulnerability involves setting strong boundaries and then connecting with woman on a meaningful level.

Psychological research shows that people of similar self-esteem end up attracted to one another. Research also shows that men and women with similar beliefs about gender end up together.

What this means is you are who you attract. If you consistently end up with manipulative, mean women. Then there’s something about you that is manipulative and mean; you just don’t see it yet. Robert Glover brilliantly describes how Nice Guy Syndrome is actually extremely manipulative by being passive-aggressive. There’s a reason why Nice Guys always end up with narcissistic drama queens. They’re good matches. And one must admit that to themselves.

I walked around for years with the story that my ex-girlfriend totally screwed me over and fucked me up emotionally. Eventually I was able to admit that actually I had been a pretty shitty boyfriend, needy and passive-aggressive. And I wasn’t surprised that she left me. That change in narrative changed my relationships with women. I was no longer a victim, but suddenly 100% responsible for the relationship results I ended up with.

But back to the email:

Assholes may get laid, but the quality of the experience is rarely high because they’re doing it through duping women who are trying to dupe them.

Sex and relationships are best when they’re both consciously agreed upon. And to be conscious, they have to be manipulation free. Your overall problem here is easily fixed: set stronger boundaries. It’s clear you’ve been hurt in the past and are making angry generalizations about women. It’s also clear that you still have this sub-conscious need for these women to approve of you. And in short, these two things are scaring away the good ones and continuing to attract the bad ones.

For more info on this topic, check out: Vulnerability Primer

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