Thursday, August 28, 2014

Don't Discuss Problems

Done with problems

Not everyone agrees with my idea that sharing “everything” can be a bad idea, even if the topic of discussion creates anxiety for your spouse (detailed in this post). In review, I advise couples not to discuss work-related problems at home, advice that encourages you to consider what you share and how you share it. 

George Pransky, PhD, recounts an illuminating interview that hits the nail on the head in his book The Relationship Handbook. The couple, Bill and Wendy, married 15 years, have a strong, intimate relationship:

Interviewer: Shouldn’t you be able to talk about anything in your marriage? I assumed a couple with a good marriage could talk about anything.

Bill: We have learned to from experience that we do better not talking about sensitive subjects when we’re upset.

Interviewer: But, isn’t it important in a marriage to be able to discuss sensitive subjects?

Bill: Let me put it this way. I’m an engineer. If you study any blueprint of a building, you can always see weak points in the structure. These points might be more than strong enough to keep the building up but they are definitely the weakest points in the structure, and you wouldn’t want to put extra pressure on them. In fact, you would put as little pressure on them as possible. These points wouldn’t hurt the general structure of the building unless you put undue stress on them. I think talking about sensitive areas when you’re in a low state of mind puts unnecessary stress on the structure of a relationship. If we pile on enough stress, the relationship might collapse even though it’s ninety percent sound.

Interviewer: I understand you don’t tackle issue head on. What I don’t understand is how you expect an issue to resolve itself if you don’t focus on it?

Wendy: When we back off an issue, we put it out of our minds. Somehow it looks different the next time we think about it. (George S. Pransky, PhD, The Relationship Handbook, p. 101)

This interview describes another important consideration: when — if ever — you should discuss a problem. For many couples,  job security — and hence, “life” security — is a sensitive subject. Very few of us like to dwell on what would happen if we suddenly found ourselves unemployed. Does this mean we should avoid any uncomfortable issue and just stick our heads in the sand?

Definitely not. Tomorrow, I’ll discuss the difference between focusing on problems vs. discussing solutions in the context of when, what, and how — an excellent topic covered in Pransky’s book.


Dr. John Alexander is relationship expert and the author of The Sigma Male: What Women Really Want. To learn more about Sigma Coaching, visit his website, subscribe to his blog, “like” his page on Facebook, and follow him on Twitter.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Feeling Angry? Try Playing a Game of "Flinch"

Don t flinch copy

According to experts, anger is a normal reaction to a perceived threat — sometimes even considered to be a healthy emotion. Perhaps anger is helpful when a life-threatening situation stimulates a quick, adrenaline-fueled response; however, anger expressed in a relationship is never a good thing. How can your spouse feel secure when she’s attacked by the very person who should be protecting her?

Anger comes in all varieties, from acting slightly miffed to indulging in a full-fledged rage. Without doubt, the more intense the negative feeling, the more damage done to a relationship but regardless, learning to eliminate any level of angry response is essential to learning to be a Protector.

According to the American Psychological Association, there are three approaches to dealing with anger: Expressing, Suppressing, and calming.

Expressing: Communicating your feelings in an assertive — not aggressive — manner.

  • make your needs clear and how others can meet them
  • be respectful of yourself and others

Watch out! Expressing feelings inappropriately builds a higher level of aggression.

Suppressing: Inhibiting or holding your anger and converting it into more constructive behavior.

  • avoid thinking about the anger
  • focus on the positive

Watch out! If not expressed in positive terms, suppressed anger turns inward — on yourself — possibly causing hypertension, high blood pressure, or depression.

Calming: Controlling your internal responses.

  • take steps to lower your heart rate
  • calm your thoughts

Watch out! Calming is more difficult in loud or chaotic situations and can take longer to implement.


1. Understand your triggers: Fatigue, hunger, stress, messes, etc. can turn a normally calm person into a hostile jerk. While you may not be able to avoid your triggers altogether, recognizing your vulnerability to certain stimuli makes it easier to “back off” before you reach a point of no return. 

2. Prepare a few “anti-anger” responses: Each time you encounter a situation that usually pushes you over the edge, say something like, “You’re right. I’m working on that” or “Wow. I missed that” or “You’ve got a point.” Nothing diffuses a hot encounter faster than a quiet, non-confrontational response.

3. Use Humor: When used sparingly and in concert with the previous suggestion, a funny turn of phrase can get everyone smiling, e.g. the ever-popular “That’s what she said.”

4. Change Your Mindset: Express what you’re feeling in positive terms instead of being negative. For example, instead of saying, “Everything is ruined,” tell yourself that “This sucks but it’s not the end of the world.” Avoid using words like “never” or “always” because they are ALWAYS inaccurate. Tell yourself that getting angry won’t change anything except making you feel worse. Read this post for more ideas on expressing yourself in positively. 

5. Use Relaxation Techniques: Focus on your breathing to center yourself; repeat calming phrases to yourself; visualize a calming experience; stretch your muscles; etc.


Did you ever play “Flinch” when you were a kid?

You and a buddy would try to make each other flinch by any means possible — no touching allowed. If you flinched — pulled back from his pretend assault — he got to give you a “charley-horse" on the arm. During a game of flinch, you worked hard to calm your nerves — steeling yourself against anything that might be thrown your way. If you flinched at a pretend shot, you had to grit your teeth and take a real hit. Winning was all about who could act the toughest. Even though a charley-horse hurt like crazy, you refused to back down.

When you know you’re entering a “hazard zone” — a situation that would usually set you off — pretend you’ve agreed to play a game of “Flinch.” Tell yourself nothing can make you blink. If you break down and flinch, grit your teeth and take the “charley-horse,” because you deserve it!

Be invulnerable, just like Superman. There’s not a projectiles on Earth that can hurt you because your skin is so thick. You can take it!

Remember, being the ultimate Protector means you are able to keep your negative emotions in check.


Dr. John Alexander is relationship expert and the author of The Sigma Male: What Women Really Want. To learn more about Sigma Coaching, visit his website, subscribe to his blog, “like” his page on Facebook, and follow him on Twitter.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

When is Sharing "Everything" Too Much?

See hear speak no evil

Although the names have been changed, the following story is true.




Michael and Kelsey have an extremely close relationship and have no trouble communicating with each other. From the start they determined that they would talk about everything in marriage, positive and negative: hopes, dreams, frustrations, disappointments. They check in with each other multiple times a day during work breaks and always “debrief” the day before going to bed.


Kelsey constantly worries about Michael’s emotional well-being. She knows he hates his job and is concerned about his ability to maintain his current position because his boss is dismissive and certain coworkers undercut him at every turn. Kelsey is certain Michael will eventually get the ax — she just doesn’t know when — which causes her many sleepless nights.

Michael is conflicted. On the one hand, he recognizes that a Protector should shield his wife emotionally, so maybe he should keep his mouth shut about work. At the same time he knows Kelsey is a strong and capable woman and she insists on hearing about his day. Keeping things from her would only make Michael feel guilty. Besides, he appreciates Kelsey’s support and knows that their willingness to share everything has created the strong bond they enjoy.

Michael’s Solution

Michael decides the role of Protector should supersede his desire to tell his wife everything. When he gets home from work he tells Kelsey he would rather talk about anything other than what his day was like. Within days all work-related conversations cease. Although they continue to check-in with each other during the day, their communication feels stilted and formal. Michael discovers he doesn’t have much to talk about. In addition, Kelsey becomes even more worried about Michael because now she’s completely in the dark, not to mention Michael is becoming increasingly edgy and withdrawn.

A few weeks later, Michael quits keeping things to himself and the couple resumes their daily debriefs. Michael says Kelsey’s tendency to worry is better than the uncomfortable silence that comes with not sharing the details of his day.


Michael’s initial intuition was right: Telling his wife everything about work does create unnecessary worry — an emotional dragon. But cutting off all communication with his wife is also a mistake. Before discussing work at home, Michael needs to consider “what” he shares and “how” he shares it.

1. What to Communicate

Never share privileged information outside the workplace (details about clients, projects, trade secrets, etc.). In fact, there are many laws that prohibit sharing certain types of information — even with your spouse.

More importantly, avoid sharing negative views of supervisors, co-workers, projects or products. First, the communication of a Sigma should demonstrate strength and determination. Ill-speaking only makes you appear weak or ineffective. Additionally, there is nothing your spouse can do to change your work environment — that’s your responsibility.

Feel free to talk in general terms what you’re doing and who you’re working with, as long as you avoid privileged information. Share your challenges and how you plan to overcome them. Avoid sniping and leave out the play-by-play of who said what to whom.

2. How to Communicate

Sharing your frustration or exhaustion after a hard day’s work is not necessarily problematic — it’s how you do it. Expressing frustration (OK) is very different than complaining about frustrating people or events (Not OK).

Consider the overall effect of these three statements concerning the same workday:

Statement #1: We’re never going to get this project done. Jim has his head up his butt and Frank is just dead weight. I’m the one doing everything but I’ll get shafted in the end.  Jim will take credit if we succeed but he’ll be the first one to throw me under the bus if things fall apart. And those idiots in the management will buy whatever he tells them — he’s such an ass-kisser. I know I’m going to get passed over again. Can you believe it? It’s so unfair!

Statement #2: Today? Uneventful. I worked on our latest project. Not much to tell. Same old, same old. What’s for dinner? 

Statement #3This has really been a frustrating project. Every time I think we’re ready to wrap it up another challenge comes up. It’s a good thing I’m taking care of things — otherwise the company would take a huge hit. The hardest thing has been getting along with the members of this team but that’s probably why they assigned me to it. I’m the go-to guy; I always deliver, no matter what.

See the difference? Do any of the speakers leave out something that should be said? Do any of the speakers say too much? Which speaker best succeeds at sharing feelings while inspiring his spouse’s confidence in his abilities?


Statement #1: negative; uninspiring and non-protective; leaves spouse open to additional dragon attacks.

Statement #2: neutral; protective but dismissive; creates a new dragon.

Statement #3: positive; insightful, inspiring and protective; dragonslaying at its best.


  • Sharing “everything” causes more stress than sharing “nothing,” but both fail to eliminate emotional dragons.
  • Never express frustration or pain without indicating you have the ability and will to work through it.
  • Avoid griping and complaining at all cost.
  • Sharing “everything” should never bring your spouse stress, vulnerability, or fear; rather, your communication should inspire confidence, admiration, and gratitude.

What topics create anxiety or stress in your relationship? Email me the details and I’ll address your concern in a future post.


Dr. John Alexander is relationship expert and the author of The Sigma Male: What Women Really Want. To learn more about Sigma Coaching, visit his website, subscribe to his blog, “like” his page on Facebook, and follow him on Twitter.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

"My Wife Stresses About Our Finances"

Financial stress

Although the names have been changed, the following story is true.




Jeff has always been a Sigma Provider. His job as a graphic designer affords his family a comfortable lifestyle, although at times they are stretched thin. His wife, Mackenzie, is good about paying the bills on time — Jeff rarely asks and usually assumes all is well, which means he often spends money without “checking” with her. Even though they are generally good about following a budget, the couple regularly raids their savings account to cover unforeseen expenses (e.g. car repairs, home maintenance, illness, etc.), which causes Mackenzie anxiety and stress.


Jeff recognizes he has been neglecting an important part of the role of Presider: Financial planning. Failure to adequately fill this role has allowed financial dragons to afflict his wife.

Jeff’s Solution

In order to better understand the household cash flow, Jeff spends time reviewing the family finances with his wife. He decides to open a second “emergency” savings account without telling her. After reining in his personal spending, he begins making regular deposits in the new account.


Several months later, Mackenzie calls Jeff at work, anxious and seemingly overwhelmed: Their leaky water heater must be replaced, which will cost over $1000, money they do not have. Jeff tells her about the emergency account, which has more that enough to cover the expense. Mackenzie is understandably upset with him for opening an account without her knowledge but after recognizing her husband has had the foresight to plan for their well-being, she takes it in stride.


First, Jeff has not addressed his non-participation in paying the bills. While there is nothing inherently wrong with his wife taking it on, Mackenzie’s stress has been amplified by having to carry the weight of this responsibility on her own. Jeff should consider taking some or all of this stress off her shoulders. Regardless, he needs to stay on top of the household cash flow, which will enable the couple to discuss financial matters openly and frankly.

Next, setting aside money for emergencies definitely demonstrates Sigma behavior, but opening a “secret” account does not. Jeff rationalized his decision by telling himself the only way to “save” the extra money was to keep his wife out of the loop. After the water heater incident he sheepishly admitted the truth: He feared his wife would not agree with his plan. 

Acting in your family’s best interest may require you to make an unpopular decision. However, a Sigma Presider is willing to shoulder the responsibility of all decisions, whether he makes them or not. This includes taking ownership for the outcome of those decisions — which Jeff readily did. Ironically, he had already reviewed the finances with Mackenzie and both agreed they needed to get a handle on their savings account. At that point it would have been easy for Jeff to get his wife on board with opening a secondary emergency account or at least discussing an alternative plan. Either way, his wife wouldn’t have experienced the anxiety associated with an unplanned expense.

Remember, being a Provider (earning sufficient income) is not enough to make a man a complete Sigma. In order to guarantee a stable financial future, the role of Presider must be exercised as well .


Dr. John Alexander is relationship expert and the author of The Sigma Male: What Women Really Want. To learn more about Sigma Coaching, visit his website, subscribe to his blog, “like” his page on Facebook, and follow him on Twitter.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Top 3 "Turn-offs" for Women in Committed Relationships

Woman disgusted by man

I continue to be amazed by the number of “Top 10” lists written about what women do and don’t like in a partner, like this one posted by LIfescript — especially since the writers never quite get to the heart of the matter.

As a plastic surgeon and a relationship coach I’ve had the opportunity to meet with thousands of women who have readily opened up about what they look for in a man and, conversely, what drives them crazy about their current partner. At first their answers seemed to be all over the board, which would indicate that women really don’t know what they want, but over time I have recognized a pattern.

Women don’t like:

1. Men who express negative opinions about women (i.e. chauvinism)

2. Men with serious character flaws (e.g. egotism, philandering, laziness, etc)

Not surprisingly, women can usually identify these traits in a man before they enter a long-term relationship. In fact, when I talk to struggling couples, these two “deal-breakers” rarely come up (unless it’s a secondary issue). Because of this, I’m much more interested in helping men understand the main “turn-offs” that come up after the commitment, especially since these issues can easily be corrected or avoided in the first place.


1. Indecision

Problem: A man tries too hard to be accommodating and nice — he doesn’t want to seem the least bit chauvinistic. But whether it’s having very little say about where you eat, what movies you watch, what appliances and furnishings you buy, or what clothes you wear, women are tired of watching their men degenerate into vanilla-eating zombies. What happened to the interesting guy she married? 

Solution: Be a strong Presider. Leadership doesn’t mean you must make every decision or that you won’t consider your wife’s feelings and opinions — quite the opposite. But healthy relationships don’t require every decision be made by committee — especially the small ones. Never be afraid to weigh in with what you think and why, but most importantly, be willing to pull the trigger! 

2. Failure to Take Responsibility

Problem: A man’s indecision and apathy allows him to become a victim. If he is not responsible for the decision then why should he be responsible for the outcome? And even if he dares make a decision, a poor outcome is blamed on his wife’s lack of support or poor circumstances. Women are tired of having to take responsibility for every aspect of a relationship. Isn’t marriage supposed to be a partnership?

Solution: Be a strong Protector and Presider. The Sigma Mindset helps a man take ownership for the outcome in all areas of his life, including his relationship. Strong leadership means owning the outcome of all decisions, even the ones your wife makes — because only victims blame others for life’s misfortunes. And as a Protector, your desire should always be to shield your wife from any and all harm —  even when she brings it on herself.

3. “Fraternality”

Problem: Whether it appears in the form of poor grooming, rude behavior, or general apathy about romantic gestures, women don’t want to be treated like “one of the boys.” Your wife wants to be your partner not your roommate; she want to be considered family but doesn’t want to be your brother; she wants to be your best friend but doesn’t want to be treated like your best friend.

Solution: Be a strong Protector. True, there is a certain familiarity that walks hand-in-hand with protective behavior, but it should never cross over into mindless informality. Offer your arm, open doors, be polite — treat your wife with kindness and insist that others do the same. Although your wife is completely capable of wielding a sword in her own defense, don’t act as if she’s just your “brother-in-arms.” Instead of fraternizing by asking her to “pull your finger,” prove you really have her back by taking on each and every dragon that dares fly in her direction.

It’s easy to spot the common thread that weaves these three traits together: Strength vs. weakness.

Always maintain a posture of Sigma strength by Protecting, Providing and Presiding and your wife will never be “turned off” by your behavior.


Dr. John Alexander is relationship expert and the author of The Sigma Male: What Women Really Want. To learn more about Sigma Coaching, visit his website, subscribe to his blog, “like” his page on Facebook, and follow him on Twitter.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

1950s Marriage Advice: Has Anything Really Changed?

Most modern viewers respond to this video’s advice for women just as the newscasters do: With laughter and disbelief.

Interestingly, many men I coach still complain about these same issues, so maybe we should take a closer look.

Bad Tips for Women #1: Don’t bother your husband with petty troubles and complaints

Men, have you ever been guilty of brushing off your spouse’s stresses because they seem small or trivial? It’s easy to mistake these issues as “high-maintenance behavior” or attribute them to character flaws, so instead of listening and helping, you say, Why are you so worried? What’s the big deal? Why can’t you just relax? Why are you so emotional about everything? Then you justify these dismissals by thinking, My wife is a strong, capable woman; she can handle minor problems on her own. I f I acknowledge these inconveniences it will just encourage an overreaction. Besides, these little issues are nothing compared to the problems I face every day.

It doesn’t matter if your wife’s problems seem insignificant to you when they feel like aggressive, threatening dragons to her.

Without a doubt, failure to recognize your spouse’s stresses or concerns (her dragons) only signals misunderstanding, lack of caring and/or the inability to be protective.

Bad Tips for Women #2: Nagging destroys happiness more than anything else

Most men would agree: Nothing eliminates harmony faster than nagging does. But that begs the question: When and why did the nagging start? I’ve yet to meet a woman who really wants to be a nag. And I’ve yet to meet a woman who was a nag before she got married. In short, nagging is a bad habit and all bad habits are established after consistent reinforcement over time.

In other words, if the only way a woman can get her husband’s attention is to pester him…well, you know the rest. Experience proves that telling your spouse not to nag — even if she agrees she shouldn’t — never works. Besides, when you are a strong protector, nagging should roll off your back like water on a duck.

Here’s the interesting part: Bad Tip #2 wouldn’t exist without Bad Tip #1; that is, nagging only happens after men tune out their wives! 

Good Tips for Men #1: Recognize the dragon and slay it

When your wife has a problem, recognize it for what it is: An attacking dragon. Then, once you’ve acknowledge the existence of that dragon, whip out your man-sword and hack it down — be your wife’s protector and take care of the issue without hesitating.

When you do that, you’ll prove you’re a Sigma who’s moved beyond the 1950s.


Dr. John Alexander is relationship expert and the author of The Sigma Male: What Women Really Want. To learn more about Sigma Coaching, visit his website, subscribe to his blog, “like” his page on Facebook, and follow him on Twitter.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Stuck in a "Reaction" Rut?

Reaction rut

Are you familiar with the following reactionary scenario?

Your partner says or does something and without thinking you automatically react. Within seconds, you realize your mistake but it’s too late; the “happy spouse” ship has left the dock, leaving you with an all-to-familiar negative outcome.

“Next time will be different,” you say. But it never is.

In his book 18 Minutes, consultant Peter Bregman describes this phenomenon:

event —> reaction —> outcome

This simple event-reaction-outcome chain governs most of our spontaneous action. Something or someone hooks us and we react. Someone yells at us, we yell back and create the outcome of a damaged relationship. It’s not that we want a damaged relationship; it’s just what happens when we yell back.

Bregman points out that the most important part of the chain — “arguably the only part that really matters” — is the outcome, which we allow to become collateral damage from the reaction.

He suggests that the chain should be rearranged to look like this:

event —> outcome —> reaction

In other words, stop reacting to the past and start reacting to the future.

If someone yells at you, pause before yelling back. Then ask yourself what outcome you want. If the answer is “An improved relationship,” don’t yell back. Instead, in a normal voice, empathize with their anger and ask some questions about the concerns raised in the midst of the screaming. That’s a reaction that will achieve a better relationship.

Easier said than done, right? Bregman agrees but says that a simple change of mindset can turn this problem around:

Here’s the hard part: You react to the event because it’s asking you to react to it. But just because the event catalyzed your action doesn’t mean it should determine it. How you react can and should be determined by the outcome — by the future you want to create.

Getting out of the event-reaction-outcome rut asks you to think about outcomes in advance, which requires you to put yourself in a position that allow you to see the big picture.

The first step of Sigma Coaching does exactly that: Asks you to take the higher ground and position yourself as your spouse’s last line of protective defense. From that vantage point you can see any incoming threats and repel them before they have the chance to attack your loved one.

And being in that position is much preferable than mixing it up with the very person you’re charged with protecting.


Dr. John Alexander is relationship expert and the author of The Sigma Male: What Women Really Want. To learn more about Sigma Coaching, visit his website, subscribe to his blog, “like” his page on Facebook, and follow him on Twitter.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Finally, a Media Dad Who's Not an Idiot

Given the number of media fathers who are portrayed as bumbling fools (funny, but still idiots), it’s about time a marketing company gave us a different model.

Some female watchers don’t appreciate the Cheerios ad. In an article in Salon, writer Hayley Krischer complains that portraying dad as the “cool one” leaves mom to be the “lame one.” She thinks this dad is irresponsible: allowing his kids to jump on the bed, feeding them sugar cereal and ignoring all of the things the “uptight mom” will have to take care of later.

I disagree. There’s nothing in the video that paints the mom in a negative light. She seems pretty comfortable with everything that’s happening around her. Besides, if you listen carefully, the man’s speech actually blasts that theory to bits, as practically every line in the commercial can be classified under one or more of the three Sigma Roles (Protector, Provider, Presider).

Some of my favorite Sigma-worthy lines:

  • We do work-work and we do home-work (Provider and Presider)
  • We lead by example; we blow their minds. (Presider)
  • Being awesome isn’t about breaking rules; it’s about making them. (Presider)
  • Hot stuff coming through – wife and the coffee. (Protector)
  • Suggestion: That’s a boy, that’s a man. (Protector and Presider)
  • When a rule’s broken, we’re the enforcement. (Presider)
  • But when a heart is broken, we’re the re-enforcement. (Protector)
  • And we wouldn’t have it any other way, because being a dad is awesome. (Protector, Provider and Presider)

Not only do I find this commercial refreshing but I believe it’s about more than just being the stereotypical “cool dad."

What do you think?


Dr. John Alexander is relationship expert and the author of The Sigma Male: What Women Really Want. To learn how the Sigma Roles can improve your relationship, visit his website, subscribe to his blog, “like” his page on Facebook, and follow him on Twitter.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Sigma Solutions for Women: Opening Up a "Non-Talker" (Part 2)

Man in a box

Question: My husband’s not a talker. How do I get him to open up more?

In my last post, I outlined the difference between socially and emotionally quiet men and gave insight into helping a man better express his emotions.

Let’s explore another reason men aren’t willing to open up emotionally.

Reason 2 — Avoiding conflict

Many of my male clients tell me it’s not worth opening up to their wives because it creates conflict. In a sense they have been trained to keep quiet. Better to shut up, they say, then to make waves. Especially if they are never sure exactly what upsets their wife.

“I can’t figure my wife out,” says Frank, married 8 years. “Some days she’ll be totally willing to consider my ideas. But then the next day she’ll cut me off at the knees over the same issue. I feel like there’s no right answer, so I just bite my tongue.”

Let me be clear, open discussion in a relationship is a good thing; in fact, healthy marriages will experience their fair share of disagreement. To learn more about how to work through disagreements, read this post. But even if he learns the correct way to discuss a problem, a man who regularly receives mixed messages from his wife will hesitate to open up.

Consider this famous study:

[Researchers] Seligman and Maier divided dogs into three groups. The dogs in the first group were placed in a harness and administered an electric shock but were also given a lever they could press to make the shock stop. The dogs in the second group were placed in an identical harness and were given the same lever, and the same shock, with one catch: the lever didn’t work, rendering the dog powerless to do anything about the electric shock. The third group of dogs were simply placed in the harness and not given any shocks.

Afterwards, each dog was placed in a large box with a low divider across the center. One side of the box produced an electric shock; the other did not. Then something interesting happened. The dogs that either had been able to stop the shock or had not been shocked at all in the earlier part of the experiment quickly learned to step over the divider to the side without shocks. But the dogs that had been powerless in the last part of the experiment did not. These dogs didn’t adapt or adjust. They did nothing to try to avoid getting shocked. Why? They didn’t know they had any choice other than to take the shocks. They had learned helplessness. (McKeown, G, Essentialism

Much like the dogs in this experiment, men who get randomly “smacked down” by their wife resist taking the chance that they might make her angry — they have experienced “learned helplessness." However, as human beings, men can easily learn to overcome that helplessness if they embrace the Sigma Roles.

As your man works to become a Sigma, you can help by sending consistent, positive messages, especially when he shows initiative (read this post for more ideas). Remember, if you want your man to be willing to open up, you can’t beat him down when he does.

A Note For Men

Inconsistency is difficult for anyone to deal with; however, your role as a Protector is to remain calm, even if you believe your partner is being irrational. After all, irrational behavior is just a byproduct of stress and/or fear. If you find your wife’s actions illogical, consider the origin of her behavior. Remember, expressions of stress and fear signal the presence of a “dragon." Just as you would expect a trained soldier to stay at his post under fire, you cannot abandon Sigma behavior when you get hit by some stray bullets.

Next: Emotionally Quiet Men, Reason 3 — Apathy

If you have a relationship question, contact Dr. Alexander on Facebook (SigmaMale) or send an email to:


Dr. John Alexander is relationship expert and the author of The Sigma Male: What Women Really Want. To learn how the Sigma Roles can improve your relationship, visit his website, subscribe to his blog, “like” his page on Facebook, and follow him on Twitter.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Sigma Solutions for Women: Opening Up a "Non-Talker" (Part 1)

Frustrated wife

Question: My husband’s not a talker. How do I get him to open up more?

You can read an introduction to this topic here.

Reason 1 — Discomfort expressing emotion

Most men have been brought up to believe that expressing true emotional expression is a sign of weakness. Over time these men become unable to recognize what they’re actually feeling — so they can’t express it. The habitual expression of anger, frustration, or pouting signals that you’re dealing with an emotionally confused man. When pushed to describe how he feels, this man will usually tell you he’s “really mad” or “just feels upset.”

The best way to get an emotionally confused man talking is:

  1. Understand what has upset him
  2. Validate his secondary (anger, frustration)
  3. Name the primary emotion
  4. Validate that emotion

Dialing in on a man’s primary emotion is easier than you might think. Just imagine how a described situation would make you feel. Most women quickly master this skill because typically they are more emotionally in tune.


You’re late picking your husband up from the airport. He gets into the car fuming.

Wife: I can tell you’re really upset. What happened? (Step 1: understand — maybe he’s not mad about having to wait)

Man: I’ve been standing there for 45 minutes. Why didn’t you answer my texts?

Woman: I totally understand how that would tick you off (Step 2: validate his secondary emotion — anger). Waiting makes me feel impatient too (Step 3: name the primary emotion).

Man: I didn’t mind waiting. I was just pissed that you wouldn’t answer my texts (wrong emotion named).

Woman: Oh, you must have been really worried about me (Repeat Step 3: name the primary emotion).

Man: I thought you’d had an accident or something (primary emotion acknowledged).

Woman: That’s so sweet. I love that you care about me that much (Step 4: validate that emotion).

Man: Grumble, grumble, grumble. Translation: Well, I do

Important Note

When helping a man recognize his primary emotion (the emotion behind the anger) it is important to avoid “justification, explication or conflagration.”

Justification: Hey, I had a really busy day. Besides, I don’t like to text and drive.

Explication: The traffic was horrible. It took me 20 extra minutes.

Conflagration: Why do you always have to be so angry about everything?

If you really want to know what your man is feeling or thinking, validate his secondary emotion (anger) and then rename it for him until he is able to acknowledge the primary emotion. Then validate that feeling and move on.

And just because a partner feels bad doesn’t mean that you must feel the same way. It’s OK to allow him to feel what he feels without taking it on yourself.

DON’T try to teach him a lesson or lecture him about emotions. DON’T try to explain why you need to know what he’s thinking. Just let him know you understand how he feels (empathize). Over time your man will learn to identify his primary emotions (worry, jealousy, disappointment, etc.) and understand it’s OK to feel that way — because you won’t be beating up on him for having those emotions in the first place.

Hey! I thought you said a Sigma Male can have emotions but shouldn’t have the luxury of expressing them!

Sigma Males do have emotions and are even allowed to express them. But afterwards, they quickly move on. Wallowing, moping, and pouting are NOT allowed! Identifying primary emotions can be liberating for a man because it enables him to figure out why he was upset, which makes it easier to get over it.

Taking responsibility for emotional reactions is the first step in learning Sigma behavior, and a man can’t take responsibility for something he doesn’t recognize.

A Note For Men

Use this same technique to master dragon identification — an important skill that always precedes dragon slaying. If your wife regularly asks you what you think or how you feel, there’s definitely a dragon nearby — and it might be you (read more about Dragon Recognition here).

Next: Emotionally Quiet Men, Reason 2 — Avoiding conflict

If you have a relationship question, contact Dr. Alexander on Facebook (SigmaMale) or send an email to:


Dr. John Alexander is relationship expert and the author of The Sigma Male: What Women Really Want. To learn how the Sigma Roles can improve your relationship, visit his website, subscribe to his blog, “like” his page on Facebook, and follow him on Twitter.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Sigma Solutions for Women: Opening Up a "Non-Talker" (Part 3)

Non listening husband

Question: My husband’s not a talker. How do I get him to open up more?

You can read an introduction to this topic here, review Reason 1 here and Reason 2 here.

Reason 3 — Apathy

In reality, true apathy in marriage is rare and only occurs when a relationship is in the final stage of dissolution. Even then, most men are not truly apathetic and still experience deep emotions of pain and regret.

Why, then, do so many men appear to be apathetic?


A deep level of focus on anything, whether work, media, or just “spacing out” can result in your husband displaying a non-responsive affect. Early in my marriage my wife assumed I was ignoring her. Even worse, sometimes she thought I was emotionally disconnected because I would respond to a question with “Uh-huh” or “Hmmm.”

Unbeknownst to her, when I am reading or watching TV I am able to tune out most peripheral sounds and activities and often do not even hear the question. Sometimes a repeated question will dig its way into my consciousness, but my divided attention will not catch all the details.

My wife can get my attention re-focused by asking me to pause the TV or close my book — and I have gotten better about doing so without being asked. I know that if she asks for my attention the issue matters to her, so I listen closely and respond appropriately. When an issue is even more weighty, she either waits for an opportune moment or invites me away from my distractions so that we can have a “real” conversation.

If your husband seems detached he may just be distracted. If so, help put the distraction aside or save the conversation for a better time.

Different Priorities

Simply stated, men don’t care about the same things you do.

Men are just as competent as women but can appear incompetent when it doesn’t matter to them. This is why they can’t seem to get the dishes completely clean, fold the laundry right, feed or dress the kids correctly, drive safely, or make a timely reservation. (The Sigma Male: What Women Really Want p. 137)

After your husband becomes a Sigma, he will take note of your concerns and act on them no matter what he thinks of them. Unfortunately, a Modern Man is likely to dismiss the same concerns as “not a big deal.” If your husband’s first reaction seems apathetic, let him know how much the issue means to you. In the beginning, be cautious to stress the significance of items that carry the most weight (review Item 1 of this post for a clarification). And when your husband does pay attention to a concern — however “small” — thank him for listening. As you praise him for responding to your stresses, his desire to listen more closely will correspondingly grow. Chapter Eleven of The Sigma Male covers this topic in detail.

Past Experience

If your husband has been chastised in the past for responding incorrectly, he may appear apathetic in order to avoid another conflict. See Reason 2 for more information.

A Note For Men

Listening to your wife is a skill that is easy to learn.

Many men express frustration about being interrupted after settling into a task, whether work related or recreational. To counter this, approach your wife before you start a project. Let her know you’ll be unavailable over the next “x-ty" minutes and ask if she needs anything before you get started.

Most wives will honor blocked-out time when approached in advance; however, sometimes unexpected things come up. When interrupted, push your work away, pause the TV, set down the tool and turn toward her. Hear what she has to say and respond appropriately.

If your wife consistently interrupts you — even when you’ve asked for space in advance — PM me for additional help.

Responding appropriately to your wife’s concerns is also a skill. While it takes a bit more practice, it can also be learned quite easily. See Item 3 of this post for a few ideas. Chapter Eleven of The Sigma Male covers this topic in detail.

If you have a relationship question, contact Dr. Alexander on Facebook or send an email to:


Dr. John Alexander is relationship expert and the author of The Sigma Male: What Women Really Want. To learn how the Sigma Roles can improve your relationship, visit his website, subscribe to his blog, “like” his page on Facebook, and follow him on Twitter.

Sigma Solutions for Women: Opening Up a "Non-Talker" (Introduction)

Husband not listening

Question: My husband’s not a talker. How do I get him to open up more?

Let’s start with a clarification: Is your man (a ) socially quiet or (b) emotionally quiet? Believe it or not, there’s a difference.


”Social silence” is almost entirely personality based; some of us (both men and women) are naturally more introverted; that is, inwardly focused and energized by thought/analysis. In most cases, your socially quiet partner had that personality when you met him. While personality is generally considered to be an “in-born” quality, a person can learn how to overcome social discomfort or can learn how to increase their “extraversion.” In other words, a seemingly shy person can gain a higher sense of ease in social settings.

But most women who express concern about a quiet partner are actually referring to a man’s “emotional silence.”

To overcome personality-based emotional silence,  just understand what makes an “introverted” personality tick. An introvert likes to mull things over — sometimes for an extended period — before entering into a discussion, especially if the item under discussion is perceived to be important. Give him space to process his thoughts before asking questions. Remember, an introvert is more comfortable listening, especially when he agrees with what you’re saying.

Often, an extrovert mistakes her partner’s non-response as apathy or disagreement, but when pressed, an introvert will wonder what the upset is about. He thought the issue was closed. To him, no response meant there was nothing left to talk about — you did all the talking for him!

If your partner is emotionally quiet because of an introverted personality, asking for feedback or input is usually enough to get a response. And if he agrees with what you’ve said, expect a short and concise response and take it for what it is: a validation.

But what about men who, when asked what they are thinking or feeling, respond by saying, “Nothing” or “I’m just mad” — or don’t respond at all?

First, recognize the real reason you want your husband to open up to you: Security. Not knowing what your husband is thinking or how he feels can be disconcerting, especially since it’s his job to make you feel safe and secure in the first place. Most women struggle to admit they need their husband’s validation because they believe it makes them appear weak or needy. Nothing could be further from the truth.

When your protection is your husband’s number one priority, you’ll automatically feel secure and the need for validation will vanish.

So if you’re feeling insecure or feel like you’re flying solo, your man needs to better fill the Protector role. Over the next few days, I’ll discuss the different reasons for your man’s emotional silence and how you can naturally inspire him to build this Sigma behavior.

Next: Emotionally Quiet Men, Reason 2 — Avoiding conflict


Dr. John Alexander is relationship expert and the author of The Sigma Male: What Women Really Want. To learn how the Sigma Roles can improve your relationship, visit his website, subscribe to his blog, “like” his page on Facebook, and follow him on Twitter.

Friday, August 1, 2014

A Husband's Essential Role

Essential definition

This week I picked up Greg McKeown’s book, Essentialism. Within a few pages I hit this passage:

Have you ever found yourself stretched too thin? Have you ever felt both overworked and underutilized? Have you ever found yourself majoring in minor activities? Do you ever feel busy but not productive? Like you’re always in motion, but never getting anywhere?

If you answered yes to any of these, the way out is the way of the Essentialist.

Truer words were never spoken, especially in the context of improving a relationship. Before the epiphany that led me to develop the Sigma Philosophy, I was struggling to please my wife with little success. As a husband I was a “non-Essentialist” —  I was trying to do everything but accomplishing nothing. While I was a good man — effectively checking off most of the “nice guy” boxes — I was not implementing the one essential thing that would make me a great husband.

McKeown goes on to better define this concept:

[This idea] can be summarized by a characteristically succinct principle, captured in just three German words: Weniger aber besser. The English translation is: Less but better. A more fitting definition of Essentialism would be hard to come by.

The way of the Essentialist is the relentless pursuit of less but better. It doesn’t mean occasionally giving a nod to the principle. It means pursuing it in a disciplined way.

When a principle is true it applies across the board, whether in academics, business or life. In this case, learning to put your energy into the most important area of “relationship-building” should result in greater yields of marital success, fulfillment, and happiness. And it does!

For every man, the essential role is Protector. As such, every thought, action and reaction will be influenced by a Protective Mindset. This simple focus — “How can I most effectively protect my wife?” — must override any other consideration. Amazingly, the more emphasis a man puts on being a Protector, the faster he will become the husband his wife desires, because he will be delivering what she most needs: Complete security.

As McKeown so aptly states:

Essentialism is not about how to get more things done; it’s about how to get the right things done. It doesn’t mean just doing less for the sake of less either. It is about making the wisest possible investment of your time and energy in order to operate at our highest point of contribution by doing only what is essential.

Become a Sigma Male — a Relationship Essentialist. Learn how to protect.


Dr. John Alexander is an expert on marriage relationships and the author of The Sigma Male: What Women Really Want. To learn more about importance of the Sigma Roles in marriage, visit his website, subscribe to his blog, “like” his page on Facebook, and follow him on Twitter.