This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Hard Times Create Strong Men" by Stefan Aarnio. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.
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Are you failing to find the right person to be with? What’s the key to being a man in a relationship?
In relationships, everyone has a role to play. Hard Times Create Strong Men by Stefan Aarnio discusses how to behave like a strong man in relationships so you and your partner can thrive.
Here’s how to be a man in a relationship without losing yourself.
1. Attract and Select the Right Woman
First, Aarnio explains that to learn how to be a man in a relationship, you must learn how to attract women. Do this by working on your purpose, which will increase your masculine energy and so attract women to you. Don’t resort to pickup artistry, which involves a series of techniques that you can use to convince women to have sex with you. Pickup artistry doesn’t lead to fulfilling relationships because it relies on gimmicky tricks that convince a woman you’re someone you’re not. Eventually, this woman will discover your authentic self—which isn’t the person you portrayed yourself to be—and leave you.
(Shortform note: In Models, former pickup artist Mark Manson elaborates on why pickup artistry doesn’t work. Manson specifies that women desire confident men—in other words, a man whose sense of self-worth depends on how he judges himself. When dating, a confident man will adjust his behavior as much as the woman does—but no more—because he’s focused on deciding how he feels about the woman instead of bending over backward to please her. Pickup artistry techniques only work temporarily because they show you how to portray yourself as confident. But once the woman realizes that you’re not as confident as you initially seemed, she loses her attraction to you.)
Moreover, many pickup artists get hooked on sleeping with as many women as possible. This can hurt both the women you’re sleeping with and yourself. Aarnio writes that he destroyed his chances with the one woman he actually cared about because he was dating too many other women simultaneously. (Shortform note: Other experts suggest that it’s possible to casually date multiple women without hurting them or yourself. To do so, make your expectations clear early on and avoid romantic gestures that may be misconstrued—like sending her flowers regularly.)
Second, Aarnio contends that you must select the right woman. Women fall into different ranges of the “Hot Crazy matrix,” ranging from 1-10 on a scale of physical attractiveness and 1-10 on a scale of mental instability. Moreover, the more physically attractive a woman, the more mentally unstable she may be as people forgive this instability. If you’re only seeking a dating relationship, select women who are 8-10 hot and 7-10 crazy. But if you want to get married, only pursue women who are 8-10 hot and 5-7 crazy, prioritizing stability over physical attractiveness.
(Shortform note: Aarnio cites the “Hot Crazy matrix” that a Tennessean lawyer posted on YouTube in a since-deleted video. This matrix is a spin on a similar way to rank women introduced on the TV show How I Met Your Mother. In one episode, perpetual playboy Barney Stinson suggests that women can be ranked on a “hot crazy scale,” stating that a woman is “allowed to be” as crazy as she wants—as long as she is equally hot. However, Barney doesn’t provide numbers or specify how hot or crazy a woman needs to be before you date or marry her. Neither Aarnio nor Barney specifies what exactly counts as a “crazy” woman; however, some researchers did find that men prioritize attractiveness over mental stability in relationships.)
When selecting a girlfriend or wife, Aarnio adds that you should evaluate the following factors. Determine whether you have compatible values; ideally, you’ll have grown up in similar environments and so have a baseline agreement as to what’s “normal,” or standard. Ensure that you like her parents; her relationship with her father will inform her relationship with you, and she’ll likely grow to physically resemble her mother as she ages. Choose someone whose income is lower than yours; otherwise, she’ll feel like you’re not fulfilling your purpose as a man and grow to resent you. And if you want kids, make sure she’s a good potential mother.
|What Others Say About Choosing the Right Partner|
Others support Aarnio’s recommendations for selecting a good partner—but with caveats. How to Not Die Alone author Logan Ury also emphasizes the importance of discussing how you grew up and determining whether you have compatible values; however, she argues that it’s OK if your expectations don’t exactly align as long as you talk about and plan for differences. The Defining Decade author Meg Jay agrees that you should like her parents, not because of how she treats her father or how her mother looks but because if you don’t like her parents, you may be overlooking incompatible values in your partner.
Furthermore, The Unplugged Alpha author Richard Cooper argues that you (like most men) will likely choose someone who makes less than you; however, her income should be relatively similar to yours so you don’t have to pay as much alimony if you divorce. And if you want kids, experts agree that you should choose a good potential mother by looking for someone patient, mature, and flexible.
Third, Aarnio recommends that you have a monogamous relationship with the woman you select. This is important not just to help you supercharge your purpose, as discussed earlier, but to help maintain your strength. Women are hypergamous: They’re wired to exchange sex for power and stability and so naturally seek out the strongest man available. But if you allow her to remain attached to you while she continues to seek out men she likes better, this will make you weak.
(Shortform note: The Unplugged Alpha author Cooper has a more nuanced take on how to have a monogamous relationship and remain a strong man. He recommends considering monogamy only if you’re over 30; if you’re younger, you haven’t dated enough women to know who will make a good girlfriend. Only date someone monogamously if she asks to be exclusive; since women are hypergamous, this request indicates that she’s decided that you’re the highest-status male in her life. Finally, ask her to tattoo your name on her body and see how she reacts. If she sees you as a dominant man with whom she wants to spend her life, she’ll be willing to tattoo herself.)
2. Maintain Attraction in Your Relationship
Once you have a partner, Aarnio suggests that you maintain attraction by accepting—but not yielding to—her feminine demands. Citing The Wife of Bath’s Tale, Aarnio argues that women desire “mastery over their men.” But as we learned earlier, people are attracted to opposite energies; masculine energies are attracted to feminine energies, and vice versa. So if you actually give your woman control over you by prioritizing her needs, she’ll grow less attracted to you. This is because if you prioritize her needs over your purpose of working, you’ll develop a more feminine energy that automatically turns her more masculine—which she won’t like.
(Shortform note: If women desire their men less when they control them, why did the Wife of Bath think that women wanted “mastery over their men”? It’s possible that the Wife of Bath and Aarnio define “mastery” differently. As scholars point out, The Wife of Bath’s Tale was written in an age where women had no rights and no control over their lives. Back then, a woman who had mastery over her man had mastery over her own life in a way that was not otherwise possible. In contrast, modern women can control their own lives; to them, having mastery over their men doesn’t equate to having control over their own lives. Rather, as Aarnio suggests, having mastery over their men has relational implications that turn the women off.)
As Aarnio notes, many men grow frustrated by women’s illogical behavior—like when they ask their men to prioritize them but lose attraction when they do. But this is simply a feature of feminine energy; feminine women live moment-to-moment and are easily swayed by their feelings, unlike more rational, logical men. So don’t try to ignore her volatility or make her less volatile; if you do, you’ll push her toward masculinity, lose your attraction to her, and end the relationship. Instead, accept her for who she is and understand that without her occasionally frustrating feminine energy, you won’t be together.
|How to Handle Changes in Your Energy|
In The Way of the Superior Man, David Deida—whose work Aarnio cites extensively—explains that men can also change their minds easily. Depending on what’s going on in your life, you will desire either a “cool” woman or a “hot” woman. Cool women have a soothing presence and are relaxing to be around; hot women are more fiery and quicker to be swayed by their emotions.
If you have a partner and you suddenly find yourself craving a woman of a different temperature, Deida suggests that you work on yourself first—just as your reaction to a volatile feminine woman requires you to accept rather than change her. If you’re running hot, a glass of cool fruit juice, a massage from a cool woman, or a relaxed conversation can rebalance your energy. Likewise, spending time with hot, fiery people, eating spicy foods, or wearing warmer clothes can warm you up and enliven your spirit.
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Here's what you'll find in our full Hard Times Create Strong Men summary:
- Why modern Western men are weak, leading to civilization decline
- How to be a strong man at work and in relationships
- Why pickup artistry doesn't lead to fulfilling relationships