Monday, December 3, 2012

How To Save A Shitty Relationship: Be Subversive

So your relationship sucks. Your partner doesn't give you enough attention. Maybe they don't put out enough. You want to stay in the relationship, though. What are you to do?

Most advice seems to center around a few different themes, including:
  • Improve communication (always a worthwhile goal),
  • Change either yourself, your partner, or both (rarely works), or
  • Do something to spice up the relationship. Reignite that spark. 
Let's focus on the last suggestion- spice things up. This advice is often given to the person in the relationship that's interested in improving things. Odds are good they're the one that's already investing more in the relationship, which isn't really making things better. Is it wise to up the ante and invest even more?

This advice ignores a fundamental element of human nature- the scarcity principle. The scarcity principle is based on the idea that we want what we can't have. That which is rare is good. It's the reason we pay so much for rare coins, Beanie Babies that look nothing like Princess Diana, and Bo Jackson rookie cards. 

In a relationship, consider the variable of attention. Each partner pays a certain amount of attention to the other.  The exact amount is dependent on each individual; all of us have different needs. As long as each person is paying enough attention to the other, things are good. When one partner doesn't pay enough attention to their mate, things go downhill. That "attention" can manifest itself in a variety of ways, from physical or emotional affection to interesting conversation to sex. 

Let's say we have a heterosexual couple where the woman isn't paying enough attention to the man. The standard advice would be for the man to do something dramatic, like a grand romantic gesture or something. Flowers. Dinner. Do more chores. Whatever.

The problem is scarcity. The man is already likely paying attention to the woman in an attempt to get her to pay attention to him. The woman is getting all the attention she needs. Adding more will actually drive her away, not cause her to pay more attention to him.

The man wants to feel more valued. Instead of paying her more attention, he should pay less attention. That will invoke the scarcity principle, which will cause her to want to pay more attention to him.

Why Does It Work?

The reason the scarcity principle works in this situation likely has to do with our own insecurities. When someone pays attention to us, we revel in the feeling. When they withdraw, it causes some cognitive dissonance. We unconsciously (or consciously) think we may have done something wrong. We question why they're pulling away. The natural reaction is to defend against that pulling away by showering them with attention.


The man now gets the attention he needs. Problem solved.

An Actual Game Plan

So how exactly can you use this powerful method? It's harder than it seems because it requires you to ignore the person for a period of time, then shower them with affection, then pull away again. The pulling away will likely invoke feelings in insecurity in yourself as you may fear pulling away completely will cause them to pull away even more. Don't worry- if they're into you, they'll respond.

Start with day one. For two days, do your best to act cold and uninterested. Keep conversation to a minimum. Make sure it's boring. Avoid all physical contact. Act distracted, like you have something better to do. Continue this for two days.

On the third day, do the opposite. Act warm and inviting. Hug them. Kiss them. Rub their shoulders. Give them compliments. Do some of their chores. Maybe even buy them flowers or other such gift. Do that for two days.

On the fifth day, go back to being cold and distant, just like the first two days.

Repeat this cycle for a week or two if needed. After the first cycle or two, they should come around. The cycling will prove to be powerfully alluring and draw them in. Suddenly they'll find you more interesting. They will begin to crave being in your presence. They will begin to shower you with attention.

IMPORTANT: Don't tell them what you're doing. If they ask, make up excuses. We're really bad at recognizing emotional patterns, especially over the course of a week or two.

In the unlikely event the partner doesn't respond, you're in a bit of trouble. Odds are good the partner just isn't that in to you anymore. While it may be worthwhile to try to rescue the relationship via therapy or other means, don't be afraid to jump ship. Life's too short to expend time and energy on someone that won't give you what you need.

There you have it- a simple tool to get the attention you deserve. Give it a shot and repost the results here in the comments!



  1. You could have saved yourself a lot of time and energy that it took to write this and just wrote: play mind games.

    I hope you don't seriously think this is sensible sound advice.

    Relationships ebb and flow and go through highs and lows because of things that have nothing to do with the actual relationship. Lets say, the most horrible thing happens: one of your children dies. And your spouse goes into a deep dark depression and mourns this loss for longer than you do. Or let's say he/she loses her parents, best friend, sibling... you get the point. If he/she "isn't in to you" for a good year, maybe more, I think you should man the hell up and deal with it, rather than introduce mind games. Newsflash: it's not all about you (and your needs) all the time.

    1. I completely disagree. The "martyr" effect is the single biggest reason relationships can't survive serious obstacles. We have a mistaken belief that we need to put others' needs before our own without realizing we can't effectively give if our own needs aren't met. We can tolerate it for a short period of time, but eventually we develop serious resentment and anger. Relationships that experience serious loss would be a lot more likely to survive if we dropped the "just man up and ignore your own needs" BS and understood ourselves a little better. Then we'd be in a position to be able to weather any storm indefinitely. Maslow wrote about this extensively.

      A good example in a less extreme situation- martyr moms. This woman wrote a good piece about the phenomenon: ;-)

    2. I am guessing you have yet to experience deep loss. That's good, but explains why you aren't anchored in reality.

      Good luck demanding a blow job while your wife is retching with grief!

    3. Also, no one said "man up and ignore your own needs" I specifically said "man the hell up and DEAL with IT" as in don't play games, but be a real person and figure out how to deal with your spouse's lack of interest and your needs not being met while giving some consideration to the fact that outside influences that will eventually ease up (the spouse's grief) are causing your relationship issues. The only person suggesting martyrdom is you. I am suggesting a functional, communicative, honest, continuous, and open exchange between two adults.

      I think I used to do something like this when I had a crush on someone in 6th grade. It usually worked back then. Perhaps you should consider giving relationship advice to tweens.

    4. I'm not sure why you're choosing an extreme situation as an example. I prefer to think of what Jason's point is as the art of seduction. As a female and as his wife, I think I'm pretty good at this. I give, I hold back and it's a balance. Nobody is saying that during an extreme situation you would say "fuck off it's all about me". It seems like an odd scenario for you to choose.

      Jason has experienced loss. His father died when I was one week away from giving birth to our second child. Nobody, except you, is saying this was the time for me to be demanding my own needs but it was a time where we connected sexually to feel closer to each other...pregnant or not. That's just a natural form of comfort when you're grieving.

  2. Actually, the odd scenario is that you are defending him after he compared my extreme situation example to martyrdom and even tried to site an example of your (I'm guessing) writing to further prove his point. BTW, I didn't read it- the title itself was enough...who on earth would imply that these situations are remotely similar? It's apples and ehhh.... brussel sprouts. Not even remotely the same.

    1. So you cite the single most stressful scenario a couple can face as an example of a situation where my tactic wouldn't apply, ignore my rationale, then dismiss the personal account that explains how my tactic can apply to grief. Then it turns out you didn't even read the post.


    2. I didnot ignore rationale. I just could not find any.

  3. I think where "anonymous" went wrong is taking things so literally. If you've got a calendar on the wall that says "Dec. 1: ignore girlfriend," You missed the point.

    Honestly, I found this post a little offensive at first glance because messing with peoples' emotions isn't cool. When you understand the tone, it's more apparent that it's an idea, not step by step instructions to fuck with your loved ones. It's more or less, in my interpretation, saying that relationships run more on negative feedback loops than positive feedback loops. When you're smothering someone and they lose interest, the solution isn't following them around with flowers and ass kissing.

  4. I did not realize that the author of this blog is half talking out of his ass. If that is the case then that explains a lot. Particularly the part about a dramatic grand romantic gesture being "do more chores" because this implies that he is stuck in the 1950's. I am sure there's some "rationale" behind that too. Thanks for clarifying.

    1. Oh, now I get it. You haven't been following me for very long and assume I *don't* always talk out of my ass. All your responses now make total sense. You should friend me on Facebook or follow some of my friends' blogs... it'll put this entire blog in the proper perspective.

  5. You're incredibly ignorant and condescending. You probably don't have to worry about people *subtly* expressing a lack of interest in you.

  6. As awesome as that sounds, I think I'm good. The list/bullet format is kinda... yawn... I'm gonna go watch QVC or find a long infomercial to view instead.

  7. This wasnt quite what i had expected from the link 'learn to be seductive', but found it amusing anyhow. Regardless, it doesn't address the situation in which the relationship is healthy but three sex is lacking because of differences in libido. Being a healthy woman in my twenties, 3x a week would actually be about perfect, but my male counterpart doesn't have as much of an appetite. Propositioning and being rejected is painful to me even though i get the whole (its not that I'm not attracted/dont want to have sex with anyone/its not you). The sex is really good, adventurous, hot, fufilling, we can talk about it, it just doesn't happen nearly often enough. What to do?

    1. Too bad there isn't a reply. This is exactly what I'm experiencing as well!

  8. Is anyone still watching this blog? This is a topic of great interest to me