Human relationships have been the subject of detailed research and lengthy studies since the birth of psychology, with various and opposing conclusions drawn. Some experts say that as humans, we are naturally inclined toward variety, and it goes against nature to expect to only be with one person for the rest of our lives. Dr. Helen Fisher, who is one of the most cited living researchers on the science of relationships, has said that we’re an adulterous animal, and as Professor Peter J. Richerson explains in the book The Truth: An Uncomfortable Book about Relationships: “If it were all genetic, if humans just by nature mated for life and there were a very tight pair-bond, then we wouldn’t need all these marriage customs.” But what about those people who do actually want to be with one person, and think they’ve found the one, but have always struggled with infidelity? Yes, people can change, but it’s not always an easy road.
We’ve gathered first-hand insight from one of the most notorious players around and author of The Truth: An Uncomfortable Book about Relationships. In this eye-opening account, Neil Strauss, author of The Game, the book that took a generation by storm and exposed the secret world of master pick-up artists, takes us on his personal journey of a life crisis brought on by his own behavior. On a search for his truth, Strauss was able to discover his authentic self and abolish his player lifestyle. Based on The Truth, we’ve compiled a list of 7 ways a player can change his destructive ways.
1. Seek therapy to determine how your past could be affecting your present behaviors
Like it or not, your childhood has a lot to do with many aspects of your life. Sure, there are people that were raised below the poverty line and have gone on to achieve massive financial success, or those who had a seemingly perfect family who now struggle with healthy relationships as adults. But often times, the root of significant issues point back to your upbringing. For Strauss, his healing process began when he was forced to dissect the gritty details of his upbringing and reveal long-kept family secrets. It was in rehab that the painful revelation was made by his therapist: “When your mom is emotionally dependent on you and has intimate discussions with you that she should be having with her spouse, there’s a name for that. It’s called emotional incest.”
2. Remember that pleasure is fleeting, but commitment is not
Sacrificing the chance for a healthy, stable, and committed relationship with someone you love for a quick dose of pleasure-induced euphoria is probably not the wisest move. That’s pretty obvious. But what if you’re sitting there wondering what the problem is if you have no desire to ever be in a monogamous relationship, and you see nothing wrong with racking up notches on that belt? Well, other people are involved in this equation, too. And whether you like it or not, at least some kind of emotion is often attached to sexual experiences.
As further explained by one of Strauss’s therapists, “I’d be willing to bet that after the high of the intensity, there’s a comedown, and you feel not so great and you need that next hit of intensity. So ultimately, you can live your life like a hamster on a wheel, chasing after your next hit to keep yourself spinning. Or you can realize that ultimately it’s all a distraction to avoid the harsh reality that you are not connected to yourself.”
3. Unlearn learned behaviors
For one reason or another, people who cheat are subconsciously sabotaging their relationships, looking outside the relationship to fulfill some sort of need they aren’t getting met, or escaping from their own inner struggles. For example, Strauss admits that he would mess up within his relationship whenever he feared he was being suffocated by his partner, running away in search of “freedom.”
According to expert psychiatrist Dr. Daniel Amen, the desire for a variety of partners is partly due to one’s pattern and learned conditions. Amen tells Strauss, “You worked so hard to figure out women that you’re still like a hunter. It’s so deeply ingrained, you’re not going to be able to just walk out of here and stop it.”
4. Make your own relationship criteria
If you struggle to fit inside the “one happy, monogamous relationship fits all” box, don’t be afraid to question the system and experiment with alternative lifestyles. Make a list of what an ideal, healthy relationship looks like to you.
For example, to streamline his own process, Strauss created a list of four relationship criteria:
- It can’t be sexually exclusive, which rules out monogamy.
- It has to be honest, which rules out adultery.
- It has to be capable of developing romantic and emotional attachment, which rules out being a permanent bachelor.
- It has to be capable of evolving into a family with healthy, well-adjusted children, which rules out unstable partners and lifestyles.
From polyamory to swinging to total exclusivity with one person, people find their true happiness in a wide variety of ways. Keep in mind that being in a relationship that allows you to partake in such alternative experiences, like attending swinging parties or being involved with more than one partner in a relationship all partners know each other, does not mean that you’re destined to be a player. The innate nature of a player involves manipulating and seducing others, which is a different thing entirely.
5. Detox your feelings
People who are constantly after the emotional highs and intrigue of looking for satisfaction in all the wrong places will eventually be worn out by the chase. If you’re ready to really change your player ways, you need to physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually detox from the roller coaster of intensity you’ve been experiencing. In Strauss’s case, he needed to empty out his life and enter into a state of anhedonia – the dark place of not feeling – in attempts of having the only kind of relationship he had yet to experience – the one with himself.
“The only way to fix a tower with a faulty base is to knock it down and rebuild a stronger foundation,” Strauss concludes. Whatever it takes to change his ways, Strauss thought, it would be worth it. So, he changed his phone number and email address, blocked all social networks, and promised to not give out his new information to anyone who might prove to be a distraction from this process.
6. Be honest with yourself
When sex is put on a pedestal and held higher than every other aspect of your connection with a person, the relationship is doomed from the start. We’d never downplay the almighty importance of intimacy or expect adults to abide by ancient societal expectations surrounding the sanctity of waiting a certain amount of time before sleeping with someone, but sex can be both the cause and effect of a destructive lifestyle.
According to The Truth, Strauss realized that he’d made sex the most important thing in every relationship, even at the expense of his own happiness, and never having searched for a deeper emotional connection as a priority. He became a player because he was too afraid to just be himself with anyone, resulting in his search for what he thought was sexual freedom, but in reality ended up being a pursuit for control, power, and self-worth.
7. Get a handle on your psychological state
Even if you haven’t conquered the desire to be with other people, keep in mind that you are stronger than your sexual wants. And remember, long-term happiness isn’t worth sacrificing for short-term pleasure. As seen through Strauss’s personal journey, he’s “removed what was psychological: the fear of loving, the terror of being loved, the compulsion to cheat, the cowardice of lying, the weak sense of self, the pathological accommodation, and all the defense mechanisms that kept this system in place and me too blind to see it.” As Strauss concludes, “Love is not about finding the right person. It’s about becoming the right person.”