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Lasting Love and Happiness: Strategies From A Pick-Up Artist

Cain Parish

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Are you tired of being alone? Fed up with striking out with potential partners? It’s time to try something new and revolutionary: the world of pick-up artists and their controversial relationship advice!

Found on the dark side of dating advice, they claim to teach the key to unlocking the hearts of anyone they desire. Quite rightly, not everyone is a fan of these so-called experts, and some say their techniques are manipulative and even dangerous. Problematic, sexist, and downright harmful to a generation of sex-obsessed young men, they’re looked down on with ridicule and scorn. Most of us are urged not to listen to them or mimic their techniques and opinions, lest we fall into similarly predatory behaviors…

Naturally, I went and read a bunch of their books. This is what I learned.

A man rushing to tell people about his strategies for love and happiness with a megaphone

Table of Contents

The Game was an undeniable success of a book. Released in September of 2005, it came at a formative period in internet culture. Social media was yet to take over the world, and forums and message boards were the cultural norm for sharing ideas and information. On the surface, The Game was a manual for maladjusted young men, a bible for those that couldn’t get laid. It glorified techniques like negging, the art of subtly putting women down to garner their attention, and peacocking, the act of dressing so outrageously and over-the-top (read: fugly) to attract more attention.

Underneath the objectification of women and the rampant sex addiction, however, was an insightful exploration of a subculture of men that still exists today. People that want to know how to get with women. For whatever reason, we as a society are horrible at preparing each other for relationships. We are raised in damaging and emotionally stunted environments until our adult relationships consist of smearing trauma all over each other. Pick-up artists are a reaction to the inability of our culture to properly socialize and be nice to one another.

Many people gloss over this, but the prolific pick-up artist Style, otherwise known as the author of the game Neil Strauss, was not a womanizer to begin with. The Game details his journey from invisible to notorious amongst both men and women. And whilst he may have ended the book as a lady-killer and sex addict, he certainly didn’t start that way. He was merely a writer exploring a culture that was entirely foreign to him, in order to produce an expose.

And he did a damned good job. People responded to the book, taking issue with the premise and the content at face value. Many loved it for its actionable advice and colorful storytelling, whilst many condemned it for its problematic messaging and pathetic premise. I’ll admit, when I first read it as a women-crazed seventeen-year-old boy, I was taken in by the allure of getting all the attention I could ever ask for. To think my relationship status could somehow be within my control was incredibly appealing.

But, as I’ve grown more experienced, more open-minded, and less angry at women and the world, I start to see other value in the book, even as I firmly reject pick-up ‘artistry’. Neil Strauss is a talented author with a gift for absorbing and consolidating information, thoughts, feelings and experiences. The Game is a masterclass on how to become an expert at something by analyzing all perspectives, keeping what works, and rejecting what doesn’t. By the end of the book, Strauss has heard from enough courses, seminars, coaches, and gurus to confidently say what works and what doesn’t. The whole book is a lesson on how to sit on the fence and let experience dictate your understanding.

If you actually decide to read The Game, you’ll notice one thing missing. In almost twenty years, we’ve come a long way in understanding emotional intelligence and mental health. Unfortunately, in his perspective that is so archetypically mid-2000s it almost hurts, Strauss misses the forest for the trees and only briefly touches on the role of his mental health and stability in his relationships with women.

Enter ‘The Truth’

In Strauss’ own words, if The Game was how to get women, The Truth is how to keep them. Self-important titling aside, The Truth is a companion piece to the original work that was released almost exactly ten years later. A full decade of experience and perspective have changed the man dramatically, at least at face value. In what I have come to recognize as Strauss’ signature style, he again cycles through information and perspectives before finally reaching a point of mastery and conclusion, having all the information to feel safe and informed in his final decisions.

The Truth is an entertaining book, but really, if you were to empathize with the people described, it would be an incredibly depressing and degenerate piece. Behaviors that were considered empowering and liberating are now described as sex addiction, enmeshing, and trauma bonding. With the healing nature of time on his side, Strauss goes on to describe the emotional damage that his casual relationships have wreaked, and all the carnage that has been left in his wake, both internally and externally.

The Truth is a beautiful summation of the womanizer’s experience. Just about everyone I know that has intentionally tried to improve their sex life would find themselves along Strauss’ journey somewhere. It’s symbolic of the widespread problems with men and with the dating market that I find myself relating so perfectly to another person’s journey. The story beats mirror my own experience, the philosophies and ideologies converge so completely. I’m taken back to when I asked myself the same questions Strauss inquires of his own mind.

The crux of the book is this: Is monogamy natural, healthy, or even possible without stress, drama, cheating, and complications? To get to the bottom of the question, Strauss does everything from engaging in hippie commune orgies to creating a harem in a three-bedroom San Francisco apartment.

What is particularly telling about the man’s journey through hedonistic sexuality is that at the end of it all, he’s left with no fantasies. His bucket list is checked off. The inner adolescent that so desperately wanted to be more successful with women is undeniably given what he wanted.

And that still isn’t enough.

Which is why The Truth, a book about compulsively cheating on your significant other is one of the most hopeful works I’ve read in some time.

Strauss proposes that in every sex-crazed fiend and hedonistically obsessed playboy, there is a broken and unparented child waiting for what it didn’t get in childhood. I happen to agree with him.

Going around the world in the pursuit of love, sex and validation only leads him to the same place he started in, back with the woman he truly loved. Your relationship with your significant other can be no better than your relationship with yourself.

And really, that summation is his answer to the question of monogamy versus polyamory, versus remaining single or alone or whatever other relationship configuration you may choose.

Your relationship with yourself, your ability to find happiness or contentment amongst your solitude, will define how you engage with other relationships. We have dozens of books and models to describe how someone anxious or avoidant is going to struggle to maintain an emotionally fulfilled relationship with another person.

Strauss’ advice to someone in his position? Re-parent yourself first. Make yourself whole. Find your emotional baseline and make sure all your decisions are coming from desire and valid quests for happiness, not from some gaping wound in the soul created during childhood.

I’m inclined to agree. For someone with an addiction, enough will never be enough. There are always hotter partners and more novel situations. It’s not enough to just ask the question: “Is this who I am? Am I naturally driven to want nonmonogamy because that’s just how I’m wired?”. That question can only be answered when you can be truly confident that your decisions are coming to you freed of outside influence.

For many of us, our childhoods were relatively tame, if not a little disappointing. It’s very rare that we were raised in a healthy household with two perfect parents that were able to satisfy our emotional needs. Therein lies the root of many mental issues that we take with us to adulthood. Our baggage starts when mummy and daddy didn’t hug us enough, and poisons what would’ve been a fantastic relationship decades later.

For the pick-up artists, for the womanizers and ladykillers, for the women addicted to online dating and male validation, ask yourself this. Are these the actions of someone you want to be ten years from now? Are you proud of the values you’re upholding? Are the choices you’re making in your best interests and coming from a place of health and true desire?

I don’t pose these questions to shame or deride a particular way of life. I believe casual sex and nonmonogamy can be fundamentally healthy, valuable and satisfying. But what I can see in our dating landscape are many scared people acting from fear and compulsion. We are afraid to show our true feelings, to tell people what we feel. Ghosting has become the norm because it’s easier to run away than to face the discomfort in a relationship.

And really, would that be the case if everyone was acting in their own best interests? Would we still be as dismissive and objectifying of our potential partners if we were genuinely looking for love instead of trying to fill a void? I don’t think so. I think the best relationship advice starts with being able to understand yourself.

When I search for a prospective partner, I value self-awareness incredibly highly. It’s a robust green flag to me. It usually begets emotional intelligence and understanding, a logical empathy that allows two people to communicate feelings that they may not themselves relate to. It is a rare quality.

For you to decide on non-monogamy, a prospective partner, or a relationship, you consult your own values. You instinctively come to an understanding of what you like and dislike, what you value and disregard. We do this in every arena of our life as humans to quickly and accurately assess situations.

The problem is that your core values and emotional reactions you have to particular principles are often confused by your inner child. For the longest time, I valued nonmonogamy and freedom. I didn’t want to be questioned in my decisions and I wanted a lifestyle where nobody was allowed to ask things of me. If I don’t have a partner, I am never forced to sacrifice anything.

Why would I feel this way? Like clockwork, these values were built upon a childhood where I was asked to sacrifice so much. Rather than take care of my own, I was forced to serve my parent’s emotional needs. My priorities and values were taught to me as a child, and without some serious introspection and deep work, I may never have come to terms with that fact.

I would encourage anyone reading this to use the word ‘Why’ more. In an ironic twist, the best way to grapple with your own baggage is to have yourself and others ask you; “Why?”. Why do you feel the way you do about your current or previous partners? Why do you think you display the patterns that you do? Why is it that your relationships all seem to follow the same cycle?

Eventually, as you go deeper and deeper into that line of questioning, you’ll come to a final layer, a complete rationale for your decisions. It won’t be conscious, and it won’t be something you knew about yourself. We all think we’re healthy until we’re confronted with our own patterns.

If you want to be truly healthy and happy, to be able to develop lasting love and appreciation for your ideal partner, you need to be a better parent to yourself than your biological ones ever were.

If a pickup artist said it, it must be true.

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About

Cain Parish

Cain Parish is the owner of cainparish.com. A prolific writer, educator and relationship coach since 2019, he specializes in dating, relationships, emotional intelligence and social skills. He is also the author and creator of the world’s largest and most comprehensive database for dating and relationship advice, which can be found on his website. His first book, I’m Sorry I Egged Your House, is due to be published in 2024.

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