The Cardinal Rule of Relationships

In any relationship, the person with the most power is the one who needs the other the least.

This is a foundation of any relationship, not just intersexual ones, but family, business, etc. relationships as well. It is a dynamic that is always in effect. For my own well being and that of my family’s, I need my employer more than he needs me, ergo I get up for work in the morning and work for him. And while I am also a vital part for the uninterrupted continuance of his company and endeavours, he simply needs me less than I need him. Now I could win the lottery tomorrow or he may decide to cut my pay or limit my benefits, or I may complete my Masters Degree and decide that I can do better than to keep myself yoked to his cart indefinitely, thereby, through some condition either initiated by myself or not, I am put into a position of needing him less than he needs me. At this point he is forced into a position of deciding how much I am worth to his ambitions and either part ways with me or negotiate a furtherance of our relationship.

The same plays true for intersexual relationships. Whether you want to base your relationship on ‘power’ or not isn’t the issue; it’s already in play from your first point of attraction. You are acceptable to her for meeting any number of criteria and she meets your own as well. If this weren’t the case you simply would not initiate a mutual relationship. This is the first comparisson we make with another individual – call it ‘sizing up’ if you like – but we make innate (and often unconscious) comparisons about everything and in the case of initial attraction we decide if the the other person is acceptable for our own intimacy. From this point it becomes a cooperative negotiation.

This principle isn’t so much about ‘power’ as it is about control. This might sound like semantics, but it does make a difference. It’s very easy to slip into binary arguments and think that what I mean by the cardinal rule of relationships is that one participant must absolutely rule over the other – a domineering dominant personality to a doormat submissive personality. Control in a healthy relationship passes back and forth as desire and need dictate for each partner. In an unhealthy realationship you have an unbalanced manipulation of this control by a partner.

Although control is never in complete balance, it becomes manipulation when one partner, in essence, blackmails the other with what would otherwise be a behavioral reinforcer for the manipulated partner under healthy circumstances. This happens for a variety of different reasons, but the condition comes about by two ways – the submissive participant becomes conditioned to allow the manipulation to occur and/or the dominant one initiates the manipulation. In either case the rule still holds true – the one who needs the other the least has the most control. Nowhere is this more evident than in interpersonal relationships.

Too many people who I counsel and read my posts (here and elsewhere) assume that this Rule means that I’m advocating the maintaining a position of dominance at the expense of their partners; far from it. I do however advocate that people – young men in particular – develop a better sense of self-worth and a better understanding of their true efficacy in their relationships (assuming you decide to become involved in one). Don’t get me wrong, both sexes are guilty of manipulation; Battered women go back to their abusive boyfriends/husbands and pussy whipped men compromise themselves and their ambitions to better serve their girlfriend’s insecurities. My intent in promoting this Rule is to open the eyes of young men who are already predisposed to devaluing themselves and placing women as the goal of their lives rather than seeing themselves as the PRIZE to be sought after. Compromise is always going to be a part of any relationship, but what’s key is realizing when that compromise becomes the result of manipulation, what is in effect, then developing the confidence to be uncompromising in those situations. This is where a firm understanding of the cardinal rule of relationships becomes essential.

There’s nothing wrong with backing down from an argument you have with your girlfriend, but there is something wrong when you continually compromise yourself in order to ‘keep the peace’ with the understanding that she’ll withhold intimacy as a result of you holding your ground. That is a power play, also known as a ‘shit test’. She initiates it thus becoming the controlling party.

No woman’s intimacy (i.e. sex) is ever worth that compromise because in doing so you devalue your own worth to her. Once this precident is set, she will progressively have less respect for you – exactly opposite of the popular conception that she’ll appreciate your compromising for her and reward you for your “sensitivity”.

And really, what are you compromising in order to achieve? Set in this condition, her intimacy. That isn’t genuine desire or real interest in you, it’s a subtle psychological test (that all too many men are unaware of) meant to determine who needs the other more. There is no more a superior confidence for a man than one with the self-understanding that he will not compromise himself for the recognized manipulations of a woman, and the fortitude to walk away knowing he can and will find a better prospect than her. This is the man who passes the shit test. It’s called ‘enlightened self-interest’ -— I cannot help others until I can help myself — and a principle I wholely endorse.

Published by Rollo Tomassi

Author of The Rational Male and The Rational Male, Preventive Medicine

61 comments on “The Cardinal Rule of Relationships

  1. For any man in an LTR, knowing this and acting in a way that puts the control mainly in his own hands makes for a stable and happy relationship for both him and the woman.

  2. Adam Lyons teaches that it’s all about investment. The person least invested has the power and is in the driver’s seat, which is basically the same thing. The key is to give the appearance of being less invested than the other person, and in doing so it creates a chase frame with you as the “prize”.

    When I teach guys I give them the training wheels version of this which is that they should strive for an 80/20 split. When they get a handle on things, they can invest more and more and ideally get it close to a comfortable ratio, maybe a 60/40 split. If the woman is really hot with tons of options, then Roissy’s idea of a 66/33 split is more appropriate in all likelihood. An example of this is in contact–If she’s sending you a paragraph text, send her back just one sentence. If she sends you a sentence, send her a 1 word text back. Similarly for ever 2-3 times she contacts you, you return her message. A 1:1 ratio simply does not work, and that includes incidental communications such as emailing her funny pictures, posting stuff on her Facebook wall, etc. This is why aloof game is so powerful (as is spinning plates)–it keeps you from over-investing and handing the woman all of the power in the relationship.

  3. to sum it up:
    if i’m the least invested on the relationship, i’m detain the power of the relationship.
    but what about interaction ?
    i mean when you start talking to a chick, she will throw you sometimes a shit test, but there’s nothing you are invested on,yet.
    so how this rule of not sacrificing yourself worth get into the picture ?

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  7. Either side, whatever you say, whatever girls say, you get power thrown in. Why the fuck are you pretending there’s some inherent good or happiness in this? Want the truth? … deal with it you animal fucko. Masculinity is one part of the disease, don’t tell me to act half in on this crime of a life because I have a penis. And don’t expect respect from anyone, if you do respect yourself, it’s because you’ve successfully gone insane.

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  11. I’ve been fascinated by the sayings I’ve found in Colombia(remember that Colombia has been in a social bubble for about 70 years because of the guerilla). A couple of interesting ones..In Cali-The person who falls in love loses. In the coast..While waiting for Mr Right, enjoy Mr. Wrong! Another fascinating one told to me in a secretive tone by a old Paraguayan guy..”But between men..there doesn’t exist the ugly woman.”

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  13. What a great Blog! I got dumped by my ex girlfriend about two months ago from a 9 year relationship.
    I got goosebumps reading the last paragraph. That’s how I got dumped. Never compromise your self-respect, once you do it’s a ongoing downhill road.
    Keep the good work.

  14. This is great and true on so many levels.

    Living on a lonely island? Not so great.

    I’ve often said, playing this game is sometimes like walking a tight rope. At times in my life I’ve been busy at the game of life and said to hell with it.

    Then I went overseas. And discovered how women are supposed to act.

    Stop blaming yourself!

  15. There is so much wisdom and good advice in these articles, though of course we need to be careful of hard and fast generalizations. But wisdom comes with experience and honest reflection, so these rules are a good framework with which to approach intimate relationships with women. My father told me when I was a boy just to say “Yes dear” when a woman was clucking away about crap or trying to create an argument, and then go and do whatever it was you wanted to do regardless of their wishes. I didn’t grasp what it meant at the time, but these days it is sage advice indeed! Women so often do just talk for the sake of talking with no rational basis to their fragile thought bubbles and when a man tries to solve their problem with some good ole male logic, he just gets attacked, so best to leave it alone and not get drawn into the insanity of the female.
    I am now in my late 40’s and still a very desirable male. I have had many lovers, more than I can remember, so women find me attractive, but I often quickly lose interest and look for the next pursuit. I didn’t realise I was addicted to the chase until an older, wiser male friend pointed this out to me several years ago. Still, I’ve accepted I’m most likely always going to be a womaniser, but it’s more just for the sex and some fun, not emotional fulfillment. I live alone on a large country property and love my space and solitude and would not trade these things for all the pussy in the free world. Whereas once I used to yearn for a deep connection with a “soul mate” I now have the clarity to recognise such a fantasy is merely that; a fantasy construct that has been sold by Hollywood that so many Western women still believe in. Don’t do there, boys. Be a man, keep your self respect and always be prepared to walk away from anyone and anything that threatens your autonomy and freedom.
    This is such a fascinating subject that all boys should be taught from a young age. As more enlightened men we really need to reclaim our “secret men’s business” and educate younger males as to the reality of machinations of male/female relationships. A good read is Esther Vilar’s ‘The Manipulated Man’ written in 1971. Of course feminists hated it, especially since it was written by a woman.

    “During the first two years of life, a mother does not discriminate between boys and girls. The female infant is submitted to the same form of manipulation until the principles of hygiene are absorbed, but from that moment on, the education of the two sexes follows very different paths. The older the girl grows, the more highly conditioned she becomes in the art of exploiting others, while a boy is increasingly manipulated into becoming an object of exploitation…”

    “To a woman love means power, to a man enslavement. Love provides woman with an excuse for financial exploitation, man with an emotionally charged excuse…As a result of `love,’ man is able to hide his cowardly self-deception behind a smoke screen of sentiment. He is able to make himself believe that his senseless enslavement to woman and her hostages is more than an act of honor, it has a higher purpose. He is entirely happy in his role as a slave and has arrived at the goal
    he has so long desired. Since woman gains nothing but one advantage after another from the situation as it stands today, things will never change. The system forces her to be corrupt, but no one is going to worry about that. Since one can expect nothing from a woman but love, it will remain the currency for any need she might have. Man, her slave, will continue to use his energies only according to his conditioning and never to his own advantage. He will achieve greater goals and the more he achieves,
    the farther women will become alienated from him. The more he tries to ingratiate himself with her, the more demanding she will become; the more he desires her, the less she finds him desirable; the more comforts he provides for her, the more indolent, stupid and inhuman she will become – and man will grow lonelier as a result…”

    If you can’t find happiness in solitude you will only suffer in servitude…

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  17. James – your comment was fantastic. As a single father faced with the prospect of spending several years living in solitude I found your story to be very enlightening. I find myself fighting the solitude at times. To know that in a decade, when I reach your age, I can still be a desirable man getting laid with frequency while enjoying a life that I command is very encouraging. Thanks for sharing. I am going to read that link you posted as well. Looks like good stuff.

  18. […]”Once this precedent is set, she will progressively have less respect for you – exactly opposite of the popular conception that she’ll appreciate your compromising for her and reward you for this.[…]

    I understand that some men have had this experience and I empathize, but this example makes it out that it’s assuming women have no control over wanting and trying to gain more power regardless. If a male doesn’t non-aggressively and non-accusingly talk about his feelings about the situation and what he cares about and what he wants (for himself and for her), then that’s what fuels the uneven power. Lack of communication is what causes this; it dehumanizes you. I would encourage vulnerable communication above all else, particularly when you’re feeling attacked.

    Also, I disagree: you don’t have to have one person in power all the time. You can switch. Yes, young males should have a lot more self-respect, but that involves being vulnerable and telling their feelings. A woman can’t help him if she doesn’t know; if she refuses to help him, then he can say “Sayonara” to her. The fact that you only encourage this to the males is discouraging. Women are perfectly capable of being fair, and they’re not ALWAYS the dependent ones.

  19. Guys so much stuff to read! Gonna set aside some time to catch up later today/tomorrow.

    Now I need to go nurse my epic hangover from last night.

    I wrote this FR last night when I got home. I’ve cleaned up the spelling and writing a bit but otherwise left it as is for posterity – think it gives a good flavour of the night lol:

    YaReally Sentient HABD Forge hank holiday and gang

    Writing this Thursday night drunk off my face. Will check for sanity/spelling and post tomorrow (

    FR Solo Latin dance club

    Guys this solo shit is the nutz

    Okay I’m drunk but this is so much fun! Game is fantastic. Push a button and chicks RESPOND

    Meeting people is cool

    Took YaReally et al advice

    Focussed on pushing conversations and spending 5 mins in set. Targeted 5 sets.

    Think I did 5-7 real conversations? LOTS more opens. Spoke to loads of guys. ANYONE who came within my Zone (male/female) got opened with random shit. Just stood at the bar for two hours.

    Latin dance club so were quite a few Latinas – some a bit ESL which was kinda a challenge

    I’m more about the white chicks to be honest (there were some) – kinda the anti hank holiday.

    Some divorced dude in his fifties decided I was his buddy and we chatted for ages? Like YaReally says adding value

    Some other guy asked me to take a picture of him and his buddy and I did and they said “Why wasn’t there a flash?” and I say “Dude – you’re too fuckig pale – you won’t trigger a flash” (he was a redhead)

    Um I distinctly remember shouting at some dude at the bar (repeatedly): “Tits beat personality! Tits beat personality” (Think I was trying to point out that the bartenders were serving the hot girls first) The guys laughing their asses off

    Interrupted some guy talking to the restroom attendant and told him about another Latin dance bar in the city..we chatted for a bit in the restroom and he wished me a good evening etc and we shook hands (did he wash hands? ewww)

    I know, I know not good Game to be drunk but was just a lot of fun saying anything funny that came into my head and vibing with people

    Girls? Umm..can’t remember lots of the conversation

    Before I got drunk – solid conversation with HB7 I opened. She opened right up and engaged me and started asking questions.

    I had a routine stack prepared – Opener —> Girls fighting (all the chicks who heard it when it was fresh are post-Wall now lol )—> Tease girl/pushpull cold read —> DHV 2 (personal story) — Etc

    She was super-engaged and pulled her friend into conversation etc, then I cold read her as “having been in a fight before” and she got a bit offended. I knew it was a shit test and just laughed it off. Then she gave me another shot and was like “that’s a little bit rude” and I went “You’re not answering the question”. That turned her off and the energy died and they got their drinks a bit later and left.

    In retrospect, maybe I should have calibrated after the fact? Something like “Sorry I was just look like the kind of girl who stands up for herself” – there was LOTS of attraction.

    No other sets that were quite as good but I was pretty drunk soon after.

    Um I distinctly remember ripping into a HB8 and HB7 next to me for drinking too much (they had a line of shots right in front of them and were doing them one after the other – about 3 each in 5 mins) and they LOVED it and I chatted with them for a while.

    Oh and I remember walking hammered out of the club and teasing some mid-20s HB7 outside for being on her phone so much? Like “Hey I’m old enough to remember before smartphones – we TALKED to other people” and she was loving it.

    Takeaways from evening:

    Going out and talking to people is FUN. It’s even better drunk and self-amusing and spreading good vibes and laughing with people

    Maybe not the best Game to get drunk (no shit sherlock)

    It really isn’t that hard to get into conversations – even before I got drunk I just needed to force myself to move from the opener into the my first DHV story (girls fighting) and that triggered the conversation in most cases. I actually hit more than my target of conversations..

    Oh STRATEGY YaReally chess. I heard a HB7 one side of me blow off some guy who approached her – I turned to the right and opened the HB8/HB7 other side (the two who were drinking shots) and made them laugh. Then I opened the bar tender and asked him something, THEN I opened HB7 other side and she laughed and I had a great reaction.

    I love you guys all of you on TRM are GREAT

  20. Total is “National Underwear Day.” I plan on field testing some openers tonight.

    Me: “Are you celebrating today?
    Girl: “Celebrating what?
    Me: “National Underwear Day.

    take it from there.

  21. Wow, if it was only so simple. The issue of power is not always obvious. As there are all kinds of power in a relationship. One can control the money in the relationship and that person has the power. Or one can control the sex, and that is power. So the issue of power in a relationship is on a continuum the way I see it. Even in it’s extreme position, the person who appears to have the power, may not really have it I believe Hegal wrote about the master-slave relationship that is a bit gemane to this conversation. The idea being that without the slave, there is no master. Or think of the joke at the end of Annie Hall when the joke is told about a man who comes to see a psychatrist wanting help for his brother who believes he is a chicken. The psychiatrist insists to see the brother, the man refuses. Finally after no change for several weeks, the psychiatrist becomes upset and refuses to continue the therapy with the man uless he brings in the brother. Finally, the man confesses, he can’t bring in the brother, because he needs the egges. So those in power may appear not to need the other as much, but the eggs are hard to give up, sometimes!

    I apprecieate what is being addressed, just discovered this site, and will continue to read and comment.

  22. HI Rollo,

    I live by the mantra of learn the rules and play the game better than anyone and your book is changing the game for me.

    To quote you “a relationship should be based on genuine desire, mutual respect, complementary understanding of each other and love.”

    I get genuine desire but can you expound on mutual respect, understanding of each other and love ? My understating of these concepts are blue pill in nature, related links of articles would be great if you have already covered these topics.

  23. Gentlemen…gentlemen, always remember…being a man, learn the way of the lonely wolf. It is not ABOUT women, never was. U can die, get cancer…whatever, you go out your door, a car hits you…you’re gone, simple as. Nobody in this world would ever love you like you’re mother…ever! Get used to that and start spending you’re days in pursuit of the few things that matter!

    Spend your days building things, be poets…sing songs! A man has time, it has never been about them!…they are just the prize.

    Men!…If you do not become kings of your own domain…conquer yourself first, else you’d fret woman…they will consume you like drink and drugs!

    Just relax and become, find a mentor if you must, but live by you’re own terms…those are the one’s by which you will die.

    As a favor, I throw this gauntlet…if you could become this, you could survive, maybe…

    Dark and deep…and even if you did not, at least you would have been alive…else you could never dream. Do yourself a favor…go find out how!!! Lead and they will follow, but always remember, it is and always will be just a game…and don’t fret them to much, muses…sirens, if you answer…bye-bye.

    Now, I should shout Sparta…a gift to you;

    Now, go be a rational male and just play the game!

  24. ‘Cast The Bantling on the Rocks,
    Suckle him with the she-wolf’s teat,
    Wintered with the hawk and fox,
    Power and speed be hands and feet.’

  25. This concept has become very important in my marriage. One thing I keep remembering is – women are water. Men are the container. Women will take whatever shape you give them. Since I began the RP journey (2 months ago), this has been a huge and helpful factor in my journey. Really – this has been about three things (so far):
    1) STFU – stop talking about your emotions. Your wife doesn’t want to hear about your fucking problems. She wants a strong man. This also made me a more resilient, stronger character person. When I stopped emoting so much, I became less of an insecure pussy.
    2) respond to shit tests properly – she’s testing your strength
    3) be busy – when you are away from her more often, you rely on her less. It lets her miss you and wonder what you’re doing. You’re also consciously making the wife less of a priority in your life – which is, in a sense, the point of this article. Don’t put your woman on a pedestal. I am the prize. My needs/wants come first. When she knows that, she realizes she needs to use her charms to keep me interested.

  26. A very good article…genderless…it goes for everybody, including todays woman…everyone is the PRIZE….with flaws…with authenticity…everyone must be themselves and pass that hot potatoe of power…to be able to recieve it, to pass it back…to be wise and appreciative of it…regardless who’s turn it is…to have or relinquish the power potatoe…after all…vulnerability is part of love, in healthy relationships…it builds trust and intimacy….and absolute power corrupts, absolutely. The right woman understands it’s not all about her or him…it’s a shared connection. AC instead of DC. Thank you.
    Ps. Testing is good…and so is being able to relax a litte…just as long as neither state lasts to long…then again, i’m single, but i’ve seen love work…mutually…passionately…for myself, am willing to work and wait for it….and that groovy man will be similar in that way…i look forward to a day where we can have our genders and it will be about developing as a people, regardless of which gender we happen to be…ya know?

  27. you people always frame things in terms alien to me and I am female. she “withholds sex” how about you turn her off? intimacy starts psychologically and if you are playing power games or refusing to admit when you are wrong IF you are wrong, if you argue just to argue if you don’t interact physically unless you expect sex, you are the one withholding intimacy, the pschological intimacy that gives rise to the physical. indeed, sex that is impersonal isn’t intimacy really at all.

    true, whoever needs less can walk away easier has more power. but the thing is, if she doesn’t need you economically then her love may be more sincere. and if the need is emotional not just sexual then there is a lot of gut wrenching.

    and if she doesn’t spell out but expect you to read her mind, and you don’t spell it out (which might have driven her off) then you will always have incompatibility. you PUA and similar types have said that not coming on to her, letting her approach you instead, makes you a challenge she will pursue. it never crosses your fucked up fuck minded shit heads that she mistakes you for someone who isn’t just after sex, who is in fact worth a damn (when you’re not) and therefore worthy of her attention (which you aren’t).

  28. Interesting.

    Truth mixed in with misunderstanding .

    Withholding sex can happen from men being too emotional and intimate as well. Blabbering every single thought a man has could be dangerous for a relationship. There’s a balance that can only be struck by understanding the most basic female natures.

    That’s how you recognize when sex is being weaponized against you. That’s women using their understanding of basic male nature.

    So yes, ideally all men should be prepared to walk away.

    Conversely , if a man is incapable of providing the requisite amount of intimacy , the woman must walk away as well instead of trying to punish him into compliance .

    But people don’t always know what they should do.

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