I just finished The Truth, the latest book from Neil Strauss, and it was one of the best books I’ve ever read. I listened to the audiobook version, all 16 hours of it, and it never had a dull moment because it’s so brutally honest and vulnerable. It’s subtitled “An Uncomfortable Book About Relationships” for a reason. Many readers might be uncomfortable by his controversial questioning of monogamy and exploration into orgies, sex parties, swinging, and polyamory. But if you’re familiar with Neil’s book The Game, you might have come to expect such racy subject matter.
*Warning: Spoilers Ahead!*
The racy subject matter is certainly part of its appeal, but it’s tempered with sincere honesty. That’s one of the reasons I like it. I’ve read all sorts of books about love and relationships, mostly from the self-help, spiritual, or pop-psychology genres but none have been so open, revealing, and entertaining.
The Truth is a first person account of all the things I’ve been studying lately. After my divorce and ending my 12-year monogamous relationship, I’ve been even more obsessed with relationship reading than before. Following my inspiration and curiosity has led me to learning about non-monogamy. I’d already read many of the books and authors Neil mentions including The Ethical Slut and Opening Up and the wisdom of Esther Perel and Reid Mihalko. Much of it resonated.
Shameless Self Promo!
A Sexual Coming-of-Age for Men
As Neil tells his story, watching him start his journey in sex-addict rehab after cheating on his girlfriend was quite a surprise considering he had written the “bible” of picking up and seducing women. I had the ignorant assumption he was “living the dream” or was happy being a PUA (pick up artist) and was now famous for it. The beginning of the book brought him down to earth as he admitted he was a sex-addict.
The book then goes on to describe all the hard work he did in therapy, getting diagnosed with a bunch of disorders, and then feeling like it was all bullshit. So he broke up with his girlfriend (whom he still loved) to venture on a quest for the perfect combination of sexual freedom and intimacy. He tried New Age tantra orgies, polyamory clubs and conferences, swinging, Las Vegas sex parties with plenty of drugs and viagra, and even trying to live with three other women in his “Father Yod fantasy” relationship. It was so interesting to follow his quest for truth, love, and freedom.
This was all super entertaining to read. Vicariously living through him was fun. And as you might expect, it wasn’t all perfect, but he did have some of the most amazing times of his life. Including a “better-than-porn” foursome with three beautiful, sexually adventurous women that he considered his “sexual zenith.”
After a year of exploring sexual freedom and poly lifestyles, he still wasn’t truly happy or satisfied. However, this experience taught him some very valuable lessons about happiness, love, and self-worth. After digging deep into his childhood and relationship to his parents, he discovered repeating patterns for how his adult relationships take shape.
In the end, he couldn’t find happiness outside of himself. He quit all the lifestyles, gave up porn, deleted almost all his contacts, changed his email and had a friend block his social media accounts. After all this, he finally built a healthy and loving relationship with himself, which is the golden nugget in this book. He made a commitment to self-development and finding happiness within. He realized the difference between his True Self and his False Self. He realized that true love is our natural state of being and your mind and ego just get in the way. He learned the difference between toxic love and true love. He learned how to let go and surrender. To Love with a capital L.
This eventually led him back to monogamy, happily reuniting with his ex-girlfriend no less. The two went on to get married and have a child in what seems like a fairy tale ending. I admit, I teared up quite a bit at this part. But the story doesn’t exactly end there. They had their stumbling blocks and issues to get through. They made a commitment to nourish the three entities in the relationship. Him. Her. And The Relationship. When issues and triggers happen, they own them and are brutally honest with themselves and each other. They work on healing and resolving those triggers to grow together. This allows for even deeper intimacy and trust. The result actually enhances the sexual component of the relationship. And instead of fizzling out after awhile, it gets hotter and more ecstatic. This is the benefit of a long term pair bond. You can go deeper into truth and love, and with that comes freedom. Something you won’t find at a Vegas sex party.
So how do I feel after reading it? My conclusion?
Well, it’s awesome to see Neil try these alternative lifestyles so I don’t have to. Is his experience and choice to be monogamous going to discourage my exploration into alternative lifestyles? Well, the answer to that question lies in what I’m ultimately after. I follow my inspiration, wonder, and curiosity while simultaneously making a commitment to my own authenticity. If that leads me to a lifestyle that is polyamorous, or outside the mainstream, that’s something I’ll explore. I’m not going to settle for what I know just because it’s safe and familiar.
I’m going to let go of control of the “type” or the “label” and trust that the most suitable relationship type is out there for me. It’s already formed. It’s already within me. I’m in the process of actualizing or manifesting it. The primary relationship I have is with MYSELF and my connection to spirit. Everyone I attract into my life is another sovereign being on their own journey, and if we line up and are both better together, we will be inspired to connect. It would be awesome to share my life with someone equally as passionate as I am about this stuff.
If I find myself inspired to obsess over dating apps, I will. If I’m inspired to take a break and be alone, I will. If I’m inspired to forgo chasing a mate and instead chase my ambitions, I will. It’s all about inspiration and authenticity for me.
I’ll also let go of what that relationship looks like or is supposed to be. Some will be romantic, physical, sexual, emotional, intellectual, or spiritual. Some will feel more like kindred spirits, collaborators, friends, soul mates, lovers, companions, teachers, mentors, etc. There are so many different permutations of what a “relationship” is, why bother trying to mentally figure it out beforehand? The mind cannot solve the longing of the heart. When I let go of control and expectations, I’m usually wowed by what shows up.
20 Tips for More Conscious Relationships
While Neil learned a lot on his quest, it helped me learn too. It reinforced some of my own feelings on self-development, love, and relationships. I’ve put together a list of lessons, tips, and advice for a more “conscious” relationship with a focus on happiness, love, and growth. Truth, love, and freedom applies.
- You won’t find happiness outside yourself. And you’ll eventually discover this truth after giving everything you’ve got to finding it outside only to feel empty and at a loss. Then the epiphany happens.
- It’s all about awareness, awareness, awareness! Shining the light on our shadows. Not being afraid to see ourselves for who we really are.
- You’re not “broken” or “bad.” In therapy, they love to tell you that you’re broken or bad and you need their help, their books, their drugs, or their therapy to get better. Maybe for a little while, but in the end you realize that you don’t need it and all it takes is consciousness (awareness) and love. You have all the tools you need already.
- Acceptance of what is. Neil found peace by accepting whatever happens as long as he was true to himself.
- It’s not about being mono or poly, but being aware, conscious, honest, and authentic. The relationship style takes care of itself. There is no “right” relationship style. Feel free to try them on for size to see what feels good to you. Ultimately, your own issues will follow you into whatever you get into.
- Be a “scientist” of your own emotions and behavior. Become “aware” when you’re triggered and go within. Find out how to get your needs met yourself, or how to ask for help.
- Stop trying to control the other person. Let go of control altogether. Let it be!
- You can’t make another person happy. Another person can’t make you happy. Let go of trying to give everyone else that responsibility to make you happy and stop taking on that responsibility for others.
- Treat your partner like the powerful, sovereign being they are. They can handle their own emotions, triggers, and reactions. Assume they are strong, but catch them if they fall.
- You aren’t responsible for how the other person feels or reacts to you. Let them have their reaction instead of lying or trying to diminish yourself to get the reaction you want.
- Stop blaming other people for your problems. Blaming others gives your power away and sets up a victim mentality. You may be challenged or hurt, but don’t identify with being a victim.
- You don’t need to “fix” anyone else. When people try to “fix” you, does it feel good? No. So don’t go into a relationship thinking you can change the person into what you want.
- Be present for each other. When you’re partner is upset, ask if they want you to listen, give advice, give them space, or give them loving touch. Men especially want to fix or find a solution, but lots of times listening and being present is all that’s needed.
- Attraction to other people doesn’t stop even if you’re monogamous. Get comfortable with knowing your partner is a healthy adult and is choosing YOU rather than being obligated to be with you.
- Being your OWN parent so you don’t unconsciously make your partner into your Mom or Dad. Build a great relationship with your Inner Child (yes it’s a thing). Give yourself the love and attention that you always wanted. Learn how to say no, stand up for yourself, and become independent of your parents.
- It’s not about perfecting yourself to attract the perfect partner but loving your self as you are so you can love another as they are. The more you accept and love yourself, the more you accept and love others.
- You recycle the same childhood “traumas” over and over until you become conscious and integrate its lesson and grow from it. Simply by being aware of your patterns you can evolve into deeper, more loving relationships.
- Sex itself is not love. It’s not the “prize” either and won’t satisfy that inner longing. Sex that energizes you and expands your being is good. Sex that depletes you or shrinks your being is like junk food.
- Freedom is not found in having a variety of partners but in feeling free to be your truest self in the world. To be free to be who you really are on the inside without judgment.
- Everyone is a mirror. Relationships reflect back and shine light on our wounds and lost parts of ourselves. Pay attention! Your negative emotions are helpful signals on your path to become a whole person.
I hope this post and Neil’s book spark some good discussion on relationships and love. Thank you Neil for letting us into your life in such a candid way. For that I am grateful.