Dr. Greg Cason
In my ever-expanding need to bring a dusting of sanity to an insane gay world, I have decided to let all of those who are in relationships in on a little secret: Just like a dog, you can train your man.
Now, I know those well-meaning psychotherapists, your mother, your exes and countless chick flicks have told you that people don’t change. Well, that’s a lie. People can and do change.
The brain doesn’t stop growing new connections just because people are over 21, and your old dog can learn new tricks. For Madonna’s sake, your grandparents used telephones with wires attached and once thought computers were something only used by NASA to fly spaceships. Now they use iPhones to post videos on Instagram.
But you’re not really here to listen to stories about your grandma. You want to know how to do something about that guy of yours who, frankly, stopped listening to you long ago.
Don’t worry, I am not going to engage in sexist politics and tell you how guys are different from women. That’s something straight people like to do. Besides, we are talking about gay men here and, at the risk of being politically incorrect, you and I both know that gay men can be as much like women as they are like men. We tend to straddle the fence (among other things). So there will be no pigeonholing you into gender stereotypes.
My advice is based on science, not stereotypes, and works equally well for men and women, gay or straight. In fact, if you don’t have a man in your life, you can use it on your boss, kid, friend or whomever! But it’s just not cool to say you can train a woman. It’s a power thing. That’s why I’m just focusing on the guys.
What I tell you is based on Learning Theory and, ironically, is used by trainers of real dogs everywhere. That’s because, just like dogs, human beings are animals. We respond to the same things. Though we may not bark and roll over on command, we do like to get treats when we do stuff. We just tend to call our treats paychecks. All of it is based on one basic principle.
THE BASIC PRINCIPLE: When you do something and you like what comes right after, you tend to do it again. (For psych goons, you’ll recognize that as a sloppy version of Thorndike’s Law of Effect).
I know where your mind went. Yes, sex is a good example. But think about it for a second—everything works that way. If you like a song, you listen to it more. If you like a pastry, you binge on it later. If you do your hair differently one night and it results in a flurry of free drinks, that bar is going to be seeing a lot of that new ‘do.
THE FLIP SIDE: That basic principle works in reverse as well. If you don’t like something, you tend to avoid it. If a song sounds awful, a pastry gives you gas or your hairdo becomes a hair don’t, you won’t be revisiting those things anytime soon.
Frankly, these two little factoids are all you need to improve your man, your relationship and (though I am not pointing any fingers here) improve yourself as well. But some things are easier said than done, like making a good hollandaise sauce or giving a good handjob. If you don’t beat it fast enough while streaming in the oil, it won’t thicken. The hollandaise, that is.
Your problem is that you and your man have been doing the same thing for a while. You get into a rut. As a result, you get frustrated with things you don’t like without realizing you may be playing a role, either actively or passively. (Again, your mind!)
You continue doing your same thing while bitching at your man that he’s doing his same annoying thing, then turning around and complaining to your friends about it. If your friends are single, they tell you that you deserve better and that you need to move on. If they’re in a relationship, they roll their eyes and regale you with tales of their wedded woes. Neither one is going to give you the solution, so stop your whining already. It’s time to take action.
Your man works the same way you and the rest of us do—he does pretty much everything because he likes the effect. Seriously. That may explain things you understand, like eating your cooking, but I am sure you are wondering why he still does the stuff you think is horrible, like eating other people’s cooking.
Remember, your man does what he does because he gets something from doing it. Once you figure out what that is, you have the key to his satisfaction (and what will get him to do things), but not before then.
TIP: Don’t assume you know what is making him stray from your table—it may not be what you think! Stop, look and listen to find out what motivates your man.
It’s not always easy. If he is eating other people’s cooking, it could be for many reasons. Perhaps he likes the taste, or he likes the company, or he likes getting away from you once in a while. Seriously, it may not be that someone else’s food is tempting him away. He may like getting filled up at someone else’s house because your house is serving up some bitter chow.
This is important to realize. What leads people to do things is not just that they might get something good—it may be that they get to avoid something bad. Sometimes that something bad can be you.
Now, because of space constraints (and the fact that you are speeding to the photo classifieds), I can only introduce you to these concepts today. I will be following up in three more articles to give you the rest of the story. Next time I will focus on getting your partner to do what you want.
YOUR HOMEWORK: Figure out what motivates your man (or boss, kid, friend or whomever). What makes him do the things he does? If you can’t figure it out yourself, ask him!
Dr. Greg Cason is a licensed psychologist based in West Hollywood, specializing in cognitive therapy with individuals and couples. He can be contacted by going to DrGreg.com.