Is your wife feeling comfortable when she’s talking to you?
Do you have the same conversations with her every day?
Create an opportunity to explore her world by asking intriguing questions so you can have a fun conversation. Start forming a closer bond with your partner and build a more intimate marriage.
In this episode, Doug and Mark discuss some effects of communication breakdown in the relationship and what to do to keep the conversation alive with your partner.
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Doug Holt: Hey, guys, welcome back to another episode of The Powerful Man Show. And I am here with the man, the myth, the legend, master coach of the Activation Method and the Alpha Resets, Mr. Mark Smith. Mark, great to have you here, brother.
Mark Smith: Always great to see you, Doug. Appreciate you having me on. Thank you. Yeah,
Doug Holt: I’m excited to go through it. And we were talking a little bit offline. For those guys that aren’t familiar with The Powerful Man as a movement, we have a flagship program, we call it the Activation Method, where it takes a man from being deactivated to activated, and specifically in relation to himself and his marriage, so he can be a leader. And so Mark is one of the guys, one of our coaches that you might possibly, if you’re going through the program, get a chance to interact with and get coached by, but he’s also very active in our private community. And he is- you tell them. Why are you here, Mark?
Mark Smith: Why am I here today? Why am I here at The Powerful Man?
Doug Holt: Why are you here today? Where are you physically right now?
Mark Smith: Ah, okay. So I’m in the Pacific Northwest. I’m in Bend, Oregon, in the beautiful USA. I’m able to see snow-capped peaks from my morning rise and shine, as soon as the sun comes up. And yeah, I actually enjoy this climate, Doug, I must tell you. It’s a lot harder to get away from heat than it is from cold. Yes, absolutely.
Doug Holt: Yes, absolutely. So Mark’s here, we’re going to be co-leading an Alpha Reset here next week, in Bend, Oregon. Alpha Reset is one of our transformational programs where men come in, a very small group of men come in for a transformational experience. It’s a little bit like Fight Club, where you don’t talk about what happens at Fight Club. And part of that mystery really helps the guys get to where they need to go. But I can tell you guys that 100% of the men surveyed said it was a life-changing event. And most of them would say, the most significant event of their lives.
Mark Smith: That was, in fact, said to me by a guy who came off the Alpha Reset in the Lake District recently said to me – ‘I wish I had done it sooner, and it was the most significant thing I’ve done in my life.’ Which is such a profound privilege. And I don’t think it’s very easy, Doug, to explain to people who haven’t been through something like that how magnificent it is, and how there’s some kind of level of magician that happens below the surface, to help men shift into a place. And you can’t really get your hands on it. So, even if we wanted to talk about Fight Club, we wouldn’t be able to, because, how do you get that? How do you get your arms around? How somebody shifts internally in terms of their ability to believe in themselves, confidently speak their truth and expose their feelings in a vulnerable way? It’s just unheard..
Doug Holt: Yeah, it’s amazing. But yeah, the way I think about it, Mark, when I explain it, is also to think about- you know, for a lot of men, what they’ll say is they have more vigor, and passion and confidence than they had in their early 20s, when your testosterone, I always say, is super-high and your wisdom is low. Well now, they’re able to – not artificially, but actually find that guy that was inside of them this entire time. And a thing guys say often is, ‘where have you been’, when they’re talking to themselves. ‘I’ve been waiting for you’ And they are able to step forward. And the great thing is, it lasts. Now and forever, they have this moving forward through relationships, business, and the other things. I’m just so honored to be able to do this with you again..
Mark Smith: Me too. Yeah, try and get rid of me.
Doug Holt: Well, speaking of trying to get rid of you, as you can tell, guys that are in the States, Mark isn’t originally from the US, but he is here. And you were telling me kind of a funny story. You’re coming through customs into the US, and that leads us to today’s topic.
Mark Smith: Yeah. Very interestingly, when it comes to customs, even though there’s no reason for me to be, I’m nervous. US Customs, Homeland Security, am I gonna be allowed in or marched out? But the fact is that this customs official was speaking to me and asking me why I was here, etc. And obviously, I shared with him that I was here to visit and do some process-type work. And he said, ‘what work is that?’ And I said work with men. So he started asking me about his brother and what advice I would have for him. His brother’s in a situation where they are divorced, but there is conflict, discord, and children. Of course, I fed back some ideas. Not knowing his brother, it was really tough. I think I need a TPM business card to hand out at customs.
Doug Holt: That’s awesome. And today, you wanted to talk about leading into this idea of men not knowing how to have romantic conversations. So tell me more about that.
Mark Smith: Well, when I was speaking to this guy at the customs cubicle, he said to me that the communication between his brother and his sister-in-law had broken down. That happens a lot. And it happens a lot before we realize it. The guys that I speak to in the Activation Method, guys in the Brotherhood, guys at the Alpha Reset, etc., often tell me that they realize in hindsight that their relationship was probably either ignored, or downplayed, or taken for granted for years. And so, hence this conversation around keeping the conversation in a relationship alive such that your spouse, wife, partner, lover, is interested, intrigued, and feels excited by your presence. And I think it’s a lost art. Doug.
Doug Holt: I agree with you 100%. And it’s something I consciously sought in my relationships, so I could learn how to speak more eloquently. But also, you know, it’s gotta be fun, it’s gotta be entertaining. We’ve all had conversations with a guy – just as an example – with another guy where he’s very monotone and talks like this about his day, and your eyes gloss over, and you want to fall asleep. And then, unfortunately, a lot of men, in my experience, Mark – let me know what you think – A lot of guys, they come home, and they unload the problems of their day at work with their wife, maybe. They say so monotone; there’s nothing interesting. It’s all so predictable that their partner could have written the whole speech for them.
Mark Smith: Because she’s heard it every day for the last 10 years.
Doug Holt: Exactly. It’s like watching the same show. No matter how much you liked the show, if you’re watching the same show every day for 10 years, it’s gonna get boring.
Mark Smith: Yeah, monotone is a problem. Also, the content, as you’ve said, is a problem. The guys come home- if you think about somebody who’s been sitting there, she’s been dealing with kids, whatever situation, whatever age, that can be draining. And then, he comes home and offloads content that she probably doesn’t appreciate in terms of the complexity or is not interested in his particular work issues or whatever. And then also, obviously, the monotone and the way it’s put across will be an issue. And I want to be really clear: this could be the other way around, right? It could be the woman coming home, and the guy has been at home with the kids. Let’s make sure that we’re gender-neutral in this conversation. So, it’s not about who’s been at work and who’s not. It’s about connecting and understanding each other’s worlds so that there’s a deeper connection,and people in relationships probably don’t think about that anywhere near often enough.
Doug Holt: Oh, I agree. And is it entertaining? What is the outcome of the communication? So, right now, our outcome, you and I are having a conversation. We didn’t prep for this. But we also have a listener who’s listening to this, and how can we deliver value to that person? And how can we make it entertaining and something they can take and apply to them? So, I want it to be exciting when you’re coming home- at least with my wife. I want her to be excited about what’s going on. I want there to be open loops, intrigue, and things that are really going to move the needle, right? And that’s where storytelling comes into play.
Mark Smith: Yeah. I was actually going the other way, which is something that really helps in terms of engagement, and asking questions. So, storytelling is vital, and my wife thinks I’m too good at it. She says to me, ‘will you just bottom line it? Because I’ll collect the story from behind the mountain.’ But the point is that asking questions gets the other person engaged. And if you’ve got somebody who has shut down or is shutting down, a very quick, simple, easy trick you can do is get out of your own head, ego, desire to impress, control, manage somebody else or change them, And sit back, relax. Decompress is a key factor that we focus on in the Activation Method, be decompressed. And then, ask her. Create some opportunities for her to explore her world and share that with you. Because that is obviously something that is important to her, that has feel-good chemicals flowing through her brain, and so then she’s more interested in hearing your story. That’s the order I would put it in.
Doug Holt: 100%. Right. Yeah. So, we teach something called the Hidden Motives technique, which is getting into somebody’s world. And, you know, I’m just a simple man, Mark, as you know. And so, I’ve gone as far as getting Book of Questions, or I think it’s called Table Topics, it’s got questions in there. Because for many guys, when they’ve left the relationship so long, where there’s been so much disconnect, just saying to your wife, ‘how was your day,’’ isn’t as intriguing. It’s easier for her to ditch it or move away from that level of conversation. So, guys, you want to come up with both applicable and intriguing questions, right? Something that’s going to spice it up, a little bit different. Do you have examples of what questions some guys could ask, Mark?
Mark Smith: Yeah, absolutely. So, when it comes to questions, firstly, what really works is to start broad. So they’re called open questions: what, where, when, how, which, why. Those kinds of things. I’d stay away from why because it tends to take somebody into detailed problems and drama. But if you say so, when was the last time, honey, that you felt absolutely orgasmic in my presence? She’ll probably say, ‘I cannot remember ever…’ So ,would you like to?
Doug Holt: Not everybody’s as suave as you are.
Mark Smith: I told you it could get cheesy.
Doug Holt: It’s not even cheesy because what you’re doing there – you have this relationship with your partner, that you’re able to ask that level of conversation because you have deposits in the relationship bank, piggy bank if you will. Where most men are, that are listening to this- Because I was there, Mark, I don’t know if you’ve ever been there. But I’ve been where you go to the bank, and you realize that your account is over-withdrawn, and you haven’t put enough deposits in to be as cheeky as you’re about that, right? So, you have to start with a certain base. So honestly, what Mark said is probably what I will use with my wife because I think it’s great. But if you guys do have this distance and disconnect right now in your marriage or in your relationship, then you might want to start with a few other basics, getting through a little bit. You know, questions that stoke the fire of intrigue. Because she may not be as apt to have that conversation as your wife might be.
Mark Smith: Yeah, I was being irreverent, Doug. From a position of being distant, to create closeness, we need to. First, I would imagine testing the water and checking in with her: How are you feeling? What’s been going on? All of those things, that Hidden Motives that you were referring to. And then, provided she’s still around and still connected, you could ask her some questions: Where in your life are your needs not being met? Because if there is some serious stuff going on, and it is bothering her, maybe she will open up and tell you. And then, you can ask an even more risky question, to say, how have I failed in not meeting your needs? You know, to really get below the surface. And men typically won’t do this because it’s risky, because she will expose weaknesses. And we see that as, you put on a suit of armor and avoid that question like the plague. The point is, once she opens up, and she sees that you’re willing to be vulnerable, then she can. That’s when the conversation can start ebbing and flowing, and you can start asking questions. So, what would you like instead? And what would you prefer? If I was to show up in a way that gave you these things, would you be willing to step forward in this relationship with me in this way? Whatever stage you happen to be in. So, you can start with broad checking in with her, then go into checking in yourself in terms of your vulnerability, and then get into the ebb and flow. And that’s when you can get, eventually, into the Casanova-type conversation.
Doug Holt: Absolutely. And for some of you guys, you might even want to start with something basic, if your communication is almost dead. A question I would ask is, if you’ve ever had the opportunity to have a roundtrip ticket anywhere in the world, what’s the first place you would go? And then start asking questions on why she would choose that place. What is it about that place? What does it look like, smell like, and feel? Really get into it like you’re writing a novel and just gathering the information from her. And then, once conversations start flowing, you can get into that next level, and the next level, and the next level of the conversation, to eventually where you’re asking your wife, hey, when’s the last time you felt orgasmic? And you can go from there. Which I do love. And the idea here is to break the normality of the conversations you’re probably having. My guess is, most of you listening, your conversations are about household logistics. When do we pick up the kids from soccer? When’s trash day? Who’s doing this, who’s doing that? And it becomes more like a roommate with a ring, and you guys would have like a business transaction. Your conversations are run like boardroom meetings, and there’s not a lot of pizzazz in there. And that’s what Mark’s talking about adding here.
Mike Smith: Yeah. So, some other questions I thought of are, when you do have that ebb and flow going, as I called it, ‘what do you really want out of life’ is a question that could also help you get her to look towards the future. So if she says, I want freedom, I want money, I want toys, and you’re in that sort of vein as well, then you know you’re collaborating. If she says she wants those things, and you want spiritual growth, homeschooling kids, and 10 of them, then you know there’s a divergence. So it’s really important for me to also establish common ground and a common vision. What would it look like if you were to have the relationship of your dreams? If you were to stack me up against the man of your dreams, where am I hitting the ticks, and where are my gaps? What are the areas that I could improve? And the fact is that, when you’ve got into a situation where there’s a vision, and you’ve got some meat on the bones in terms of what she likes and doesn’t like, that’s when I imagine she’s going to feel more engaged. And before she knows it, she’s had a 45-minute conversation with you, and she hasn’t even thought about the time. And then, suddenly, she’ll reflect when she goes away and goes, ‘well, that felt very different.’ For two reasons, one: she feels heard, and the other one: she feels cared about.
Doug Holt: Absolutely. 100%. And when your wife feels heard and cared about, that’s when you’re having a connection. And what most women report is, before intimacy happens, especially in the bedroom, there needs to be a connection in the relationship.
Mark Smith: So how do you build connection?
Doug Holt: Yeah. So, building a connection is these questions, right? Somebody that you’re relating to. And you build a connection when you feel that somebody is listening to you; they can hear you. Perfect example – and I’ve talked about this before – is if you’re telling me about your day, and I pull out my phone, and I start doing something on my phone while you’re talking about your day, I can even say, ‘yeah, I’m listening, I’m listening,’ But there’s no connection there. And odds are, it’s not going to feel good for you. Even though the actual words are coming through, that’s not what the connection is. I mean, communication is only something like 5% verbal, the words that we actually speak. So, she wants to know, one: that you’re interested in her. Two: that you’re actually getting it, and she’s got your attention. And that’s how connection can start. And these questions you’re bringing up are a fantastic way for many of us guys to break the ice, so to speak, and break the routine.
Mark Smith: And there are different ways of creating a connection as well. You hit the nail on the head when you said eye contact and body language, and being present – very, very key. A lot of guys that I work with I’ve challenged to leave their damn phone in the vehicle if they have to, if they’re that addicted to it. And some guys, in fact, do do that. So that’s the one way, body language, presence, connection, eye contact, all of that stuff. The other aspect in which Franco Burrows is much more an expert in is text language. And I’m certainly guilty of sending my wife romantic little messages, sexy messages, rhyming couplet little poems about her, ‘I love your eyes and also your thighs,’ I get it a little bit… As I said, it could end up being quite… What’s the word here? Cheesy. But the point is that I’ll also send her messages which appeal to her head, her heart and her body, right?
So I’ll send her messages that will have her thinking. So, there’ll be some conundrum or there’ll be something that she’s got to think about. And there’s also stuff that I’ll send her which will be romantic, and loving, and really deeply connecting, how much she means to me and how much I value and appreciate her. And then, like I said, there’ll be the sort of saucy messages. The last type is validation-type messages. So I call her my beautiful queen, I let her know about her position in my life, and let her know about what she does, and appreciate her for how she leads in certain ways in the family, and stuff like that. So it’s essentially being conscious of connecting with her on different levels, not just… Because a lot of women say to guys, ‘I know that you’re only being nice to me because you want to get into my pants,’ and the guys honestly want deep connection. It’s not true that men are all single-minded, focused. It’s not true at all. Obviously, there are times. We’re from an animal base. But the essence is that men also want deep connection, and women don’t necessarily realize that.
Doug Holt: Yeah, it’s true. The story I always say is, for a woman, she’s been trying to keep men out of her pants since she was 14-15 years old. And most guys, especially as you get a little more mature as a man, you realize, hey, when you’re connected, and she’s into it, the sex is so much better, when she’s desiring when she can start initiating. But to get this to happen, guys, you have to do what Mark’s talking about here. Establish the connection, break the routine with- How was your day -Good. How was your day – Good. And they walk away.
Try something different. You can try all kinds of things. I was thinking about this, as you were talking, when my wife and I, in the early days, were going through some hard times, I would try everything. If you were to be an animal, what animal would you be? Those kinds of questions which are corny and dumb, but they did break the ice and allow for deeper conversations. Because when she’s mad at you, or you’re mad at her, and that’s been going on for weeks, months, years, you need something, guys. You need something to dip your toe in the water, and then you can send her texts that you love her eyes and thighs. Is this always natural for you, Mark, by the way, or is it something that you learned?
Mark Smith: Well, I’m a word warrior, so I’ve always written poems, Christmas cards to parents in rhyme and stuff like that. So I guess it’s just my thing. But I really liked what you said about breaking the ice and trying anything. The flag that I’d like to wave and say when you are trying anything, is, you cannot come across as desperate or needy. It’s got to be a case of, hey, I’m just shooting the breeze. It’s got to be easy-breezy. ‘What’s your favorite animal’ is your example. If, however… So, a caveat to that is first start with easy-breezy, if it works. If, however, the mood is somber, if the mood is not easy-breezy, then to come across easy-breezy is going to miss her. So the other thing that I think is important is to meet her where she’s at. So if she’s feeling sad, or down, or whatever, then your questions might not be ‘what’s your favorite animal’, it’s ‘what’s making you cry? What’s bringing you sadness?’
Doug Holt: It’s interesting that you say that. Right before we hopped on here, I saw that my wife was sad, and I asked her, ‘how are you feeling?’ She said, sad. And she started to walk away. And I said, ‘whoa, tell me, what are you sad about?’ And then we had an amazing, connected conversation based on that. She was gonna be a little late. I was two minutes late to meet with you here. But at the same time, I gave her that space. And at the end of it, she gave me a big, big warm hug. And she was just going through something personally. And as her partner – she chose me, I chose her – it’s part of my role and responsibility, the way I see it, to provide that space for her, and that connection.
And the truth is, Mark, I want to know what’s going on with her. She’s important. And so what happens, I think, for a lot of guys is, over time, you get a little bit of what we call ‘mud on the glass’. The idea here is, if my wife and I are standing in front of each other, or you and your partner, Imagine there’s a glass wall between you guys, a thin pane of glass. And over time, these little indiscretions and little upsets put a little spot of dirt or mud on that glass. And you might even want to try to wipe it off. But you know how it is – you’ve got mud on glass, you wipe it off, and it just smears everywhere unless you’re using a real cleaner. And the real cleaner here, to Mark’s point, is conversations, connection. It’s really that intimacy to do.
At The Powerful Man we teach something that pretty much wipes that glass clean, called the Clean Slate method. That’s a conversation for another time. When you look at this, Mark, what are two to three things guys could do if they’re like, ‘Okay, I found myself in this rut. I know that my conversation game, so to speak, isn’t Casanova-like, I realized that we’re having the same conversations over and over again. It feels like Groundhog’s Day at my house.’ What can they do right now to start and make some changes?
Mark Smith: Great question. And one of the first things that I would recommend is reading. So, for example, there’s a guy called Leo Buscaglia. Don’t know how to pronounce the surname, exactly. But he writes about love, right? There are really many great authors who have written about love and love language, and those kinds of things. So reading some stuff that somebody else who’s conversant with the Casanova-type language would probably give you a good head start.
So, you’ve got a whole library of information in terms of things that you could say, questions you could ask. That’s the first piece. The second piece for me is how you show up, your embodied intent. So, is my intention to be doing this connecting thing? Or, am I opening my heart and genuinely trying to connect with her? And like we said earlier, ask her questions, help her to open up, that’ll be probably the best way to get something started. And then what Doug was saying about using icebreakers. And then, the third piece is – trust yourself. You are going to make mistakes, you are going to put your foot in it, you’re gonna say the wrong thing. She’s gonna look at you and say, Hey, Mark, that was flipping cheesy, what the hell are you trying to do? But at least it might bring a smile to her face or something. And don’t give up. Keep challenging yourself to be a better conversationalist with women. Because guess what, when you have got a woman engaged in conversation, you’ve got her attention.
Doug Holt: Absolutely. Well, there’s nobody better to listen to than Mr. Mark Smith, who’s literally helped hundreds of men go right through this process as well. So Mark, thank you so much for taking the time today to be with us, and for all that you do for the men at The Powerful Man.
Mark Smith: It’s an absolute pleasure, Doug. Thank you so much. I appreciate what you do, brother. See you soon.
Doug Holt: Yes, absolutely. Gentlemen, take care, as we say, in the moment of insight, take massive action.