If you’ve been to a bar or club at any point in the past 10 years, you’ve probably met them: followers of “The Game,” Neil Strauss’s 2005 bro-bible for seducing women. These men might “neg” on women, putting them down while trying to pick them up, or otherwise position themselves to have the upper hand in a conversation.
“To me, the book was about male insecurity,” or fear of women, Strauss says in a phone interview.
Now, with 10 years of perspective — which included cheating on his model girlfriend and a trip to rehab for sex addiction — he’s back with a different message. If “The Game” was a book about behavior, Strauss says his new book, “The Truth,” is about beliefs — “which are much harder to recognize much less change, but the results you get, you can keep for life.”
That’s right: The man who embedded with pickup artists to learn their ways and gain confidence with women is reformed, and is now preaching commitment rather than conquest.
For a shift like that to take place, Strauss first had to hit rock-bottom. When he cheated on his girlfriend, Ingrid De La O, with one of her friends five years ago, he realized he needed help. “My pursuit of sex didn’t destroy my life, it made my career,” Strauss writes in “The Truth,” a faux-leather-bound book adorned with gilded edging and a red satin bookmark. “How frustrating, then, to find myself in rehab some five years later, trying to unlearn everything I’ve spent so much time and energy learning.”
Lots of therapy and a three-month celibacy and abstinence contract follow, in which Strauss promises to refrain from: masturbating or fantasizing; looking at porn; dressing seductively or cross-dressing; and even flirting. “It takes three months for your brain to return to normal after all the imbalances caused by the constant high of sex,” his therapist tells him; reluctantly, he signs.
Thus begins Strauss’s path to redemption, which takes a few years. During that time, he and Ingrid break up and Strauss explores a lot of alternative relationships — swinging, harems, polyamory. “I thought maybe monogamy was not right for me,” Strauss tells me. But when every kind of relationship he tried didn’t work, “I realized the problem wasn’t monogamy or non-monogamy,” Strauss says, “the problem was just me.”
Eventually, Strauss and Ingrid reunite — they married two years ago and now have an 8-month-old son. In talking to him about relationships now, commitment no longer sounds like “one of the most terrifying and obscene words in the English language,” as he writes in the opening pages of “The Truth.” By the book’s end, commitment is couched as freedom.
“There’s one thing I’ve been striving for all my life: with sex, with writing, with surfing, with partying, with anything and everything,” Strauss writes. “And that is to be free.”
And where does that freedom come from now, if not from seducing women? “People think relationships take away freedom,” Strauss tells me. For him, “it turned out it was the exact opposite.”
He just took a long, winding road to get there.