The Tactical Guide to Women: Notes & Review

the tactical guide to women book cover

The Tactical Guide to Women is a mix of a relationship advice book, and a dating book for men. Shawn Smith, the author, teaches men how to find the perfect woman to start the best and healthiest relationship you can have.

Bullet Summary

  • Marriage brings potential huge benefits, or potential huge costs
  • To pick a good partner, first you must know yourself 
  • Know your values and what you stand for, and find a partner who fits them
  • Don’t pick based on looks, pick based on compatibility and looks

Summary

About the Author: Shawn Smith is a clinical psychologist, coach, and author. He also writes on his blog docsmith.co.

The book is divided into three parts:

  1. The first part serves to help men understand themselves
  2. The second part is about understanding good women, and avoiding bad ones
  3. The third part is focused on common mistakes and risk mitigation, including legal ones such as prenups

Marriage Is A Momentous Decision: You Must Do It Carefully

Getting married is one -possibly the- most important decision of your life. 
You must be careful and strategic about it.

Research shows that men in stable marriages earn 20 to 24% more money, enjoy more and better sex, are happier, healthier, and live longer.

On the other hand, a broken marriage is extremely costly.
As Shawn Smith says:

Marriage can present the best return on investment of every decision you make.
Or it could be the costliest mistake of your life

If you get married without being strategic about whom you marry, you are gambling.
And since it’s more likely that you end up with a partner who is not a good fit for you than one who is a good fit, you are gambling with the odds stacked against you.
BUT, if you learn to read the signs of a good partner, then you can put the odds in your favor.

“The Tactical Guide to Women” is dedicated to teaching readers how to read the signs of a high-quality woman who is also a good fit for you.

What Women Want

This section quickly reviews what women want, as proven by evolutionary psychology.

I have already written more extensively than Shawn describes in his book, so you can review:

Or if you want the extended version all in one, grab Dating Power Dynamics or Power University.

Shawn Smith adds “masculinity” to the list of traits women want, and that’s a central theme of his book.
Smith says that masculinity has been under attack by a small and vocal minority in recent years in the West, but it’s a misplaced attack: (positive) masculinity is not toxic, and women like it.

As Smith says:

In decades as a psychologist, I have heard plenty of complaints about husbands and boyfriends, but I have never heard a woman wishing their man was more like a girl.

And this what The Power Moves community thinks about:

Risk Mitigation #1.: Know Yourself

The first step in your romantic risk-management strategy is knowing yourself.

As Smith says:

You can reduce uncertainty and risk by understanding what makes you tick, and why you choose certain women. Without that knowledge, you are the most uncertain variable in your romantic life

Smith says that to know yourself you should know:

  1. Where you came from (your past): some people tend to find partners who soothe their deepest insecurities. 
    For example: insecure individuals chase their partners away. Men born in alcoholic, broken families can try too hard to appease women who are never happy to avoid their family’s fate. And women who learned to get attention with tantrums will end up with those service-oriented men.
    Only when you learn about yourself, you can override your short-term impulses and rationally pick what’s best for long-term
  2. Where you’re going: you must be clear about your personal values. “No man can know what kind of woman will best fit into his life until he knows what his life is about”. 
    The most important value for a man is his purpose. Lack of clarity and purpose attract lower quality women, and the wrong ones.
    Picking a woman with vastly different values will eventually create a rift. Among all the values to pay attention to, “gender roles expectation” is also one you best watchful for today
  3. What gets you out of bed: Men are happy and fulfilled when they get good, doing what they are driven to do. 
    Once you know what drives you, present yourself exactly the way you are, without deceiving women. That way, you will attract and maintain women who are a good fit for you

The above three also form the chapters of “knowing yourself”.

The first chapter, “where you come from”, is most useful for people who have some deeper insecurities or troubles. I think that most fairly healthy individuals do not fall for those toxic cycles.

The second chapter explores values, and how you can find out your values

The Mind Needs Supervision

The mind is in the business of short-term relief and pleasure, not long-term success.

That might have been OK in the Savannah, but it’s not optimal for successful, modern living.
And unless you are aware of it, our brain can work against you for long-term healthy relationships.

This is how men assess long-term mates:

  1. Attractiveness
  2. Veeery distant second is how good a fit she is for us

I personally would add that most men assess attractiveness, then availability, and most never consider whether she is a good fit or not.

Women are equally poor, and maybe even poorer, at assessing long-term potential, so don’t count on them to help you out there.

Smith proposes a simple solution for long-term, successful relationships:

  1. Screen for good personality fit first
  2. Find an attractive woman among the ones who are a good fit for you

If we’re talking about long-term relationships, I think that makes sense.
If you’re more in short-term mode, than attractiveness first and no consideration for good fit can make sense -albeit even for a one-night romance, a good fit always make it more pleasurable-.

Watch Out For the Tendency of Rescuing Women

Some men have a strong tendency of chasing broken women, seeking to fix them and make them feel better.

This is true indeed.
A few emotionally unstable women I have met had men fell in love with them when they had met them crying in the worst possible places. 

The reasons men white-knight to rescue women are:

  • They believe healthy women are out of their league
  • They seek the thrill of being a powerful figure in her life
  • They’re avoiding their own problems by fixating on someone else’s
  • Their upbringing made them comfortable around people who are in constant crisis

Says the author: 

I’ve never seen a truly altruistic white knight (…) the need to rescue women is a pretty reliable sign of insecurity within a man. 
White knighthood is a recipe for resentment. You’ll tire of her drama, and she’ll tire of your supervision.

The author says that albeit white-knights are rarely truly altruistic, they tend to be good people, and are rarely malevolent.
But you must restrain from it. 
He says:

If you seek real fulfillment, then only pursue fully functioning, adult women who know how to internalize responsibility for their lives.

Smith’s point of view here is that broken women are OK as long as they are willing to work on themselves.
Otherwise, your stance should be: get help, or lose the relationship.

It’s your moral duty and obligation to help your partner. But if she isn’t helping any, then she can’t be helped and will only drag you down.

Don’t Apologize For Your Purpose

One of the most destructive things a man can do is to apologize to his woman about his purpose.

Well, sometimes women are right and men get too caught up in their purposes, let it consume men until it’s unhealthy, and deny their women and family too much together-time.

However, do not apologize for being a busy and driven man. Scaling back to the point where you damage your sense of purpose will not be good for either you, or the relationship.
That’s what attracted her to you in the first place, and that’s what makes a high-value man

Balance is crucial: sometimes being a high-value man means being able to say no to work or cut on work to give your loved ones more of your time.

Says Smith:

Remember that balance sometimes also means disappointing your team in her favor sometimes.
Be sure to make it up to her when you must disappoint her, but set a strong precedent in the beginning of the relationship that your purpose on the planet is non-negotiable.

And a little later, says the author:

I hope you will guard your man card, whatever shape it takes for you, because it has a direct bearing on your wellbeing.

In any case, says Smith, you shouldn’t worry about a good woman wanting you only for her, 100% of the time.
He says:

Only an unhealthy or immature woman would undermine a man’s status by impeding his purpose in the world.

I couldn’t agree more.

Don’t Apologize For Your Responsibilities

A similar topic to your purpose, is accepting responsibilities in life.

Men must accept responsibilities, either connected to their purposes, to their values, or to their communities.

Some men might feel a responsibility of staying home and caring for the children, while some others might be very busy with their church community. 
In either case, a high-value man who gains respect and acceptance from women fulfills his responsibilities without apologizing for them.

Pick-Up Artist Advice is Bad If It Means Adapting to Her

Seduction advice can be good, says Smith. 
And it doesn’t necessarily increase the odds of picking the wrong woman.

However, a lot of pick-up advice is geared towards molding yourself around any random woman you meet, which is the equivalent of saying that you’ll be dating and approaching while not being true to yourself.

That’s the best strategy for ending up with a woman who is not a good fit for you.

Male Hierarchies, Female Flat Structures, & “Toxic” Masculinity

The author dedicates an important part of the book to masculinity, his critic against “toxic masculinity”, and how men differ from women, especially in hierarchies.

I found it to be all true, and very high-quality material.

The main takeaway is that men shouldn’t feel ashamed of being men, if being a man means playing competitive games, knowing one’s place in the hierarchy, and seeking to climb those hierarchies.

Says Smith:

Good and women don’t require us to be at the top of the pecking order. They just require us to be in the pecking order -and preferably working our way up-.
If she will accept nothing less than the top bird, well, be sure you can live with her motives before you commit.

How men and women differ, was also interesting.
But I find it to be more theoretical knowledge unless you use it for some specific goal you have -for example, career strategies-.
And that’s why I will be implementing that type of material soon in the workplace section of Social Power, organized in more strategic and practical fashion.

The Bright Triad

The 3 traits that make a woman a good fit for a long-term relationship are:

  1. Clarity: clarity means you will not spend time quarreling or fighting about who’s right, but you will go to the source of the issue like two adults (and BTW: if you spend time verbally quarreling, women are better and will get under his skin most of the time)
    1. Reliability: express herself constructively, avoiding tantrums, covert aggression, and passive-aggressiveness
    2. Inquisitiveness: this is the curiosity and drive to understand what’s going on, set aside the need to be right, and focus on solutions. Inquisitiveness transcends good communication skills.
    3. Assertiveness: she needs to be strong enough to assert her desires, or she will grow to resent him without him even knowing about it. Assertive women state their needs openly, they don’t manipulate or use underhanded tactics
  2. (Emotional) Maturity: it’s about emotional maturity, such as coping with challenges, accepting personal responsibilities (internal locus of control), but in a positive way, without blaming herself for everything that is bad in life. Among the signs of maturity to look for:
    1. She can calm herself when she’s sad or angry -instead of depending on you or blaming you for her states-
    2. Self-care, she takes of herself physically and emotionally, she can look at the positive of lives. 
    3. She accepts that life is unfair, and that reality is of shades of gray: she does not go through patterns of idealization and vilification
    4. She understands herself, can accept and work on her limitations
    5. She is resilient, can tolerate distress, lick her wounds and go back in the game (rather than breaking apart and sucking up all your energies)
    6. She keeps commitments
    7. She bases important decisions on values rather than impulse
    8. She takes care of relationships and doesn’t burn bridges
    9. She possesses the emotional resources to function well in among coworkers, family, and friends
  3. Stability: this is about mental health and avoiding the most common mental disorders
    The most common problems to watch out for are the top 3:
    1. Depression and anxiety
    2. Substance abuse: that includes consuming marijuana every single day
    3. Unresolved emotional injuries: 
    4. Personality disorders: psychopathy, sociopathy, BPD, histrionic women (in non-clinical parlance: a drama queen), OCD. to keep it short, these people all have intense and inflexible experiences, their thought patterns lack complexity, and are ineffective and poor at human relationships

Avoid the Advice of Bitter Men

Says the author:

I’d avoid men whose opinions are tinged by anger because that emotion is one of the underlying sources of white knighthood.
Men who have successfully overcome the problem and who built healthy relationships with women generally speak and write with compassion and humor, not bitterness.

Also read:

Decide If She’s A Good Fit After the Infatuation Phase

The honeymoon phase is not the time to make long term decisions because you are not being rational.

Research shows the honeymoon phase lasts between 12 to 18 months. 
And the author says that before making a final decision, you should wait 12 to 18 months, plus one more year.

My Note: I Don’t Fully Agree
Albeit the general principle is right, I have more faith in the human mind.
Two years and a half to just decide if she’s good for an LTR is a long time in my opinion.
I would tell my readers that they can decide earlier if they can step back from emotions and make more rational decisions. 

The System Is Skewed Against Men

The author, interviewing the author of “Men on Strike“, says that divorce law often screws men over.

Society also created the wrong impressions that men are more violent in relationships, but the opposite is true: women are quicker to escalate from verbal to physical confrontation.
If police shows up and they’re not sure who did what, the man is the one who will get arrested.

That makes it all the more important that you avoid hostile women.
All these are signs of hostile women that you need to avoid:

  • Physical assaults 
  • Always angry, possibly angry at men (avoid extreme feminists)
  • Yelling and shouting
  • Threats (threats of breaking up, of not being allowed to end the relationship, of physical violence 
  • Humiliation (talking down to you, telling you’re worthless)
  • Separating you from your friends and family
  • Belittling or diminishing you
  • Ordering you around
  • Telling you there’s no way out of the relationship
  • Physically blocking your exit during an argument

If she’s physically blocking your exit, don’t force your way through or you can easily be branded -and prosecuted- as the abusive one. Call the police instead.

Some men remain stuck in abusive relationships out of a sense of obligation, or because the relationship turned abusive slowly over time and now they feel that breaking up would be too costly.

The author of course encourages men never to accept these toxic relationships. 
He says:

The ideal woman isn’t merely non-abusive, she is kind.

Here is how to recognize kindness from simply putting up a facade early on:

  • She’s empathetic: takes genuine interest in your thoughts and feelings, and does the same with others
  • She speaks about former romantic partners with respect
  • She’s kind to people she doesn’t need to be kind to: like waiters and clerks
  • She routinely brightens your day
  • She’s attentive to your needs, not competitive about them
  • She won’t resist helping you when you need it, paying for dinner once in a while, or letting your needs take center stage. She gives willingly and happily.

I couldn’t agree more.
To me, the above signs are #1 priority in a partner. Also check: strategies for long-term power.

Probe for Compatibility, Don’t Play House

There are a few general statistics that make relationships more likely to endure, like religiosity, family of origin, or number counts.

But those are statistics, and they matter little compared to more important factors such as willingness to be together, and compatibility of values.
Among the things to check:

  • Include her in your activities and social circles: lovers tend to isolate themselves. Instead, you should spend more time doing the things you like, with the people you like, and see how she fits
  • Be open and outspoken about your non-negotiables: we all have something we can’t stand doing. Be clear about them from the beginning 
  • Be open and outspoken about what you can’t stand: if something about her annoys the hell out of you, like her chewing loudly, or having to spend all weekends with her family, say it and see if you can find a workaround -or they will doom your future-
  • Look for signs of long-term compatibility
  • Look for contradictory values: different values don’t kill relationships, but opposing ones do. If you love sports and she doesn’t, it’s OK. But if you love sports and she can’t stand you not being on the couch with her while you do sports, that’s a problem
  • Don’t stick with partners because you liked the conquest: there is some thrill in getting together with people who are completely different than we are. But it’s best not to stick with them
  • Discuss the meaning of money and sex: do you both value 
  • Discuss children: do you both want them? Neither of you wants them? These are important issues to discuss early

More Wisdom

  • Look for red flags early on. Big red flags, like her screaming at you for no reason should be your cue for your running exercise
  • The more high-quality you become, the more you can become the target for women who are not a good fit for you
  • People like narcissistic individuals more than non-narcissistic ones. Yet, they don’t like them as friends. Again, the mind is leading us to poor relationship choices 
  • Finding one’s purpose is one of the biggest challenges for young men, but women are willing to cut some slack if he works hard towards finding it
  • Some of the best ways to avoid future problems are:
    • Ask her how things are going
    • If you’re arguing about the same things over and over, stop and do couple therapy
  • Living together and shacking up for convenience or to “test the relationship” actually increases the likelihood of divorce or separation
  • Never be “kind of between”, but choose defined states. She’s either nothing, your girlfriend, your fiance, your wife. And she has to earn the title.
  • Listen to what family and friends say: they might have a better perspective from the outside
  • Listen to your intuition, it does work
  • Don’t try to fix relationships by adding more commitment or taking to the next level: that’s like saying a drowning man can do better with more water
  • If you’re having a lot of troubled relationships, look inward. And if you can afford, seek as many exes as you can find and ask for their candid feedback

Real Life Applications

  • You Need Self-Respect, Not Self-Esteem. Go Get Promotions and Raises

The author criticizes part of the self-help movement who encourages people to tell themselves they’re good the way they are.
“What a croc”, he says.

Smith knew better, and he knew he needed self-respect, not self-esteem. 
How do you gain self-respect? 
In the past, there were rites of passages. Today, the new rites of passages are repeated accomplishments such as promotions and raises -or, I would add, Mastery-.

In the words of the author:

Choosing to become useful is what saved me.
(…)
To be a man, is to seek effectiveness. (…) The man who is serving is purpose, and doing it well, is on top of the world.

This part was genius indeed, and it’s something that a lot of young men struggle with. 
I will be adding it to my ebook “Ultimate Power“.

Criticism

I loved “The Tactical Guide to Women”.
My main criticism is simply a different approach to picking the right woman -and how much time to spend on that decision-:

Instead of a set of traits, prioritize with  a hierarchical list, and de-prioritize all traits that can be learned

The author lists a high number of traits all at the same level of importance.

I disagree with that.
Mathematically, is almost like looking for a lottery victory.

The approach I advice is to list the top traits you want. And then accept the trade-offs for the less crucial traits.

At the top, you want some meta-traits that allow for the acquisition and development of more positive traits.
For example, many of the traits the author mentions can be learned if the woman is willing to learn and improve.
Thus, you can put “growth mindset” and “kindness” high up, but then demote all the traits that can be learned.

You don’t need a woman with great communication skills, or assertiveness, if she is willing to learn and work on herself and the relationship. Because those can be learned.

As the author himself says:

Any woman who can alter her destructive partners is surely a keeper.

Indeed, even some negative patterns can be OK if she is willing and able to work on them.

Accept some Trade-offs

I wish the author had also mentioned that relationships also entails trade-offs.

Recently I was asked by a young and driven man, whether he should stay in a relationship.
And albeit I advised him to end it, I also make the point that very drive and very high quality men might have to be ready for a few trade-offs. Expecting a woman to be everything you want, and the perfect fit, but be a mathematical chimera.

That’s why I also prefer a list with the top traits higher up. Once you hit those, the trade-offs lower down won’t matter much.

Waiting for sex does not empower the man?

The author says that to set up a long-term relationship, you should wait for sex.

While I don’t fully agree, I also see there might be some positives in not rushing a long-term relationship.
However, I do fully disagree when the author says that waiting empowers the man because sex is a tool of female power. To me, that’s a failure to understand the power dynamics of the sexual marketplace.
Also see:

Waiting for 2 years + is too long

Rationally, it makes sense that the longer you wait, the better your decision will be.

However, there must be a trade-off, and more than 2 years seems too long.

Do we naturally pick the wrong partners? No, we pick random partners, and random partners are more likely to be bad partners 

This is more of a theoretical criticism.

I was unconvinced by some evolutionary psychology explanations, like why we pick the worst possible partners for us.

The author says that we pick the worst possible partners because of our evolutionary history.
It made sense to pursue wrong partners because we evolved in environments with little choices. Couple that with our brain being in the business of immediate gratification, and you got the recipe of why we pick the worst possible partners.

But that’s not a good explanation. That explains why we don’t naturally pick the best partners.
But it doesn’t explain why, as he states, some people go for partners who are not just not good for them, but actively harmful.

In my opinion, Shawn Smith might have developed the wrong perception because of his work, where he mostly cured the worst possible couples. That skewed his sample.

I believe instead most people do not seek partners who are actively harmful for them.
Most people seek partners without knowing how to pick their best partners, and since the odds are stacked against any individual being high quality and being a good fit for us, random partners end up being poor partners the majority of the time.

There are exceptions though, and some people with unresolved issues do pick partners who are the opposite of what they need. 
See: toxic relationship dances, low self-esteem relationships, and anxious-avoidant relationships.

PROS

“The Tactical Guide to Women” approaches dating and relationships from a holistic point of view, and from the ground up.

The main idea is that first, you make yourself into a high-value man. Then, you seek a high-value woman who is compatible with you.

That’s the simple winning formula, and this is one of the few books who addresses it properly

Quotes

On what men and women prefer

Men in general prefer a nice hip to waist ration. 
Women, in general, prefer a nice debt to asset ration.

On taking responsibility:

When it was over, Chris was plenty bitter for having wasted his twenties on such an incompatible partnership (…) blaming her for ruining his life.
I think that’s unfair, because he chose to bring her into his world.

On drama and its costs:

Drama is expensive.
It consumes time and energy that could be used for better things, like conquering the world or just relaxing with a beer.
Dramatic people are thieves. Low-grade thieves, to be sure, but they force others to redirect their efforts away from their goals and their happiness.

On taking marriage seriously:

If I’m scaring you about marriage, good. It’s a momentous decision.

Review

“The Tactical Guide to Women” is a wonderful book.

Shawn Smith’s work is very much in line with this website:

  1. Focus on yourself and your self-empowerment first
  2. Seek collaborative partners who can play within a win-win framework (part of “enlightened collaborator approach“) 
  3. Actively develop those relationships as win-win, in a way that adds value to both of you (part of “enlightened collaborator approach“) 
  4. Be the natural leader of that relationship not by coercion and manipulation, by virtue of the high-quality man you made yourself into

Amen to that.

The book itself could have done with better editing.
Sometimes it repeated itself, and the list of traits to look for was too long and that can be confusing.
But it remains a foundational book for anyone looking to date better, and find the best possible partner.

Check the best relationship books, best dating books for guys, or get the book on Amazon

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