The marriage guru

The Sterling Institute of Relationship's website makes use of stock art images, not too dissimilar to this one showing a happy couple.

Justin Sterling became a millionaire preaching sexist ideology. Here’s why his kind is doing better than ever.

And then out came the penises.

There had to be more than 200 of them, all sorts, not standing at attention so much as listlessly wanging there, like underfed POWs too exhausted to protest this latest indignity.

Bob avoided looking directly at the withered army. Did he pay $500 for this? To drop trou inside a hotel by the Oakland International Airport in front of an egalitarian group of strangers? This weekend had already been unpleasant. Now it was scary.

“At that point the thought that went through my head was, ‘Oh my God, this entire thing is an effing cult,’” Bob recalled. “Now I’m really worried. Now I’m seriously thinking that I want to find a way to bolt out of here.”

But Bob didn’t bolt. He reluctantly climbed out of his trousers. Tubes of Halloween makeup made the rounds. Drums thrummed. The man in charge told the disrobed horde to paint each other for war and chant tribal gobbledygook. Then he ordered his volunteers to bring up the blindfolded nonbelievers from the basement.

Welcome to “Men’s Weekend.” For almost 40 years, the Sterling Institute of Relationship has lured both men and women to these top-secret, nonrefundable retreats with the promise of unlocking their true potential.

Founder and CEO A. Justin Sterling didn’t respond to multiple attempts to reach him, but a consistent portrait of his seminars has emerged in news coverage, on message boards and from former attendees who spoke to SN&R. It’s not a very flattering one.

According to Sterling, men are only capable of rage and fear, and must be unconditionally loved and obeyed. He’s like Andrew Dice Clay without the self-awareness. And after two straight days of mansplaining how relationships worked better in the caveman days, Sterling cranks the knob to weird.

Men strip naked and work themselves into a lather. Women curl into fetal balls and cry themselves hoarse. Black-clad volunteers film the “breakthroughs,” yet the participants have to pledge they won’t divulge what happened. The whole thing is exploitative, coercive, even cult-like.But it’s not technically a cult, says cult specialist Rick Alan Ross.

“Now, why is it not a cult? Because Sterling really isn’t an object of worship,” Ross explained. “He’s more of a con man.”

While the number of men who stick with Sterling after their weekends has dwindled down to fewer than 40 members across Northern California, that may not matter to the aging guru. Now 77, Sterling still draws hundreds to his pricey weekend retreats and pockets the proceeds thanks to an entirely volunteer labor force.

If he is running a pyramid scheme, it’s one in which only the man at the top profits. As for the people below, it can be a different story.

A Sacramento woman says her husband came out of a Men’s Weekend this year changed for the worse—forsaking his sobriety, alienating their children and all but running their finances into the ground. Their marriage is stuck in a nosedive, but she can’t bring herself to eject.

“I know we won’t last very long if we continue with the Sterling [Institute],” said Haley, who, like Bob, asked that their names be changed or withheld because they said they fear reprisals. “I don’t think he’ll get out.”

Instead, she’s decided to follow her husband deeper into Sterling’s world, one that has a foothold here in Sacramento. Meanwhile, hustlers like Sterling have never done better.

Trust the process

Haley shut her eyes and pretended to sleep for the six-hour red-eye ride to Los Angeles. Everything had come together last minute for her Women’s Weekend. Her husband returned home that night from his men’s group with enough cash to cover the registration and late admission fee. The guys all chipped in. She would leave tonight. She would finally understand.

It had been nearly a year since someone mentioned the local men’s group and Haley suggested her husband check it out.

It seemed harmless at the time—a bunch of guys hanging out once a week to play cards and shoot the breeze. She and her husband—let’s call him “Phil”—were having problems, and his guys’ nights seemed to better his mood.

But the weekly bonding sessions soon subsumed their lives. If Phil and Haley had people over, it was his men’s group buddies and their wives. If they went to a birthday party or barbecue, it was at these people’s homes. Conversations at these get-togethers often turned to “the weekend,” spoken of in reverent, vague tones. Phil signed on first. That’s when Haley learned this group had a name. His registration paperwork said “Sterling Institute of Relationship.” She Googled it and saw the word “cult” repeated.

Phil had already left for Oakland. Three nights later, Haley hopped on the freeway to watch him “graduate.” A queasy feeling rode shotgun.

She parked outside a rundown hotel near the airport. Inside, she saw shirtless men, panting and oozing weird body paint. They were all keyed up. Women in black evinced poker faces and moved like chess pieces.

“It was a really strange energy,” Haley remembered.

An hour passed without explanation. Finally, the doors of the conference room swung open, releasing a rank odor. She followed the other wives and well-wishers inside to find a couple hundred men piled onto bleachers stacked against the walls. They were bare-chested and sweating. There was her husband. She looked away.

A low rumble filled the room as Justin Sterling appeared. Haley didn’t think he looked like his picture. He said something into his microphone headset, then left. He made no speech. The big moment already happened behind closed doors. Instead of diplomas, the new Sterling men got nuts, the metal kind, 2-inch bolts spooled around necklaces, clunky metaphors for their reclaimed manhood.

The Sterling wives grinned like jackals. They’d been telling Haley for weeks to wait until her man completed his weekend. Best sex they would ever have. She and Phil drove home separately. There was no second honeymoon.

Phil had always been grounded, family-minded, Haley says. But there was a chink in his armor, an exploitable vulnerability.

“He always wanted to fit in somewhere,” she said. “I think that’s how they got him. They made him feel like he belonged.”

Phil now had his brothers. He asked for a divorce. The other Sterling husbands interceded. Divorce is for quitters. Phil returned, but only after Haley agreed to his terms: He wanted final say over all their decisions.

“I knew that was the whole Sterling concept so I just went with it,” Haley said.

A month passed. Phil still spurned sobriety. He continued to ghost his kids. Bills went unpaid. Only his fellow Sterling men mattered.

“It’s crashing down faster,” Haley said of their marriage.

The other Sterling husbands said Phil learned the wrong lessons from the weekend. The other Sterling wives told Haley she needed to do her weekend, so that man and wife could finally be on the same page. Phil had already talked about finding “a Sterling woman,” so what else did she have to lose?

But it wasn’t just a last-ditch effort to save the marriage. Haley was also curious about Sterling’s mysterious spell. How does he make a good man turn up the contrast on his darker traits, she wondered. And will the same thing happen to her?

They arrived in Los Angeles around 2 a.m. that Friday and crashed. Around noon, she walked into a much nicer venue than where her husband spent his weekend. The poker-faced women in black were everywhere. No one smiled. Their shtick vibed grim and avant garde.

“It did feel very cultish at that point,” Haley said.

She followed a line into a room divided by a folding wall. Forty-five minutes later, the wall receded. The recruits migrated. Four female volunteers took flanking positions by the stage and sound equipment. They wore headsets and pointed video cameras. But nothing happened. That nothing expanded for two hours.

The recruits stewed. This was part of it, someone grumbled. It’s how they break you. Haley heard the word “cult” circulate. She guessed half the room was skeptical. Women griped, but no one walked. They had already coughed up $600 and may have felt indebted to the “big sisters” who recruited them. Plus, the sponsors had dropped them off, so how would they get home?

After an interminable wait, a 50-ish woman dressed in business attire strode to the front and robotically welcomed them. She instructed everyone to surrender their cellphones and outlawed food, even gum or mints, while the retreat was in session. There would be a single meal break during an unspecified hour.

The woman gave the same spiel each morning. Hunger, isolation, deprivation—these became the underpinnings of the weekend. And then she introduced Justin Sterling. He emerged from the double doors in the back and climbed into a director’s chair placed on the stage.

“Like he was God,” Haley recalled.

The female recruits, even the skeptics, burst into applause. Their weekend had finally begun.

A. Justin Sterling

Cult of personality

A. Justin Sterling didn’t start life under that name.

According to earlier reporting and a background check, Sterling was born Arthur Kasarjian, circa 1942, in Brookline, Mass., to Jewish-Armenian parents. By the 1970s, he had landed on the warm West Coast and settled in loosey-goosey San Francisco. In a 1999 profile, Details Magazine reported that Kasarjian was convicted of grand theft and impersonation around that time, snagging three years on probation. Bad start in the counterculture capital.

Cue Hollywood?

According to IMDb, an actor by the name of Arthur Kasarjian booked bit TV parts in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Forgettable roles as “Card Player #3” in the anthology series Police Story and as unnamed guest star in the short-lived Rock Hudson vehicle The Devlin Connection didn’t prophesy fatter roles. Tinsel Town cold-shouldered Artie K. A federal arrest warrant issued in Los Angeles in 1989 belied a third reinvention.

Kasarjian had already rechristened himself “A. Justin Sterling” by 1979, the San Jose Mercury News reported in 1996. The Sterling Institute of Relationship was born two years later.

According to cult specialist Ross and former Mercury News reporter Sarah Lubman, Kasarjian got the idea from a self-help seminar he attended years earlier. It was called EST, an acronym for Erhard Seminars Training. EST revolved around the bombastic personality of its founder, Werner Erhard, a former Philadelphia car salesman who deserted his wife and four children, teutonized his given name and remade himself out West as a General Patton for personal epiphanies. Everything Sterling would do—down to using deprivation and humiliation to erode people’s defenses—Erhard did first, Ross said. Ross called Erhard “the granddaddy” of what’s known as large group awareness training, or LGAT, an unsexy term for a potentially harmful model.

Kasarjian modeled his version off the master’s. The struggling actor created the biggest role of his life. “A. Justin Sterling” sounded stuffy and important. He charged women for the privilege of his advice, then moved onto men. The Sterling Institute formally incorporated in 1981. It became a road show, packing hotel conference rooms across the country.

The 5-foot-7 Sterling stomped across stages in raised black boots. He espoused tough-guy clichés. His mantra was “fuck it,” at least for the men. For the women, it was to love and obey. His audiences sometimes pushed back. Sterling didn’t debate his detractors so much as ridicule and exhaust them with circular logic, both Bob and Haley said.

By the second day, people were so starved for silver linings that Pyrrhic wisdom felt like real epiphanies. Sterling’s corny jokes about the differences between men and women drew more laughs. He paired off his crowds and had them role-play angry outbursts. The men mostly savaged imaginary wives, said Bob, who did his weekend in 1995. The women vented mostly at unavailable husbands, remembered Haley, who went this year.

Ribald sex talks occurred. Attendees were kept awake and ordered to take cold showers. Sterling talked and talked and talked. He pitted the men against each other, having them compete to remain in his inner circle, Bob said. Only at that point does he challenge them to get naked. With the women, he primes them to strip down emotionally and grieve what they’ve lost, Haley said.

Ross said this process has many names—coercive persuasion, established influence techniques, thought reform, even brainwashing.

“First you break them, then you change them, then you lock them in,” Ross explained. “In that sense, it is somewhat cult-like.”

Sterling doesn’t explicitly deny running a cult when he poses that very question to himself on his website. Here’s what he says instead:

“Not being an expert on cults, I’m not really qualified to say. When I started doing these seminars, it was not with the intention of starting a cult. If what we do happens to fit into what some people consider is a cult, I can’t debate that.”

So there you go. Cults are in the eyes of the beholder.

Where EST spread its 60-hour “training” course over a couple of weekends, Sterling packed it all into one three-day crush. But just like his mentor Erhard, who also went through nasty divorces, Sterling blew up his own marriages by practicing what he preached. His first wife accused him of domestic violence and divorced him. His second wife took out a temporary domestic violence restraining order against him in Alameda County in 2016, court records show.

Ross said Sterling’s second wife called him a couple years back. What did she have to say?

“The same thing that I’ve heard from all the women that are exposed to men that believe his philosophy,” he said, “that he was abusive, controlling, dominating, had no respect for her. And was just a narcissistic, self-obsessed jerk.”

He sure is rich, though. According to property records obtained by SN&R, Sterling’s real estate portfolio is valued at nearly $4.8 million. This includes a swanky estate in the East Bay enclave of Piedmont, another residence in the Oakland hills, a trio of condominiums in Rancho Mirage and another in New York.

But it hasn’t been all financial windfalls. Creditors have successfully dogged Sterling for nearly $538,000 in civil judgments, background records show, most of that connected to two lawsuits in 2017 and 2018. The Franchise Tax Board also tagged him with a nearly $106,000 lien in 2017.

“When I was talking to Sterling’s [second] wife, which would’ve been about two years ago, she was talking like he was having financial difficulties,” Ross said.

Sterling’s influence has waned over the two decades that Sacramento marriage counselor Alan Hill has been loyal to the program. In the ’90s, Hill says, the institute benefited from the boom-and-bust popularity of Promise Keepers, an evangelical Christian organization that elevates men’s status within their households and encourages “sexual purity” and recruitment.

“But then the Promise Keepers blew up when the women started picketing and talking bad about them,” Hill said.

Sterling’s grip on Northern California is down to the Qun Men’s Division, made up of four teams—two in Sacramento, one in Oakland (where the institute is based) and one in Santa Rosa. All together those teams are comprised of 39 members, Hill says.

That makes Sacramento Sterling’s last stronghold.

The last stronghold

Alan Hill phoned his daughter, then his ex-wife, and said the words. Their brother, their son—his first son—was dead. He’d hanged himself in the garage.

Hill, a Native American Bear Dancer, sequestered himself inside his sweat lodge and wept. About 15 minutes later, two Sterling men entered and flanked him. One told Hill to follow his grief wherever it led. The other didn’t let Hill out of his sight for the rest of the day.

“It was the men who held me up at the time,” Hill said.

Hill’s son died in January. Eleven months later, the father said he’s still standing thanks to the sacred bonds he’s forged through Sterling.

“I’m committed to healing,” Hill said. “There’s a huge healing component to the Men’s Weekend—and I can’t talk about it.”

Hill takes his secrecy oath seriously, and blames the controversy surrounding the Sterling Institute to weekend attendees blabbing online. “I attribute it to men being dishonorable. I attribute it to men being feminized and gossipy,” he said.

Now 63, Hill has been a Sterling man since he completed his weekend some 23 years ago. He has held various leadership positions within the division that encompasses Northern California, and believes he has sponsored about 125 Men’s Weekend participants, including some patients he’s seen as a licensed marriage and family therapist.

“Oh, absolutely,” Hill said. “One of the things we do as therapists is tell our clients about the resources available to them.”

Hill credits this particular resource with almost everything good in his life, including an 18-year marriage to a fellow Sterling graduate, 31 years of sobriety and obtaining his psychology degree.

In the Sterling bubble, men can be men without apology. Sterling tells them they don’t need to worry about society’s evolving standards. Men are perfect just the way they are. And women will be happier when they submit. It’s an incredibly binary view of gender, but one that resonates with men and even women of a certain age or upbringing, whom Sterling gives the intoxicating conceit of a bygone age where everything was in perfect alignment between the sexes. Sometimes it’s the 1950s, sometimes it’s a prehistoric cave, but it’s always better, easier, than the here and now.

Hill only wishes his son had embraced that message.

“My son was a graduate of the Men’s Weekend, but he didn’t incorporate the disciplines,” Hill said. “He was actually afraid of the power that he discovered that he had. It was really that fear that killed him.”

A boom time for coercive groups

At the height of his popularity, Sterling had his relationship institute, a nonprofit and, briefly, something called The Justin Sterling Show Inc.

But the Franchise Tax Board suspended that show in 2000 for failing to file tax returns. A year later, the FTB revoked his nonprofit’s tax-exempt status, essentially putting the final nail in the coffin of an educational charity that had close ties to his institute.

The Sterling show still limps along, under the radar and in the shadows. Next year the price to attend his weekends goes up to $700. In lieu of advertising, past “graduates” are urged to spread the gospel wherever they can—even at their 12-step meetings, which is where Bob was recruited.

Lubman was one of the first journalists to dig into Sterling more than 20 years ago as an education reporter for the San Jose Mercury News. Even though she filed numerous other stories and eventually left reporting behind, she still remembers the weird fog she managed to penetrate.

And why wouldn’t she? After her story about Sterling’s first divorce ran, she learned that someone tried to recruit a family member to attend a Men’s Weekend.

“I’m not surprised that he’s still out there,” said Lubman, who is now a corporate communications partner with SoftBank Group International. “I mean, what else is he going to do?”

Rick Alan Ross

While Sterling will eventually fade out of favor, there will be more “large group awareness training” gurus to take his place, says Ross, who keeps a running tally of them on his website, Cult Education Institute.

“They have never done better than they’re doing right now,” Ross said. “There are many more LGATs now than there ever had been before. And they’ve done a lot of damage.”

LGAT “granddaddy” Erhard has made a comeback, and there’s a Sterling splinter group that’s overtaken its inspiration. And while Ross testified in the criminal trial of the malevolent LGAT mastermind behind the alleged celebrity sex cult NXIVM, the internet has changed things. It’s both easier to expose frauds and to perpetrate them.

“You can start an LGAT next week if you want. And nobody can do anything to stop you,” Ross said.

As for where the Sterling Institute falls on the spectrum of dangerous group-think seminars, Ross said he considers it a “destructive” one. “And it’s very oftentimes more destructive for women because they’re the ones that are expected to capitulate and subordinate themselves to male authority.”

It’s a pretty infantilized view of masculinity, one in which men must believe they are in charge, yet remain totally unaccountable for their actions. Scrape away all the chest-thumping bluster, and what you’re left with is Justin Sterling’s true philosophy: Men are fragile creatures who cannot change. Just let them be.

Or, as Hill puts it, “We’re not the brightest bulbs in the shed. We’re just men.”

That dismal take on mankind has become Haley’s current reality. At SN&R’s request, she agreed to pen an open letter to the guru shilling it. For maybe the first time, Sterling will have to let a woman have the final word:

Dear Justin

Justin Sterling (or whatever your real name is),

I have done your weekend. And based on how you treated us, I am sure you will dismiss this rather than look at the real issue at hand. But I hope you will take a moment to realize I only want what’s best for all the vulnerable people you reach. And if your purpose is true, then so should you.

In your weekends, you use secrecy, sleep deprivation, tearing down and building up. Through it all you preach your sexist beliefs, but you mix in sprinkles of common sense so that the attendees don’t see they are absorbing your destructive theories.

Our world already has so much hate and segregation, we cannot afford more. The reality is you are destroying good people and families. Truth is, this is why you keep things secret. If people knew what you teach, nobody would attend and you would be broke.

Most entrepreneurs love the free publicity, but because you use abusive mind control techniques to instill your sexist beliefs, you do not want people to know until you got your money. Sadly, then it is too late.

I started this letter wanting to question how you could sleep at night. The truth is there is no questioning you, because you will do just as you do in your weekends to the women who question you: gaslight what they said, belittle, disrespect and cause them to feel so confused it is easier to just accept what you say and move on.

I guess the question I want to leave with you is: Why not use your charisma to help people truly heal and be better humans based on research, education and human ethics? Otherwise, if you have nothing positive to say, maybe you shouldn’t be saying anything at all, let alone trying to teach others.


A concerned Woman, Mother, Wife and Human

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14 Comments on "The marriage guru"

  1. Wow. This is pretty sick and to think that stuff like this crap still exists is very disturbing! This sicko is such a con artist and he has the history and track record to prove it. Why would anyone believe or follow him, let alone pay him hundred to hear his brainwashing and become his followers. Seems like he uses his members not just for their money but also for their talent to do all his free marketing and convince their friends and family to join too. How sick is that?! Anyone who is associated with this should be emarrassed, no wonder when you ask them about it they say you wouldn’t understand unless you do the weekend. lol. Crazy brainswashed people.

  2. This is a shock to see that someone could get away with this scam, especially with such unrealistic preaching. What kind of “man” would go along with showing his penis to a bunch of other men as though he is something great. This is sick. How do people believe his theories, especially with his reputation. Truly Sad.

  3. I did my weekend a few years back and my boyfriend also did his. Everything in this article is so true. This “leader” is such a con artist and a dirty old man with no education or knowledge. Im still trying to understand how a man can possibly think he can teach women how to be women when he has never been one, just another sign of how highly he thinks of himself. I was appalled by how he treated us women at the weekend and it was mind-blowing how he got most of them to think he was telling something amazing when in the same breath they were talking shit about him and challenging his stupidity. My boyfriend did his weekend first and was an amazingly strong man to come home knowing that it was all a scam and when they tried to coerce him into some point team and recruiting in order to “give it forward” and be a real man..he knows, even more, what a cult-like scam it all was. He told me not to go to my weekend, but I needed to at least see for my own eyes, and boy did I. It is crazier to me how the current members, though only a small amount left anymore, could really support this man and his “beliefs” to the extent that they do. Sterling himself even spent much time at my women’s weekend trying to convince us all that he was not a cult or brainwashing anyone…then why would he have all the cult-like mind control tequniuyes at his weekend…hmmm, Sterling is such a con artist. I have seen some of them confronted with the truth that is already out there about the group and yet, when confronted they defend for Sterling. Funny how this reporter says he couldn’t even get a response from Sterling, probably because he knows his men will defend him and in time I am sure they will have plenty of defense to post on this article…all just proving the cult like was in their responses. All I can really say is dont go if you are ever invited. Even if someone you love and trust invites you, that’s their game. And even this article says a professional therapist is marketing for them so just say no. That therapist guy should be ashamed too, to think that his own son killed himself because he didn’t use what he learned at the weekend…um no, it was probably because he knew he shouldnt believe or follow but couldnt turn to his own father for help. Sterling really destroys, I am just my boyfriend is a real man who doesnt need this BS.

  4. Past Weekend Attendee | December 24, 2019 at 3:45 pm | Reply

    I feel sad to read this. That people are pressured and tormented in these ways like getting naked. It is not healthy and it does not heal. It manipulates. I did the women’s weekend a few years ago and was turned off by this man and the things he said, in fact, most everyone there was. But with his mind programming tactics, he had most of the women walking out happy on the last day. As if they accomplished something and got to graduate. I will never forget the last thing he said that night…you will no longer hear monkeys in your head, but you will hear ME! It was his final programming. I took me a few months of therapy to sort through his trash and get it all out of me and back to a normal life. I did meet many of the other men and women and spent time with some of the other families and can say there was a strange vibe about them. Very fake and pretend or off in some way. They always tried so hard to talk up the weekends and to brag about how great they are and all they do for other people. I think if people have to brag about it, then they are doing it for the wrong reasons. They are not thieves or rapists, but they are brainwashed and not normal. I am glad I didn’t stick through the classes or things after and no longer have to see or talk to these people. They coned me and I felt a fool for a long time, but not anymore, now they are the fools for still giving their lives to such a man and such destructive ways of living.

  5. Hello, I wanted to take a moment to address the recent article about Sterling. When it was brought to my attention, I was told that it was my story and when I was finally given the opportunity to read it, I also felt it did closely resemble my story in almost every way. I tried to reach out to someone within the Sterling circle for help and getting together some of the Sterling people and discussing the situation. However, I was quickly confronted with rudeness and accusations that I had sold my story to the paper. This is completely false and I in no way sold my story to anyone. However, because I have seen the negative side to what Sterling can do to people, I do not feel so much that I need to defend myself to anyone, for now I am only concerned about protecting my family from the backlash of Sterling people. This is not to say that any specific members are bad or would do anything directly, but I have already seen how some have tried to come at me as well as my husband and for anybody to do that especially during Christmas has only shown that there is some truth to things that have been found out and stated by others.

    I have spoken to numerous people as well as others from the weekend, all have pointed out that while the story does resemble mine if I am stating that I did not sell my story then you should be more concerned about the family affected and how to help. In fact, it is even possible that many good things were told in what is said to be my story, but left out, for instance I would have told anyone that I felt we found a new family in some of the people within Sterling. It was also pointed out that even if anybody wants to believe I sold my own story, there is no portion of what is said to be my story that breaks confidentiality of the weekend or talks about anybody else or even negatively talks about anything within Sterling, it simply tells what seems to be my story even without any lies. The only thing I see that is not true, if this is my story, is that it says the men told my husband to come back home after he moved out, but the truth is I had to beg him to meet with me and come back. So, in reality, that actually gave Sterling an appearance of caring even though it was me who was fighting for my husband and family, I even reached out to other members during that time.

    Quite honestly if that is my story and if anyone wants to believe I sold it, it is no different in anything that Alan Hill states as his story, in fact some of what he said actually supports the negative stigma against Sterling. In any case, because nothing that is said to be about me breaks confidentiality anywhere or is a lie or negative, that portion is not the problem. Actually the only person who really could be upset if this is my story that was sold should be my husband because it points out ways that Sterling actually hindered him as a husband and a father and a man. It is that realization that has given me the ability to sympathize what he must now be facing because he let the group down and his actions unfortunately helped to represent what Sterling has been rumored to be. In his defense, nobody was walking it with him and helping to make sure he understood what was told to him or that he was actually utilizing it positively. While I understand that you are all just members as well, if you were going to recruit and teach people things that could very easily be used in destructive ways, which has already been seen to be true by numerous people posting their stories on the internet, then I would hope there would come a time that people would take their positions within Sterling as well as the supposed friendships developed with new men entering Sterling and uphold a sense of responsibility that what is being taught does not destroy people or families.

    I did reach out to some of the married couples within Sterling when I saw the negative effects it was having on my husband. There were a few women who did take time to talk with me and explain that I needed to give my husband time to figure it all out. The two men that I had spoken with also stated pretty much the same, but also actually made excuses for the destruction he was causing my marriage and children. So, I did reach out directly trying to find help to save my husband and my family from the negative that was hitting our home as a result of my husband participating in Sterling. When there was no help, no positive change in my husband, and continued damage to my marriage and my children, I was simply told that I needed to do my weekend so that I could understand.

    In my weekend I had great hesitation, but after sharing my story with J.Sterling in front of everyone I was reaffirmed that this is not how it was supposed to be and so I was then able to be more open and fully participate in the weekend. The greatest thing that I got out of that weekend was the bonds that I made with some amazing women with whom we were able to share our stories and receive real feedback and support for each other, and that truly had nothing to do with Sterling himself or his preachings.
    It really seems that the person that everybody should be looking at is whoever the man is that did actually break confidentiality and he knew quite a bit. Even if his story was shared by someone other than himself it still shows that at some point he broke confidentiality to share what he shared…but is that even a problem because if negative things weren’t taking place at the weekend there would be no reason for such a high level of confidentiality and so that man is also truly just sharing his story as you say I did.

    It also seems that everybody is missing the fact that this reporter is a great reporter and he dug deep and did a lot of research and interviews with professionals that found alarming information and it seems to me that is what anybody within Sterling is probably upset about but instead of facing the facts, they’re trying to find a reason to be mad at somebody in order to ignore the facts. Now that some of those Sterling people are treating me negatively and speaking to my husband the way that some have, it only reaffirms much of the content of the article as well as other research and articles all over the internet.

    I am not trying to convince anybody whether or not to believe that I sold my story because I cannot change or control what anybody chooses to think, nor do I really care. However I am asking that you do not continue to put this on my husband in any way and that you also stay aware in the things that you say to him that could use his honorable dedication to your Sterling group in a way that would negatively pressure him to feel that he owes your group anything. Honestly at this point your Sterling group owes him so much because he has sacrificed so much of who he truly is as a man and a father and a husband, for who you guys have tried to tell him he is. There has been no balance between the two and I have seen how the pressures that you have placed on him has affected his stress levels and his inability to function in healthy ways with his own children, wife and business.

    I’m also asking that you do not use his dedication to your group as a way to try and punish me or my family, remember it is not just about him, or me…we have 8 kids. If you have a problem with me come to me, just as when I had a problem with what I saw from you guys happening in my husband I came directly to you. If your group is really all about relationships and families then I would urge you to take a step back and realize that while you may believe you’re helping many people, if you have hurt or damaged even one family such as mine, then you have failed in some way. But this does not have to be taken negatively and instead could be seen as an opportunity to do better and to help those who have taken it wrong to truly use it to better themselves and their families.

    It’s sad that after everything I have seen and experienced and all the facts and documentation that I have now read, I do not feel that my husband took it wrong. I have tried to give it all the benefit of the doubt and support or defend the group to others outside of it, but I think the reality is that he took it exactly how Sterling meant for it to be taken. Unfortunately, he did not know how to not use it in ways that cause damage. Remember everybody perceives things differently so because the information taught by Sterling is so controversial and lacks any real structure, some people might perceive it as beneficial and build from it while others might perceive it differently and unconsciously use it to cause damage in their own lives.

    I am thankful for some of the great people I have met in Sterling who have always seemed to be true and truly care and hope that in time those bonds can continue. However, because of the facts and the personal experiences, I know that I no longer want anything to do with the Sterling group itself. While I cannot control my husband’s choices and all I can do is continue to support him, I can say that if I continue to see the negative levels of Sterling in him with myself or my children or any aspect of our family, I just might rightfully share my story in an effort to help protect others, because using one persons uneducated theories so recklessly definitely should be known and I will do everything I can to protect my family, which is what I thought the Sterling groups claims to do.


    • Don’t buy into this cult’s evil scheme any longer. They’re taking your money and given you nothing but a load of garbage in return. All the signs of a egotistical con man along with the vulnerable weakness of men and women (cult followers) are clearly in plain sight. Make this your motto: Do not take kindness for weakness!

      • After seeing how they blame me for what I shared in confidence with someone about my own story and journey, I have already let them know I am out, but they still have a tight grip on my husband. I will support him in his choice to stay with them, but I will not allow their BS ways to affect my family anymore. I will not stay quiet either, I will not allow another family to be hurt the way mine was. I wish I did tell my story because I would have loved to include some deep dark truths I know. I saw their truths about 2 months in, but then it was too late. I knew they were fake and pretending to care about me or my family ust to suck my husand in. Sick sick people.

  6. Christine K Bates | December 27, 2019 at 5:23 am | Reply

    23 years ago, my partner and I attended weekends. He loved being exalted, narcissists are like that. He managed to fall down the hole of unaccountable, self-aggrandizement that Justin helped him dig. He died by suicide, 2016. My life was full of women who “cared” for me in ’96 and ’97… Justin is a laughable little man who, without the brainwashing, techniques is just a g-d pig.

    • You hit the nail on the head….Justin is a narcissist and he breeds narcissists in his men’s weekends/teams and then breeds females to be codependents at their weekends by telling them to allow the men to just be abusive. It is a scary fact that he is breeding damaged people and even more damaged families, I feel so sorry for the children in these families and I can understand why one said his son killed himself. This cult should be stopped.

  7. Justin Sterling rainwashes weak individuals into thinking they are strong men if they focus on allowing their weak attributes to rule them. He empowers deflated and damaged egos with the idea that they are real men and a 10 when they are living those “weakness” (though he sees them as their strengths) as their defining characteristics. Those faults in character that he says makes men real men and they should live them to the fullest and use them against their wives is; only 1 ego in a relationship and it is the mans, she must coax his ego 45 min a day, men only want a woman’s body because that is all she has to offer a man, men only have two emotions anger and fear so do not try to express any other emotions cause men are not capable, do not share your feelings with a woman because she will hold them against you, for a woman to love a man she must accept him unconditionally, it is not a wife’s business where her husband puts his di&@, if a marriage fails it is 100% the woman’s fault because she was the one responsible for managing it…under his terms, men will always screw up… it’s in their nature…just accept it and continue to trust no questions asked, women play god and try to change men but men will never change, verbal abuse is a bad woman’s excuse not to be feminine and to try to compete with the man, most women are not qualified to be a wife, a woman must ind her purpose and that is what ways she serves others, cater to a man’s ego, fathers should not have relationships with their daughters because they will ruin it, woman cannot be masculine and men cannot be feminine…..the sick list of crap he preaches goes on an on. Anyone who believes this and stays with the sterling teams and divisions is only looking to prove they are men by making women inferior. I went to many meetings after my weekend and was enraged at how they spoke about women and they think it is ok because they are just being men and the woman aren’t around. Truth is talking down on women does not make them men, it makes them scum and unworthy or real women. They can’t handle strong woman so they work to keep them down in an effort to inflate their fragile egos and feel better about themselves. Quite sick in all ways. If you know anyone in these teams, be careful. They appear normal and nice and caring…but due to the brainwashing they have no clue that they are living lies and completely against any true human ethics…they have ulterior motives and only want to recuruit you and convert you. Once they know you know the dark truth about them, you are the enemy. Just stay away and keep anyone you love away.

  8. I did my weekend a few years back and was mesmerized by what Justin preaches to the men and that many men took to it. I did see alot of the cult brainwashing stuff though, the sleep dep and breaking you down and then planting his beliefs. truly twisted. i completed my weekend and knew it was a crazy con. they take weak men and many them think they are strong men when they can talk shit about their women, and women in general. a TRUE man doed not need to lower women to make himself feel bigger. yeah they pretend to love and care about their women but only when their women shut up and do as told and then they talk shit about them at all the meetings. they are so busy trying to “not let women control them” that they miss out on some great bonding opportunities with women. if you talk shit about women on the regular bases then how can you possibly care about them, what you say and build is what you begin to really feel. then your woman is ust a pawn in your game to get ahead of look better and if she doesnt play your game, you become the enemy and they will all talk shit about you and tell him to keep doing the mens crap to prove she cant control you. it is a sick twisted circle that never ends until you wake up and get the hell out of their traps. men, real men, stay far far away from these fakes, they aren’t real friends, they use you to get more members and feel like better men for recruiting… the truth is a real man takes care of what he has. You can encourage men to be their best man for the men around them…encourage them to be their best man for the people in their lives that love and depend on them. These are not good men or women, fakes and phonies.

  9. The article describes the cult as dying on the West Coast. Someone should investigate the East Coast, the Boston area, where Artie Justin Sterling is doing well enough to have an East Coast Director, Abraham Gonzalez. It would be interesting to know if Mr. Gonzalez is paid or still a volunteer, here in Boston.

    Here in Boston volunteer Sterling men are still…
    *running initiation weekends
    *communicating secretly in endless times a day
    *stepping behind closed doors so as not to “break confidentiality”if a family member is at home
    *being taught that it is impossible to communicate with women
    *being taught it’s a weakness to reveal your innermost feeling to anyone but a man
    *committing time more faithfully to their Sterling groups than to their family time
    *asking permission to miss weekly meeting
    *being told how many $$ to spent on donated Christmas
    presents for ELF (Everyone Loves Families)
    *never questioning Artie’s use of ELF gifts as an IRS deduction
    Another investigative report is just waiting for a dogged investigative reporter, here in Boston.

  10. I stupidly got talked into going to one of these “men’s weekends” under the coercion of a medical professional, believe it or not. After being sleep and food deprived, kept up all night, then lectured to by Justin Sterling with the most asinine misogynist dogma, I got into an argument then left while the remaining throng cheered. Not knowing where I was, I soon learned that I was in Poughkeepsie, New York. I took a train to NYC, spent the night and returned home. I was soon called by my very concerned “sponsor”, the so-called medical professional referred to earlier. I chewed him out for ever even suggesting such a neanderthal organisation to me, warned him about his likely pitfalls as a father with a daughter and a husband and told him I no longer wanted anything to do with him.

  11. George Zimmer | June 25, 2022 at 9:30 pm | Reply

    The Sterling Mens’ Weekend, which I did 39 years ago was transformational for me. And I might add, it was so for hundreds of men I know who also did the weekend.

    It’s disheartening to read the distorted whining of the dissatisfied people who have commented here.

    The weekend provided me with a foundation for functioning in my relationships with women and, as well, in my relationships with other men. I was introduced into a brotherhood of men from a position of being an outsider into a position of belonging. I would frequently say “I used to be different, and now I’m the same”.

    I learned a great deal about my misconceptions about women. I discovered how high tech they are compared to how low tech we are. I learned about how magnificent they are and could be in relationship once they realized they could accomplish everything with loving respect rather than adversarial positions with men. And how productive men could be with women who learned this technique, how easy it is for men to soar in life when in relationship with women who know how powerful they can be.

    My relationship with men improved and soared once I realized that honor is the golden egg we need to move ourselves forward unselfishly and with the great results that produces when men are accountable to each other.

    The idea of cult was always looming as organizations and unhappy participants in the weekend distorted what took place in their weekends.

    When I did the weekend I was a single divorced man with custody of two small children: a five year old daughter and a two year old son. The weekend transformed my idea of how to father these kids. And the men, and especially the women graduates leant their love and understanding to help me raise these children and gave me the foundation to provide a legacy for my son. He is grown now and tonight we talked about the profound influence the mens’ weekend had on his life.

    So, in closing I want to be clear. It is attitude that determines how one processes events in life. For those who take a negative view of their weekend and distort the parts they don’t like are unfortunate. For me the weekend was life changing. I don’t speak about the events of the weekend because, out of context they often make no sense. What I do share is the transformative experience itself because this was indeed true for me. And was generally so for all the men and women I know who did the weekends.

    I recommend it proudly for those for whom this OPPORTUNITY presents itself.

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