Susanne Jorgensen asked:
ently interviewed for a feature article in the June 2008 issue of Eve Magazine, where Catherine Gray, who was lovely during the interview, asks: “Are you with the wrong man? Successful women are now turning their backs on driven, ambitious men and finding happiness with laid-back, domestic types.”
According to Gray’s research, – The alpha female intimidates the traditional alpha male and her success is a passion killer for him – A man’s chances of marriage goes up with his IQ, but for each 16 point rise in a woman’s IQ, her prospects of getting hitched decline by 40%. – Women are only admitting to half their salaries and dumbing themselves down in a bid to attract men, which even I, in the article, confessed to having thought about doing! More on that later…
The bottom line according to Gray is that “alpha/alpha relationships often lead to conflict and not blissful harmony.”
The obvious answer seems to be to partner up with a Beta Male – someone who is confident and unthreatened by his alpha woman, happy to let her be the centre and puts family and friends before his own career. Examples shown in the article include Madonna and Guy Ritchie, and Courtenay Cox with David Arquette.
While this solution obviously works for some women, the danger as I see it is that we end up creating yet more myths and stereotypes.
Myth 1: Alpha/alpha Relationships Lead to Conflict
Most couples at some point in their relationship run into conflict — “locking horns” is not unique to the alpha female-alpha male couple. Two people who are their own people will inevitably have points of conflict. When I meet a couple who have been married forever and they proceed to tell me they have never had an argument, I can’t help but wonder which of them is subservient in the relationship. Having different views, disagreement and conflict are healthy — these point to two people who have their own separate identity. How they conflict, disagree or argue is another topic for another time!
What may be different with alpha males and alpha females might be what they lock horns over. It may more likely be about issues around money, who the breadwinner is and making career decisions.
If both are career driven, who gives up their career to stay at home once children come on the scene? Who gives up their career in order to relocate for the sake of their partner’s career? If it’s true that “he who has the money, has the power” who makes the final decisions when there is a conflict of interests around career?
The Reality: Being ‘Alpha’ is Not The Real Issue
The real issue — and it is a real one — is not so much a question of how much money each person earns, or what stereotypes they fall under.
The real issue is two fold. Firstly, it’s about values. What values do the husband and wife each hold – and more importantly what shared values do they hold as a couple? What values drive each of them – money, family, fulfilment? If their values are at odds, then what they each want will be very different. It’s at this level that couples are made or broken. The issues that come out are just a reflection of underlying differences in their values.
Secondly, it’s about how they go about making decisions as a couple — what is the process for them? Is there an unspoken contract about who always makes the final decision? Do they sit down and discuss what each of them wants and needs and then come to come to some joint decision? What was the unspoken contract when the couple met? What are their beliefs about how decisions are made?
Myth 2: Men are Threatened by Alpha Females
Until recently, alpha women have often been deliberately silent about their high powered careers and about how much money they earn. This behaviour has historically been driven by the belief that men can’t deal with women who are more powerful in their careers and earn more than they do because it rubs up against their identity of being male — the breadwinner and provider, the dominant one in the relationship.
This is driven by the stereotype of men being in the ‘one up’ position and women being in the ‘one down’ position. We are fed these stereotypes from very young.
Try This: Watch children’s television on Saturdays and watch the adverts. Listen to the words used, the tone of speech used, the colours used, the music in the background and the messages being subliminally fed to children.
Typically, adverts for girls will have gentle, sweet music, light colours like pink, nurturing language and soft tones — think “sugar and spice and all that’s nice”. Adverts for boys on the other hand will tend to have stronger language, darker colours, be action packed and have stronger tones with messages about power and strength. So yes, we are influenced by these stereotypes!
I consider myself quite an independent minded person and yet I clearly remember an internal debate I had with myself when joining a dating website. “Do I write down what I do or do I dumb it down, so as not to intimidate the men? I’m after all a psychologist and an executive/life and relationship coach. I have my own successful private practice where I only work on average 2.5 – 3 days a week. I own my own home, drive a great car, and am currently setting up another very lucrative business.”
The Reality: What We Have Learned, We Can Choose to Unlearn!
Instead of blindly following stereotypes, maybe we can choose to deepen our understanding and make a distinction about what drives ‘alpha’ behaviour rather than give up on them completely!
Take the extroverted personality type. You have genuinely extroverted people and you also have very insecure people who hide behind the ‘extroverted mask’. The same can be said of people with a lot of wealth. For some people it’s a sign of genuine confidence and self esteem, while others try to use it as some sort of proof that they are confident, worthy and deserving. So, rather than an issue of being ‘alpha’, rich or extroverted, perhaps it has more to do with the size of one’s self esteem, identity or ego — whatever you want to call it — and that is where the distinction lies between a confident partner and one that feels threatened.
Maybe what drives ‘alpha’ women to go for the ‘beta’ male says more about the woman than it does the man. If a woman doesn’t believe in the existence or possibility of an emotionally intelligent alpha male, perhaps she wouldn’t see him even if he was standing right in front of her. After all, according the ‘expectancy theory’ we get what we expect. If you expect the stereotype that is what you will get.
Having tackled the myths and stereotypes of alpha female relationships, what’s the next step? Check out Part 2 of Alpha Female Relationships – The Real Solution.