January 18, 2017

Dating by Types: Alpha, Beta or Bullsh*t?

A friend (who is now more of an acquaintance) once reemerged in my life to tell me she was a dating coach.

She had been off my radar for many years finding herself and her purpose. We exchanged pleasantries and started to do a cliff notes version of our work and love lives. But before I could even finish she gave me some unsolicited dating advice.

She told me that my dating problems stemmed from being an alpha female who wanted to be with an alpha male.

She said I needed to realize and own the fact that I was an alpha female so I could navigate the waters of dating more successfully to achieve my goals. I was surprised at this point, almost laughing.

I certainly don’t have any issues communicating or asserting myself in a healthy way but does that really make me a dominant alpha?

She said I needed to date appropriately to my type. Meaning I would either do better going out with beta males or I had to change who I was around alpha males so they wouldn’t feel threatened or overpowered by me.

Now I was stunned. I had spent over a decade as a serial monogamist hoping to get to “I do” only to discover I had a penchant for dating lying narcissists. One thing I knew for sure—if I was the typical alpha female, I certainly put up with a lot of unhealthy relationships for way too long, which was very beta of me. (Not that my friend asked.)

Part of me wondered if this was how people I dated saw me: the woman who is in charge of it all. I was a little worried, so I decided to dig deeper. At first, I came across emotionally-fueled, frustrated, even rage-filled blogs and articles that said things like, “how to handle your alpha woman,” or “how to make your alpha male happy.”

All the articles I read were variations of the same spiel:

The alpha female is one tough b*tch who doesn’t need your sensitivity.

She’s in charge, likes control and doesn’t care for your sappy emotions. She is full of her own passions, hobbies and interests that would typically be reserved for guys (whatever that means). She is unafraid to express her opinions, unleash her anger or back down in an argument. She doesn’t need friends: instead, she chooses to want them. She is “I am woman, hear me roar” whether you like it or not—and you better like it if you want to date her, cause she’s not budging.)

The alpha male is always uncompromising and arrogant.

He calls all the shots and isn’t afraid to get physical or vocal. He is the hunter and his partner needs to be the gatherer. He provides and protects his domain (his partner included). A man’s man, he forms the pack and always takes the lead. He is confident, chivalrous and doesn’t cry or need to express (or hear his partner’s) sentiment. Allow him to be the dominant man (whatever that means) he needs to be, and you can be his queen.

I didn’t relate to any of these blogs.

I’m the girl who cries in most movies, including action films. I get swept away easily despite my strong will and ability to communicate. Everything I read on the subject felt so angry, uncompromising, difficult and entitled. Was this really how my friend from long ago saw me or was she putting her new career to the test on me? I was horrified.

The beta spiel was a little more tolerable.

The beta male is typically passive. He has trouble asserting himself. A total pushover, he waits for the ladies to come to him. If a more aggressive man is pining for the same woman he is, the beta will walk away. He is often seen as cowardly or too sensitive. He has a hard time saying no. He is the lover, the poet, the writer and dreamer—not the fighter. Even his “no” means “yes” because he avoids confrontation at all costs. He is passive-aggressive. He takes criticism to heart. Emotions well up in him leaving him feeling powerless way too often.

The beta female is the sweet, easy to handle, lovely, right-hand woman every (especially alpha) man dreams of having. She listens, nurtures and puts her mate before herself. She is the mother, lover, homemaker, caretaker and model—the ultimate people pleaser. She doesn’t need to take the lead but is happy to arrange all the activities. The spiritual dreamer and artist, she is close to her emotions and is both giving and open to receiving. She is gentle and kind—the epitome of femininity (if you’re going by a 1950’s definition).

This is all too black and white.

The history of the outmoded alpha-beta theories came from an animal behaviorist named Rudolph Schenkel who attempted to define the social behaviors of wolves in captivity. It was later reinforced by wildlife biologist David Mech’s studies and finally debunked.

They discovered that animals (including humans) in the wild behave differently in captivity. Dominant behaviors (the ones that are typically alpha) are situational and vary depending on the animal or the person. Also, (unsurprisingly) human brains are a little different from wolf brains. We can be dominant or passive in our behaviors, depending on the situation and the person we are interacting with. Most of us have a combination of both alpha and beta (masculine and feminine, yin and yang).

Socialization, the dating world and the entertainment industry are the sole reasons the pop culture adaptation of Alpha and beta lives on. Do we really need to perpetuate this and box ourselves into another paradigm that is outdated and simply doesn’t work?

The archetypal alpha and beta are great for storytelling. It’s the fantastical screenplay about the man or woman on a mission, the lone warrior, the “my way or the highway” who is our solid alpha. Or, the soulful coward who can’t seem to avenge the murder of his family is our solid beta. These characters make for excellent, dynamic story telling. But could we imagine dating this person if they were really like this all of the time?

The dating industry loves seminars and books that are geared toward teaching us how to handle our alpha or nurture our beta, but these can be a trap. If they are more interested in categorizing, defining, managing and excusing what are clearly difficult, polarizing behaviors for someone who is looking to be in a serious, healthy relationship, we need to learn to walk away.

So, what can the alpha-beta theories do for us? They can:

>> Give us a template for where we are dominant and passive in our relationships and partnerships.

>> Bring awareness to where we may need some balance or healing in our masculine and feminine energies if we are too one way or the other.

>> Challenge us to cultivate the internal balancing of our personal alpha-beta energy first. Then maybe we wont need to seek it in our partners or use it as an excuse to not get the love we so deeply desire.

Successful relationships require compromise, not demands or excuses for uncompromising behaviors.

When there is a real desire to merge with another in a healthy way, we will stop using these kinds of pop culture excuses that can keep us from doing just that.




Author: Heather Dawn

Image: discutivo/ Flickr

Editor: Khara-Jade Warren




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