Did you ever have a friend from long ago who calls to reconnect with you only to realize she has something to sell…I mean tell you about your life (the one she has not been apart of for years) that could be helpful?
As I chatted with my one-time friend after we played the speed dating version of catch-up, I received, “let-me-help-you-I’m-a-dating-expert-now” sales pitch. I was suddenly regretting I had shared I was single. She had no idea (nor did she ask) that 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.
When she told me I needed to realize and own that I was an Alpha female I was surprised, almost laughing. I certainly didn’t have any issues communicating in a healthy way but did that really make me dominant Alpha? She said I needed to and date appropriately to my type or change who I was if I was to continue pursuing Alpha males.
One thing I knew for sure, if I was the typical “I am woman hear me roar” Alpha female I certainly put up with a lot of really unhealthy relationships for way too long which was very Beta of me.
After she offered me her discount price to friends and family she said goodbye for now. I decided to dig little deeper. I’m a big fan of becoming my own investigator when I’m given what could be expert advice, especially if it doesn’t ring true. Awareness is always the first step to changing a behavior that loves to play and “hide-n-seek” with our conscious.
At first I came across blogs and articles that were emotionally fueled, frustrated, and often rage filled that said things like, “How to handle your Alpha woman” or “How to date an Alpha male."
The Alpha articles are all variations of the same spiel:
The alpha female is one tuff b*tch who doesn’t need your sap or sensitivity. She’s in charge, likes control and doesn’t need your sappy emotions. She is full of passions, hobbies and interests that would typically be reserved for guys (whatever that means). She is unafraid to express her opinions and 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 an, uncompromising, arrogant prick who 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 your) sentiment. Allow him to be “the man” (whatever that means) and you can be his Queen.
I didn’t relate to any of these blogs. They all 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 test on me?
So, I decided to read up on Beta’s.
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. They have a hard time saying no. They are the lover, the poet, the writer and dreamer, not the fighter. Even their “no” means “yes” because they avoid confrontation at all costs. They are passive-aggressive. They take criticism to heart. Emotions well up in Beta’s leaving them feeling powerless way too often.
The Beta male sounded like my relationship with a lovely writer that lasted 8 years however something still wasn’t quite working for me.
The Beta female is the sweet, easy to handle, lovely woman every man dreams of having. The right hand woman to the Alpha Male. She listens, nurtures and puts her mate before herself. The mother, lover, home maker, caretaker and model she is the ultimate people pleaser. She doesn’t need to take the lead. The spiritual dreamer and artist, emotional and kind. The epitomic of what feminine should be (…if you’re going by a 1950’s definition). This is the woman most “men” prefer to be with.
Ouch! None of this made any sense diagnostically, or experientially and yet the dating world is filled with “expert” advice based on these Alpha and Beta traits. Advice my “friend” just tried to charge me for! Outside of these blogs and articles which are designed to help the blogger vent and the dater to feel they are not alone in their struggle to find love, what was all of this?
The Alpha and Beta theories were long ago debunked and yet they still live on only to find ourselves potentially boxed into another paradigm that simply doesn’t work.
Thanks socialization, the dating world and the entertainment industry, the pop culture adaptation of Alpha and Beta lives on. It’s the screenplay about the man or woman on a mission, the lone warrior, the “my way or the highway” is your solid alpha. While the coward who can’t take revenge to avenge the murder of his family is your solid beta. These characters make for excellent, dynamic story telling.
But, could we imagine dating this person if they were like this all of the time?
The dating industry loves its seminars and books that are geared to teaching us how to handle our alpha or nurture your beta can be a trap. If they are more interested in categorizing, defining, managing and excusing what are clearly difficult, polarizing behaviors for someone looking to be in a serious, healthy relationship more than they are in generating awareness and change, we need to learn to walk away.
The “I am Alpha hear me roar” rhetoric shows more about where we are stuck in our lives than how we need to be handled. The “Handle your Beta like a baby” shows more about our fears overpowering our need to take action.
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 (this includes 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. It’s also worthy to note that the human brain functions a little differently than your primal animal.
Now this was something I could relate to. Depending on the situation and the person we are interacting with, we are dominant or passive in our behaviors. Most of us have a combination of both alpha/beta (masculine/feminine yin/yang).
So, what can the Alpha/Beta theory do for us?
Successful relationships require compromise not demands or excuses for uncompromising behaviors. When there is real a desire to merge with another in a healthy way, we will stop using the excuses like alpha/beta that can keep us from doing just that.
Author: Heather Dawn
A version of this blog originally appeared in Heather Dawn's column on Elephantjournal.com