Most people are familiar with the concept of an alpha male — a physically strong and socially dominant man who generally has his pick of the (straight) women around him. The alpha female, however, is a more recent phenomenon, thanks in part to the feminist movement that took hold in the 1960s and is continuing to break down economic and social barriers for women today.
It's worth noting, before we continue further, that the whole concept of "alpha" and "beta" men and women is more than a little problematic. The terminology originally arose within the field of biology: Scientists would observe groups of animals and determine the rank of its respective members, categorizing each of them from most to least dominant according to letters of the Greek alphabet.
It's a crude and sometimes inaccurate way to think about the social relationships of human beings, who have much more complex hierarchies and scales of dominance than monkeys, say, or lions. However, taken with a grain of salt, it can be a useful framework for understanding different types of men and women.
Caveats aside, what is actually meant by an "alpha female"? Well, broadly speaking, an alpha female is a successful, driven woman who doesn't fit the stereotypical female role: submissive, yielding and unambitious; happy to let her man be the star of the show and fade unobtrusively into the background. Alpha females are generally women with distinct Type A personalities: people who tend to be more competitive, outgoing, ambitious and impatient than their more relaxed and unhurried Type B counterparts.
As women's rights become more and more accepted within the mainstream, it's likely that greater numbers of women will fit into the "alpha female" category. Women are increasingly likely to assert their worth and venture bold opinions; pursue ambitious (and traditionally male-dominated) careers; and be more unabashedly sexually adventurous than ever before — all very much alpha female territory.
But what does this all mean for the men who date alpha females? Are there special rules and ways of behaving? Should you feel different about your own masculinity because your partner is an alpha? And how does dating an alpha female differ from dating other types of women? To help you answer these questions, here are five tips to bear in mind when dating an alpha female:
1. Her Success Doesn't "Emasculate" You
There's an unfortunate cultural trope left over from the bygone era of traditional gender roles: if a woman is successful and ambitious within a relationship, then she must "wear the pants." This leaves you, the man, wearing… well… the dress and apron, we suppose?
It's nonsense, obviously. There's room for more than one driven personality within a relationship — in fact, ambitious people tend to pair together, contrary to the stereotypes. But longstanding cultural attitudes die hard, and often even well-meaning and open-minded men can't help but feel a little bit emasculated by the success of their female partners.
One way to help keep these feelings at bay is to remember that they are partly just good old-fashioned human insecurity, which is a completely normal impulse. Regardless of your gender, it's always difficult to remain completely calm and collected when you feel as though a peer is outstripping you in a personal, economic or social sense. These feelings are going to persist — or even be exacerbated — when the person doing the outstripping is your most intimate partner. Simply recognizing that insecurity (and perhaps even jealousy) is rearing its ugly head can help you keep these feelings from burgeoning out of control.
Whenever you feel a sense of jealousy, shame or emasculation because of your alpha female partner, it can also help to step back, take a few deep breaths and take stock of the situation. Would you really prefer your partner wasn't successful, outgoing and ambitious? Probably not, right? And, deep down, aren't you proud of your partner's successes, and happy for her? Of course you are. While feelings of insecurity are perfectly normal, try to bring things back into perspective as often as possible.
2. Treat Her With The Same Respect You'd Afford An Alpha Male
Unfortunately, ambitious, successful women are still treated very differently to ambitious, successful men. Alpha females are labelled "aggressive" or "bitchy" for expressing their opinions and desires, whereas men behaving the exact same way are more likely to be considered "assertive" or "confident". This is a distressing double standard for women, so if you're dating an alpha female, make sure you aren't letting her gender negatively impact how you view her, intentionally or otherwise.
Part of this means discussing the unique issues she faces as an alpha female in good faith, without endlessly playing devil's advocate. There are certain basic arguments that driven, successful women get really sick of hearing, simply due to how often they're repeated to them. "Women are too emotional to do certain jobs!" or "Women are naturally suited to caring for kids!" are refrains alpha females hear repeatedly, and it's tiresome to have to debunk them over and over, especially to a partner who is meant to have her back.
If you're genuinely curious about what life is like for your alpha female partner, there's a wealth of material on the internet available for you to read up on. Websites like Everyday Feminism can help you better understand the unique (and perhaps not immediately obvious) issues she faces in the workplace and on the street, and authors like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Heather Havrilesky regularly tackle the issues that alpha females face with wit and warmth.
3. Have A Measured Attitude Towards Her Sexuality
As double standards about women's sexuality become less socially acceptable, greater numbers of women are adopting freer attitudes towards sex and sexuality. As a result, your alpha female partner may be more relaxed about casual and/or experimental sex than women from previous generations (or more traditional women today), and, as her partner, you might have some strong feelings about that.
If your alpha female partner has an "adventurous" sex life, make sure that you discuss this with her respectfully. Avoid slut-shaming her, and don't laugh at her kinks and desires if she's opened up and shared them with you. At the same time, though, avoid taking a prurient or fetishistic interest in her sex life — this is an intimate area that you're sharing together, so avoid treating her like a bug under a microscope. In short, be open-minded, respectful and conciliatory; just like she should be when it comes to your desires.
4. Consider Her Competing Commitments
An alpha female is likely to have a lot going on in her life: a busy and demanding job, extracurricular activities, a thriving social life and family commitments. This means that she won't be able to dedicate every minute of every day to you, just as you can't for her.
Dating an alpha female may involve an extra level of organization to make sure that your busy schedules can be synced to allow you time together. She is also likely to suffer from the occasional bout of stress from work, and may need additional down time to manage this. The two of you will need open communication to ensure that you're spending enough time together, without both becoming over-burdened by commitments.
5. Recognize The Benefits
At times it might be an easy thing to forget, but dating an alpha female is not a chore or cause for alarm – in fact, it's a joy and a privilege! We're not talking about sinister, power-hungry demon-women like Cruella Deville or Ursula from The Little Mermaid here; we're talking about regular, human women who happen to have levels of ambition we traditionally (and wrongly) associated only with men.
There are plenty of benefits to dating an alpha female. To start with, you'll receive all the usual relationship trappings like company, conversation and physical intimacy, but you're also likely to receive additional levels of inspiration and motivation from an alpha female partner. Your partner can adopt the role of mentor or teacher when you need to improve in areas she excels at (and vice-versa), and the two of you can share your networks and skill sets.
Finally, you will enjoy the levels of independence in your alpha female partner. Driven, successful women are unlikely to be clingy and needy, and because they are so self-sufficient, you never need to feel as though you are being "used" for your income.
Dating an alpha female does bring with it certain specific challenges, but these are easily addressed using the above tips. Overall, the positives easily outweigh the challenges, and dating an alpha female means that you're destined for power couple status.