My mother was the quintessential alpha wife. When she wasn't busy controlling someone, she was busy controlling something. (Are you an alpha wife?)
I find it hard to write about my mother’s personality, since in the last two years of her life her brain deteriorated to such a degree that it quelled her alpha-like ways and produced in their place something wholly unfamiliar.
My mother was compliant.
This juxtaposition — formerly difficult woman becomes downright malleable — had a huge effect on me. For one thing, I was able to enjoy a whole new relationship with my mother before she died. For another, I saw a mirror image of what I, too, could be if I let go of my need to control. Ironic, indeed, that this was my mother’s parting gift after years of modeling something else altogether.
An alpha wife micromanages, delegates and makes almost all of the decisions. She is, quite simply, The Boss. The problem is … No man wants a boss for a wife. That type of relationship may work for a spell, but it will eventually come crashing down.
Like almost all the women in my family, I’m an alpha female — an independent-minded and highly motivated individual who can’t rest until she’s achieved a task, whatever it may be, and is most comfortable when she’s in charge. If you want something done yesterday, ask an alpha female.
Alpha females aren’t new, but they were rarer back in the day. They typically were women who didn’t follow conventional paths. They became writers and politicians, or actresses and scientists, or doctors and businesswomen. Or they were traditional housewives, except they went into “mother mode” and never came out. Their husbands became one more child to lead and instruct.
Enter the problem.
When an alpha female gets married, she becomes the only thing she knows how to be: an alpha wife! You can find her at the office, or you can find her at home with the kids. How she spends her days doesn’t matter.
What matters is how she behaves. An alpha wife micromanages, delegates and makes almost all of the decisions. She is, quite simply, The Boss.
The problem is … No man wants a boss for a wife. That type of relationship may work for a spell, but it will eventually come crashing down.
To have a marriage that works, the alpha female must channel her energies in the right direction. She can be an alpha at work and an alpha with the kids, but she cannot be an alpha with her husband. That role requires a different kind of energy.
It requires the feminine.
Every relationship needs a masculine and a feminine energy to thrive. Masculine energy is gruff and hard; it like to do things and fix things. Feminine energy nurtures and verbalizes; it likes to feel and talk. That’s why feminine energy is the receiver of masculine energy. It’s why men typically make the first move, and why they ask a woman for her hand in marriage. The male acts, and the female responds.
Today, this symbiosis is off-kilter, because women have been conditioned to bury their femininity and to assert themselves at all times in a masculine, or alpha-like, manner. We’re drowning in alphas. We’re inbreeding! And that doesn’t work. Every alpha needs a beta, and every beta needs an alpha.
This is not to suggest that each partner must be 100 percent beta or 100 percent alpha. That would not be good. Like anything else, there’s a spectrum. Most couples are a mix of these personalities. It becomes a problem only when both partners are strongly in one camp. When two alphas get together, it’s combustible. When two betas get together, nothing gets done.
It’s all about finding the right balance. And to do that, alpha females will need to make the first move. If they want to find love and keep it, they need to stop being the man in the relationship and start being the woman.
They need to find their inner beta.
Suzanne Venker is the author of five books on marriage, feminism and gender politics. Her latest book is "The Alpha Female’s Guide to Men & Marriage: HOW LOVE WORKS." Find her on Twitter@SuzanneVenker.