Is There Any Point in Dating an Alpha Male?

Hi Evan, This is a curiosity more than a dating advice question. I’ve read several of your posts that suggest that charismatic alpha males do not make good partners. I also read on HuffingtonPost.com a hilariously titled article (in response to the Anthony Weiner scandal), “Should Women Go Ugly?” again, suggesting that women should steer clear of handsome alpha types who are quite likely to ultimately let them down. So my question is, what happens to all these alpha guys? Do they marry? Will they remain single forever? If the conventional wisdom is for women to avoid relationships with them, is it in their (the alpha guys) best interest to skip the so-called American dream, avoid marriage and children and just bounce from one short-term relationship to another? Or is it possible for such an alpha guy to create a meaningful long-term relationship? And if so, what type of woman would be able to create a happy life with a man like this? Based on your advice and that of others I’ve read, it seems that no woman should attempt to deal with these guys. –Sara

Sara,

Right before I got married, I turned for advice to Dr. Pat Allen, therapist, Los Angeles legend, and author of “Getting to I Do”.

Pat is probably 75 years old and delightfully curmudgeonly. She lives in a very black and white world and has a bunch of catchy aphorisms that she trots out when she sees common dating dynamics – especially for women with an excess of masculine energy. I turned to her because we’d met on a panel once before and because I respected her experience and wisdom.

I told her that I wasn’t sure that I felt what I was supposed to feel for the woman who I was considering proposing to. I didn’t have that obsessive, breathless, “I must have you” sentiment. I didn’t miss her madly when she went on a business trip. I was just plain happy – in a healthy, fun, nurturing, supportive relationship that had no obvious flaws apart from what was buzzing through my head: “I don’t have the FEELING I think I should have!”

My thoughts on alpha males is that while they may remain the most attractive candidates out there, as a rule, they tend to be bad long-term relationship bets.

Pat asked me: “Are you a career man or a man with a career?” (This is one of those aphorisms.) I told her that my career was not just a job, but kind of a calling. Thus, she determined that I was a career man. She told me that, as a career man, since my job would come first, I could get married and be perfectly content, but I’d always be longing for more. She finally concluded that, based on my profile, I would probably cheat on my wife a few times.

And that was our session.

Yes, Dr. Allen’s contention, essentially, was that if you’re an alpha male, your natural tendency is to put your needs first, to conquer, to dominate, to spread your seed, and to hope to not break too many hearts along the way. In this regard, she’s somewhat correct.

And in this regard, I realized, I’m not a pure alpha male.

It’s more important to me to be a good husband and father than it is to pursue my selfish interests at all costs. If anything, I have a fierce ethical streak (which surfaces here from time to time) which is stronger than my thirst for money or new women. I would not suppose that everyone is similarly driven by doing the right thing. After all, having character involves tradeoffs, and alpha males most certainly don’t want limits put on their freedoms.

So, to bring this back to you, Sara, my thoughts on alpha males is that while they may remain the most attractive candidates out there, as a rule, they tend to be bad long-term relationship bets. I would guess that most women who’ve gone for them would concur with this observation. Alphas needs come first. Their schedule comes first. They may try to spend money on you but it doesn’t compensate for their lack of attention, affection and understanding. They rarely make you feel safe and secure. But you hold on because he’s such an intoxicating catch. Make no mistake, he RELIES on his charms to allow you put up with all his bullshit.

As always, when we’re talking about alpha males, we’re talking about a sliding scale. I may have the drive and temperament and ego of an alpha, but I don’t indulge it at all costs. I stop work at 6. I don’t work on weekends or take clients on Fridays. I apologize frequently. If my wife ever needs me to sacrifice for the family, the answer is yes. That’s where my value system lies.

If you’re going to go for such a guy, the thing to look out for is what his long-term values are. Does he WANT to be a good husband and father? Does he SACRIFICE his needs for yours? Does he put YOU first or does he always have to win? There ARE alpha males who do that, but there are more who do not.

From what I’ve seen as a dating coach, most women are willing to take the risk – but very few actually get the long-term reward.

So it’s not that it’s impossible to find one of these guys who wants to settle down with you – it’s that alpha males are inherently high risk/high reward.

And, from what I’ve seen as a dating coach, most women are willing to take the risk – but very few actually get the long-term reward.

As for what type of woman you have to be to get this guy, in general, I’d say someone who is supportive of him. Someone who is cool with his hours. Someone who doesn’t nag him all the time about his job. Someone who can listen to him and provide a fun change of pace when he finally clears space to be 100% present. This is really what my book Why He Disappeared is all about – being in your feminine energy – open, positive, receptive, nurturing.

Still, being the ideal woman for an alpha male isn’t always enough – not if the alpha male doesn’t have a strong moral code and doesn’t fundamentally value monogamy as much as he values conquering new women and new businesses.

SOMEONE gets the alpha male to marry her, all right, but I can assure that she is not always happy with what she gets.

Caveat emptor.

13
8

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Comments:

  1. 1
    Hadley Paige

    Marrying an alpha male is essentially a monetary play for a woman. For at least a while they get big time care, shelter and lifestyle for themselves and their children.  If it works out- fine.  If it doesn’t work out they are “out of there”  which means they get big $$$  which allow them to conduct the rest of their life as they like. No down side except perhaps some short term stress (join the club). A woman may not want to do it more than once though.
     
    Bottom Line> Alpha males are still a major catch even if they are ultimately unsatisfying relationshipwise.
     
     

    1. 1.1
      LovenHate

      I have to disagree. I’m a divorced, single mom of two and currently in a relationship with an Alpha Male. Oh yes, he has a decent job that pays HIS bills and pays for his hobbies which are numerous. It pays for him to go to concerts and on other outings with his buddies, but I see absolutely NO monetary benefit. I struggle every day with being able to afford things in life, but I never ask him for help (I did once, and it was disastrous). He has borrowed money from me a few times, and I had to nag him about paying it back. Don’t get me wrong, he can be charismatic and charming…even thoughtful at rare instances. Overall though…NOT a major catch because he gets a lot (sex, a place to live, food, companionship when HE wants it), yet doesn’t give much in return. And after writing this, I’m convinced now more than ever to end this nonsense and stop being used for doormat, and a sexmat.

      1. 1.1.1
        starthrower68

        Yah I’d have to agree he’s dead weight.  I’m not saying this as a comment on you as a parent, but we don’t generally have a lot extra after the bills are paid.  Budgets run right. What have you had to put on hold for your kids because you gave this guy money? Again not calling you a bad parent. I just know that my budget has to be tight. Unlike certain comments above, I make sure that *I* can provide for myself and my children. I don’t ever want to depend on anyone else for that.

  2. 2
    my honest answer

    I agree with Evan – their very nature does make them more likely to cheat. But it also makes them kind of attractive, because you think you’re the ONE to change them.
    That only ends in tears.
     
    If you’re happy to come second to someone’s job (and some people are), then go for it. If you know you need a lot of attention and affection from a relationship, I’d skip the obvious workaholics.

  3. 3
    Steve

    I’m not an expert and I don’t play one on TV, but the descriptions of “The Alpha Male” are starting to sound like a bad case the narcissism neurosis epidemic psychologists say is going around in the current generation of adults.
     

  4. 4
    AQ

    Evan, I think you need to define Alpha Male – there are many types – many shades of gray. I think you must mean one that is a CEO – he is at the top because he was narcissistic and screwed a lot of people to win along the way – he is good looking, athletic and overly confident. But there are many men who are successful who put their families first. Then there are ones who are less confident with no ambition. 

  5. 5
    Joe

    @ my honest answer #2: I have a problem with saying you shouldn’t come second to someone’s job, whether you’re a man or a woman.  I think there needs to be a balance between the two–there are times where your relationship is more important than work, but there are times when work is more important than your relationship.  If you lose your job, it’s only going to put more pressure on your relationship.

  6. 6
    Teri

    Evan,
    I have had 2 “long-term” relationships with Alpha males. While I am obviously attracted to that type of man. I am trying to get out of that way of thinking and dating men that put me first. My problem is that the chemistry is just not there for me. I am dating a man now that is head over heals in love with me and I am going to talk to him tonight and tell him that I just can’t see him anymore. How do I get out of this way of thinking? I want to have a long term relationship with a good man.

  7. 7
    Helen

    While I very much agree with the importance of considering family in a relationship, I disagree with equating “alpha male” to “career man.” I think that in women’s minds, they’re completely different things.
     
    Historically (it’s somewhat less relevant today), a woman would consider a male alpha if he is able to provide the resources she needs for successful reproduction, and then further on Maslow’s hierarchy, her personal needs such as affection, attention, affirmation, etc. One does not need to be a career man in order to provide these things. Evan, you say that you’re not fully an alpha, but in your wife’s mind, you would be as long as you met her needs and she felt secure in your continually being able to provide them.
     
    Career men include artists and musicians and writers who don’t make much (if any) money, but are completely obsessed with their pursuits. That doesn’t make them alphas, necessarily, in the minds of women, unless specific women got gratification out of being with someone who had a plethora of those particular talents.
     
    Also Evan, it does not make you “not an alpha” that you quit work at 6 and don’t work on weekends. It means that you have a good sense of boundaries. Then there are those of us who feel as though we didn’t finish everything we wanted to during the weekdays, so it spills over into the weekends, and sends us into a spiral of guilt that we’re not devoting the right time to the right people… It makes us guilt-ridden fools, not alphas, I can tell you that much. :)

  8. 8
    Ileana

    <Does he WANT to be a good husband and father?>.
    Evan, i dont’t think that WANTING is of any importance here. Don’t you think that maybe there are guys out there who claim to want this, but actually do not put any effort in doing something about it?
    And, how can you actually tell if he HAS good husband/father potential? You cant just ask him….

  9. 9
    Alicia

    An alpha (in my opinion) is a man or woman who has virtually everything but is still not satisfied (this basically encompasses CEOs, some military officers, celebrities, and the like).

    I was just broken up with on Thursday by an alpha who completely changed his personality when he started his career months ago. I saw the breakup coming but I couldn’t leave him (even though I’m almost sure he was cheating on me).

    He told me that I’m always first in his life and he couldn’t wait for our wedding day and the birth of our children. This proves that people will say all kinds of things to secure themselves from loneliness. In that regard, I disagree with Evan. Just saying a person wants to be an amazing mate or model parent doesn’t always mean they are willing to help themselves achieve their goals.

  10. 10
    Jennifer

    So I found a definition of alpha, because it bugs me how much we throw it around here and everyone seems to mean different things by it. According to dictionary.com, an Alpha Male is:

    The dominant male animal or person in a group.

    I think it’s easy to forget that this term is defined by it’s relativity to a larger group. No man is, or can be,  dominant in every realm. 

    Dominance does not go hand in hand with things like compromise and a lot of other traits we think of when we think of a loving relationship. Neither does it automatically equal all of the negative traits that we tend to assign to it either.

    1. 10.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      Thanks, Jennifer. How does that change or negate what I wrote though?

  11. 11
    Jennifer

    @Evan- I’m not trying to negate what you wrote. Just trying to put a frame around ‘Alpha Male’ since folks seem to throw all sorts of meanings to it that just aren’t there, and then draw conclusions that are less than valid. You know how comments tend to meander ;-)

  12. 12
    Sharon

    Everyone has a slightly different idea of what alpha male is. Growing up in area that produce steel I’ve always considered blue collared jobs “working with your hands” more masculine than white collar jobs. Thus I can understand when Evan is talking about that high earning pretty boy business tycoon alpha as someone as confident in what they do. And certainly they’re are proud peacock alphas, as anyone who’s a dated a musician knows, that don’t make a dime. So currently my list of careers at high risk for alpha behaviors are as followed:

    Cops
    Musicians (particular current music but if he’s a carnegie hall ready classist you still need to watch your back.)
    Actors
    Fireman
    Military Personnel
    Doctors
    College Professors
    Stock brokers
    Hedge Fund Managers
    (Ok anything financial save perhaps accounting)
    Construction Workers
    Surgeons 
    Models
    Personal Trainers
    Graphic Designers (for some reason video game designers are less douchey)
    Executive anything non profit to advertising
    Politicians 
    Business Owners
    Athletes ..ALL
    Elite anything, astrophysicists, economist, reporter ect.
    Bartenders
    Chefs
    Writers
    High End Real Estate 
    Lawyers 
    Diplomats

     I’m sure there are more. Generally speaking middle management engineers, IT specialist, grade school teachers. Copy editors bank managers, retail managers. legal assistants. To be alpha you just have to be the top guy in your social circle. So women looking for a nice beta should aim straight to the middle of the pack for the guy most likely to stay there. 

  13. 13
    Sara

    I submitted the original question above. Thank you for answering it Evan. After a good deal of thought, one theory I have is that there will always be a percentage of women (small I hope, though perhaps more common in my mother’s generation), who have a clear-eyed understanding of the realities of being with a so-called alpha male. They understand what the trade-offs are and they fully accept them. If they suspect their husband is having an affair, they turn a blind eye. If they don’t always get the attention they want from their husband, they seek that out from women friends or perhaps a lover of their own. They often have an affluent life-style (nice house, cars, clothing, travel, botox, you name it!), and they have no intention of giving that up, so they view their alpha’s “indiscretions” as part of the package. (Kind of a “boys will be boys” attitude, which is antiquated yes, but my guess is that it still persists to a degree). Not a great recipe for a close intimate relationship, but it is a trade-off that the women themselves are choosing. The key word here is Choice.
     

  14. 14
    Carrie

    I think Steve is going in the right direction here.  Alpha Male is a good term to use but, narcissism is right on track.  All walks of life with money or without..can act like an alpa male.  Career or no career can act like an alpha male.  I seem to equate Alpa with abusive for some reason.  Narcissists are the snotty career people who think they are a gift to us from God.  Why wouldn’t anyone want me, I mean, I want me!!! hahahha is their motto!  I was married to one…I know the personality well.  People regardless of status, with or without money, college education or no college education can be controlling, egotistical, narcissistic and alpha male prone.  Just approach with your eyes wide open and read it like it is not what it could be…
    XO Carrie

  15. 15
    Peter

    If an Alpha male is an economically and socially successful leader of men (this definition includes overachieving women!) then I have no comment.  If an Alpha male is a man who has sex with a lot of women (the two versions probably overlap a great deal) then consider this.

    In 1996 the Centre for Disease Control surveyed US college students for risky behaviours.  It was a large survey and because most of the questions were about things like motorbike riding it is considered that the answers about sex were relatively truthful.  I will discuss the results for white students.  There were results for under 25 and over 25.

    The average (mean) number of lifetime sexual partners was 9.  About half of students had no more than two partners.  So most people were virgins or had one or two partners.  These people were not considered at risk of health problems.  The second biggest group were people with a lifetime total of 3,4 or 5 lifetime sex partners.  They were at some risk of disease.  They were about a quarter of the total.

    The average of nine sexual partners was generated by the heros and heroines who crossed the dangerously promiscuous line of 6 or more lifetime sex parners which made some form of STD, often undectectable HPV more or less inevitable.  This final quarter had around 50 partners each which pushed teh average to 9.  In all these cases, there were no important differences between men and women. There were as many promiscuous woman as promiscuous men.  There is no suggestion here of a few Alpha males having sex with all the women.  The promiscuous men and the promiscuous women find each other.  (and probably deserve each other).

    What happens after 25?  Very little.  For the three quarters of the population that did not indulge in high risk numbers of partners the partner count remained almost unchanged.  This implies that most college people find themselves a lifetime partner by 25 even if they do not marry immediately.  The promiscuous quarter of “so called Alphas” and ***** continued to do the rounds of each other.  Basically the Alpha male who is dangerously attractive to all women does not exist.  He is dangerously attractive to promiscuous women.

    This was an American survey so attention to the racial dimension was of course given.  Hispanics were more sexually active than whites in the younger age group.  Blacks were more sexually active than hispanics.  Whether this says anything about race rather than social class of origin is not a subject for this blog.

    People who do not attend college are thought to have less ex if they are qualified at something like trade school level and more sex if they are underclass but there are no really good figures to show this.

    Basically, this survey predicted the current view that 20% of people get 80% of the sex.  But, there are no mythical sexual Alphas stealing sexually available women from the mythical Betas.  The sexually available are a group to themselves.  The idea of the sexual Alpha appears to have resulted from enhanced marketing by self help coaches who use to teach men how to become more confident around women or as in the 1960’s (I just remember the ads on the back pages of imported US magazines) how to develop a phrase/”line” guaranteed to pick up women.

    Other studies looking at life time figures suggest that the most promiscuous few percent of men get up to 250 partners.  The top women get about 650 (access sex is much easier for women).  These figures were supposed to exclude commercial prostitution.  Divorce post 30 pushes the base line up. with respect to teh median number of partners as well as the mean.

    Real Alphas, as in the sense of social leaders, may well be monogamous (Hitler and Stalin were not known to be sexually active.  Mao and Lenin on the other hand … ).  Most CEO’s are probably too damn busy.

    However, the ratio of human testes weight to body weight suggests that men are designed to have 1.6 female partners.  DNA studies suggest that 80% of women who have ever lived reproduced but only 40% of men.  Divorce behaviour suggests that women leave and unsatisfactory man whereas men, unprovoked by legal obligations will add another woman to his relationship.  Male infidelity often is not seen as threatening as female infidelity.  So some men do better than others even if we are not talking about 250 lifetime partners.  Or perhaps some men do worse?  Women will simply not tolerate below average?

    So where does this leave the 35 plus woman who seems to be Evan’s client?  Well, which group do you think the never married men might belong to?  A divorced man who met his ex wife before he was 25 might be a better target, even if he is paying child support if you really want a good relationship.  Obviously he was under performing in some respect hence the divorce but what is the pont of a successful career if it isn’t to support your relationships.

    Sorry Evan.  I have rambled on rather a lot. 

  16. 16
    Antonia

    So, I gather that an alpha female is not the right match for the alpha male?

  17. 17
    Margo

    The most recent alph male I had the misfortune of coming across was one of the most selfish men I had ever met. His fiance of 10 years left him because he took an unecessary overseas job assignment that took him away from her for over two years! Shortly after we started talking, he went on another overseas assignment. This one was 9 months. THEN he dropped the bomb on me that he was applying for another overseas job that would require him to be out of the states 70% of the time! What an asshole he was/is.

  18. 18
    Soul Sister

    I think we need to be careful of defining all alpha males (and females) as narcissists as it is simply not true.  While the propensity for an alpha person to be a narcissist may be higher, they are not necessarily tied together. The most alpha man I know, multi-millionaire, hugely successful both financially and in life, is very far from a narcissist.  He does have a huge degree of confidence but he is always kind to everyone…his wife, his children, the waiter. Yes, he works a lot, but he also plays a lot with those he loves.  A true alpha person is so centered and self confident, they do not need to project control, unkindness, or any other negative traits on others because they can just BE.  The alpha dog in the pack will fight if he has to, but typically he just IS, so one look or his mere presence is enough to maintain dominance.  He doesn’t walk around biting other dogs just for the fun of it.  That would be the alpha wanna-be!  I think where alphas get their bad name are people who want to be alpha, or think they are, but are really just insecure and dysfunctional.  Therefore they display this dominance as sort of a cover, not a true hierarchy in the group.  My experience with bad alphas was that they were more assholes pretending to be alphas.  Inside they were just dysfunctional, childish, self centered human beings and I feel sorry for them. 

    I am an alpha female, people rely on me, I am in a high paced demanding career, and I can project dominance when I need to.  But I am also a very kind person (after lots of therapy reduced the dysfunction and insecurity!) and my alpha-ness allows me to just be who I am. 

    So a narcissist will probably be an alpha (or pretend to be one) but an alpha may not be a narcissist.  And an asshole is just an asshole, no matter what you call him/her!   

    And two alphas can have a relationship, but they must be highly functional people with the maturity to temper their excessive traits, both the good and the bad ones.  I highly prefer the alpha man, but assholes and narcissists need not apply……

  19. 19
    Heather

    @Jennifer #10

    Totally agreed.  My ex boyfriend was chronically underemployed but he was very much an alpha male, he had to be in control of conversations, had to make sure I did what he said and follow his lead, and had to deal with his tantrums and problems.  Heaven forbid I call him on his bullshit.

    Anymore now, I won’t date most alpha male types.  To me it equals domineering attitudes and viewpoints, loud, arrogant stances, and the like. Not to mention being put in last place in order to pursue other things, not just a career.

    I’m retraining myself to take a good look at the guys who are not so alpha male, and what I am finding is that I am having a much better dating experience.  I’m not being bossed around, yelled at, or put in last place.  I’m usually treated like a lady and am being treated with respect.

    So to all of you “not alpha males” out there, NO, you will NOT finish in last place!!!  I’m just sayin. 

  20. 20
    Jennifer

    @Margo #18
    Was this guy a selfish asshole because of his desire to work overseas, his failure to tell you about it in a timely fashion, or for other reasons?

    The working overseas and having a ‘fiance’ for 10 years (I mean, really?) thing just sounds like a guy who is not good at/doesn’t want relationships, but that doesn’t automatically make him an asshole in my book.

  21. 21
    Joe

    @ Sharon #13:

    Unfortunately, you can’t paint everyone in those professions with such a broad brush.  Think about it: if everyone in those professions was an alpha, nobody would get anything done.

    Your army can’t be full of leaders; you need to have followers too.

  22. 22
    Sharon

    @ Joe I didn’t say they all were. I said proceed with caution. 

  23. 23
    Margo

    @Jennifer-21, She wasn’t his fiance for 10 years. They were in a 10-year serious live-in relationship for 10 years. She had recently agreed to become his fiance. He said that’s what he wanted. Then against her wishes, he left her for 2 years while he went overseas. That doesn’t make him a jerk to you??

  24. 24
    Ruby

    I’m beginning to feel that this “alpha” term is starting to lose all meaning. I used to think it meant a high-rolling executive/CEO-type pulling down mega-bucks (a tiny minority of the men out there, I might add), now we’re being told that it includes even ambitious starving artists?

    I work in one of the professions that Sharon mentioned (#13), and the men I’ve known there are, on the whole, so far from being Alpha types that I had to laugh at its inclusion in her list. And construction workers? Really?

    There are narcissists in any profession. Are “alpha males” just self-absorbed workaholics? While we might find confidence and drive attractive, what’s so desirable about the extreme version of that? 

  25. 25
    Sharon

    To me alpha is more about a macho attitude than bank account. That typical sexist might is right sort of swagger. 

  26. 26
    Ruby

    Sharon #26

    Sounds like you are talking about “bad boys.” 

    I do think most of us are a mix of alpha and beta traits. 

  27. 27
    Sharon

    Not exactly. I’m thinking more of that John Wayne Clint Eastwood sort of alpha. 

  28. 28
    lawyerette

    For everyone asking if it matters if he “wants” to be a good father and husband – yes, absolutely! You are are confusing the “necessary” and the “sufficient”. Wanting to be a good husband and father is NECESSARY to a man actually being so. That’s different from it being SUFFICIENT to be so. Wanting isn’t enough. But if a guy doesn’t even WANT to be a good husband and dad, then there’s NO way he will be.

  29. 29
    Katarina Phang

    Alpha to me is about degree of masculinity or manliness.  Striving artists can be alpha if he matches all the things that show that he’s driven to achieve his goals and are not what beta guys are all about (being okay in a passenger seat while their women take the driver seat).

  30. 30
    Trouble

    My ex-husband, in every capacity would probably be classified as a beta, and yet he was a chronic cheater.  On the flip side, I’ve spent my entire career in a male-dominated field with “testosterone overload” (law enforcement), and some of the gentlest, kindest people I’ve ever known are cops (the guys from my unit visited me daily in the hospital maternity ward when I had medical issues during a pregnancy, for instance).  I’m marrying a military guy.  While he is definitely aggressive about work, he knows how to put the job aside and come home.  I don’t think we can generalize so widely about people’s propensity for infidelity.  I have noticed with the men that I’ve known who are cheaters (and I’ve known a few, both personally and prfessionally) that these are mostly men who are deeply insecure and need some sort of approbation to pump them up.   If you look at someone like Gene Simmons, a chronic philanderer who slept with hundreds or thousands of women, he had major abandonment issues with his father.  I think cheating is more complex than the “i am alpha, give me pussy” paradigm. 

    The average alpha male doesn’t appear to have the deep seated insecurity issues that many chronic cheaters seem to have.

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