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
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.