A few years ago a male friend said that his ideal partner was a clever and successful career women who would choose to give it all up for him to stay home to be his wife and raise the kids.
He ended up marrying a doctor who has done just that.
My friend and his wife are not unusual. Researchers from The University of Chicago Booth School of Business have found that women who have the potential to earn more than their husbands are more likely to stay home and not work at all.
When married women do earn more than their husbands, they are more likely to be unhappy in their marriage and do more domestic work, presumably as penance for shattering the male breadwinner stereotype.
It’s possible that my friend’s wife was happy to give up her career, income independence, and social status to stay at home. If that’s the case, then more power to her.
But if she doesn’t consider her ten years of medical training and experience to be little more than a time-filler until Mr Right came along, then perhaps she should have married a different sort of man.
In her new book, The Alpha Woman Meets her Match, relationship counselor Sonya Rhodes says that high performing women need to rethink the idea that Alpha women should hook up with Alpha men.
The new ‘catch’ for strong women is the Beta male.
By Beta male, she’s not talking about man-sized boys who don’t want to leave home because they’d have to do their own laundry or pay their own rent.
‘The Beta man is dependable, responsible and supportive… His ego doesn’t depend on scoring macho points,’ Rhodes says.
‘Clinical experience has shown me that [the Alpha male with Alpha female] partnership is at the greatest risk of divorce, because two Alphas will tend to compete for power and dominance.’
If the Alpha couple stay together and battle it out for control, it’s not hard to guess who is most likely to come out on top.
As any woman who has deliberately dumbed herself down on a date has long suspected: some men are threatened by accomplished women. And now there’s research to prove it.
A study published this month in The Journal of Family Issues which comprised 100 Israeli couples, revealed that the higher a husband regarded his wife’s strengths and abilities, the more likely he was to be unhappy in his marriage. This was not the case when the situation was reversed.
The good news for Alpha women, according to Rhodes is that this is not a problem with men in general. It’s a problem with the type of men that successful women tend to choose.
We’ve rejected the out-dated gender roles for ourselves — wanting something different from the deferential stay-at-home wife and mother — but we still buy the mythology that the Alpha male is the most desirable kind of male. And this can lead to making unhealthy romantic choices.
‘With men, we tend to categorize Alphas as sexy and Betas as weak. Forget that!’, writes Rhodes.
‘[The Beta Male] is the man many contemporary women have been waiting for, but he is not adequately appreciated in a culture where the Alpha male has reigned supreme.’
Rhodes is not suggesting that Alpha males are bad. And she’s not advocating settling for Mr Good Enough.
It’s all about finding the right fit.
For women who prefer to take a more passive role in relationships, the Alpha male may well be the best choice.
But if you’re an Alpha woman looking for a partner, it might be time to seek out somebody who is prepared to support your career and your independence rather than feel threatened by it.