The Alpha Debate
Updated: Apr 29
I can’t speak for all women, but I know a thing or two through conversations with the women I have met about qualities they appreciate in a man. One of which is this debate on alpha males and what that actually is. I spent almost two decades with a toxic seemingly alpha male who controlled and manipulated me and my environment, but that doesn’t mean that being an alpha male is always a bad thing.
Just like being feminine, being an alpha male is nuanced and maybe simplified with that one term alone. Depending on how it is defined and communicated a woman wants a man who takes control but isn’t controlling, who needs us but isn’t needy, and who has sensitivity but isn’t driven by emotions alone. I say all this with the full knowledge that I do not speak for all women, and I don’t actually know what men think. What I do have is experience with people and an awareness of how they engage with one another and what motivates or shuts someone down. With that, I am taking a stab at breaking down the complexities of being a strong man yet still soft enough that a woman can trust and feel safe with you. In the end, it all comes down to both people trusting someone else with their hearts.
Control can be suffocating or liberating depending on how it comes through. Controlling someone takes away their autonomy, but taking control is the initiative to lead. For a woman that may feel like a man who you can trust enough to lean into knowing that he has the knowledge and integrity to make good decisions and consider your needs in them. The man shows respect and in turn, is given intentional deference. The woman is capable but willingly gives up her control because she trusts the intentions and heart of the man. He can then feel he is valued for his ability to provide and take care of a woman and she can let go and allow someone else to take the reigns. It’s the start of exhaling.
For strong and independent women, this is huge. It requires a lot of trust to clear the space for someone else to lead them. When you know the other person respects your capability and awareness you can trust that they will make decisions with integrity while still recognizing you are an integral part of them. My father used to say, “The man may be the head of the family, but the woman is the neck. She guides the head in the direction it should go.” When it comes down to it, it’s a partnership based on the respect of one another’s roles needed in a powerful and successful dynamic. Everyone can’t always be leading. Leading is guiding, not giving directives that are set in stone based on only one person’s desires or needs. The key is to validate your partner's needs while also knowing that they have mutual respect for yours. I equate this to an embrace that you can completely melt into. As strong as we may seem, having a rock to lean on and take the load off being super all the time is what we want.
Women are maternal and natural caregivers to the people around them. If we become mothers it takes very little training or learning to innately have the skills to put our children ahead of every decision we make. For some women, this extends to relationships with men. I always took care of my ex’s needs from the small gestures of remembering when his favorite college team was playing a game to supporting his life goals by recognizing his strengths in his career. I met his needs for acknowledgment and validated his dreams.
Just as men want to feel needed, some women expect the same. There is a difference between being needy and reliant on someone and making it clear that they play a vital role in your life. Any relationship you enter should be to incorporate yourself into someone else’s world with purpose. If she is only a showpiece on your arm or present but not acknowledged, then she isn’t adding to your life. If that is the dynamic I am in, I don’t feel I have a purpose in the space I have entered. Regardless of being a man or woman, without purpose and feeling needed we are easily at risk of being taken for granted, dismissed, or replaced. When you are needed by someone, you can trust your position in their lives. That reinforces the foundation of a partnership. Everyone should reflect on what someone is going to add to their lives. Making a woman feel she has a place and role in her life is an alpha move because it takes a strong man to admit that he can’t go it alone and needs a ride or die by his side. If it’s the right fit and person, life feels better with a partner in your corner.
Everyone experiences emotions, it’s what we do with those feelings and how open we are to show them that opens the space for people to enter into our lives. Vulnerability is the active presence and acknowledgment of those emotions. I feel things and they are real and valid. It has been seen as a bad word, especially for men. It’s associated with weakness and exposing a raw part of ourselves. But vulnerability is powerful. When it’s shared with the right person, it can bridge communication and create trust and safety between people. This happens within all relationships, but the cost of this in romantic relationships often seems the highest and the hardest to break through. Showing and recognizing emotions is being vulnerable. In that same respect, seeing and validating a woman’s emotions is also being vulnerable and open. For many women, it’s the sensitivity we want to see in a man that allows us to let our guard down and accept and lean into trusting him and his lead with ease. Be sensitive to what she says and feels and she will know she is seen and heard. These are human needs, not just what women crave. We all want to be visible and valued by the people we care for.
The final piece of the alpha puzzle is passion. Be passionate about life, dreams, building, growing, and above all . . . be passionate about your woman! That means taking the lead at the moment to make a woman feel seen and desired in every way possible. That could be from hearing her words and responding to them to grabbing her with a deep kiss at that moment. Women feel a man’s passion by the way he engages with her physically, mentally, and emotionally. That characteristic is already seen as being alpha male but has to come in conjunction with everything else I have mentioned. If I trust you and feel safe, chances are I will fall into that embrace because it’s meaningful and authentic. It all still comes down to trusting someone with your heart and knowing they won’t intentionally harm this precious part of you. That doesn’t mean mistakes won’t happen, it just allows a solid enough foundation that mistakes might shake things a bit, but they are less likely to break the bond and partnership you have.
The alpha and beta debate is based on binary characteristics of all or nothing. But people are so much more complex and layered than that simplistic view. We experience loss, pain, and love in different ways, and each one leaves a mark in our soul making us who we are. There is no one way to be and each of us approaches it differently, but what is true across the board is that those experiences have an impact on how we navigate the world and the relationship dynamics we enter.
Whether we are at the beginning of or doing the work to sustain an existing relationship, awareness of ourselves and others is key to the foundation of it all. Knowing ourselves, what we want and how that can be fulfilled requires some guidance from each other. We need to move towards the people we bring into our lives in order to foster those relationships and fill the gaps. Love shouldn’t be hard, but being with someone requires hard work and effort. This is how we allow ourselves to grow as individuals and with one another in partnerships.