THE BLOG
04/15/2014 12:21 pm ET | Updated Jun 15, 2014

Loving Your Alpha

Sam Edwards via Getty Images

The Alpha Woman Meets Her Match: How Strong Women Can Find Love and Happiness Without Settling, by Sonya Rhodes, PhD. and Susan Schneider, is on sale today.

When I first began writing about the Alpha woman and her Beta partner, I found out that people had strong reactions -- both positive and negative -- not only to the terms, but also to the ideas. It was surprising to discover that Alpha women are still stereotyped as ball-busters and b*tches, while Beta men are considered weaklings.

I do not think we should dumb down women's power and status by avoiding her inner Alpha. Nor do I think we should continue to consider the Beta male as a second-best option for marriage. To the contrary! Strong women need spouses who have the desire and the capacity to build an equal partnership.

Here, a sample of some of the questions I've been asked about relationships and gender roles.

Q: You talk about Alpha and Beta personality types in your discussion of gender roles. But isn't it simplistic to label people?

A: I am totally against stereotyping or pigeonholing. Human beings are far more complex; every one of us is an amalgam of personality traits, and no one is one-dimensional. The Alpha/Beta spectrum in Chapter Two of The Alpha Woman Meets Her Match is designed to show how we are all a combination of many kinds of characteristics, with many of us leaning more in one direction than the other. Today, as women gain ground economically and politically, they are showing Alpha behavior that used to be considered "male." The Alpha/Beta spectrum challenges traditional concepts of feminine and masculine behavior as outdated and irrelevant.

Q: Is it "better" to be Alpha than Beta, or vice-versa?

A: Both have major positive qualities, although extremes in either direction are problematic. Each personality type has different strengths and weaknesses. Alpha women may be overly-controlling while Betas may be too passive. Our culture is at a point in which Alpha traits in women are more "permissible" -- whether those women are climbing the career ladder or running the local soup kitchen. Alpha traits, like self-confidence and the willingness to take on challenges, also help women deal with difficult life events.

Q: Can you change your ratio of Alpha to Beta?

A: Absolutely -- personality is not static. A parent dies, and you become more self-reliant. A marriage dissolves, and you take on responsibilities you never thought you could. The list goes on: a job challenge, parenthood, illness -- all of these life events may bring out dormant or less developed personality characteristics. You can grow to meet new challenges.

Q: Are Alpha women always career women?

A: No. You might be the head of the PTA, a genius at connecting people and forging new social or political relationships or the organizer of a neighborhood group for new moms -- there are a million occasions in which your Alpha may be activated! Alpha woman can be leaders at home and in the community, as well as in the office.

Q: Alpha women go after what they want, right? That makes me think they're selfish and self-centered.

A: Again, let's define the terms. "Self-centered" and "selfish" have pejorative meanings, so the wording of the question suggests that being self-focused is a bad quality. Because women are encouraged to think relationally, being selfish has negative connotations for them. But thinking about yourself and your goals and putting yourself first are important ways to take care of yourself. It's healthy to make decisions that are in your own best interest. Realistically, this may at times come at the expense of someone else. There is nothing wrong with this unless you are generally impervious to other people's needs.

Q: Are Alphas narcissists?

A: No, the Alpha personality is not equivalent to the narcissistic personality. In the vernacular, the word narcissist is commonly used to describe a very self-involved person. Clinically, it's a personality disorder in which an individual is incapable of empathy or even of seeing another point of view. The narcissist is grandiose and filled with bravado, while at her core she lacks self-confidence. A healthy Alpha is genuinely self-confident and does not need to project an inflated sense of self to the world.

Q: Are today's Alpha women comfortable with their competitive spirit?

A: Often, they're conflicted. Women are socialized not to be competitive. In the old stereotype, women were called catty, manipulative and undermining of one another. In truth, that kind of behavior was indirect competitiveness. There is nothing wrong with direct, open competition, and I think women will grow into it.

Q: How do Alpha women differ from Alpha men?

A: In general, women are socialized to be relationship oriented, so Alpha women tend to be more collaborative than Alpha men might be. Alpha males tend to be more hierarchical, less consensual and may create an openly competitive atmosphere. Alpha women and men may have different leadership styles, but as women are adapting to the competitive "male" work culture, men are adapting to the "feminine" managerial style.

Q: I like your idea about Beta men. But I'm sexually attracted to Alphas. Are you saying I have to give up the idea of an exciting sex life if I want a good guy?

A: Alpha guys can be very sexy! But so can Betas -- and they make better lovers over the long haul and better partners, too. Isn't that ultimately what you want? Of course, you deserve to have great sex, but let's be real. Within a loving relationship with a man you trust and depend upon, you can introduce variety and adventure. You are capable of making that happen.

Q: Are Alpha women grown-up "mean girls"?

A: Mean girls hide their own insecurity by picking on other girls. The clinical term -- relational aggression -- describes a form of bullying that is designed to make the bully feel powerful and the bullied to feel powerless. A self-confident girl is not a bully, nor are mean girls blossoming Alphas -- quite the opposite. The self-confident girl has the inner strength to rise above the kind of behavior that hurts others.

Q: If Alpha women are so straightforward and focused, why do they end up in bad relationships?

A: Alpha women face several stumbling blocks in relationships. Some may think that the perfect match-up is the Alpha male. They couldn't be more mistaken! Since Alpha men have to be top dog, the relationship usually ends up in a huge power struggle. A super-competent, problem-solving Alpha woman may choose an Omega male who needs a strong woman to organize his life and make all the decisions. This is a big mistake: Caretaking a loser will bring you down. Don't go there!

Q: Aren't Alpha women strident feminists?

A: Now that's a blast from the past! And to this day, it's a loaded term that raises everyone's hackles. What is wrong with being strong about women's rights and equality?

Q: If a woman makes more money than her husband, his pride may be hurt by this reversal of roles. How are you supposed to handle this?

A: Beware of your tendency to do more childcare and housework to "make up for" taking the "male" role as the major breadwinner. Talk to your husband about how you can share responsibility and divide the chores. His sweat equity as an active participant in the household should strengthen his role and boost his self-esteem. Remember: Being successful is nothing to apologize for. Take pride in your contribution to the family's solidity and financial well-being.

Q: Should Alpha women "tone down" their Alpha?

A: Some Alpha women need to step back and observe themselves. On the one hand, there is nothing appealing -- in male or female behavior -- about being dogmatic and controlling. On the other hand, you never hear of domineering men being called bossy. Being a bossy chick is not a glaring flaw -- within limits. You might even say that bossy is back!

Excerpted from The Alpha Woman Meets Her Match: How Strong Women Can Find Love and Happiness Without Settling.