My friend recently shared an article about a woman who claims to have the answer to a successful marriage: A wife must let her husband be the alpha, and she must be the beta. It’s called “Society is Creating a New Crop of Alpha Women Who are Unable to Love.”
Let it be said that my friend who shared this was not sharing in agreement, rather in a why-does-this-article-even-exist way.
You know, I think I have an idea why this article exists. Perhaps I’m being a little too generous in interpreting the author’s intentions, but in the spirit of giving the benefit of the doubt– maybe she was simply trying to verbalize the notion of “compromise,” and just managed to do so in a way that completely devalues the strength of women. Or perhaps she comes from a Christian perspective, and has taken some scriptures out of context, as is the habit of so many people– myself included at times, I’m sure, since I do not have a doctorate in scriptural theology. Thus, I can’t possibly understand half the implications or contexts of most passages in the Bible. Still, as a married Christian woman who has never been described as “beta” in my entire life, I have a few things I’d like to say about this article.
Literally the only experience I have being beta is when I tried to predict the behavior of my bet(t)a fish during my senior year psychology lab in college. In that moment, I really tried to get in the bet(t)a mindset in hopes of getting an A. Though I don’t think this is what the author is talking about, so we’ll move on. (RIP Dorian)I’m not entirely sure where to begin when it comes to responding to this article. Perhaps it’s best to begin where the author, too, began, which is to reflect on the life of her “alpha” mother. First, shall we point out the irony that her parents were obviously married for 50+ years given that they died in old age, yet she’s critiquing her mother’s wifely behavior? Yeah, I’m sure in 50 years your mom made some mistakes or even developed some bad habits, but given that they loved each other until their dying breath, perhaps that’s a sign that she did something right…? Idk. Just food for thought.
Let’s also quickly touch on this concept of “mastering wifedom.” By using that phrase, you’re already shooting yourself in the foot, because *breaking news*– every marriage is unique. Given the nature of individuality, what a wife (or husband) needs to bring to the table is completely different depending on who they are, who they’re married to, the foundation they’ve laid with their spouse, and about 1.7 billion other factors. “Mastering” it is like saying we should all master Simone Biles’ floor routine, even though Jane is in a wheelchair and Becky is a heavyweight power lifter.
Let’s look at this from a scriptural perspective for a second, which is how a large chunk of America tries to categorize wives and husbands into one clean happy little box, despite our obvious differences that would never in a million years lend themselves to a box, or even an octagonal prism.
“Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife.” — Proverbs 21:9
This proverb was written by King Solomon. Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines, all living under the same roof. If anyone has ever watched The Bachelor (or read my recaps), you can understand why some of these ladies might’ve been a bit quarrelsome. This scripture isn’t saying that all marital quarrels are the fault of the woman, nor does it mean that you shouldn’t live with someone who is quarrelsome. No, the wisdom in this scripture falls somewhere between “Being quarrelsome is exhausting, so don’t pick stupid arguments” and “You’re probably better off not having 700 wives.”
“Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. — Ephesians 5:24-28
Here’s the dealio– this scripture is basically saying to have mutual love and respect, and the rest will fall into place. If a husband is truly loving toward his wife (i.e. thinks she is the most wonderful being in the world, holds her opinions with high regard, and shows her unconditional devotion), wives should have a pretty easy time trusting their husband’s decisions because those decisions won’t be based on his own selfish desires. If he loves you, he’ll also respect you, thus he won’t want to make a decision without your input. It’s not saying that a woman doesn’t get any say, and it’s certainly not a game of “who’s in charge.” Rather, this scripture speaks to the needs of both parties.
You see, men are called to love women in the same way they love themselves. So if they think they’re intelligent and have the best ideas, then they should equally respect the intelligence and ideas of their spouse. In the end, even those hard decisions that require compromise (sure, sometimes you won’t entirely agree) are made together, because both parties value the other.
To drive this home, the scripture says Christ “gave himself up” for the church, in the same way husbands must do for their wives. Sounds like that whole submission thing is a two way street, yah? Submission gets a bad rap, but what it really means is to trust and support your spouse, which I think we can all agree are important ingredients in a happy marriage, and the responsibility of both parties involved.
Last point, this here scripture says it’s HIS job to present HER as holy and blameless. As in, bro, it’s in your court to help guide your wife’s behavior in a way that is fitting of Christ. As in, don’t make her go nutso by treating her in any way that’s less than 100% loving. Don’t ghost her. Don’t talk down to her. Don’t ignore her needs. Not saying that women aren’t responsible for their own actions and reactions, but the author in the other article said that men basically react to a woman’s behavior, so it’s up to women to not agitate men. Nah, nah, sister. Other way around.
Now, off the scriptural train, let’s talk a bit about this “alpha” issue. Alpha refers to the one in charge. Think Mufasa, or Akela the wolf from Jungle Book. Better yet, think Sarabi after Mufasa died.
Omg love her so much.
K, so anyway, “alpha” is a word that should never, ever again be associated with marriage. Let’s save it for the Animal Kingdom and maybe the standout in boy/girl bands, like how we might’ve described Justin Timberlake or Beyonce during the years of N*SYNC and Destiny’s Child.
No one is in charge in a marriage. LET ME REPEAT. NO ONE IS IN CHARGE IN A MARRIAGE.
Yes, sometimes someone in a marriage might have a “stronger” personality. I think it’s fairly safe to say that in mine, I am, uh, what shall we call it…more aggressive. By nature, I am more vocal about things like how many bananas we should buy at one time and that I absolutely refuse to stay out at a bar once I hit my wall. While I’m busy swimming upstream, my husband goes with the flow. Nay, he IS the flow. He just goes with whatever and once he sees me swimming in the wrong direction, he usually calmly switches the direction of the entire river.
But here’s the deal. My husband and I always compliment each other for our differences, while continuing to work on parts of our personalities that need to tighten up. He tells me he loves being with a sassy woman, because it means I’m passionate and strong. I tell him I love being with an energizer bunny who has hoarding tendencies and no clue how to predict how long something will take, because it means that he loves the world and everything in it so much that he gets carried away, which is a beautiful thing. A worry wart/control freak like myself has a lot to learn from him.
This doesn’t mean that we both act a fool, though, and expect the other person to deal with it. Absolutely not. I work on myself to be less demanding and needy, not because I’m a woman, but because demanding and needy people are jerks. And I don’t want to be a jerk– especially to my husband, because he treats me like a queen. It’s actually a fantastic cycle. He is thoughtful and loving and bakes me a homemade lava cake just because, so I want to return that sort of love by not making his life a living hell due to my aggressive moods. And since he sees me swallow my sassiness at times or try to put on a chill face when we’re out with his friends later than I wanted to be, he in turn tries not to do things that bother me, like forgetting to text me that he’s alive once he gets to work in the morning, or buying too much fruit so that it goes bad in the basket before we have the chance to eat it all. #ihaveissuesihaveissuesihaveissues
We also really trust each other. I know that when he makes a decision, he has thought about me while making it. And vice versa. Most of the time, we talk before any decisions are made. He respects my practicality, so he asks for my input, and I respect his ability to see the bigger picture, so I ask for his input. Without him, I’d overanalyze every tiny decision and rarely get to enjoy life (that was truly sometimes a hindrance during my single years), and without me, he’d have a hard time prioritizing responsibilities. Knowing that the other person really takes us into consideration makes the whole “submitting/beta/not always in control” thing a heck of a lot easier. Also, we need to find a better word for that. Stat.
It’s really all a balance of appreciating your spouse’s natural personality, while also working on yourself to become a better person. I don’t think it’s admirable to just behave whatever which way you feel like, even if it means lashing out or being rude, and call it “just being yourself.” No, we should all strive to control ourselves in a way that is the most loving and kind. When it comes to this concept in marriage, the key is that BOTH people constantly strive for this self-improvement. Not only for the sake of their spouse, whose love should serve as motivation, but for the sake of the energy they bring into the world and, for Christians, the humility they bear under Christ.
This idea that one person in a relationship should be alpha over another has got to stop. Be it the perspective of this woman who feels the man should be alpha, or the perspective of others that a woman should be alpha if she wants to be. No, how about no one be alpha? How about two people love each other and value each other’s strengths? How about husbands and wives focus on the needs of their spouse, creating a positive cycle of love and gratitude, instead of perpetuating the “me me me” world we live in? Has no one noticed that this concept of “focusing on me and my needs” has only created disunity in modern relationships, leaving absolutely nobody happy?
I’ll tell you this: I pretty much never have to worry about my needs, because my husband has already worried about them for me, and fulfilled them (or encouraged me to fulfill them on my own) before they become needs in the first place. And I like to think it’s the same for him. When unfulfilled needs do arise, we express them to one another, and go from there. My needs are not more important than his, and his are not more important than mine. There is no alpha. There is no beta. There are just two people who love each other, both doing their best to put that love into action.
Despite what that other author says, I think I love my husband pretty well, even though I have the more aggressive personality. I’m not Jesus or anything, but I think most wouldn’t refute my claim that I love my husband. My ability to love is not hindered by having the more Type A personality. He loves and learns from me as much as I love and learn from him– in entirely different ways. Which is the beauty of a healthy union.
My feminine nature isn’t about “meshing” with my husband’s needs. Is compromise and respect important? Yes. But it’s not a trait that is strictly feminine, because my husband has to “mesh” with my needs, too. That doesn’t mean he has a feminine nature. It means he and I both do our best to show eachother love, even when it’s not easy or we don’t always “get what we want.” Because what we want the most is to love each other well. Femininity and compromise don’t go hand in hand. Love and compromise go hand in hand.
I am feminine because I am of the female gender. But the definition of femininity is a different debate for a different post. Which leads me to point out that this post is obviously about the dynamics of heterosexual relationships, but I think it’s safe to say that these principles easily apply to anyone in any relationship.
Anyway, I’ll just end by saying that I hope those who are in a marriage or those who want to be in a marriage realize that it’s not about power, specific roles, or behaving however you want and the other person should love you anyway. It’s none of that. Marriage is about love, which breeds respect, which breeds equality, which breeds compromise, which breeds gratitude, which breeds love.
And with that, anyone want to come over and watch The Lion King with me? Because I’m strongly in the mood after writing this.