Holding out for an alpha like dad.

30 Nov

It is often said that girls marry men like their fathers.  I think this is due partly to familiarity; dads are the primary source of a girl’s understanding of what a man is, so it makes sense that in seeking a man for herself, she will seek one like her father.  (Likewise, men often marry women like their mothers.  One of my brother’s friends is living proof of this.  His mother is a domineering battle axe.  Guess what kind of woman the friend married and is apparently quite happy with?)

So what happens when a girl’s dad is an alpha male?  Doesn’t that make it ten times as hard for her to settle down with a beta?  If she’s used to a man who makes decisions and doesn’t back down, who lovingly teases her and her mom, and is clearly in charge of the family, why would she ever want to settle down with a man who is too petrified to ask her on a date, who dithers over decision-making, who defers to her every whim and strives to make her happy at all times, and who apologizes for himself all the time?  Even if she did fall for a soft, sweet beta, the bloom would probably not be on the rose for too long, and she would soon be gritting her teeth as she clung to the remains of her attraction.

I think that another reason the daughters of alphas want alphas themselves is that she wants her husband to be able to hold his own with her dad.  What kind of woman can admire and love a man who shrinks in the presence of another?  Especially when the man is the girl’s father – if he can’t command her dad’s respect, how can he have her respect?  If the point of marriage is that a man and woman marry and form their own family unit, then having a dad who is still the top alpha in the woman’s life doesn’t bode well for the success of the marriage because the new husband and wife aren’t really their own independent family unit.  The woman will end up deferring to her father, not her husband, because her dad is the one with the true authority.  (See:  Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey’s ill-fated marriage.  Nick couldn’t overcome father-in-law Joe’s overwhelming presence and influence over Jessica.)  The issue just gets compounded when alpha brothers factor into the scenario.  If a girl grows up surrounded by an alpha dad and alpha brothers, who know how to handle her, her mother, and other women, she’s going to even more expect her future husband to be at or at least near their level.

Personal alpha dad anecdote from this weekend:  my dad was going to bed and gave my mom a peck goodnight on the lips.

MOM:  Excuse me?  That’s it?

DAD:  That’s all you deserve!

And he didn’t give her a better kiss and sauntered off to bed with an SEG on his face.  (Note:  some nights when she says this, he does give her a better kiss.  Gotta keep the wife on her toes. :))

P.S.  I saw both Harry Potter and the Never-Ending Camping Trip Deathly Hallows Part 1 and Tangled over the weekend.  If any readers are interested in a discussion post (or posts), let me know.  Tangled in particular has some interesting gender dynamics discussionables.

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29 Responses to “Holding out for an alpha like dad.”

  1. Badger Nation December 1, 2010 at 9:07 am #

    This post makes a lot of sense to me. I’ve always felt I must be able to hold my own with my future Mrs’ father. This is related to the Freudian ideas that husbands must break primal ties with their mothers and wives with their fathers so as to give their spouses the proper deference and attention.

    The one thing about this post that doesn’t match up – if more and more husbands of the last generation are betas who didn’t teach their sons about women, why are more and more women demanding alphas? I’m guessing there are multiple causes – many women have been spoiled by the culture into unrealistic expectations, while some others expect an alpha because that’s how Daddy was.

  2. Josh December 1, 2010 at 10:05 am #

    This sounds true (and auto-biographical, perhaps?).

    In more traditional contexts, this husband/father conflict would never happen, as it is clearly understood that the authority and protection of the woman has passed from the father to the husband.

    We still see echoes of this. The woman changes her family name from that of her father to that of her husband. During the wedding ceremony, she is given by the father into the hands of the husband.

    But as with all things, times have changed, the barbarians have stormed the gates, and we all must deal with the consequences.

  3. y81 December 1, 2010 at 10:28 am #

    One factor that our hostess often overlooks is that marriage changes men, generally in what she would call an “alpha” direction. On this topic, the best source I can think of is the P.G. Wodehouse short story “Lord Emsworth and the Girlfriend” (though it does not involve actual marriage or even an actual girlfriend).

  4. Tony Ryan December 1, 2010 at 10:58 am #

    I think many guys are alpha in the beginning stages of a relationship (especially when the two are simply casually dating). Then what often happens is the guys gets scared that the woman will leave and starts acting like a wimp.

    That’s why it’s important for guys to maintain their alpha-like behaviors of confidence, decisiveness, dominance when they get into a long term relationship.

    In the same way men become less attracted to a woman if she starts gaining weight, women become less attracted when they stop acting like men…

    Great article

  5. Julie December 1, 2010 at 11:03 am #

    Yes, I think this post is very true. My Dad is an alpha. I think my brother is too–or at least an extremely good-looking greater beta. Lookswise, in my prime, I probably would have been rated a 7, or a 6, depending. I’m likely the kind of woman for whom it is harder to “settle.” Friends who were better-looking than I was frequently dated men who didn’t attract me at all–like all women, sometimes they struggled with wanting men who were better leaders or more confident, but they seemed to find it easier to be attracted to a wider range of men.

    So, I had a lot of heartache–I did date alphas, and didn’t do one-night stands, however, these men inevitably broke up with me. It wasn’t until I stated dating greater beta, for whom I genuinely did feel ambivalence at first, that I was able to “hold” a good man.

  6. y81 December 1, 2010 at 11:29 am #

    Well, Julie, you can’t get alterations on a dress you haven’t bought.

  7. Julie December 1, 2010 at 12:03 pm #

    I’m sure that’s true, but what exactly do you mean in this case?

  8. y81 December 1, 2010 at 1:17 pm #

    Turn this beta into an alpha. Men are pretty simple, like horses: if you reward the behavior you want, and punish the behavior you don’t want, the behavior will change.

  9. Julie December 1, 2010 at 1:47 pm #

    Ah yes, well, I have already seen changes to that effect! However, I’m never worried he will be unfaithful to me, and I don’t want that to change!

    In my opinion, more women should give betas a chance-they will often find a strength that goes much deeper than the flashier charisma of the guys who first catch their eye.

  10. y81 December 1, 2010 at 2:19 pm #

    O, well, maybe Julie has a good man. As I have made clear, I don’t view the psychological manipulativeness, focus on sexual activity and extreme misogyny of the Roissy ethos as particularly manly.

  11. Julie December 1, 2010 at 3:10 pm #

    Yes, my husband is a good man. Just much less flirtatious and much more empathic than your average alpha male. I guess he doesn’t have the kind of “game” that would make a woman swoon at first meeting. However, he does have the kind of strength to make me feel honored to spend my life with him. I have definitely “fallen” for him! I’d rather have a relationship start with an ember and fan into flame, then one start with fireworks and then fizzle out.

  12. knepper December 1, 2010 at 4:26 pm #

    Very good post. Helps me appreciate some of the alpha-like qualities I must cultivate ‘next time.’ I thought once that my wife appreciated me for inner qualities like Julie appreciates her husband, but I found out later that she came to despise me for not being controlling enough to out-manipulate her. I now believe that the disrespect started when she found my diary and read it. I guess to her a real man would have no doubts about anything. My self-doubt revealed was the beginning of the end for us.

  13. Julie December 1, 2010 at 7:24 pm #

    Knepper, I’m sorry that happened to you. Women really have mixed feelings when it comes to men being vulnerable (at least I do). Part of me wants to be comforting and empathic, and part of me just wants to distance myself until he gets it together again. I’m not proud of that–just being honest about the visceral reaction I get sometimes–that’s where it takes maturity and love to override the negative reaction.

    I wonder if men feel the same way about women’s strength, anger, etc. On a rational level, you might think it’s OK. On an emotional level, you recoil, lose attraction?

  14. Aunt Haley December 1, 2010 at 7:41 pm #

    Badger–
    The one thing about this post that doesn’t match up – if more and more husbands of the last generation are betas who didn’t teach their sons about women, why are more and more women demanding alphas?

    Women feel loved and secure when their fathers display alpha traits (dominance, confidence, firmness, teasing) toward them. The more beta that fathers become, the less loved their daughters feel, which leads to their seeking out more and more alpha men. Generally speaking, a girl who feels well-loved by her alpha dad will have less of an inclination to go looking for futile hook-ups with bad boys than a girl with a passive beta dad (or an absent dad), because many of her alpha needs are already being met at home.

    That said, quality women whose fathers were more beta (say, 65/35) will probably be more tolerant of gentler, less aggressive men, just because that’s what they’re familiar with and know how to deal with.

    Obviously, mileage will vary depending on the individual woman and her temperament.

  15. nothingbutthetruth December 1, 2010 at 8:09 pm #

    This makes sense to me. My father was beta and my mother completely dominated him. Both of my sisters have chosen über-betas whom they dominate and seem very happy with them

    The one thing about this post that doesn’t match up – if more and more husbands of the last generation are betas who didn’t teach their sons about women, why are more and more women demanding alphas?

    Easy. Women raised without a father (whether this is because of a divorce or because of single motherhood) would look for a father in a relationship. And when I say “a father”, I obviously say an “alpha”, because every father is an alpha in the imagination of a fatherless kid, the same way every mother is loving in the imagination of a motherless kids (regardless of the fact that real fathers and mothers can be beta and non-loving).

    Most of the strange behavior of modern young women (the self-centeredness, the constant shit tests, the slutdom, eating without control) can be explain by the lack of a loving alpha father who would have taught them some self-control.

    In a family, mothers give love and appreciation, fathers give discipline. Mothers give what kids need, fathers give what kids deserve. Mothers give self-esteem, fathers teach self-control.

    Remove the parent from the picture and you have a generation of self-centered women who think they are the center of the universe (their mommy told them so), spoiled brats who go from party to party, from c_ck to c_ck. They look for an alpha to give them some discipline and set some limits. Nobody has set limits for them and they are eager for that, even if they don’t know it. This is why they are horrified about the accomodating betas.

    Turn this beta into an alpha. Men are pretty simple, like horses: if you reward the behavior you want, and punish the behavior you don’t want, the behavior will change.

    No, thank you. Don’t try to change us. We are human beings, not your particular improvement project. You are not perfect either and we accept you the way you are.

    Not only does this improvement thing fail often, it is also that your wanting to change us is a complete lack of disrespect. If we are not good enough for you, please f_ck off and find another man.

  16. Aunt Haley December 1, 2010 at 8:40 pm #

    I should add, after reading nothingbutthetruth’s post, that women with uberbeta dads sometimes marry uberbetas themselves because they have learned (usually from their mothers’ examples) to be domineering and “alpha” themselves when relating to a man.

  17. y81 December 2, 2010 at 5:42 am #

    “No, thank you. Don’t try to change us. We are human beings, not your particular improvement project. You are not perfect either and we accept you the way you are.”

    Gee, I’m thankful that my employers, the Holy Spirit and the members of my family have changed me over the years. I would hate to be the same feckless, immature guy I was at age 20.

    “The heathen in his blindness bows down to wood and stone./He don’t obey no orders, unless they is his own./The heathen, in his blindness, must end where he began.” That is not how I want to be.

  18. nothingbutthetruth December 2, 2010 at 6:07 am #

    “Turn this beta into an alpha. Men are pretty simple, like horses: if you reward the behavior you want, and punish the behavior you don’t want, the behavior will change.”

    Gee, I’m thankful that my employers, the Holy Spirit and the members of my family have changed me over the years. I would hate to be the same feckless, immature guy I was at age 20.

    Gee, you are confusing terms. It’s one thing to have a person changing because he wants (this is called “growing up”), for which he may have had influences from God, family, employers, partner and society in general. (I think most people do that). This is an internal process, although subjected to external influences.

    What you are describing is not this, though. You are explaining an external improvement process carried out by the wife who decides who is her ideal man and starts an improvement process to get her husband closer into this ideal man, using rewards and punishments as a training method (as if his husband was a dog to be trained).

    Behave like the wifey says —> Reward. Good dog
    Behave not like the wifey says —> Punishment. Bad, bad dog!!!

    (Sex is often used as a means of reward and punishment, because American men will do ANYTHING for a bit of sex, even losing their most fundamental dignity)

    Many men have had experience about this reward and punishment system and most of them hate it.

    So yes, maybe you are happy having your wife working on you and training you with treats and sticks like a horse (your words, not mine), but if you surf the Internet you will see that you are a minority. One of the most frequent complaints of men is about women trying to change us.

    But if it works for you….

  19. Julie December 2, 2010 at 6:51 am #

    I can see how it would be uncomfortable to have a wife trying to turn a husband into more of an alpha.

    On the other hand, men often want their wives to be thinner, more submissive, sweeter, more enthusiastic in bed. Is it wrong for him to give positive feedback if she moves in these directions? For a man to act too beta means that the wife is going to lose attraction generally–this is not beneficial to anyone.

  20. Wayfinder December 2, 2010 at 7:57 am #

    I’d say there’s a world of difference between encouragement and training. I suspect there are quite a few guys that just need a little permission to be more alpha. Perhaps a wife who is a willing follower can bring out a good side in her husband, while a domineering nag will just see his beta side.

  21. terry@breathinggrace December 2, 2010 at 12:22 pm #

    Wow! This is good post. I was indeed “used to a man who makes decisions and doesn’t back down, who lovingly teases her and her mom, and is clearly in charge of the family…” But this part really got my attention:

    I think that another reason the daughters of alphas want alphas themselves is that she wants her husband to be able to hold his own with her dad.

    I didn’t date much before I married at 22. I had a protective dad and the scant few guys who did ask me out were clearly intimidated by him. Until my husband. The fact that he was not intimidated made him more attractive to me than he already was, and I didn’t think that was possible.

    Great observations.

  22. nothingbutthetruth December 3, 2010 at 8:04 pm #

    Yes, this is what I said. There is a difference between encouragement and training you like a horse with a system of rewards and punishments.

    And I don’t agree that men on average want women to change. There is this old joke:

    “Women get married expecting their men to change, men get married expecting their women not to change. Both are wrong”

  23. Old Guy December 7, 2010 at 12:40 pm #

    Is there any reason to think that daughters of alphas are more attracted to alphas than are daughters of non-alphas?

  24. Badger Nation December 8, 2010 at 8:47 am #

    “Is there any reason to think that daughters of alphas are more attracted to alphas than are daughters of non-alphas?”

    Well Haley said above that girls who DIDN’T have alpha dads will look for alpha men to “be” their dad. So it’s all mixed up. I don’t think Haley’s wrong, I think it’s really about personality – some people will seek partners who emulate their parents, some will seek partners who are different from their parents.

    Julie,

    “I wonder if men feel the same way about women’s strength, anger, etc. On a rational level, you might think it’s OK. On an emotional level, you recoil, lose attraction?”

    Straight talk – most American men have been brainwashed into the idea that a woman’s emotional outbursts, mind games, etc is “just the way they are” and just accept it as part of the arrangement.

    I don’t agree; I think that’s a a vaguely misogynistic paradigm and I view it as unacceptable histrionic behavior and fundamentally manipulative. Men have just not been trained to back away, and in many cases back out, of a situation where this is going on frequently.
    All this sh** of women posting “I’m a HANDFUL and proud of it!!!” on facebook is completely nuts…

    http://grerp.blogspot.com/2010/11/facebook-nonsense-example-1.html

    About a woman’s “strength”: I do not believe most men are turned off by a strong woman. The problem comes when “strength” is a code word for being difficult or selfish or inconsiderate of your partner’s desires. The captain-first officer model (google this and Athol Kay for review) leaves plenty of room for both sides to be strong and get their needs heard and still provide the leadership structure women say they need to admire and be attracted to their man.

    That’s why we hear this myth that “the fragile male ego is threatened by a strong woman” – some men are, but people are usually confusing strength with bitchiness. The Whispers of a woman’s friends usually never have the guts to tell a woman she’s just being unpleasant.

  25. Badger Nation December 8, 2010 at 8:48 am #

    “I guess he doesn’t have the kind of “game” that would make a woman swoon at first meeting. However, he does have the kind of strength to make me feel honored to spend my life with him.”

    I’m guessing he gives you that “I have a problem…HE will know what to do!” kind of comfort feeling that we who had good dads remember from our youth!

  26. Aunt Haley December 8, 2010 at 11:05 am #

    Old Guy–
    Is there any reason to think that daughters of alphas are more attracted to alphas than are daughters of non-alphas?

    Because daughters of alphas have learned that alpha-ness is maleness. Daughters of non-alphas also want alphas because women are biologically programmed to seek dominance. However, daughters of non-alphas, if the father has at least some alphaness, will probably be more tolerant of men with lesser alphaness because it’s what they know and understand.

    As I said earlier, mileage will vary according to each individual woman. I’m just theorizing generalities.

  27. Old Guy December 10, 2010 at 1:17 am #

    I’ll take that as a “No”, although I should have been more careful to avoid ambiguity.

    I’m not concerned to know whether there is a narrative we can attribute to the hamster in the machine that connects being attracted to alphas to having an alpha dad. I’m wondering whether, out there in the actual world, women with alpha dads are more or more often attracted to alphas than are women with non-alpha dads. If they do, that’s really interesting, but this kind of storytelling doesn’t begin to make sense of it.

    As Badger Nation and Haley both point out, stories can be told about either group of women, which conclude that women are attracted to alphas, something we knew.

    I’m not suggesting that “Haley’s wrong”. That would suggest that another Hamster parable might better explain what women do than those Haley prefers. It’s more that this post — if I can borrow Feynman’s phrase — isn’t even false, because we can tell a story that fits no matter what women do. Women with alpha dads might appreciate a trace of betatude more, having seen their mothers live with (possibly magnanimous) indifference. Say bloody anything.

    (Sorry to inflict a personal hobby horse on the conversation, but our hostess has a cruelly scrupulous sense of mental hygiene, and this post is exceptional.)

  28. modernguy December 24, 2010 at 10:59 am #

    All this talk of ‘alpha’ is just a misconception. It’s true that if you take a snapshot at any time of a man you can describe him on that scale (socially). But every man’s life is a journey to becoming an ideal. Becoming more socially dominant is a process of putting your neck on the line and pulling through, but at the same time the ideal is to preserve the sensitivity that you naturally have. The ideal man can be imposing and forceful as well as understanding and considerate.

    But if men start listening to women for direction on what to be they are going to get into trouble. Women can serve as correcting influences when you go too far in one direction, but taking advice from a woman is a blunder. Women cannot be disinterested participants, so they cannot offer objective advice.

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  1. Linkage is Good for You: Arise, Men of the West! Edition - December 5, 2010

    […] Aunt Haley – “Holding Out for an Alpha-Like Dad.” […]

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