Why are we so often reluctant to date the guy who'd actually text us back? Victoria Stokes reckons it's time you looked past the alpha male to his shy, sensitive counterpart.
If dating apps have taught us anything, it’s that you can’t judge a book by its cover. However, few personality types are more obvious on a photo-based dating site than the alpha male. You’ll spot him easily in all his tank-topped, puffed out chest glory, a dumbbell in one hand, his mirror-facing iPhone raised to selfie position in the other, or holding court in the middle of a group photo surrounded by pals and babes. He’s the Irish Gary from Geordie Shore, who could also have a degree in “pulling birds”, and is the top bro in his gang. If confidence verging on arrogance is your thing he’s an obvious choice, and biologically many of us are programmed to go for the strong, dominant leader of the pack (think Caveman theory.) But what about the bloke to his right, perhaps not initially the stand-out guy, but the beta behind every alpha – the Aaron to every Gary?
By definition, an alpha exudes confidence, thrives on being social and is a natural born leader which all sounds great but can of course lead to lots of bravado. Betas on the other hand, are the more sensitive, emotional types. In pop culture, they’re the supporting actor in the best mate role. If Carrie’s Mr Big is the alpha male, then Miranda’s Steve is the beta. The alpha’s charm, charisma and tendency to hog the limelight are altogether more obvious and alluring in a social setting but in relationships, is it fair to assume that the more balanced beta would make a better mate?
In my own personal dating history, I’ve had experiences of dating both, with varying degrees of success. On reflection, my tendency to date alphas coincided with a period of low self esteem in my life, while my first dalliance with a beta came at the beginning of a year away from home when I was feeling particularly self-assured.
Now let’s not write the alpha male off completely. As a type, they can be incredibly driven, outgoing and ambitious (all traits that are incredibly sexy) and provided that you’re as dominant as he is, you don’t have to live in his shadow. But the underrated beta has a certain lure too. In fact, Rena Maycock, co-founder and director of matchmaking sites Intro and A Real Keeper reckons there are some very clear-cut advantages to seeking out this kind of guy
“While beta men may be shyer and less proactive than their alpha counterparts, they have a different kind of strength,” she notes. “They’re more even-tempered and generally affable in social circumstances, they don’t live and die on their charisma and they’re not as easily rattled by a missed goal or a financial setback.”
We’re often inclined to regulate these total sweethearts to the friend zone
Despite their affable qualities though, we’re often inclined to regulate these total sweethearts to the friend zone, and Rena reckons she’s knows why, pointing out that their gentle characteristics are often something we don’t appreciate until we’re older. “Historically, women like a decisive, authoritative male to make them feel more feminine, but this can change as they get older,” she explains. “Priorities evolve from simply craving physical attraction to wanting more serious considerations like a man’s ability to be a good father, a supportive husband or a reliable provider.”
Rena has noticed evidence of this on both of the matchmaking sites she manages too. “In our experience, women in their 20s can often focus on the importance of an outgoing personality,” she surmises. “But once they start to think about settling down and reaching major milestones in life like cohabiting, marriage, children and sharing the rest of their lives with someone, the qualities of a beta male suddenly become far more valuable.”
We also have a tendency to see betas as clingy. “When I first started dating my now-ex boyfriend I initially found it off putting that he was so in touch with his emotions,” admits Michelle, 29. “I’d been so used to guys playing games with me, that when he made himself so emotionally available, I saw it as being a bit desperate at the start. He was incredibly tactile, affectionate and considerate of my feelings throughout the relationship and I’ll admit it was a bit of a learning curve for me. I’d been so used to guys taking the lead, but this relationship felt like more of an even playing field.”
Michelle and her partner eventually split because they wanted different futures, but she says she now dates beta types exclusively, and even advises her friends to do the same. “Every time they tell me they’re thinking of hooking up with some jock type I’m like ‘Don’t do it!’” she laughs.
Like Michelle, Rena offers similar warnings about looking for long term love with alphas. “In our experience, unless you meet an alpha and fall madly in love early in life, there is little hope of success. Without the sobering influence of a women to keep an alpha somewhat grounded, their confidence slowly turns to arrogance the older an alpha gets.” Her opinion? If it’s a steady relationship you’re after in your twenties, beta men are a far more reliable bet than the albeit exciting alpha male.”
So what should you do then if a lovely beta is suddenly on the scene? Alpha males can be a tough habit to kick, especially if you enjoy the thrill of the chase, but set your reservations aside for a sec and give that nice guy a chance. You might find that he’s too much of a stage five clinger… or maybe you’ll find exactly what you were looking for.
This article first appeared in STELLAR’s September issue. Our October issue is on shelves now!
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