The New Relationship: Do You Have a King or a Knight?
The new rules for choosing a life partner.
Posted September 18, 2010
Recently, I've read a number of articles about the alpha woman/beta man relationship. As more women become breadwinners in their households, there seems to be a new stereotype forming around the label, the beta male.
Apparently, if a woman makes more money, has more ambition, and is possibly more educated than her husband, then he must be non-aggressive, domestic, and a bit dependent. If one sex rises in power, the other loses his clout.
Although this type of relationship exists, there are many healthy relationships with female breadwinners where the men have their own ambitions and drive. I wouldn't call these men alpha or beta.
I believe there is a new type of male/female relationship forming in our culture not defined by who is more dominant and successful.
I first noticed this shift in the balance of power in relationships when doing my doctoral research. I found that as the earning muscle of a woman strengthens, her need for a man to take care of her financially subsides. Now, many smart, strong, goal-driven women are looking for emotional support instead.
These women want a man who will share the responsibilities at home and won't get his ego tied up in a knot over it. They want a man who gives his partner space to go after the success she desires. When she comes home, he is her cheerleader and "knight" who loves her and doesn't tell her he wants her to quit traveling or change her workload for him. This man shows emotional depth and strength.
Money was not the major criteria for partner-picking among these women. Emotional compatibility rated higher. They didn't need a King; they preferred having a Knight.
This man often has his own career or business. Yet he doesn't require his mate and the family to circle around him. He stands by the side of his partner, not in front of her or behind her.
When your partner doesn't ask you to be anything other than who you are, you can be both brave at work and express your fears when you are at home. Both partners can feel strong with who they are in the world and feel vulnerable in each other's arms. Neither you nor your partner has to always be the rock of strength, while at one time or another you'll both have to take this on. And neither of you has to sacrifice your dreams for the other, though you may agree to do this for short periods of time for family gains in the long run.
There is emotional stability in a relationship based more on mutual respect than role definitions and out-of-date expectations. Shouldn't this be the new model of a healthy relationship?
I was talking about this phenomenon to Ali, age 30, and about the concept of women dating and marrying men below their economic status when she interrupted me by saying, "The whole 'dating down' idea is a dumb '80s concept. It's about the person we are looking for, not their checkbook." She convinced me that there is a cultural revolution going on that is redefining what goes into a healthy relationship whether the man or the woman is the breadwinner in the moment.
I'm not talking about role reversals, though that exists. I'm not talking about women supporting men, though that exists as well. I'm talking about men who are comfortable allowing women to be whole, which includes being powerful, emotional, passionate, discouraged, loving, tired, perfect, imperfect, grateful and sometimes rude.
In return, women wholeheartedly accept their powerful, emotional, discouraged, loving, tired, grateful and sometimes rude men. Am I dreaming? I don't think so. I am in one of these relationships.
After two long-term relationships with degreed, professional men, I am happily partnered with a man where I make more money, have more degrees, and I travel all over the world while he takes care of the home and cat (he travels with me sometimes). He loves me when I'm jet-lagged, honors my work and dreams, challenges me to be more, plays with me and buys me flowers. He is my knight. And, he has his own successful business that he is passionate about. The relationship is wonderful.
I would never call my partner a beta male. It's time our society redefines what a solid, loving relationship that supports both partners looks like. Let's make this model more the norm than an oddity.
Honestly women, these men exist. Don't give up until you find one.