American women are, for the most part, alpha women. They’re strong, no nonsense, take-charge females who pride themselves on being highly self-sufficient and on being leaders. This attitude and approach to life may get women ahead at work.
But when it comes to love, it lands them in a ditch.
Personally, I like alpha females. After all, I am one! So are most of my friends. But sometimes our best traits are also our worst, and that is certainly the case here.
Take Martha Stewart. Here’s a woman who can turn anything ordinary into something extraordinary—that’s the inevitable result of her highly critical nature. That may not sound like a positive trait, but it can be. A highly critical person isn’t satisfied with anything less than the best and thus has the stamina to go over and over something until it’s perfect.
But finding fault in a product or a company is different from finding fault in the person you love. Indeed, it’s no coincidence that Stewart isn’t married. Those who’ve worked with her have attested to how difficult she can be. And those who knew her when she was married to her husband, Andy, concede that as a wife Stewart was a shrew.
One insider told biographer Jerry Oppenheimer that Martha “would start arguments over the most trivial subjects, and they would go on and on and on.” ‘You didn’t load the car right! How can you take so long to get the car unloaded? Why are you so sloppy? How could you forget this or that?’ Her manner with Andy became the source of much stress and anxiety and anger. She was constantly accusing him of being dumb or stupid.”
Indeed, Martha Stewart was the quintessential alpha wife: she has no idea how to take off the “I’m in charge” hat and surrender to love at home. And she isn’t alone. Many alpha women are single or divorced because they never mastered this delicate balance. Others are married, but their relationships remain mired in conflict.
Now compare Martha Stewart to another cooking guru: Ina Garten, or “Barefoot Contessa.” Ina Garten is an ideal wife. For years, when I was home with my young children, I would watch Ina and marvel at her love and respect for her husband, Jeffrey. Not only does she cook for him, she quite literally dotes on him. She also smiles and laughs whenever he’s around and never criticizes him. One cannot fathom Ina Garten talking to her husband the way people say Martha Stewart talked to her ex.
So what has Ina Garten mastered that Stewart has not?
The art of the feminine.
Being feminine isn’t necessarily what you’d think—it isn’t about being beautiful or svelte, or about having long nails, or about wearing high heels (although those things help). Being feminine is a state of mind. It’s an attitude.
To be feminine means to be easy instead of difficult, to be soft instead of hard. And when I say soft, I don’t mean mousy. Men love women who are fun and feisty and who know their own mind! But they don’t want a harpy. As a man named Chuck once wrote on my site: “A strong woman is awesome. But she must be inviting and be able to mesh into an actual relationship. Needing to dominate and overpower, that is a no go.”
For a long time, I embraced my alpha personality as though it were a baby in need of protection. Why should I have to change? Who would I be if I changed? And how could I be different, even if I wanted to?
It took me a while to get my head around it; but once I did, here’s what I learned: Just because you’re inclined toward a certain behavior doesn’t mean you have to embrace it. If it’s not working, throw it out. Try something new. Change.
Here’s the good news: turns out that in love, it’s liberating to be a beta! I’m an alpha all day long, and it gets tiresome. It’s not that I don’t thrive on it—I do. But at the end of the day, I want to be done. Self-reliance is exhausting. Making all the decisions is exhausting. Driving the car, literally or figuratively, is exhausting.
And the best part is, once you stop, once you let go of your need to rule the roost, something bigger happens. Life becomes infinitely lighter. Love becomes easy.
Women have the power to change their marriage or relationship overnight. Boom, just like that. Femininity works wonders on men, and too many women give up on love before putting this power to use. And it’s just sitting there for the taking! Not using it is like flushing a million dollars down the toilet.
So if your relationship is struggling, do me a favor. Look in the mirror and ask yourself whether you’re bringing masculine or feminine energy to the table. Because the tenor of your home is a direct result of the energy you bring forth.
What kind of energy are you supplying?