When one of my closest friends started dating her now-husband 15 years ago, we quickly began referring to him as a "he-she." No, he didn't have both male and female genitals, but he was both masculine in terms of his sexual orientation (heterosexual) and he was emotionally intelligent and available. But while he was solid in his masculinity, she wore the pants in the relationship.
She found herself wishing that he'd stand up to her more often, be more decisive, and assert his opinions with greater conviction.
"I wish he would be more of an Alpha male," she would say.
For some reason, many of the women who find their way to my work are with the softer, gentler type of man, the antithesis of the Alpha male. And they're struggling because, as much as they love the gentleness and care of their partner, they're also wishing that he were more extroverted, socially fluent, witty, and outwardly confident. (Many He-Shes are very secure inside but, because they're often more introverted, their confidence doesn't always register on the scale of the extrovert ideal on which our culture weighs social fluidity.)
If you're partnered with a more gentle man, it may be helpful for you to identify who he is instead of focusing on who he isn't.
Characteristics of a He-She:
- Emotionally engaged and supportive
- Enjoys talking about subjects other than sports
- Caring, soft, and gentle
- Sometimes bullied as a child
- Has no problem watching chick-flicks and rom-coms (and secretly enjoys them)
Characteristics of an Alpha male:
- More typical male whose primary interests include sports and beer
- Highly assertive
- Decisive, strong-willed, sometimes arrogant
- Ambitious in his career and often deeply committed to making money
- Sometimes popular as a child
One of the hallmarks of relationship anxiety is the failure to embrace the one that you're with and holding on to a fantasy that a "perfect" partner exists. The women who find my work often long for the unavailable ex or wish that their partner were more like their successful but emotionally distant fathers.
"Why can't I find someone who is both He-She and Alpha?" they ask me.
Because Prince Charming doesn't exist!
Even if your partner does embody qualities of both categories, I guarantee you that there will be some aspect of him that you have to work to accept because it's not "perfect" and doesn't conform to the image of who you thought you would marry.
Obviously the male sex can't be neatly divided into two categories. There are Alphas with traits of He-She and men that fall into neither category. But the key point is to understand that if you're suffering from the "grass is always greener syndrome" you've likely put yourself and your partner through the wringer wishing that he was someone else.
If that's the case, it's time to begin to embrace who your partner is instead of who he isn't, reminding yourself that there are important reasons why you chose the loving, kind, emotionally available guy who stands before you.
In the long-term of a lifelong partnership, does it really matter if he is handy with tools or is the life of a party? These aren't the qualities that sustain a marriage over time. It's the commitment to love and support each other, to develop tolerance for less-than-ideal qualities, and to soften the fear walls that keep you from making the moment-by-moment choice to open your heart to love that create the foundation for a healthy, longterm relationship.
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