Q+A with Dr. Sonya Rhodes, Ph.D.

(1) In writing The Alpha Woman Meets Her Match, you’ve drawn from years of experience as a marital expert and couples therapist. What inspired you to write this book? Why now?

About a decade ago I started seeing more and more women who were expressing Alpha qualities. They were assertive, confident, competitive women who took pride in their achievements. At the same time, they were sharing their frustrations in finding a partner who would be loving, supportive and respectful. Many therapists were telling them that they were “scary” to men, too aggressive, too confident. This negative approach shamed women for their strengths and talents. I intuitively knew that these fantastic women were a whole new generation of women who needed support, not criticism.

(2) Since you started your psychology practice more than 30 years ago, have you noticed any significant changes in the attitudes of women as they approach challenges in the workplace and in relationships?

There has never been a better time for women. As evidenced by Lean In and books like mine, women’s roles in relationships and at work are dramatically changing. We are not talking here of itty-bitty changes — we are seeing a revolution in the culture towards greater equality and gender-neutral relationships. Women are taking their place at the table at home and at work.

(3) What do you have to say to advocates of “settling,” such as Lori Gottlieb, or those who say that after 30 you’re doomed, like Susan Patton?

As you can imagine, I think this is the fear mongering of small minds. No woman should settle for less than what she deserves. Taking time to develop her independence and career will provide a stable identity throughout her life. Furthermore, women who marry later (in their 30’s and 40’s) marry better. They are least likely to divorce because they are more mature when they pick their partners.

(4) Many women abhor the identity of “Alpha.” In your book, you’re trying to de-stigmatize that identification. What does the term “Alpha Woman” mean to you?

Alpha comes with a lot of baggage that has been part of the rigid social norms around gender. Keeping people in “gender boxes” does not play anymore. The negativity surrounding Alpha traits is dramatically shifting because women realize that there is nothing wrong and everything right about excelling and being strong.

(5) But your book is equally about celebrating Betas. Can you tell us a few characteristics of Beta women (and men) that we might not immediately associate with the stereotype?

Beta men and women are accommodating but not compliant, assertive but not confrontational, work hard but are not work-obsessed. They match up very well with Alpha partners who will take the lead. I believe the new guy on the street is the Beta male who is not a wimp anymore than the Alpha woman is a bitch. He is really the new “catch” for the Alpha woman because he will partner, parent and participate!

(6) Getting right down to it…in your opinion, what are some relationship “deal breakers?”

I have seen Alphas, both male and female, who take the attitude “it’s my way or the highway.” Outside of physically abusive relationships, I think this is the biggest deal breaker of all. If you can’t negotiate and share power the relationship is doomed. Partnership trumps power.

(7) “You were a “child bride” now approaching your 50th wedding anniversary. As one of the premiere Alpha women, was your marriage always smooth sailing?

My marriage was extremely rocky for the first 5 years. My husband and I married very young. We were immature, had not fully separated from our families, and had few skills to negotiate our differences. Coming from totally different backgrounds we didn’t understand each other. I can remember feeling like Margaret Mead studying a new tribe when I was with his family. We fought constantly. The best thing we ever did was hold off on having children until our marriage stabilized. We did not have our first child (of 2) until 10 years into our marriage. We were one of the lucky couples who eventually, despite significant pain and struggle, worked things out.

(8) What do you hope women will take away from this book? If you could give aspiring Alpha Women just one piece of overarching advice, what would it be?

Be proud! Don’t settle! Look for a partner who respects you and wants to support your goals as you do his.

(9) How do you hope men will receive the ideas in The Alpha Woman Meets her Match?

Great question! Many men that I have talked to immediately say: “You really have to have a strong ego to be with an Alpha woman. My wife is an Alpha and I am proud.” But there are others who may initially be a little intimidated by the overt celebration of the Alpha woman concept, more traditional men who will need to be swept along with the cultural change.