Alice Atalanta writes a powerful defense of alpha males, and it’s worth reading for both husbands and wives. We get emails all the time from wives who long for their husbands to “take charge” and husbands who are afraid of their wives. Our culture — even our modern church culture — often views men as barbarians who need to be tamed by feminine virtues, which can create both emasculated men and bitter, overcompensating thugs. It’s true that God gave women an amazing array of strengths that men can learn from, but it’s also true that God created men with strengths of our own. As married couples, we need to embrace each others’ strengths and use them for the benefit of the marriage and family.

Here are a few “alpha male” traits that Atalanta identifies, and it’s no surprise that these are qualities that we see perfected in our Heavenly Father.

But there is more to it than just brute force and strength. As much as he may excel as an athlete or on the battlefield, a true Alpha Male also develops the capacities of character to temper, channel, moderate, and strategically employ this strength. Character – and what is traditionally referred to as “honor” – is central to the way that these men live their lives. Athlete Chad Howse, whose article “25 Characteristics of an Alpha Male” is Google’s top result for a search on the topic, hones in on these critical specifics: the Alpha Male, he writes, is “a man’s man, a warrior, a stand-up guy…he’s a leader, the guy others look to for motivation, inspiration…he’s the man women want, without intention the center of attention.” True statement applicable to all of those with whom I spoke. Other qualities highlighted by Howse, and consistent among my own sampling of Alpha types? Persistence, defensive capability, courage, humor, wisdom, humility, learnedness, thoughtfulness in speech, purposefulness, diligence, confidence, restraint, respectfulness, integrity, discernment, generosity, leadership, industriousness, and sincerity. In short, more the qualities of a Renaissance man than a brute. Hobbs’ scholarship supports this, as she considers the ancient Greek model of Plato’s ideal man, whose warrior spirit (Thumos) is tempered by reason – a topic she discusses at length as she is interviewed by Brett McKay on his ‘Art of Manliness’ podcast.

In addition to help from the Holy Spirit — which we should pray for — many husbands just need to feel some permission to act manly! Our culture denigrates manliness to such a degree that many men suppress their natural God-given strengths in an attempt to conform to worldly expectations — which are often feminine behavior patterns. Instead of being bold, the husband is timid, too fearful to express his needs and preferences to his own wife without coaching from strangers on the internet! (And hey, we’re happy to help, but you’ve got to add the final ingredient: courage.)

And wives, do you want your husband to take the lead? He’ll be much bolder if you don’t second-guess his decisions. How many times have you had this conversation?

Husband: Where do you want to go to dinner?

Wife: I don’t know, you pick.

Husband: Ok, let’s go to XYZ.

Wife: Eh, I don’t really want to go there.

Wives, if you want your husband to lead then you have to accept his leadership. That doesn’t mean that you make him guess over and over again until he gets lucky and picks something that pleases you! It means that you offer your opinion and then happily submit to his decision the first time unless you have some serious objection. A husband isn’t a good leader because he always picks what his wife would pick; being a good leader means making decisions that honor God and your family.

Husbands, are you bold in your marriage and family? Wives, what do you really want from your husbands?

Athol Kay writes a lot about alpha and beta behaviors in the marriage relationship, and especially the need to find a balance. Women are often attracted to the “bad boy” alphas, but pure alpha behavior doesn’t make for a stable long-term relationship. On the other hand, pure-beta behavior just isn’t attractive to anyone, and if it leads to stability in a marriage it will be a stable equilibrium of a frustrated, dominant wife and a frustrated, sex-deprived husband. As a husband, you have to put some strategic thought into selecting your beta behaviors.

Dude you have to stop thinking that if you mow the lawn, do the dishes, fold the laundry etc etc, that you’re automatically entitled to get laid.

What’s being missed is that often when he does all this stuff, she actually has an unspoken agreement to the validity of the Covert Contract, but she refuses to meet it because she just doesn’t want to. Or she meets the requirements of the Covert Contract with the world’s saddest sexual experience possible. All the Beta he did for her, to make her feel better, only created a huge sense of obligation in her. Which she’s started to dread.

It can get into the situation where when he does nice things for her, all she feels is a gnawing sense that she is a terrible person.

This is why with husbands struggling to attract their wives, I often find out exactly what her love language is, as soon as possible. Then when I find out what it is, I recommend cutting back the expressions of the love languages she doesn’t have.

I’ve got a lot more to say about “the five love languages” at a later point, so stay tuned!