Suzanne Venker: Alpha Women. Beta Wives.
“Just because the roles have changed, doesn’t mean the rules have.”
Anyone who knows me, knows that I am an Alpha female. No need to applaud. I was born this way. I can’t take credit, except for the accomplishments that I’ve tallied as a result of these traits, which include surviving the death of a husband, raising a brood of kids, and becoming rather well-known for a “gobstopper” of a resume.
Needless-to-say, I am quite proud of what the Alpha in me helped me to do, but truthfully, when it comes to romantic relationships, I find that I AM HAPPIER when I allow the Beta-side of my personality to emerge. Why? Because the bedroom is a very different place than the boardroom, folks, and since I want to occupy both rooms, regularly, both sides of my personality need equal play-time.
I can already hear the rioting unleash at the audacity of such a “traditional” statement. My answer to this is easy, “In making the right choice for me. I am getting everything that I want, including my mate being happy too. How is that not being Progressive?” I stand by my Alpha-approved choice to be Beta at home and so does author Suzanne Venker in her recent book The Alpha Female’s Guide to Men & Marriage: How Love Works.
Beginning February 14th, this Alpha wife and mother offers an intimate peek into her own marriage to stress the importance of allowing Beta to live in yours and mine. There is enormous “risk and reward” buried in each page of this book, which is the first reason I love it. The second is, Venker’s suggestions work. I know. I’ve applied them, which is the reason I am sharing this interview with you. It, and her book, is well worth the read.
What is your personal mantra?
Think for yourself.
Please share your personal and professional background.
I am a cultural critic and a nationally recognized expert on America’s "gender war". I've authored five books on marriage, motherhood and work-family conflict and am a contributor at Fox News, where I regularly appear on Fox & Friends. I am also a columnist at PJ Media and a trustee at "Leading Women for Shared Parenting", an organization that recognizes children need both parents.
My writing has appeared in many publications, including Time, USA Today, Washington Examiner, Parents, the New York Post and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch; and her work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, The Atlantic, The Economist, The Huffington Post and London’s Daily Mail. Her TV credits include STOSSEL, The View, ABC, CNN, C-Span’s Book TV, and more. In addition, I have appeared on hundreds of radio shows throughout the country. My work has been featured on “The Dr. Laura Program,” “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” and “The Rush Limbaugh Show.”
I was born in St. Louis, MO, and graduated from Boston University in 1986. After ten years on the East Coast, I returned to the Midwest, where I now live with my husband of 18 years and our two teenagers.
Define a "good" marriage in your opinion.
A good marriage (to me) is one in which both partners focus on the positives rather than the negatives, do not view divorce as an option, and are able to look at themselves in the mirror. If one partner cannot do the latter, the other partner should model the behavior he or she would like to see rather than try to force the other person to change. Self-reflection, mixed with the right attitude, goes a long way.
What makes "great husband material?" "Great wife?"
Great husband material is a man of strong character. After that, I’d say hard-working and family focused. Great wife material is a woman of strong character who’s nice and who’s nurturing.
Share the three most pertinent downfalls of marriage these days and how does this book works to overcome them?
Making comparisons. I think accepting that no marriage is perfect and that your neighbor’s marriage is just as flawed as yours is difficult for people to keep in mind today. The culture is saturated with images and messages that encourage people - women in particular - to never settle, as though there’s a life “out there” that is so much better than the life you have. "The Green Grass Syndrome" (or the propensity to believe other people live better than you or that you’re missing out on something) has almost become an epidemic. It’s the biggest downside to the Internet and social media. My book offers advice about how to avoid "The Green Grass Syndrome".
Selfishness. Selflessness, or service, is mandatory for marriage to last; and this is not a 'value' America fosters today. It is much easier to serve one’s spouse or to put his or her needs first if you live in an era—say, during wartime or a Depression—that demands it. Our culture is all about the 'Self', and this has been extremely harmful to marriage and family life. I have a chapter in the book called “Serve For the Sake of Serving” that explains, in effect, that to love is to serve.
The divorce culture. People who are products of divorce are largely shooting blanks when it comes to love—they have had no models for how to make a marriage work and assume they can always get divorced. I have an entire chapter in the book called “Decide to Stay,” where I encourage people to change the way they think about marriage as an institution. You’d be amazed at how significant our attitude toward marriage can affect its outcome.
Explain the crux of the confusion Alpha females seem to have when participating in marriage in your opinion.
They’re under the impression that "by putting up a force field", they will be less likely to get hurt. In reality, they’re pushing their husbands away. Alpha females also don’t realize, or perhaps have never been taught, that every relationship requires a masculine and a feminine energy to thrive; and that by operating entirely in their masculine, they’re undermining their marriage.
You are opening the door to enormous backlash through this book given the current media and marital climate. And yet, you still felt the need to write this book and share it. Why?
The culture will always ebb and flow, but human nature remains the same. Thus, it makes no sense, in my opinion, to follow cultural ideas that conflict with what we know to be true just because they are popular. I agree that's the easier road and that not many people would want to do what I do. But someone has to be the voice for the people who are living quiet lives in opposition to what the culture says is “the thing to do.” I speak up on behalf of people who don't feel comfortable doing so but who need support for their views.
If women walk away with one lesson from this book, what would you hope that would be?
That they hold the power to transform their marriages. (As a side note: this message does not apply to wives who are dealing with abuse, addiction or chronic adultery.)
Share a social cause or cause-based organization close to your heart?
Leading Women for Shared Parenting, an organization that believes children need equal time with both parents after a divorce.
When all is said and done, how would you like to be remembered?
As someone who fought tirelessly in defense of marriage and family.
Wherever you fall on the Alpha-Beta spectrum, I urge you to read this book and experiment with Suzanne Venker's bold, honest, intelligent and realistic suggestions in your own relationship
or marriage. The results may just surprise you. And for those of you who find yourself completely 'thrown off' by Venker's use of the words "nice, service, and divorce culture" in relationship to wifedom and marriage, might I suggest that you put your preconceived notions aside and dare to read the book. "No knowledge is without merit" in the Alpha world, and frankly, this knowledge is priceless!
Many thanks to Suzanne Venker for making this interview possible