When I was young, I was fairly lost.  I was lost in the sense that I didn’t really know who I was or what I liked or even what I cared about.  I was lost insofar as I had no real ability to stand up for myself except with friends who were even more lost than I was, and those relationships look fairly abusive and manipulative in hindsight.  Not pretty.  In my defense, no one ever told me how to find myself, nor was that an activity encouraged by my highly controlling mother.

But there are degrees of lost, and in retrospect, the place where I lost myself the most completely was in my romantic relationships.  Seemed like I couldn’t wait to hand over my personality and all of my free will to the man of the hour who I made my Svengali as I happily assumed the role of Galatea.  The theme of the dominant alpha male is one I continue to reexamine.  It intrigues me.  One question that I ponder with regularly is how to maintain my own identity in the context of a relationship in which I feel inferior in some way.  This is one of my favorite themes in paranormal fantasy, where the alpha males are often exaggerated and the women who love them need to figure out how to keep from being sucked into that event horizon.

Three of my very favorite books/series explore this theme with mastery (there are many others as well), but the ones that come immediately to mind are Thea Harrison’s Dragon Bound (Dragos and Pia), Nalini Singh’s Angel’s Blood (Raphael and Elena) and the Fever Books by Karen Marie Moning (Barrons And Mac).  I love, love, love these books, and I think the main reason is because these women succeed beautifully in maintaining themselves in relationships with men (beings, really- none of them are actually men) who are much, much older, more powerful and very used to the world accommodating itself to their desires and needs.  In each case, part of the attraction for the male is that their chosen woman does not back down in the face of their displeasure or even wrath.   And it takes some huge, brass, hairy stones to do that.  The fact that this sort of courage and intelligence comes in a beautiful, feminine package is a revelation for each of these males.

So let’s explore that “reality” further: that which attracts these males who exist at the very top of the food chain is that these women are most definitely not falling over themselves to people please or to give the big man everything he demands.  They have the intestinal fortitude to be who they are and stand their ground without succumbing to the pressure of acquiescing to everything their stranger, more powerful partner wants.

I absolutely love reading about women who embrace these relationships and then go on to thrive within them.  I can’t say I’ve seen a ton of that in real life, however.  It is such a difficult feat to stand in our own power without aggression or defiance or the need to try to dominate others ourselves.  But to be who we are and let the other be who he (or she) is and to negotiate a path where we can both stand together—together—that is quite the rare achievement.

And their achievement is a fluid one—a slippery little sucker as Julia Roberts described her escargot in Pretty Woman.  To stand together in mutual power while each maintains his or her own personal power over time is even more difficult.  It takes consciousness, respect, tolerance, patience, compassion, and strength.  And to be successful, both partners need to embody these superior personality characteristics and avoid the temptation to be petty, or controlling, or demeaning, or demanding, or inappropriately needy or aloof.  Oh my God, I’m exhausted just writing about the myriad requirements of a healthy, vibrant relationship. 

But, I adore reading about them because it provides me with some guidance, direction, and inspiration to achieve the same in my own life and relationships.

The dance of dominance in any relationship involves some fancy footwork for sure.  I know that in my own marriage we work very hard to compromise where we can, but to stand firm when an issue touches on a fundamental philosophy.  Of course, one hopes that when choosing a life partner we not only seek to look deeply into each other’s eyes, but that we are also looking for a partner who is looking out into the world in a similar fashion.  Holding complimentary world views is an important element of successful partnership.

Another important element is the ability—and the willingness—to learn from each other and to defer to each other’s strengths.  These are particularly poignant characteristics of the relationships depicted between my favorite fictional characters by Thea Harrison, Nalini Singh, and Karen Marie Moning.  Each of these amazing authors’ uber alpha males are willing to learn from their females and to be changed by their love.  And witnessing that evolution is the very best aspect of these amazing books.  I am able to come back to my marriage (and other relationships) enriched by the experience of spending time with these magnificent make believe characters.  And all of this reading is way cheaper than marriage counseling or psychotherapy, so I feel inspired and clever at the same time.

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