It can be freeing and entertaining dating someone who identifies as an alpha personality. Here’s how to understand the persona better to vet your compatibility and create boundaries.

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Walk into any party and look at a group of people talking. Chances are, it won’t take long to pick out the one person everyone is gravitating toward, the person who seems to be leading the conversation with confidence and charisma.

It seems natural — almost instinctual — that in any social grouping, one person would rise to the top of the hierarchy. In contemporary culture, we might call this person the “alpha” as a quick, shorthand term to describe that type of person and what their unique characteristics might be.

But unless you are the alpha in your social circle or romantic relationship, you may be wondering about the best ways to interact with alpha-type personalities in your everyday life.

What can you expect from dating an alpha partner, and what are they looking for in a relationship?

Language matters

Gender exists on a spectrum. While we use the terms “male” and “female” in this article to reflect the terms historically used for this topic, they may not align with your gender. Gender is how you identify and express yourself, independent of your physical body.

Social traits — just like personality types — aren’t limited to one gender or another.

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The concepts of “alpha male” and “alpha female” are believed to have been taken from early studies of wolf packs, where one wolf seemed to stand out as the pack leader.

However, today those initial studies on the “alpha wolf” are debated because the alpha role doesn’t appear to exist in the wild, just among wolves in captivity.

Despite the debate, among humans, “alpha traits” are still frequently used to describe behaviors of social leaders or ambitious achievers.

Of course, people are far more complex and don’t neatly fit into boxes.

“I don’t like to classify people into types,” says Dr. John De Oca, a relationship coach and nurse practitioner based in Hudson County, New Jersey. “I think we are far too individualistic for that.”

Still, it’s worth exploring alpha-type characteristics and how they may shape and influence romantic relationships.

Especially if you’re dating a person who identifies as an alpha personality, you may be looking for ways to better understand your partner.

“Alpha personalities are… confident, charismatic, goal-directed, intelligent, and self-motivated,” says Dr. John Tholen, a retired psychologist and author of “Focused Positivity.”

Tholen explains successful relationships with an alpha personality are most compatible when the partners match in intelligence and confidence, and when the other partner tends to be more passive and likely to defer to an assertive partner’s planning.

Since alphas tend to be active and ambitious self-starters, Tholen says they prefer a partner who also mirrors those characteristics.

While alphas often “lead their packs” and would likely be the primary decision-makers, an overly submissive partner could be a turnoff.

“Often, I have seen alphas… get resentful with their more subdued partners,” says De Oca. He says it can sour the attraction when “they are always taking care of things and feel like they are running the relationships.”

A successful relationship will have some degree of give-and-take as both partners find ways to compromise. When dating an alpha personality, there are many unique benefits and some concessions that their partner will have to consider.

Tholen says an alpha personality often expects “to make unilateral decisions, seek the attention and acclaim of others, and assume that their wishes and desires will take priority.”

“For these reasons, the best partner for an alpha personality may require even greater self-confidence to comfortably surrender control and give more affection than they receive,” he says.

Since alpha personalities thrive on being the center of attention, they naturally attract people.

This can could be in the form of fawning workplace praise or popularity, or it could come from people romantically interested in your partner. This is why trust and confidence in your bond are key factors in a relationship with an alpha.

There are also some perks of dating an alpha too.

“[A benefit that] some people may not anticipate is the levels of intention alphas have and operate with,” says De Oca.

“This can come across as actions aligning with words, calling when they said they would, and giving a high level of energy and effort into the relationship,” he explains.

Telltale signs who’s the alpha in a relationship

Relationships are complicated. In partnerships where the power balance is fairly even, it may be difficult to define who the alpha is in the relationship — if there even is one.

If you’re curious which one of you is more “alpha,” here are a few things to consider:

  • Who has the stronger ambition? Does one of you get up early each morning to “conquer the day,” or does it take either of you a lot of external motivation to get started?
  • In a crisis, who is the one to make the decisions? Does one of you look to the other for guidance or leadership when things get tough?
  • Do you or your partner have a lot of admirers who are drawn to your attractiveness, personality, or successes?
  • Which one of you is frequently planning the next getaway or looking for the next income stream?

Having a partner who is assertive, confident, and always looking for new challenges to conquer may be very attractive and exciting.

But it’s possible that what may have initially looked like a relationship with someone who “knows what they want” may now be revealing itself as a giver-taker kind of bond.

Some traits that mirror alpha personalities are part of mental health conditions, such as:

Controlling or abusive behaviors may at first present as confidence, playful arrogance, or bravado.

When entering any relationship, it’s important to set boundaries and frequently check in with yourself to make sure your needs are being met just as much as you’re looking to meet your partner’s needs.

Dating an alpha-type person can be very alluring for some people.

That proximity to charisma or power may be reward enough, but if you ever feel like the relationship is imbalanced or toxic, it’s worth pausing to ask yourself why you feel you’re feeling that way. You can also seek help from a therapist for an outside perspective.