Suc­cess­ful spouses be­come sup­port for high-fly­ing wives

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - LIFESTYLE - By ELIZ­A­BETH DAY

Afew years ago, Mur­ray Par­tridge re­alised he was not the most im­por­tant per­son in his mar­riage. He was flick­ing through a glossy mag­a­zine when he stum­bled across a pho­to­graph of his wife, the jewellery de­signer Solange Aza­gury-Par­tridge.

The pic­ture looked odd. Her arm was jut­ting out at a strange an­gle and, to her left, was a blurry, in­dis­tinct area of colour. Slowly, the penny dropped.

“I’d been air­brushed out,” he says, when we meet in the kitchen of the fam­ily home in West Lon­don. “Nor­mally, they just crop me out, but this time, they’d gone to real trou­ble.”

He was, he re­alised, mar­ried to an Al­pha Fe­male. He had been rel­e­gated to the role of Beta Male. He started speak­ing to his friends about it, many of whom were in the same predica­ment, and the germ of an idea started to form.

Now Par­tridge, 59, and his friend Si­mon Marks, 49, have co-writ­ten a book en­ti­tled How To Live With An Al­pha Fe­male. The re­sult is ef­fec­tively a guide to co-habit­ing with some­one who will al­ways be more suc­cess­ful, more cre­ative, more wealthy and more or­gan­ised than you.

“Part of hav­ing an Al­pha Fe­male for a part­ner is ac­cept­ing that, what­ever you’ve done, your AF has prob­a­bly done it big­ger and bet­ter,” they write in the in­tro­duc­tion.

While Par­tridge’s wife over­sees a multi-mil­lion pound em­pire, de­signs jewellery for celebri­ties in­clud­ing Kate Winslet and Thandie New­ton and has her work held in the per­ma­nent col­lec­tions of the Vic­to­ria and Al­bert Mu­seum, Marks’s wife, Mel Agace, is a highly suc­cess­ful film pro­ducer and prop­erty de­vel­oper. Quite frankly, their hus­bands can never hope to com­pete.

Both Par­tridge and Marks used to have re­spectable jobs of their own (Par­tridge in ad­ver­tis­ing; Marks in the mu­sic busi­ness) but these days their work has taken some­thing of a back seat. Their main role in life is now to sup­port the needs and whims of their in­fin­itely more im­pres­sive spouses, rather like those first aid vans that trail be­hind elite ath­letes at key sport­ing events pro­vid­ing tubu­lar ban­dages and metal­lic blan­kets. Ex­cept that Par­tridge and Marks are more likely to be car­ry­ing spare phone-charg­ers (“In this way you can en­sure that you will not end up bear­ing the brunt of a po­ten­tially dan­ger­ous mood-swing brought on by a flat bat­tery,” they write).

The new men

Although their ap­proach is hu­mor­ous, the book makes a se­ri­ous point about our chang­ing so­ci­o­log­i­cal land­scape. One in four Bri­tish women un­der the age of 24 earns more than their part­ners, ac­cord­ing to 2015 re­search con­ducted by the in­sur­ance com­pany LV. Fe­male man­agers and pro­fes­sion­als now num­ber 70 mil­lion world­wide.

“I felt an affin­ity with De­nis Thatcher,” says Par­tridge, with a misty-eyed look, “and ad­mired his ob­ses­sion with golf and drink­ing. And Prince Philip, of course, has got to be the king of men in our po­si­tion.”

In her 2013 book, The XX Fac­tor, the econ­o­mist Ali­son Wolff made the ar­gu­ment that pro­fes­sional, ed­u­cated women now be­have far more like their highly ed­u­cated male coun­ter­parts than the rest of wom­ankind. Es­sen­tially, most Al­phaFe­males now find them­selves in a sit­u­a­tion where they need a tra­di­tional 1950s-style wife.

Step for­ward Marks and Par­tridge.

“They’re new women; we’re new men,” says Par­tridge.

Marks nods in agree­ment.

“It’s a dif­fi­cult thing for a lot of men to be with women who can hold their own in ev­ery depart­ment and who don’t need us,” he adds. “There’s a so­cial stigma to be­ing called a ‘house­hus­band’ but you need to be strong enough to be to­tally ok with it.”

Be­sides, they have their uses. There is a seven-item list in their book of a Beta Male’s “Main Ar­eas of Con­trol” and these in­clude heavy lift­ing, un­block­ing lava­to­ries and driv­ing long dis­tances (“valu­able email­ing time for her”).

“The list never changes,” Par­tridge says wearily. “Although some­times things get added to it — par­tic­u­larly nasty things like ‘clean­ing the roof ’ or any­thing dan­ger­ous.”

Re­cently, Par­tridge has found he’s ex­pected to turn over the mattress in the mar­i­tal bed ev­ery eight weeks, “and that’s a hor­ri­ble job. It’s this enor­mous mattress, it’s in­cred­i­bly heavy and you have to take off all the bed-clothes…”

After the req­ui­site mattress-turn­ing, it tran­spires that the only place where an Al­pha Fe­male wants a man to take charge is the bed­room. Here, we are told, they ex­pect com­plete role re­ver­sal.

“At short no­tice, you will be ex­pected to trans­form from be­ing a sup­port­ive, at­ten­tive Beta Male out­side the bed­room into a rag­ing, dom­i­nat­ing, hard-sh****** Al­pha b****** in­side it,” the au­thors write.

“It’s quite a dif­fi­cult thing,” ac­knowl­edges Marks qui­etly.

How To Live With An Al­pha Fe­male also warns its read­ers that an AF will take con­trol of al­most ev­ery as­pect of her part­ner’s life. This can have some ad­van­tages (din­ners are or­gan­ised, in­vi­ta­tions are an­swered, bills are paid on time and hol­i­days are booked as if by magic) but can also leave a BM in a state of paralysing in­de­ci­sion over sim­ple, ev­ery­day func­tions such as what to wear.

“When I first met Mel, I was fresh out of 16 years in the mu­sic in­dus­try and I dressed like that,” ex­plains Marks. “Jeans. Hood­ies. Train­ers. She hated it. She ba­si­cally re-dressed me. Now it comes to the point where I don’t think I can get dressed with­out her ad­vice. If she goes away for two weeks, I’m ut­terly screwed.”

This morn­ing, as he was leav­ing the house to come to this in­ter­view, he left his wife sleep­ing in bed up­stairs.

“And as I was shut­ting the front door, I heard her shout ‘Wear a suit!’… She went from a lit­tle snore to ‘WEAR A SUIT!’”

They both snort with laugh­ter, although it’s the kind of hys­te­ria I worry might turn into tears at any mo­ment. Par­tridge’s wife has been on a busi­ness trip 3,000 miles away for the last few days but, he says with a haunted ex­pres­sion, “I still hear her voice in my head”.

“Any re­la­tion­ship is about con­trol,” adds Marks. Pause. “And I don’t re­ally have any.”

Liv­ing with an AF means never win­ning an ar­gu­ment. Ne­go­ti­a­tions over frac­tious is­sues must be planned weeks in ad­vance, with all the thor­ough­ness of a com­plex le­gal case. The only way you will get your way, they con­clude, is if she wants you to.

“Or if she’s in a rush,” says Par­tridge. “If she’s got an ap­point­ment in three min­utes time, sud­denly her ar­gu­ment will col­lapse and you’ ll think you’ve done rather well, but ac­tu­ally she just needs to get out of the house.”

Re­ally a love let­ter

They are half jok­ing, of course, and the book is writ­ten in the spirit of josh­ing af­fec­tion. It is quite clear they both adore their wives, who not only read the man­u­script but of­fered ed­i­to­rial sug­ges­tions (Mel) and de­signed the jacket (Solange). They’re aware how lucky they are.

“The book is re­ally a love let­ter to them,” says Par­tridge. “When you’re with an Al­pha, you gain a life, in a way. In­stead of sit­ting on the sofa watch­ing TV, you’ve sud­denly got places to go… Also I think they’re re­ally good at moral sup­port.”

“They’re fun and in­ter­est­ing,” adds Mur­ray. “The pluses def­i­nitely out­weigh the mi­nuses.”

Any­way, there’s no more time to chat. Mur­ray has just re­mem­bered he for­got to put the bins out and needs to get back. Par­tridge is ex­pect­ing his wife home at any mo­ment and he’s wear­ing a zip-up blue blou­son that she hates. Ob­vi­ously, he will need to change out of it be­fore she no­tices. It’s for their own good, after all.

PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

Have you been rel­e­gated to the role of beta male?

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