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Looking for the Right One(s): The 4 Factors that Determine the Pairing Off

Updated: 2 days ago

In his short story The Depressed Person, David Foster Wallace calls the dating scene a "Hobbesian meat market," referring to the emotionally draining effect of the competition for a mating partner. The tension and thrill in the search for the right romantic partner are produced by the antagonism and/or synergism between 4 major factors:

1. The 2 universal factors: nature and nurture

  • Nature is the innately given biology.

  • Nurture is the cultivation of that biology through (physical) education, culture, and socio-economic advancements.

Lucky for life, none of these 2 factors plays solo, and it would be a catastrophe to rely only on one of them (check for a more detailed explanation of why that is the case in my comment from the 11th of Feb to this post). Thus, the most natural thing is to try to compensate the one with the other to improve our mating chances. However, it is almost impossible to ignore the impression that some people are both well-built and well-nurtured while others perform poorly against both criteria, at least in relative terms. This variety of cases makes some subjectively more attractive than others. Objectively, though, everyone's perfect in their own right, which makes finding love 100% doable if we trust our objective/ absolute compass called "heart" if we are female or the subjective/ relative scale called "mind" if we are male. Yet, being a matter of the heart, match-making is most stress-free when left to the female instinct, where it is strong, or the male's reason, as a backup, where it is not. Conversely, pairing off initiated by the calculating mind of a woman and the heart of a man he does not know anything about yet or has it broken already starts promising, only to get progressively worse from there.

2. The quantitive factor: female and male global distribution

  • Under natural conditions, the ratio of men to women is bound to be 1:1, which is explained by Fisher's principle.

  • However, selective abortion, wars, and migration disturb the native dating scene to the below variety of ratios.

3. The qualitative factor: Ideal female vs. ideal male characteristics

  • Ideal females (and people who occupy the Omega rank) are generally considered to be hearty, loving, feeling, spontaneous, illogical, irrational, passive, powerless, submissive, egalitarian, all-embracing/ non-selective, non-competitive, fragile, shy, introvert, soft, slow, quiet, in need of protection, without a sense of honor, pride, and ownership over their partner, followers, common, responsible for childbearing, social cohesion, and peace.

  • Ideal males (and people who occupy the Alpha rank) are generally considered to be cerebral, wise, thinking, methodical, logical, rational, active, powerful, dominant, elitist, selective, competitive, tough, exhibitionist, extrovert, sharp, fast, loud, in need of something to protect (and fight for its defense), with a sense of honor, pride, and ownership over their partner, leaders, original, responsible for insemination, social fragmentation, and war.

All of the above 4 factors (nature, nurture, quantity, and quality of mates) create

The dominance hierarchy

For convenience, I will use the already popular dominance hierarchy that divides males and females into ranks - Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta (named after the first 4 letters of the Greek alphabet), or Omega (the last letter). Logically, the Alphas are the first or the most competitive, and the Omegas are the last and least competitive in any race at hand.

Competitiveness for mating partners is an innate characteristic of males only. Females acquire it in the course of their cultivation by society under the pressure of civilizing factors. It is easy to observe that the more competitive/ Alpha, the less feminine a female is, while the more competitive/ Alpha, the more masculine a male is. This is why I chose the same color for the top of both female (to the left) and male (to the right) pyramids. As the blue fades away, so do the characteristics that are considered the "manliest," as described above in point 3. As the pink changes to blue, so do the most feminine of characteristics give way to the masculine ones in a female.

Two Alpha individuals cannot agree on who should be the boss/on top, and such a thing as "partnership" between Alpha leaders practically does not exist. Even if a consensus is reached for a rotation in which the Alpha partners will take turns "on top," this state is so compromised that one is always completely dissatisfied 50% of the time. A meeting of two Alpha people is a clash of titans that can only be ended with either the death or the exile of one of them. For this reason, they prefer to secure their position "on top" with more than one partner (simultaneously or sequentially) in their life, be that one of a lesser rank, preferably of the Beta or Gamma rank. Beta and Gamma are, at the same time, the object of the desires of the Delta and Omega ones, who failed in their attempt to conquer the top. Thus, most parties and ranks deem individuals occupying the middle Gamma state desirable. The Gamma individual (who is characterized by a contradictory mix of alphish and omegish features in a fifty-fifty ratio in the ideal scenario) is most relieved of the need to engage in competitive behavior in search of a mating partner, even though they are not the most feminine or masculine of all. Paradoxically, they experience the highest pressure to compete because the sample of mates they have limited their search to is the smallest, as it is restricted to their own rank for some of the below reasons.

Ironically, Gamma individuals, in particular, commit to a romantic relationship the hardest because their romantic ideal, which coincides with the ideal of civilization, is that there is just one match for each person. This ideal is very easily turned from an elixir into a poison if that so-very-dear special one of their choice is already taken by another Beta or Alpha individual. On the other hand, a journey up or down the pyramid seems too risky for the Gamma individual, who is settled and loves tradition, independence, their savings, stability, and predictability to the point of being spoiled and trapped by them. Gamma individuals imagine that their partner/ spouse will be that old best friend in whose company they feel homey and cozy. Despite the higher status that a union with an Alpha would bring, Gamma individuals prefer the comfort of their own rank in their reluctance to enter into messy polygamy dynamics - a condition (unspokenly) placed upon them by any Alpha would-be-partner, who could not be fully satisfied otherwise. On the other hand, a union with an Omega might bring them more discomfort than joy as they would be dragged lower to meet them in the middle of the Delta position. While for both Alpha and Omega, there will always be plenty more fish in the sea, the Gamma individuals are looking for their one and only in an all-or-nothing fashion that has the potential to bring the highest of personal happiness (on the path of all 10 kinds of healthy love) or the lowest of personal misery possible (wanted from all sides but alone and lonely). Only Gamma individuals can pass the trap of toxic relationships on their way from intimate to infatuated love because they can afford to dedicate the time necessary for establishing friendship prior to romance. A possibility that fast-lane Alphas and helpless Omegas only skim over. While Omega has nothing left to lose and quickly jumps head over heels into the arms of Alpha, Gamma is tied to their sense of identity, place, culture, and origin that cannot be unrooted without the aftertaste of loss and damage. In fact, Gamma individuals destroy the gender stereotypes because they manage to switch between typically female and typically male behaviors like a chameleon, although to a lesser intensity of performance in comparison to those who have grown solidly into their Alphish/ male or Omegish/ female role. This freedom of investigation of experiences is something the Gamma individual does not want to say goodbye to. Thus, the migration to the Delta and Beta positions are seen as compromises in which:

  • Either the Gamma individual needs to put up with (some of) the infidelity of their Alpha partner, or the Alpha individual is to sacrifice (some of) their polygamy tendency to bring a sense of stability to their Gamma partner. Typically such pairing off of Gamma with Alpha produces two Beta individuals over time who are characterized by more of the alphish rather than the omegish of features.

  • Either the Gamma individual needs to sacrifice (some of) their comfort to provide for their helpless Omega partner, or the Omega individual needs to get their wits together and curtail their gambling attitude towards life to bring a sense of stability to their Gamma partner. Typically such pairing off of Gamma with Omega produces two Delta individuals over time who are characterized by more of the omegish rather than the alphish of features.

Consequently, Gamma people are either locked out of heaven in the prison of their own stable fortress or safely residing in it with their exclusive partner.

Room for optimism

The good news is that the ranks may not be set in stone from birth until death but are partially contextual - change the surrounding elements of the environment in relation to which we measure ourselves/ our competitiveness level, and so our rank may change in it. If you don't like it where you are, you can try to either change yourself or move elsewhere, as simple as that. The uncertain effect of such migration, though, is due to the fact that all males want to be Alpha, and all Alpha females want to be Gamma; just like all men want to be tall, but all females want to be of average height, so they have more options of taller-than-them partners to choose from. But because the pyramid is the most stable of all shapes, the stability of which requires it always to have a base and a single top, the pressure is to push both males and females into targeting the Alpha state for themselves, even when it is counter-productive for the happiness of females, and suicidal for the males, it is working for the total structure that needs to promote and preserve that precious scarce ideal-male/ Alpha features carrier of destruction lest we all perish without it. Ain't life's fabric stunningly paradoxical!

Pyramids and polygamies

Of course, the above explanation works only if we take axiomatically that social ranking takes the shape of a pyramid instead of any other, say sphere, cube, cylinder, disk, etc. One phenomenon in support of the pyramidal structure is the all-defeating nature of Alpha that does not allow for "cohabitation" on the top and 2) polygamy that can be explained by the natural oversupply of "Omega" and the natural "undersupply" of Alpha. Another speculation in favor of the pyramidal model is its correspondence to the social hierarchy, even within the most democratic (with the largest portion of its population in the Gamma rank) of societies. If we were to look at a cylinder model, for example, there would be no way to explain polygamy other than the asexual behavior of half of the population, which is not a phenomenon we can observe at present. However, as with any other theoretical model, this one is an idealization rather than a realistic depiction. If you would like a good illustration, one of my favorites on more than 1 occasion is Woody Allen's movie Vicky, Christina, Barcelona, in which a Beta painter (Havier Bardem) and an Alpha painter (Penélope Cruz) deeply wound and drag each other down to the Gamma rank in the course of their failed, childless marriage. Then, Vicky (Rebeca Hall) - a Gamma-going-Beta soon-to-be-married woman, and her friend Christina (Scarlet Johanson) - an Omega-going-Delta woman of a big heart (and breast), enter the picture to claim him. It is a movie about the fates of 3 women touched and changed forever by a single man. The pyramidal instead of cylindric or cubic structure simply calls for polygamy:

  • Polygyny - many, mostly Omega, and fewer Delta females surrender themselves for (some portion of) the attention and care of an (older) Alpha or Beta male patron. In the animal kingdom, the hens around a rooster are such examples.

  • Polyandry - many, mostly Omega and fewer Delta, males surrender themselves for (some portion of) the attention of an (older) Alpha or Beta female patron. In the animal kingdom, the Queen Bee and her drones are such examples.

Wilderness and civilization

Wilderness: The specific characteristics of the bottom are such that their psychological, emotional, and even physical survival depends on the patronage of the top who in turn needs an outlet for their excessive energy most welcomed by those in need of it desperately. This paring is based on the elemental natural opposites-attract principle and is short-lived because their very connection and exchange of energies already blunt their features, something much needed to release their tension. The interaction leaves the alpha less alpha and the omega less omega as a final result. Because 1) the bottom (the most natural of all) cannot stay young and fresh forever (maturation/ transition towards the delta or gamma state is unavoidable) and 2) the top (the most supernatural) cannot enjoy social recognition, approval, and unquestionable legitimacy forever (in order to reside safely there) both the top and the bottom are areas of turbulence, the crude elements of nature, and their quick change of (extreme) states. The dynamic environment on the bottom and the top is the place occupied by people who are bored by the stillness and silence within and crave external stimulation and out-of-the-box experiences, pair off and break up easily, love life, don't contemplate death, and don't fear it.

Civilization: Gamma people (of average qualities) who are the pivot of stability often remain encapsulated and unreachable from the (rest of the) peripheries. The transitory advancement from the bottom to the top costs a lot of energy, which Gamma individuals use in a child-centered system where both parents provide equal care for their offspring in a safe monogamous relationship. This system only allows for exclusive "until death do us part" relationships of a single but strong bond as an alternative to the polygamous systems of weaker but more numerous bonds. Pairing off does not happen easily, but once it does, it lasts for as long as averageness remains a primary value rather than an offense for the Gamma individuals who mutually reinforce the averageness of one another. If for some reason, pairing off with a like-natured/ like-hearted, like-nurtured/ like-minded, soul-mate is prevented, the Gamma individual does not want to die but does not feel like living either. This is the territory of civilization, tradition, order, rules, customs, (family) values, and life in the (religious) community - the goal and dream of the middle class that's never bored of its potential for discoveries when looking inside but is always hesitant and moderate.


After all of the above has been presented, I'd like to urge you to please do not put permanent labels on people as Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, or Omega because they are not meant to last. The moment you finish identifying what they might be, they and everything around has already changed while you were busy studying. But even if we agree that one lifetime is too short a period for things about and around us to change too dramatically, it is sure that labels are just labels, just like words are just words, and every study, no matter how precise it might be, is imperfect. Therefore, all the words above would be in vain if they were not pointing to the realization that we can search, but we will never find some sort of a Holy Grail (=the best of schemes to be laid out to realize the strategic masterplan of finding "the right" one, two, three...). Still, we can move toward the vision of our best-case scenario using our imagination, willpower, and situational givens if we open up to their infinite possibilities.

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