3 min read

Excerpt from 121 First Dates

by Wendy Newman

One of our favorite phrases as a single woman is, “Men find me intimidating, I think it’s because I’m successful at work.” Or, “My PhD is too intimidating to the men I date. I don’t think they can handle it.” Smarty-Pants Girl, I have some bad news for you: you are not intimating to men. I’ve done the social research to back it up and I couldn’t find a single man who felt intimidated by you. Straight from the horse’s mouth, here’s what men had to say (over and over and over again) on this topic:

Q:“Why are men so intimidated by a strong, smart, and successful woman?”
A: “They aren’t, unless they’re fourteen years old.”

When a woman tells me, “He was intimidated by me because I’m smart and successful,” or “Do I have to dumb it down?” I want to lovingly tell her the truth: “No, he’s not intimidated. He’s just not interested in you.” I usually hold my tongue, but I won’t hold it here. He’s not intimidated; he’s either getting attitude from you or you’re treating your interactions as a competition rather than a collaboration. Or maybe you’re not being open to him contributing to your life, ’cuz, you know, you got this.

Men aren’t intimidated by success, smarts, and strength; those characteristics are not inherently intimidating. What men are put off by is an attitude of complete self-sufficiency. There’s a big difference between “I’ve got my life together. Go, me!” and “I’ve got everything together, so what do I need you for?” Our society has trained many of us to mistake self-reliance for self-confidence. No one’s 100 percent self-reliant, and that’s okay. Think of it this way: if you’re independent and there’s no room for anyone else to provide anything in your life (because you’ve got it all covered), then there’s no space for him. I’m not saying you should be a hot mess. Men love strong, capable women—and we love being strong and capable. In fact, wouldn’t it make sense to partner with someone strong, smart, and competent so you can take on the world together and have the biggest, bestest life ever? Um, can I get a hell yes? Getting to that biggest, bestest life involves—you guessed it—a lot of communication and cooperation so that both parties feel they’re getting their needs met—and that includes your man’s need to provide for you in some way. Most guys want a woman who will let him in and be excited about the many gifts he has to give in whatever form those gifts come.

If your lifestyle doesn’t sync up with that traditional 1950s model where your guy’s the breadwinner and you’re the housewife, especially if you make piles of money—like oodles more than he does—you might want to consider setting any perceived or real tension between you two about this at ease by using this simple phrase:

“I’m so thankful that you provide ______.”

My guess is Oprah had to have this conversation (or something similar) with her partner, Stedman Graham. Us strong, powerful, successful women can do a lot of things for ourselves, but do you know what you can’t do? You can’t listen to yourself give yourself a different perspective. You can’t lovingly witness your own life. You can’t support and congratulate yourself in a meaningful way when you work hard. And for sure, you won’t tell yourself it’s time to take a break. How easy is it for you to have your own back, or inspire yourself to be a better person? These things are delicious when they’re provided by someone who loves you. It makes them shine all the more brighter.

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