Are Smart, Strong, Successful Women Too Busy For Love?

Female accountant busy working in the office

Dear Evan,

It’s been enlightening to read your blog. I’ve been paying more attention to social situations now, including my own. I have a general question based on my recent observations.

I went to many parties during the holiday season. I met smart, strong, successful single women at all of these events. It struck me recently that all of these women give off a vibe that is similar. I am also more in tune with my intuition at this point in my life. That intuition further tells me that these women are all on a similar path. It is as follows:

They are 36 to 44, give or take. They are single and childless. They have put a lot into their careers. They are in a comfortable space with their work, family, friends, and their leisure time. They seem to be vaguely open to a relationship: they get out there to socialize occasionally, but family, friends and hobbies take up most of their free time. I get the feeling that a guy has really got to fit into that space so that it is convenient to them, or that a guy has to excite them and fit all their checklist criteria before they are interested in dating.

I don’t want to group all women like this. It’s just what I am seeing. So is my perception off?

If my assessment is correct, then based on your blog, I should not make much effort here, because this type of woman does not deem a relationship to be a priority. Or maybe I should try to shake things up. If so, should I flirt and do some sophisticated version of what those seduction community coaches teach? I’ve tried that before, and the more tasteful approaches do lower a woman’s guard, but it has never led anywhere in the end anyway.

What do you think? —Dan

I think, Dan, that you hit the nail on the head.

And you’ve just arrived at the primary problem that my clients have when it comes to forging successful long-term relationships: they don’t want anything to change.

Nothing you wrote is insulting or demeaning or patronizing.

It’s just a normal guy’s observation about the women that he’s been meeting.

Not every woman is this way, of course, but almost ALL of my clients could meet your description:

36 to 44. Single and childless. Put a lot into their careers. Comfortable with their work, family, friends, and leisure time. Vaguely open to a relationship. Get out there to socialize occasionally, but family, friends and hobbies take up most of their free time.

But that’s just a demographic description of smart, strong, successful women.

This line is the real kicker:

I get the feeling that a guy has really got to fit into that space so that it is convenient to them, or that a guy has to excite them and fit all their checklist criteria before they are interested in dating.

Ding, ding, ding!

And you’ve just arrived at the primary problem that my clients have when it comes to forging successful long-term relationships; they don’t want anything to change.

They want the exact same life that they had previously, just with a man thrown in there for good measure. Perhaps she can squeeze him in between her triathlon training and her business trip to London, but wait, I’m sorry, my cell phone’s breaking up… I’ll call you back from the office tomorrow….

Understand, these are amazing women. I have tremendous respect for them and know that without them, I don’t even have a business.

You don’t meet Mr. Right and suddenly rearrange your life to accommodate him. You rearrange your life in order to date enough men to meet Mr. Right.

At the same time, the onus isn’t on you, Dan, to become a master seducer to jolt these women out of their orbit with some cocky/funny pickup artistry.

The onus is on these women to understand this fact:

You don’t make time FOR a man. You make time to FIND a man.

You don’t meet Mr. Right and suddenly rearrange your life to accommodate him. You rearrange your life in order to date enough men to meet Mr. Right.

I’m not saying that there’s nothing better you can do, Dan, to be a more effective flirt. Everyone can stand to improve in most aspects of his/her life. And a little charisma and edge never hurt a nice guy, that’s for sure.

And I’m not saying that there’s something fundamentally flawed about all the women who build up rich single lives because they can’t depend on the presence of a man.

I’m just saying that your observation is correct, and I can only hope that the women who feel indicted by this post take a deep breath before venting on me.

You’re not bad for being a strong, working woman. You’re impressive and admirable and powerful and all of those adjectives that successful women like to call each other.

Just understand that most guys aren’t going to climb your Ivory Tower to release you.

They’re simply going to find a house with an open door and walk right in.

Join our conversation (133 Comments).
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  1. 1

    I cannot lie, that describes me exactly.

  2. 2

    It’s not as simple as “it’s all the women’s fault,” I’m afraid.
    Evan wrote: “[Dan,] Nothing you wrote is insulting or demeaning or patronizing.”
    Agreed. Also, Dan does not seem like a bad guy. But what he wrote was rather narrow-minded. He says he tried to approach women and managed to have them let their guards down – “but it has never led anywhere in the end.” And both he and Evan then appear to place the responsibility for this not just on the women Dan met, but on smart, strong, successful, single women more generally.
    The truth is that in most cases, it never leads anywhere in the end, regardless of how approachable either the woman or the man was. That is not a reason to criticize “smart, strong, successful single women.” I dated (and also got turned down by) a lot of smart guys before meeting and marrying my husband. Just because things didn’t work out with them doesn’t mean that I am justified in stereotyping all smart men as being unapproachable.
    It’s not that the general points may be wrong – it’s that this particular example didn’t fit the bill. As such, it does come off as being a blaming game, even if that is not what was intended.

  3. 3

    I write for women (often younger, 20-somethings, but all ages) on every issue from balanced diets to cultivating intimacy, and the argument is always the same: you have to make time and let go of some of your regimes and personal goals if you want to share your life with someone else. I think it’s easy as a woman to feel pressure to be as successful as possible, as WELL AS watch your weight, AND get sleep, AND eat well, AND have relationships with girlfriends/family/the homeless shelter you volunteer at, yada yada yada. The problem is, soon you’re 35 and all you’ve done for ten years is get up at 5 to go to the gym, get home from work by 7 to cook a healthy dinner and conk out by 9 pm. You need a little space and wiggle room to let someone else in – to have the energy, the time, and the flexibility to  accommodate  someone else AND be able to make them happy and reach their goals, as well.  

    Great article, and, if/when you get yelled at for it, I’ve got your back.  

  4. 4

    Evan, I think this is right on, but I do think you’re overlooking one crucial thing: most of the single women I know have such good lives that it isn’t worth making room for a man who offers very little. Men need to step up their game. Overweight, middled aged, balding men who are paying child support and who want to have sex with us are a dime a dozen. I’ll speak for a lot of my friends by saying, we’re pretty happy to share company with each other until the pickings improve. Sure, you have to make room and weed through the masses in order to find the great guy that will be a terrific partner, and most single women of a certain age don’t feel like they have to do that. But I do think if these opportunities weren’t so few and far between, more women would stay open. If you’re overweight, balding, and on a limited budget, we’ll still consider you, but you better be prepared to offer something else. Make sure you can hold interesting conversations, doors, and the rake in my front lawn when the leaves keep falling down.  

    1. 4.1

      Seeing as men between the ages of 36-44 are as a group, better looking, more successful, and way more datable than similarly aged women, who are well past their prime, it seems obvious that you waited too long. All the good looking successful men are paired off or are having a great time with younger women, and you are left with scraps. Hope your job keeps you warm at night.

      1. 4.1.1

        Thanks Tom.   I met an incredible woman.   I feel in love with her instantly.   Got her info to know her yada yada.   I feel out of love with her by the time she got back to me and called.   It was months later.   She had no time and we could have been a great couple.   Relationships are a 2 way street that’s it.

    2. 4.2

      Right on ! And this is true of any age single woman. My 26 year old daughter also rues the lack of available young men with any ambition, stability and maturity. Plenty of men who want to hit it and quit it, or immature entitled men who think they’re the prize and women should be lucky to date them. They need to step up what they have to offer too, otherwise it’s just less complicated and annoying to date pretend contenders She’s gorgeous and the men line up to date her but she had to wait quite a while to find one worth her time.

      I find among the never-been-married over 40 males (and the divorced ones) just what Nadia stated. They don’t take care of themselves and have no outside interests, in most cases lead boring lives, and can’t fathom why they don’t hold a candle to what we’ve already got going. Yet their expectations for us, esp physically, are high even when they’re playing out of their league. Give me a reason to want to forego something I enjoy because hanging on on your sofa watching reruns of ‘Top Gun’ isn’t going to cut it. At least be funny and don’t expect me to carry a conversation and have to make the plans for our date.

      1. 4.2.1

        I feel you Julie. I remember this one guy that was married and tried to hit it, but i figured it out, plus he had other women with his kids and he was trying to act like he was the price. He claim he didn’t have time but he time to attempt to sleep with me. I didn’t even know this guy no more than 2 weeks. I’m like what happen to that kind guy I met. it was a ll a front. I’m talking about working together and he’s talking about sleeping with me. Trying to juggle his wife and other women, sleeping with me should have been the last thing on his mind. Dude thought i was a 32 y/0 virgin and he was going hard for me. He was a pyscho and I’m glad I dodge that bullet.

  5. 5

    Relevant to my earlier point, and to the OP’s letter:
    At least in my social circle, whenever something goes wrong in their lives, the men tend to blame others while the women tend to blame themselves. An example: both my husband and I recently gave business presentations in separate venues, and we both noticed one person yawning while we were talking.   My husband’s response was to say that the person yawning in his case was a bad worker and someone he wouldn’t want as a colleague. My response (about the person yawning in my case) was to think that my talk must have been boring.
    I see this time and time again, among my male and female colleagues, friends, married couples, etc.
    So, to Dan: the whom you tried to approach with whom things didn’t work out are not necessarily to blame. You may not have been the right fit for them. That is nothing to take personally (this happens all the time in dating), but it’s also not a reason to assume that something is wrong with them, or with brilliant women in general.

  6. 6

    Dan: Agree with EMK. These women may not be interested in marriage or a romantic relationship on any terms. Or they may not be willing to give up the life they have built for themselves to have a guy unless he fits in very well. Or they might be dating around and all booked up. Or they may not be that into you.   If they aren’t displaying romantic interest in you best to keep moving on unless you see the possibility for  friendship with  some of these women and can work out the logistics of that.

    Question: Why are you interested in them? Doesn’t seem a good fit.

  7. 7
    susan v.

    I am in my 30s and after having a career that did not fulfil me and spending lots of time and effort focussing on dating in my 20s, now I am focussing on building a career and life I enjoy no matter whether I ever meet someone or not.

    Because I feel I wasted lots of time dating the wrong people, my schooling is my biggest priority now and while at times it gets lonely, it has helped me build confidence and self-esteem and believing in myself. Now, I have not done all of this alone but with the help of an amazing therapist who has encouraged me to build community, to open my heart to others and most importantly to be true to myself, my needs and wants and be willing to express them.

    I would recommend to every woman out there to build a life for herself before being in a serious relationship with anyone. To know that you can take care of yourself financially and have others to rely on emotionally besides your partner is a win-win situation.

    Anyone who makes her or his work his only priority most likely is not having quality relationships with family or friends. Having a full calendar, a phone ringing all the time or meeting with friends every week to gossip or go drinking does not automatically mean that person has her or his life and priorities together.

  8. 8

    I’ve dated two work-a-holics and our relationship (and me) was treated like half assed icing thrown on a chaotic cake…that may speak to more when one of these women are IN a relationship (with a weak foundation — giving 3% of their time energy and focus to it). But as this guy’s met them at parties — they are are also on online dating sites. Profiles that brag about how BUSY they are (multiple times) is the equiv. of women seeing shirtless photos in bathrooms. Just completely turns me off.

  9. 9

    Actually, it appears to me that these strong, successful women may not even want a man. They have their support networks, are never lonely, are never bored, have stimulating and rewarding careers that can support them and then some. They live life on their own terms and are not prepared to compromise for someone else unless that person is really, really special. Even if these women want children, they may opt for single parenthood irrespective of what society may think of this.
    Of course it is entirely possible some of these women are secretly unhappy about not having a man in their lives. However, if these women are not going to accept changes in their lives to find and accommodate another person into their world, then maybe their desire for a man is not as great after all, certainly not as much as their desire for the lives they are currently living now. I really believe that if these women want something bad enough, they will do something to get it – like Evan’s clients having the courage and sense to engage a coach like him.
    On the flip side of the coin, I know very intelligent and spirited women who feel they have totally wasted their entire lives and missed fantastic opportunities living for men who are totally unappreciative and unworthy.

    1. 9.1

      It just shows that no-one can really have it all. A choice for one thing often means a choice against another thing. Some options in life are mutually exclusive, and so a happy compromise must be worked towards to maximise gains in every area. Each person only has 24 hours in a day.


  10. 10

    Although very short-lived, I think my personal experience and my new relationship constitute an excellent example that confirms what EMK is saying in this post.

    (Bear with me as my English is not perfect)

    First let me set the stage…I am smart, strong and successful. I hold a Phd in Economics, and I have (had) an excellent job. I have travelled to many countries and  I am a go-getter:  at 35, I have already lived and worked in 6 different countries! On top of that, I am attractive (people say so). Pretty face…and extremely fit body with nice feminine curves (mind you, I LOVE working out and I have had a personal coach for 6 years (3-4 times a week)). In addition, I am optimistic by nature, I smile a lot and I think I am reasonably funny (ahahaha). Well…I know it sounds like I am boasting and that I am full of myself, but this description is necessary to serve my purpose in this post…
    …so with all that said, most people are surprised when they find out that until last July, I was single and I have stayed single for almost 5 years. SINGLE. FOR. FIVE. LONG. YEARS. Nobody. And not even one night (or one day) of sex. Very few dates … I want to add that I am not shy at all. Life was just like Evan describes it in his posts….I had a bunch of female friends, 30-50+ years old, most of them pretty and fit (hey! we have money, and we have time!), all of them as smart or smarter than me, funny….and single !!!! We all claimed that we wanted to find a man, we used to go out pretty much every weekend, but we always ended up sticking to each other during the parties, talking and sharing about work…. and going back home alone…If one of us did find a date, she would ditch the poor guy   after one or two dates under the same excuses: we always found ourselves better than those guys: better educated (of course, we all have PhDs!), wealthier, etc etc.  

    Last May, I have decided that I did not want to finish my life alone and that I wanted to have kids before it was too late. I had already thought about this, so I have saved up some money and I made one of the biggest decisions in my life: I took a 2-year leave from my excellent and well-paid job. this is the scariest decision I have made in my like. But I do not regret it…

    That’s the only step I took: I kept working out, I kept reading all the books that make me so smart (ahaha), I kept reading this blog and applying EMk’s advices (but I was already). BUT this one and only step has changed everything !! As soon as in July, I have found the man who I think is the love of my life. We have been together since then and he is doing the 8 things a boyfriend should be doing according to EMK(:-)). In addition, he wants to marry me and to have kids with me (although I am making tons of efforts to pace him).

    Although I have never had any criteria   for my future husband besides a lot of integrity and a strong family-orientation, I must admit he is nothing like I would have imagined. However, love and chemistry are there (although I did not feel the chemistry immediately, after several dates, it actually grew on me like crazy!).
    So what is the difference between “Soul with an excellent job”, and “soul without a job” ?
    – Now, I take the time to get to know people because I do not (rightfully) think that I have to perform at work and that I do not want to loose my time with people to no avail ;  
    – I am almost never in my masculine energy anymore: I enjoy music, wine, chocolate and dancing for themselves, and not as a means to release my stress (i do not feel stressed anymore),
    – I do not seek any result when I encounter people, I am friendly to everybody (women, men children, waiters etc.)
    – I smile a lot, I enjoy life and I enjoy creating beauty for the people around me.
    – I am playing (and having sex) with my man ALL the time (and for this too, you have to make time and make yourself available)

    The only problem of course is that I do not have any salary any more, and I am using up my savings account… But what is money compared to the joy of having wine and diner at home with your man, instead of crying in your car on your way back from work because you do not want to go back to an (extremely well-decorated) empty house??

    I know I will go back to my job or to another one eventually, but I have learned an invaluable lesson and I think this is the same lesson EMK is trying to teach in this post

  11. 11

    l know many successful career women in my network (aged 36 – 44), that have kids and husbands, and all the package seems to work with them. At the other end of the scale, l know women,  who do not have careers, therefore more room for making time for rel. ship, yet they are 36 – 44, without children and still single. Go figure.

    My opinion is that career isn ´t the main *showstopper* of meeting the partner, those women either really don ´t want relationship, (until indeed, the special one comes along, after all the bad dating and wasted time of wrong people in past), OR they actually do want to have relationship and they struggle to find out what they are doing wrong (  time to   book Evan), because it seems not to work.  



  12. 12

    You can take that age range down quite a bit.   I see the exact same thing over and over with smart, successful women in their mid-20s.   I’d really like to get to know some of them but they can’t go on more than 2-3 dates before they lose interest in the whole process.

  13. 13

    @ David #8, profiles where women brag about how busy they are, came into being in the first place because we kept being told that men like a woman who has a life outside of them. You know, independent, fun, not needy, not clingy… Turns out you cannot win. If you’re not busy, then you’re going to take over a man’s life, and if you’re busy, then you probably won’t have time for a man — either way, you lose.
    I cannot make up my mind about how I feel re this whole thread. In my personal career, first I took for years off to stay home with the kids, and that severely limited my career opportunities. When I came back to the workforce, I looked for jobs with good pay, good benefits, close to home, flex hours, job security — jobs that allowed me to juggle work and children. Keep in mind, those were high-paying jobs at large corporations… just not very exciting or cutting-edge. Now the kids are grown and don’t need me to have flex hours or work close to home — they do however need cars and college educations, that I cannot provide them with to the extent that they need. Meantime, I keep getting turned down from exciting, cutting-edge jobs, because those employers don’t count the slow-paced, boring work at the various fortune 500’s as valuable work experience. I’m facing a real danger of being out of work or having to take a pay cut one day. In my case, at least, whatever sacrifices I made, I made them for my children and they appear to have paid off in terms of my kids’ academic and personal success (knock on wood). To put your career (and, consequently, your future) on a back burner for a man that you haven’t even met yet… this kinda boggles my mind. There has to be some middle ground.
    @ Soul:
    “But what is money compared to the joy of having wine and diner at home with your man, instead of crying in your car on your way back from work because you do not want to go back to an (extremely well-decorated) empty house??”
    1) wine and dinners don’t grow on trees, and 2) crying in your car on the way TO work because you don’t want to go to a job you hate is just as bad. Not trying to knock your decision, you sound happy and I hope things work out the way you plan! Just saying, there are always tradeoffs 🙁

    1. 13.1

      you hit the nail right on the head … I was also always taught that too, that men want independent women (with their own full lives) so as to not be scared that we’d want to make them our whole worlds (ie clingy, needy, smothering etc) so, yes, I made sure I had my own full interest life not only for that reason but it’s just smart to not have all your eggs in one basket (particularly for a man you have not yet met or may never meet) and now we are penalized for it?? When I’ve met the rare great man, I make time for him but he has to earn that. To date only a couple men – super confident with their own busy lives – stepped up to that plate and hit it out of the park. They made me WANT to give up other things to be with them, they had something equally good to offer. Is that too much to ask? A man who is worthy of me and and my valuable time??

  14. 14
    Eleanore Wells

    Hmmm.   I’m single, childless, smart, successful…and not at all “too busy” for love.   I love dating, love having a boyfriend.   There’s room in my life for all the things that are important to me.   People who are too busy for love probably don’t want love.   Those of us who do, figure it out.

    I blog about this a lot: and because I hate this thinking that being smart and successful is somehow incongruent to being a fantastic date and a wonderful partner.  

  15. 15

    It’s all about balance.    We all need to pursue  fulfillment and  contentment as individuals for our own sake, but it also makes us attractive to potential mates.   However, the overly busi-ness rampant in American society does have its downfalls.   We need to have time to just BE, which includes romantic relationships.

  16. 16

    @Goldie — Hmmm, what I’m describing is different — a good example is like when someone writes something like “I don’t even know why I’m on this site, I’m soooooooooo busy…” “Maybe if the right guy catches my attention” (i.e. I’ll give him 3% of my time)

  17. 17

    @Soul #10- I loved reading your story! I’m happy that you are happy.

  18. 18

    Helen: Here, here!

  19. 19

    Even, you’re so right on the money! I have a friend – a very, VERY successful woman who recently complained that she doesn’t have time to date, yet she does want a RELATIONSHIP. When I pointed out that her schedule is so full she barely has time to sleep, she replied “Well, my Friday nights are normally not too busy”… Meaning, she totally expected a man to fit nicely into her Friday-night slot!  
    I think that very successful single women are like a magnifying glass that reflect all women in America: nobody wants to waste time on bad dating while everyone wants to be independent and lead full lives.   Well, Evan is right: making space, time and changing mentality that INVITES a man into your life   is totally “you will build it – they will come” approach.

  20. 20

    Some of the smart successful women are making time to go on enough dates to find Mr. Right AND we do realize we lead full lives (on purpose because we like it that way) AND have every intention to shift how we spend our full lives once we find a man with mutual attraction.   We don’t plan to dump our friends, families and hobbies, but there’s a way to make/shift time for a fabulous partner once we find him!   🙂

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