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


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.

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  1. 21

    Goldie #13/Eleanore #14: Couldn’t agree more. The  main idea here is that if you’re a successful woman, you must be some kind of horrible, self-involved person. If you’re smart and accomplished you must be some kind of rude, domineering b****. Same old saw. I thought we’d moved beyond these kinds of stereotypes.

    Eleanore: I’m going to check out those sites. They sound good.

  2. 22

    We are always hearing on this blog   that men want to be accepted AS THEY ARE and don’t want women trying to change them when they get into a relationship. Yet here we have    poor Dan apparently complaining that  these women seem like they wouldn’t be prepared to change their lives to accommodate him and that he’d have to fit in with the way they  already are   if he were to date them??? Well… boo hoo… If men’s biggest desire is not to have to change when they meet a woman, I’m not sure why Dan is so put out that   – surprise surprise – women may not want to change either when they meet him.

  3. 23

    Sorry, I should have added that I think perhaps Dan’s problem is that he is going to the wrong parties… There are many millions of women on this planet who don’t work out at the gym, don’t maintain close relationships with family and friends or participate in hobbies – many who don’t even have a job to take up any of their time! If Dan would like to meet women whose lives are devoid of activity and who will have plenty of time for him, he should have no difficulty at all in finding someone who fits the bill – any ordinary shopping centre in a not very well off part of town would be a sensible place to start his search.

  4. 24

    I agree with Androgynous 9 and Goldie 13.   Upon rereading, there is something distinctly off about both the original post and some of the comments.   Now it doesn’t even sound like this was a real letter by  a dude named  “Dan”. It sounds like it was a made-up letter, used as a springboard for Evan’s point.  

    The point itself has some merit, but then some commenters took it to what amounts, in my opinion, to a disastrous extreme.   Taking two years off your job to find a man strikes me as an incredibly unwise action. You’ve lost your salary, benefits, and possibly a chance to get back in (or in any case, to be in as good a position as the one you left) for something as uncertain as finding love.   What if this person doesn’t turn out to be the one?   What would you have lost as a result?   Right now all your hopes seem pinned on this one person for all the happiness in your future – that is way too much to be asking of any human, even a good one.    

    I sincerely hope no one looks at this thread and suddenly thinks it’s a good idea to  abandon work to pursue men.   Good Lord.

  5. 25

    @Lara #6 re: “Why are you interested in them? Doesn’t seem a good fit.”
    I am not Dan, but I fell qualified to answer for him since my target demographic is the same as his, women without kids, 36-44. The answer is (drum roll)… Because I want to have a family, and the vast majority of single (non obese) women 36-44 that still claim that they want to have a family are women that have put off having a family to pursue a career.
    Although I have come to learn that many of these 36-44 career women are not sincerely motivated to have a husband, let alone a family does not change the fact that they are the primary game in town for me. Sadly, the chubby 25 year old at my Bank that flirts with all the time, is looking a lot better as I type this out.

  6. 26

    I don’t think that anyone is suggesting that smart, successful women cannot be fantastic dates and wonderful partners.   It’s just that many of us walk that fine line between keeping ourselves interested in our full lives and giving off the impression that we don’t have the time or energy for a loving relationship.    
    I meet plenty of successful men who only want a woman who can contort herself to fit into his hectic lifestyle.   And there are plenty of “desirable” – read: fit, young, bubbly, nubile – women who will joyfully bend to fit into his life because to them, a successful, rich man is the pinnacle of desirability.     On the other hand, I don’t know a lot of successful, rich women who want the kind of man who would consider bending over backwards to fit into her life only when and where she allows him.   That super-flexible, accomodating dude tends not to be the A-Type Power Player that so many successful, busy women are attracted to.   He tends to be a laid-back, chill, sweet guy who powerful women often scorn.  

  7. 27

    @ Helen:

    You are totally right. I am just sharing my story… I certainly don’t intend to tell anybody what they need to do with their lives. As for me,  I KNOW I can fall back on my feet anytime workwise (I am optimistic by nature, remember?). What if this guy is not the one, you ask? There is no guarantee in life, no guarantee !

    @ Jennifer:

    Thank you very much. He actually is making me really happy. And reading your comment too!!   

  8. 28
    Saint Stephen

    The problem is that most smart strong successful women don’t seem to know how to compartmentalize – the way men do.
    Is either they have a love-life or they just get seriously enmeshed in their work-life.  

    A man can be smart strong and successful and still make out time for a love-life. Which is why you see successful men dating two and sometimes even three women simultaneously.   

    I’m sure if Soul was a man she wouldn’t need to take some time off her job in other to find the one, but good decision anyway – It shows how self aware she is. I won’t advice women to quit their jobs   (In other to find the one), all they need is just maintain a good work-life and love-life balance. Balance, people…. balance is the key word here.

    Dan would be better off dating high and elementary school teachers, they might not make tons of money – but they would making out enough time for him. Most of the smart strong successful women i know who happens to be married or in stable LTR are the ones who found their SO while they where in college – hence dating wasn’t even an issue for them.     

  9. 29

    Dan shouldnt just assume that these women dont need a man in their life. I’m only 25 and smart, successful, bla bla bla, but before i met my current boyfriend of 2 years, I had a hard time finding a man that would pursue me. Friends told me that somehow i give men an impression that im a hard catch or the ripe apple at the top of the tree that they wont bother climbing. Others have told me that I somehow intimidate men with my accomplishments. I like to think that im friendly and flirty towards men, so i see no reason why men would just assume that i dont need or want a man. You cant just blame it all on us women. If those men would just give us a real chance rather than assume stuffs, then who knows what wonderful things could happen. I’m glad my current boyfriend gave me a chance, and until now he cant stop telling me that im the best thing that ever happened to him!

  10. 30

    @ St Stephen: high school teachers with a lot of time on their hands, LOL that’s a good one. There was a girl on my bowling league years ago who taught 6th grade. She’d come into the bowling alley at 9:30PM with huge stacks of papers to grade. She did get summers off, that’s true, but aside from that, she worked pretty much all day long. She did date and marry someone back then, and is still happily married to him now — he was just accepting of the fact that her work often keeps her busy.
    Which leads me to   another point: you say “A man can be smart strong and successful and still make out time for a love-life”, but so can the woman. Except, with a man, it is more socially acceptable that he’d be juggling work and love life. When a man cancels a date because he has to work late that night,everyone totally understands, but if a woman does it, oh the horrors. She must be a workaholic b.tch!
    Then again, we’re not looking to date society as a whole, we only need one man who is okay with us having a demanding job. From my experience, these men do exist.

  11. 31

    SS @28: You say,
    The problem is that most smart strong successful women don’t seem to know how to compartmentalize — the way men do.
    Is either they have a love-life or they just get seriously enmeshed in their work-life.  

    That doesn’t make sense. First you say women don’t know how to compartmentalize and then you give an example of women compartmentalizing. ???

  12. 32

    Great point Goldie…my mom was a school teacher for decades and I have NEVER had to work like she had to work after hours and as an engineer, outearned her after just a couple of years working.   Totally off-topic but it’s why it burns me when people act like teachers are some overpaid fatcats when in reality, most people with that level of education make far more for far less work.   

    I think people have this idea that the kinds of women who are teachers will be waiting at home for them with dinner and slippers but yeah, it’s hard work plus a lot of them scramble to find summer work (e.g. summer school, tutoring, etc). b/c their pay is so low.     

    I don’t know, I think the poster is stereotyping women and just hasn’t met one who wants to get to know him. Or maybe he’s writing them off BEFORE he even tries.   He just didn’t describe getting blown off so much as it sounded like he decided he knew what these women were about before even meeting them.    I think that if you get to a certain point in your life and have never married, you have built up a full life b/c seriously, are you just supposed to be at home cutting out pictures from wedding books or something?

    If you are lucky you build a life and a tribe so you AREN’T at home by yourself being miserable, not b/c you are a selfish, workaholic harpie.   I really dislike the fact that women who have their stuff together get penalized for it.   You have to build your life out b/c not everyone is going to meet someone, but the right women or man WILL in fact make time for you.   I’ve definitely known people who were like that…they never had time for anything or anybody until the met that one person that they absolutely could not let get away.   

    And I’m pretty sure that these women are all hoping to meet someone.   I do think women who blow you off just don’t want YOU.   Ditto with men.   

    However, his comment reminds me of the female friends who would never let other girls stand near them when we all went out, b/c they felt it would intimidate men, so they were probably right about that.     

  13. 33

    This is really unfair.   Single women in their mid to late 30s without a man are told to get a life, be independent, go out with friends, date yourself, be interesting, have hobbies.   But then we are criticized as being “too busy” for a man to be interested in us.   How many dates have I gone on where the guy never called back?   Am I supposed to just give up the life I’ve built the moment that I meet a guy?   Then I’m too clingy.   Why can’t women & men just try to get to know each other and stop making so many judgements?   Maybe a woman doesn’t want to go home to an empty house every night, and she goes out in hopes of finally meeting a nice man.   Jeez.

  14. 34

    Nicole, LC (32 22): Brava. Jeez is right.

  15. 35

    I agree with Goldie.
    We women can’t seem to win.   If we make plenty of time for men, we’re clingy, psycho, something’s wrong with us, “get a hobby”, etc.   But if we fill up our lives with good people, work, and things we enjoy doing, then we’re just awful, man-hating women who are afraid of intimacy.
    Dan kinda sounds bitter.   Actually he sounds like an ex-boyfriend of mine who whined about that, when the problem was that he lied about his height, and let his Mama control all his relationships with women, LOL.
    Can’t have your cake, and eat it too, Dan.   We’re either too busy or too available so until or unless you keep stereotyping us women, you’re going to keep on going home alone, because alot of us women don’t have time to put up with whiners.

  16. 36

    helene, Nicole, and LC – right on, sisters. That’s why I thought this Dan letter must have just been made up: it’s irrational and myopic. Is he really criticizing women for having a life and friends and family? Guess he’s not a family-oriented guy. Probably doesn’t have many friends either, if he thinks it’s reprehensible for women to have friends.
    What does he expect single women to be doing if they shouldn’t have a rich life: sitting at home twiddling their thumbs? How attractive is that?
    I would say that women should not care what men like this think.

  17. 37

    Lara @ 31:

    You’re not getting Stephen’s point: he’s saying women have either a love life or a work life, not both.   Having one but not both is not compartmentalizing.

  18. 38

    @ Heather, I’ve got to add that I’ve never had this problem in real life. Normally I’d get emails from people saying something like “wow, looks like you have a full life, this is so cool” and then they’d want to meet. Maybe because they have full lives themselves, but then we’re both willing to rearrange our full lives to include each other… they’d still be full, except now with the other person in them.

  19. 39

    Evan’s main point – that some women don’t want to change anything in their lives in response to a relationship – is very accurate. The same goes for some men. It doesn’t seem that difficult a concept in my opinion. You want a great relationship, you have to shift some priorities and drop some of your activities. End of story.
    I also totally agree with Goldie’s comment about it being more socially acceptable for men to have “busy” lives that make dating challenging. And frankly, this needs to change. Everyone should be able to have rich, fulfilling lives, regardless of gender.  
    Dan might want to consider that the older we get, the more people tend to have on their plate. If it’s not raising a family, it’s the extra work taken on, or hobbies pursued to the point of passion, or friendships made that have lasted the long term – all of which aren’t going to be immediately chucked away because of some love interest. Stephen reminded us about balance, and I will second that. You have to become better at discerning between someone who’s life is impossibly busy, and someone who’s life is rich and full, but still balanced enough for a relationship to be possible.

  20. 40

    Last I checked, “to compartmentalize” means “to separate into isolated compartments or categories.” Like, you can have a “love life” (one category) or you can have a “work life” (another category), but not both.

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