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. 41
    Saint Stephen

    Why is this difficult for you to grasp?
    To clarify a bit more; You can have full work and love-life and don’t let them interfere with each other by keeping them apart – that’s compartmentalizing.
    But when you have only one, there isn’t any  separating to be done there.
    Understand? If you still don’t, then is on you – at least I’ve made my point and a few others get it. So you can go ahead quibbling about semantics if you like.

  2. 42
    Saint Stephen

    Helen said: (#2)
    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.

    Maybe Evan and Dan came to such conclusions because Dan’s targeted niche are the smart strong successful women.  

    See here; Sg said: (#1)
    I cannot lie, that describes me exactly.
    I won’t say that Evan or Dan are completely wrong in their  assessment about the smart strong successful women.    

  3. 43

    If a woman wrote in and said that she was meeting smart, successful guys who seemed too busy for a relationship with her, would she be told that, yes, you’re right, the men out there need to make some time for her? No, she’d be told not to bother with these “alpha” types, and to change her strategy.

    Women are working harder than ever because, in this economy, just  like men,  they have to. Women often have to go the extra mile in order to prove that they can compete with the guys professionally, anyway. Smart, strong, successful women realize that they can’t depend on a man to take care of them.  
    Would a man ever consider quitting his job in order to find a partner? I don’t think so. And if you have time to work out “for 6 years 3-4 times a week”, are you really all that busy anyway? I don’t get it.

    To Dan: unfortunately, sometimes “busy” is simply a euphemism for “just not that into you.”  

    And to EMK: if your clients are only “vaguely open to a relationship”, then why are they going through the time and expense of hiring a dating coach?  

  4. 44
    Christie Hartman

    My take on the OP’s letter is that it has little to do with women being too busy for love, and more to do with him and his own perceptions. Both he (and Evan) are making some pretty big assumptions based on little more than one man’s “intuition,” further based on some interactions at a few parties. What are you going to do, rule out every woman in the 36-44 range who has a full life, under the assumption that all these woman are like Evan’s clients?   
    I once met a man – 38 and never-married – who asked me how to handle a woman with a good career and income. “What can I possibly offer her?” he asked in a defeated tone. Uh, a LOT! Some guys feel like a successful woman doesn’t have room for a man in her life; others dislike women who have no career or hobbies because then her life is all about him. In one way, women are no different than men: when they want a relationship, they WILL make room for it, no matter how busy they are.

  5. 45

    I agree with Christie#44. A woman who  wants to be with a man WILL fit him into her life, I don’t care how strong, smart and successful she is.   The OP is getting the same excuses a woman gets from a man who is not interested. “I’m so busy, blah blah blah.”

  6. 46


    I can see where you are coming from, but at the same time your comment is an exact reflection of the point EMK is trying to male I think. When you go to the gym 3-$ times a week for several years, YOU get to set the time and frequency. You can change your appointments. And 3-4 times a week are a pretty low frequency for two people who want to form a couple.

    The reason why I have decided to give up my job for a while stems from the fact that it is extremely hard   to understand what “making time” means otherwise. At least it was for me.  

    The only reason I found out the meaning of “making time for the right guy to enter the door” is because that after a while, I needed company so badly that I decided to take a (female) roommate. She was a secretary in a dental office.   Gorgeous women, not particularly smart or successful at work (she was extremely smart in another way though).

    And then, because we were leaving under the same roof, I could compare HER life to MY life. Not only her life to mine; but I compared her life to the life of my friend who is a lawyer (and lonely), that of my friend who is a member of Parliament (and lonely), that of my friend who is a female ambassador (and lonely)…and none of my single female friends seemed to offer what my roomate was willing to offer to anybody she met: HER TIME, AND WITH GRACE.

    She did not really care if the relationship was going anywhere ( I am not saying she was sleeping with all those guys); she was eager to get to know people around her AND men. She used to go to 4-5 dates with the same guy even if she was not interested in him romantically speaking. Just for fun. As for me, I know after date 1 to date 3, I would just decide that I did not have enough time to spend with a looser…

  7. 47

    @Helen, #24 and #36: no, the letter was not made up.
    * * * * *
    I was the OP that sent it to EMK. Since Evan was good enough to provide his thoughts, I am grateful. I am now posting to authenticate that this letter was indeed real.
    It was worthwhile to see the comments.
    Too bad the responses are evolving towards some strong emotional reactions, and towards where some people are taking things very personally. Sadly, I feel the dating scene seems to have conditioned our reactions into this way.
    To finish on a positive note, it’s great to see Soul #10 following her heart. Eliciting a good story is a pleasant additional surprise and reward to an act of sending in a letter itself! Good luck Soul!

  8. 48

    Soul #46

    You have offered quite a long explanation, but I still don’t see your point. 3-4 times a week sounds like plenty of time in the early stages of dating to get to know someone, IMO. You can just as easily set the time of your dates as you can the time of your workouts, or so it seems to me. If you could have a female roommate, why couldn’t you have a male romantic roommate? You compare your roommate to your lonely single friends, but your roommate was single, too.

    I don’t think one has to be dumb or unemployed to find love. It sounds like you had what others considered an “excellent” job, but you didn’t really like it very much yourself. That is really a separate issue from finding a man.

    I hope it all works out for you, in any case.

  9. 49

    @ Goldie:
    That’s exactly it, I agree with you.   When I was dating online, guys would read about my hobbies and mention that I seemed to have a pretty interesting life and friends.   And I did and still do.  
    I resent the implication that we women should put our lives on hold for a man.   I did that once, and got burned by it.   Moved from my home area, gave up a job, friends, etc just for my ex husband and he turned out to be an abusive jerk.   I will not allow that to happen and if a man cannot handle that, then he doesn’t belong in my life.   If men are allowed to thump their chests and yell that we women shouldn’t try to change them, then it should be the same with us.   We women have the right to have full lives, with family and friends and hobbies and work, and yet make that time for a special man.
    Here it is 2012, and we women are being fed the same misogynistic crap, just in a different flavor.   Jeez……

  10. 50

    @ Dan #47:
    What we “take personally” is your generalization that we women who are in our later 30s or so are too busy for a man or will not make time for them.   If we women were to go around saying, “You men are all workaholics and you have no time for us”, well we’d be branded man-hating whiners.
    I just resent double standards.   That it’s OK for you guys to have full lives, play golf with the boys, etc.   But we girls had better be at your beck and call or else we’re cold, selfish women.
    You cannot have this both ways.   And for your information, there are plenty of us women in this age group who are happy to include a man in our lives, if it is the right man, while still having a job and friends.   If you continue to feel this way, my thinking is that you might be single for a very long time.   I heard the same complaints come out of my ex boyfriend’s mouth, and from what I understand, he is still single, four years after our relationship ended.   I’m just sayin.

  11. 51

    Dan, glad to see that you are real.   Thank you for outing yourself.

    These responses you are reading are not, for the most part, “strong emotional reactions.” Certainly not from me; I’m already married.   These responses actually formulate some good advice  and insights  for you.  

    If you didn’t get the relationship you wanted from those parties (leaving aside for the moment that they were only 1 month ago), think about what role you might have played in it, rather than automatically ascribing all the blame to smart and successful women.    Maybe you weren’t a good fit for the ones you met.   Like I said earlier, that is nothing to be ashamed of – it happens all the time.   But  that is no reason to blame  those women,  and then to generalize to all smart and successful women.

    Is Soul’s post really “a good story”?  I’m skeptical. Like Ruby said, it may be good if she had broader reasons for taking time off her job.   But if it was solely for the purpose of finding a man, then… well, good luck to her.   Nothing in her post 46 reassures me that this was a wise decision.   But truly, I would be delighted if it did work out  in the future.

  12. 52

    Heather #49: “I resent the implication that we women should put our lives on hold for a man.   I did that once, and got burned by it.   Moved from my home area, gave up a job, friends, etc just for my ex husband and he turned out to be an abusive jerk.   I will not allow that to happen and if a man cannot handle that, then he doesn’t belong in my life.”

    But the way you keep that from happening is to not marry an abusive jerk. That was the problem, not that you gave up your life. Relationships require sacrifice, and a lot of men still expect a woman to make most of the career/life sacrifices. I think women have to decide whether we want a mate badly enough to make those tradeoffs, or if we’re going to hold out for a guy who thinks more progressively (but may not meet all of our other criteria, especially superficial ones) or if we’re okay being alone.   I think a lot of women have chosen the last option, hence the marriage rates going down. It’s not so much an epidemic of women who can’t get married (as the media suggests) but women who don’t like what men are offering and are instead opting out.  

    Evan – a great article that maybe you want to do a post about:  Written from a religious viewpoint, but very broadly applicable, I think.   

  13. 53

    Ruby 48: “I don’t think one has to be dumb or unemployed to find love.”
    Really?   Are you sure about that?
    Just kidding… your dry-witted comment had me laughing. 😀   Think what it would mean from a long-term evolutionary standpoint if the opposite were true.

  14. 54

    SS@41: Um, to recap the thread–you said that men are better at compartmentalizing than are women. Then you gave an example where women are compartmentalizing. I said that doesn’t make any sense. Now you’re saying that I’m not grasping the basic concept of “keeping things separate,” when clearly I do grasp that concept, as indicated by my demonstrated ability to look up words in the dictionary and understand their different–and separate–meanings.

    What I do not understand is  how  you make the leap from “women aren’t good at compartmentalizing” to the women in the example being somehow posited intractably in one compartment or the other. Which, actually, someone who is good at compartmentalizing would be able to do.

    And, there’s nothing wrong with semantic discussions. Words are how we communicate. Think about that.

  15. 55

    Dan – What specifically was “worthwhile” about the responses for you?
    I very much get the frustration you express in the letter. I am almost exactly the same age as you, and have had plenty of similar experiences. However, I would never lay it all on the laps of the women who appear – or are – too busy. Whenever I have had a long dry spell, I sit down and consider what I might be doing that isn’t working. Which doesn’t mean I wallow in guilt or shame, but it does mean that I take responsibility for my end of the dating stick.
    Frankly, I think most of the female reactions to your letter here are very fair, and offer you an opportunity to reconsider your perceptions. In your letter, you seem open to the possibility that you’re misreading things, but in your response above, you come off somewhat dismissive. Furthermore, while I agree that Soul’s story is really nice to see, it’s also atypical, and so perhaps if you offered some other thoughts about the comments here, maybe the conversation would be enriched.

  16. 56

    Lara 54: People use the “I’m not going to argue semantics with you” defense when the logic of their position is flawed and they want to get out of the discussion and save face. It’s not that their position is lacking validity, it’s that you’re being too pedantic by requiring that they say what they mean and mean what they say. Ha! It’s very amusing!

  17. 57

    @Heather and Goldie. Presuming validation from online dating emails from men, would be misguided. Given the realities of online dating,  many men would validate your necrophilia if they thought your picture was decent.   That is not to say that you may not have a point,   women’s activity levels  are not a subject I can opine on,  but I really see the subject  of busy schedules as a proxy for EMK’s broader points (women having unrealistic standards).

  18. 58
    Karl R

    helene said: (#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”

    On this blog, Evan repeatedly tells women that if a man they’re dating will not make time for them, he is not their boyfriend and he is bad boyfriend material.

    Dan is taking the same advice that Evan gives to women and applying it to his own life. The women who don’t make time for Dan aren’t his girlfriends. He is wasting his time if he pursues them.

    Furthermore, if they don’t make time for men in general, they are bad girlfriend material.

    When I met my fiancée, she was dating a widower who she’d been attracted to for many  years (since before his wife died). Near the end of our first long conversation, she explicitly told me that she wasn’t interested in pursuing a long-term relationship with me. She was interested in this man instead.

    However, for the previous year, this man had taken her out on dates about once per month. He claimed that it was too soon for him to get serious, because his (grown) children wouldn’t understand.

    I knocked this guy out of the picture by acting like a boyfriend. I spent time with her. I made plans. I carried through. By doing that, she figured out that this man wasn’t acting like her boyfriend … and she realized how much that “relationship” was lacking.

    Unless you’re dating a man who has  little relationship experience, he’s going to realize what he’s missing if you don’t make time for him. And if he’s a man worth having, he’ll know he can find someone else who will treat him better.

  19. 59


    The problem with us, smart strong successful women, is that we often pretend that we are having a rational discussion, but in the meantime we throw in tons of arguments that are driven by our emotions (Notice that I have included myself, and I do not mean to insult anybody). It must be soooo difficult to coach people like us, we do not want to listen to what really IS effective vs. what WE would like to be effective…

    1) I am a women so I share many of the opinions here. However, There ARE double standards. It is not fair, but it is what is. Get over it (or fight it, but don’t pretend they don’t exist and then be surprised when things don’t work the way you expect them to);  
    2) It is possible that we  think  we are making time, but that we are coming across like we are not to others, spec. to men.    Ruby # 48’s comment is the perfect exemple… No Ruby, you CANNOT  “just as easily set the time of your dates as you can the time of your workouts”.  If you do that, you are not making time, you are trying to fit the guy into YOUR schedule;
    I was just sharing my story, and everybody’s life is different. I am NOT saying that anybody should make the same choices as me. I am me and my choices are for me: I come from a different cultural background; I have plenty of degrees from different countries; I have, and I can, work in several countries; I can have the same or better money; There is no shortage of opportunities in my field; and above all, I thought I had made it clear that I only took a leave of absence: I can go back anytime.
      I am not saying to imitate me, I am just trying to share the lesson that I learned through my experience, namely that: I THOUGHT I was making time for love, but I actually WAS NOT: without even realizing it, I just wanted love and men to fit into my schedule that was, on top of that, filled mostly with masculine energy….  
    @ Lara: Please re-read the posts and you will understand the compartimentalizing thing in this thread, because Saint Stephen is right and you are wrong. If you don’t agree with the words he is using, can you at least  try to understand  what he means and what he wants to say?

  20. 60

    I agree with Goldie #13, Helen #24 and Ruby #43. There is a lot off with this blog post….the letter, Evan’s response and Soul’s “story”.  
    “Dan” outing himself and “authenticating” the letter notwithstanding (yeah, I can “out” myself as Bill Gates!), the questions asked if flipped around m/f (as Evan often likes to do), would read “I am a woman wanting to date smart, strong, successful men, who are not interested in dating me or don’t want to make a relationship a priority. They blow me off with various excuses. What can I do to make them date MEEEEEEE (sniffle, sniffle)?”
    Hmmmmm….what would Evan’s response be then? Oh, wait, we don’t need to speculate. We KNOW what it would be…. It will be something like: LEAVE THE ALPHA TYPES ALONE! FIND SOMEONE WHO WANTS YOU! See here.   But of course now Evan can’t say that, because the alpha types in this question are his clients. Don’t let a little inconsistency get in the way of a good story, heh, Evan?
    Next. Soul…. tsk, tsk, tsk. Where to start with that “story”? The whole thing does not sound rational at all and sounds so contrived.
    Quitting a job at 35 to find love?   I just met a 36 year old guy with a PhD in Economic, last year made redundant from his City (London) job in derivatives. Can’t find a job yet. There are still hordes of investment banking people and other finance professionals looking for jobs. The ones who get jobs accept much lower pay than they used to get 3-4 years ago.   My ex just took a 30% paycut. Curious in which part of the world Soul lives.
    Professional considerations aside, Soul allegedly goes home to “an (extremely well-decorated) empty house”.   But oh wait! It is actually not completely empty. It’s where her dentist’s receptionist (but just as well could have been another low-paid, beta-female profession) roommate entertains a precession of men, with whom she goes on 4-5 dates just for the sport, even if not romantically interested (Hey, what do you know?! That’s another thing that Evan preaches!). Soul, couldn’t you have had one of your roommate’s many rejects :D? Oh, and did you kick her out of your house before you quit your job or after? While working you found time to go to the gym 3-4 times a week, go out with girlfriends, read books, read Evan’s blog, etc…. Clearly you had a lot of spare time on your hands. Yet you felt the need to quit your job at the age of 35?? And immediately met the love of your life? “Good story” indeed… as ‘Dan’ says! Oh, and nice touch with the “optimistic by nature” bit. Makes for a good excuse for all this folly.

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