Can a Smart, Strong, Successful Woman Get A Smart, Strong, Successful Man?

a young blonde woman looking at the camera with two men talking at the background

Hey Evan, I’m having trouble —as I guess most of the people on this blog are— with finding a partner. I took the big step of asking a friend to be brutally dead honest with me about why they thought I couldn’t find someone great. No wishy-washy answers about giving it time, or not meeting the right kind of people, just absolute dead straight feedback. They thought about it for a good long time, and then replied that I intimidate men. They pointed out that I have a very good degree from a top university, but more than that, in my personal life I am very straightforward and honest. I play no games, hide behind no lies and I play by my own rules. Basically it came down to the fact that I’m not super-feminine. I’m short and slim, and pretty enough if no great beauty, and I dress in a hyper feminine way: dresses, heels, makeup, hair done. I smile a lot. But personality-wise, I am not feminine in the least. I’m the kind of person that values energy, directness, and honesty, and provides them. I have a great sense of humor (verified by friends and family) and I am flippant rather than intense and romantic. My friend said that men didn’t like that. They didn’t like a woman who was funnier than they are, who would earn more at equivalent stages of life and who didn’t want a man to protect and look after her. My BIG question is: are there men who will want me as I am? I am willing to change a lot, but I’m not willing to become some submissive little doll of a woman who only cares about her husband’s success rather than her own. Am I destined to live alone, rolling in a big pile of money, but without anyone to share it with? Yes I have my faults, huge amounts of them, but would I be better off pretending to be someone else? —Amber

Hate to tell you, Amber, but…

Your friend lied to you.

You don’t really intimidate men.

Being feminine isn’t defined by long hair or a curvy body —— being feminine is about being receptive, warm, upbeat, nurturing, supportive, sexy, and confident in your own femininity.

The truth is that the men you want don’t want you in return.

This is the topic of the most popular blog post I’ve ever written, although I’m not exactly sure what’s up for debate.

Before I get into explaining my thesis, I want to backtrack a little bit.

It’s possible that you intimidate men. But even if you do, you wouldn’t really want to marry a man who is intimidated by you, right?

So if we can discard those guys who think you’re too much for them, why would any other man not want to be with you?

I don’t know you personally, but you’ve identified it yourself: “I am not feminine in the least.”

Being feminine isn’t defined by long hair or a curvy body or — as you falsely state — becoming some “submissive little doll of a woman.”

Being feminine is about being receptive, warm, upbeat, nurturing, supportive, sexy, and confident in your own femininity.

The great news is that you can still be smart, strong, and successful and possess ALL of these qualities.

But there simply aren’t many men who think that the most important qualities in a wife are straightforward, direct, flippant, funny and rich.

Sorry about that. I’m just reporting what you’ve already seen.

Now, to be clear, there’s nothing WRONG with being direct, honest, flippant, funny and rich (really, there’s not!). But you know who else is that way?

The men you’re looking to date.

Problem is: those men have no desire to date themselves.

This is the dichotomy of the smart, strong, successful woman.

You want to date the male version of yourself.

He doesn’t.

He’s looking for someone to complement him, to give him what he doesn’t get from his guy friends, what he can’t find in the office.

There’s one other thing that struck me about your email, Amber.

It was this line:

“They didn’t like a woman who was funnier than they are, who would earn more at equivalent stages of life and who didn’t want a man to protect and look after her.”

If we aren’t financially supporting you, if we aren’t protecting you, listening to you, helping to fix the plumbing, setting up the computer, picking you up at the airport… what exactly are we there for?

There’s just too many fallacies being thrown around here:

You’re too funny? And that’s a negative? My sister is certainly funnier than her husband. My mom was arguably funnier than my dad. Some people think my wife is funnier than I am (and I’m a former comedy writer).

So I’m not down with that. What I will agree with is that two people can’t be the center of attention and if you’re the center of attention and he (as an alpha male) likes to be the center of attention, his needs aren’t being met with you. Doesn’t make you wrong for being this way, but it might mean you need to choose a guy who can take a backseat to your big personality.

Your next point was about you earning more money than men.

Sure, some guys have their masculinity threatened by that. For many years, we’ve been taught that we have to be the providers — witness the number of women who expect men to pay for the first date, to pay for the wedding ring, etc. It’s not something that we can easily get over. At the same time, you making money is not the deal breaker you think it is — at least not with an enlightened man.

Listen, I’d love it if my wife made a million bucks. But in order to do that, she’d probably have to work 50-60 hours a week, go into the office on weekends, travel, and be less available for nights watching TV, weekend trips away, and regular sex. No, thanks. I’m fine with her making $50K.

Most other successful men have come to the same conclusion. If he does fine for himself, he doesn’t care what his wife makes. It’s only women who make a lot of money who care what their spouses make.

Finally, what you don’t seem to understand here, Amber, is that men want to be NEEDED. If we aren’t financially supporting you, if we aren’t protecting you, listening to you, helping to fix the plumbing, setting up the computer, picking you up at the airport… what exactly are we there for?

You wrote that you don’t “want a man to protect and look after” you.

That’s unfortunate. Because that’s what WE want to do.

As to your final question: “are there men who will want me as I am?”

Are there men who don’t want to be needed? Who value your directness over your supportiveness? Sure. Probably.

But they may not be the men that you want to date.

Despite your attraction, any strong-willed man will clash with you non-stop, so what you’re left with is a more pliant beta-male.

Those are your choices: soften up a bit and tap into your feminine side or find a softer man who embraces your directness because he doesn’t have it himself.

P.S. Most of my successful clients were the ones who chose different men instead of attempting to change their own personalities.

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  1. 1

    While I agree with Evan’s response completely, the title of this post doesn’t necessarily match the writer’s letter.

    Amber  didn’t say  that she wanted an alpha male: a “smart, strong, successful man.” Her letter sounds as though she just wants a man, period.   Yet there is  something about her letter that makes me wonder if even the  so-called beta-males would want her.   It is that she seems very critical and  and possibly bitter.   The statement about  the “submissive little doll of  a woman” backs that up.   Plenty of women are in relationships; obviously we’re not all submissive little dolls.     

    I think Evan’s advice about feminine behavior is spot-on as far as attracting alpha males, but to attract ANY male (any female, for that matter), she needs to work on having a more positive viewpoint and not being so quick to criticize or blame others – whether it’s men or other women.

    1. 1.1

      I find that successful women hold on to their success as a badge of honour of sorts and want a man that is an equal or more successful than her so that comes across as “bitterness”. Almost a “I am deserving of this” mentality. But the attributes for success in the workplace is the same for both men and women. While her direct, straight forward and flippant characteristics work in the workplace, it doesn’t work when dating because as Evan mentioned, no guy wants to date himself. It is because women bring different things to the table, men can then appreciate women.  

  2. 2

    You can be funny and smart without having to prove it all the time. Sounds like you’re trying too hard and protesting too much. I’m a smart, funny and caustic woman who learned that if I’m so independent, why do I have to proclaim it always. And why was I using my wit and intelligence to push people away? Chill out! If you really are all that you say you are, it will come out in time. Dating is not a competition. Change the way you present yourself cuz you sound like you have a chip on your shoulder.

  3. 3

    They thought about it for a good long time, and then replied that I intimidate men.

    And there it is. The greatest lie ever told to single women. Evan is dead on when he says men are not intimidated by women. Men use “intimidated” because it appeals to the woman’s ego. What they really mean is a variation of “unlikeable.”

    What a man looks for when meetingt a potential partner, right after a physical attraction, is whether or not she displays any level of vulnerability. That is what men consider uniquely feminine about women. That’s what men want in a partner. Someone who can be vulnerable and with whom they can be vulnerable. A woman can be direct and honest and assertive and still display a level of vulnerability. It’s not the assertive nature that turns off men. It’s the assertive nature that is devoid of vulnerability that gives men cause for concern.

    1. 3.1

      could you (or Evan or anyone) please elaborate on this more?  

      I always hear from guy friends they are sick of women mooching off of them or acting weak/incompetent/ditzy/insecure/needy. I’m a… very sensitive and therefore vulnerable but have always seen that as a negative trait of mine to hide less I come across as weak or needy. p How does one remain vulnerable yet confident/not needy?   Btw: I’m single (at 30) b/c I spent most of my younger years attracted to/chasing bad boy, artsy types but I’m (thankfully) over that now and looking for someone different b/c I’ve realized that the dynamics weren’t good for me. I do pretty well in dating where I am now, but am soon moving and enjoy reading this blog a lot for tips to help as I adjust to a new dating pool.  

  4. 4

    My boyfriend just told me last night,
    “I love you so much. I want to take care of you, and protect you. If you need anything, you come to Joey, and he’ll take care of it for you.”
    Now, he wasn’t necessarily talking about finances here, but he does mean that as well. Generally speaking, he means if I need advice, or have a problem at home (with my car or house), or if I am upset about something, he expects to know about it, and help me.
    I’ve been single for 5 years since my divorce and have taken care of all things in my life: home, money, emotions — I CAN continue to do so but there is something wonderful about a man who wants to be your hero, and a woman who is willing to let him. 🙂

    1. 4.1

      So totally agree! It’s a wonderful thing for a man to WANT to be your protector…i think when I see/feel that – then I step into my feminine energy. Otherwise I’m just in battle mode protecting myself from the Deceptions out there.

    2. 4.2
      lis b

      that is lovely, a man who wants to look after you, i trust you want to look after him too. shame there are not more of them around.

  5. 5

    Interesting article, but I’m genuinely confused.   I dated a guy who told me I could lean on him, and I did…..and then he dumped me because “I was too needy.”   So I took that to heart and made it clear to other dates that I don’t “need” a man, I’m doing just great on my own, thank you very much.   And guys don’t like that either.

    So which is it, Evan?   I mean I can’t seem to win here.   Be vulnerable, and I’ve tried that, letting guys know I am sad about my Mom’s battle with cancer, and they run.   I tell guys hey, I’m strong, I’m good, I learned alot from my divorce and I’m very independent, and they run too.

    I am one very, very confused lady.   Just can’t seem to win for losing, and boy am I trying hard here!!!

  6. 6

    To the OP:  Sounds  like your complement would be  a truly  masculine guy, “masculine” being a guy who is  receptive, warm, upbeat, nurturing, supportive, sexy, and confident in his own masculinity. They do exist!!!

  7. 7

    The problem with asking a friend’s advice on something like this is that you get the friend’s personal opinion. If it’s a male friend, a woman like Amber might be intimidating to them. If it’s a female friend, she might think that women shouldn’t be funnier or earn more because that’s what she was always taught to believe. The goal is to find someone who likes a funny, high-earning, independent woman, and forget the ones who don’t. I’m sure they are out there.

  8. 8

    [email protected]: This is so true!! I’d forgotten how you have to consider the source when taking in feedback.

    For awhile there I was working a serious day job in one industry and freelancing in a different industry on my off days. I wore the same clothes for both, and when shopping for work clothes tried to strike a balance between the two environments. In the first, my boss thought I dressed too provocatively (I wore dresses instead of suits). In the second, they thought I was too dowdy. Same outfit! Too funny!!!

    1. 8.1

      right, but different environments/contexts, not just different opinions

  9. 9

    AndThatsWhyYouAre Single #3 wrote
    And there it is. The greatest lie ever told to single women. Evan is dead on when he says men are not intimidated by women. Men use “intimidated” because it appeals to the woman’s ego. What they really mean is a variation of “unlikeable.”
    I disagree.
    I think it is the other way around.
    Men don’t say they are “intimidated by women” it would be tantamount to admitting they feel castrated.       I do think you have it right, just backwards.   Women use that phrase because it is an ego saver.     Instead of having to admit that they are unlikeable they can seem men are intimidated by them which is code for “they don’t like me because I am so special”

    1. 9.1

      You’re doing a favor to my ego if you say they find me “unlikeable” instead of being intimidated. A man that finds unlikeable that you are independent enough and don’t need him just wants to find a woman dependent enough so he can control her. It has nothing to do with my attractiveness and honestly I dislike deeply that kind of men.

      I grew up seeing my father mistreating his family, spending all his money in alcohol (and who knows what else) to the point that my mother had to ask for money to my grandfather so we could eat, beating my mother, confining us in the house like prisoners…I swore I would escape and I would take care of myself and never allow a man to do this to me. And this means to have your own money.
      Thank God I am smart enough and now I am a top professional, earning a lot of money, and have no intention of changing a bit so I give someone the power to make these kind of things to me again.
      I am beautiful and I can be sweet, supportive, I like to cook for my man, I like to take care of him…it’s just that I’m not going to give him the power to control me. Men call me then “unlikeable”, “intimidating”… I guess they want me to be as my mother was, helpless…and you know what, to hell with them. I had hope to find someone different, but I am starting to lose it, since every man I meet seems to find me “intimidating”… I’m starting to think about staying single forever or become lesbian.

      Under my point of view, men are just weak and mean. Having a good job and caring about my career doesn’t mean I cannot support him and praise his success…unless he is insecure enough to feel threatened by me. Having my own money is only a threat for a guy that thinks if I am free I will run away when he behaves badly. Being independent I can also receive his help and support and be grateful and love him for that. Who says that if you have a good job you don’t need a man who protects you? I think they just want someone that dedicates her life to them, while they dedicate to themselves, isn’t that selfish?

      Well, I guess I wanted to vent myself after reading all this. I’m sick and tired to hear everywhere that you have to be submissive to get a family…too many women fall into this trap and become miserable for their whole lives.

  10. 10

    There’s a difference between being needing help and being helpless.   When a guy says you can lean on him, it doesn’t mean he wants you to need his help  all the time; it means he’ll be there when you really need help.

  11. 11
    That East Asian Man

    Dear Amber.   Each individual has illusions about himself or herself.   I know that I do, and your statement shows that you do as well.   For example, you say that you “play no games” in a relationship, but then you say that you are “very straightforward and honest,” and value and provide “directness, and honesty.”   These are all aspects of the game that you play.   
    Playing a particular game is neither good nor bad in itself. The real issue is what kind of man wants to be in a relationship with you because of your game.   Most likely, that man is a follower and not a leader; he believes that he deserves any criticism that you may bestow on him, because he has doubts about himself, and needs a strong partner to help him; he is willing to do whatever you want him to do, to obtain your approval.   The reason that you are not in a relationship right now is because you are not attracted to the men that your game is attracting to you.
    Your game is not who you really are.   I know that the real you is a loving and wonderful woman, who deserves to be in a relationship with a loving and wonderful man.   Change your game, and change your life.  

  12. 12

    I’m interested in the third person plural pronoun that Amber used to describe the friend that called her “intimidating”.  
    “I took the big step of asking a friend to be brutally dead honest with me”

    “about why they thought I couldn’t find someone great.”

    They thought about it”

    pointed out”
    All kind of weird, to me.   I think Evan is dead on about the femininity angle.   Being receptive doesn’t mean being needy or losing an edge.   It just means being real and open and genuine, and vulnerable.   My guess is that Amber, with her distancing third person pronouns, has a little trouble with the vulnerability and openness angle.

  13. 13

    Heather, continue your learning process so you fully understand what it is that men are looking for in general.    Then you need to internalize that and grow to be that woman.    Not putting on an act or going through the motions.    Sounds like you’re understanding this stuff tactically, and men can figure out that you’re not being authentic.

    Then go about choosing men/a man who can give you what you need.   Typically one has to go through a lot of potential mates if they are choosy, just the way it is.

  14. 14

    I agree with the word ‘intimated’ and that women who are unlikeable blame the men (and everyone else) so they don’t have to own up to their own shortcomings.

    I’m a strong, independent,  confident, outgoing, outspoken (but kind), successful woman , that really enjoys sports and who probably makes more money than the men I have dated and the man I’m currently dating.      I’ve learned to bring out, embrace and totally enjoy my femininity, which is what Evan is saying is what is important.   And I do both roles authentically. If I can learn to do that, anyone can learn to do the same.

  15. 15

    I love East Asian man’s response

  16. 16

    The whole guy needing to be needed thing is interesting.

    My partner admitted not too long ago, when I opened up about something I was vulnerable over and would need some patience and help with, that he was almost glad to hear it. He was a bit worried I didn’t need him. The conversation went on for a while(it was about some childhood wounds), and I ended up having a bit of a weep.

    We’ve known each other at this point(as friends) for about 7 years, involved for about 6 months. I was a bit embarrassed the next day, because I imaged he was sitting there thinking “Oh gosh will she just be quiet???”. But I realize now I’d never given the right guy a chance, to show that he wants to hear about my concerns and vulnerablilities. The next day, when I said sorry if the conversation got a bit too much HE said “Are you kidding? I feel like that is one of the best conversations I’ve ever had with you…”. Why? Because I authentically shared myself with him.  

    I think men are really looking for authenticity in a woman.  

  17. 17

    I was exactly like Amber when I was dating.   Exactly.   Big personality?   Check.   Big I.Q.? Check.   Big career?   Check.   Big paycheck?   Check.   But my way of doing things wasn’t working.   The qualities and traits that led to my being successful in the work world were decidedly NOT leading to my being successful in the romantic realm.  
    So yes — I changed certain aspects of my behavior to attract (or at least not repel) men.   Notice that I do not say I changed my personality.   I’m not convinced anyone can successfully do that for long.   But I learned how to relate to the men I was dating in a different way than I relate to men I do business with.   I was able to compartmentalize — allegedly a masculine “talent” — so that in the work world, I get to be ambitious and confident and competitive and capable and independent and a respected go-getter — and when the 5 o’clock (okay, 8 o’clock) whistle sounds and it’s time to shift gears into my personal life, I put on my “feminine energy” hat and learned to give men what they crave:   acknowledgement of what they bring to the table, acceptance for who they are, love/nurturing/caring.   I learned to be my now-husband’s “soft place to fall” (even put it in our wedding vows).   I learned how to be receptive and warm and gracious and say thank you and mean it, and sometimes ask the man to kill the (figurative) spider or lift the heavy box for me, even if I was fully capable of doing it myself, simply because I knew it gave him pleasure to do so!   I learned to occasionally give him a problem to solve for me, and truly mull over what he had to say and consider taking a different approach instead of just kneejerk reacting and doing it my way like always.   I learned how to give my man the gift of being the masculine provider and protector by RELAXING for a change and deciding I didn’t have to always be “on.”   If you can learn to sometimes stand aside and just purr and look pretty and smile and say thank you — is that really that big of a sacrifice to make in exchange for a loving relationship with a man who is HAPPY and FULFILLED being your man?   Actually, it feels pretty darn good on the receiving end after so many years of being Miss Independent.   Doing everything for yourself all the time is kind of exhausting to tell you the truth; but until you STOP trying to do that, you don’t even realize how tired of it you are.
    So how do you learn, as a strong career woman, to give men the qualities they’re looking for in a woman without having to undertake the futile task of “changing your personality”?   It isn’t by playing games, playing a role, “becoming a submissive little doll,” or any of the other derogatory statements I hear from both women and men on this topic.   It’s by learning some fundamental things in human relationships that will serve you well in ALL your interactions with other people, not just the romantic ones.
    First and foremost: Learn to become a better listener.   Reflect back what your partner is saying so that he feels acknowledged and HEARD.   Not just that the vibrations from his voice tickled your eardrums, but that you took in what he was trying to tell you, silently processed it inside your own brain, and were then able to empathize with his point of view (whether or not you happened to agree with it).   There are many great books and courses in developing better listening skills out there.   One of the biggest tricks I learned is to STOP the bad habit I had of always letting my facile mind race ahead and work on my next clever rejoinder to what was being said so I could bask in the pride I had of being so witty.   It’s not about me!   It’s about being one participant in a two-person conversation.   It’s about really taking in what the other person is saying and thoughtfully trying to understand where they’re coming from.   This will be a valuable skill if you are the CEO of the company or the lowliest person in the mail room.   You know those charismatic people who hold you in their thrall because whenever you speak to them, they make you feel like you’re the only person in the room — make you feel important — make you feel like you’re the smartest, most vibrant and interesting person they’ve spoken to all day?   Know what their secret is?   They are skilled listeners and know how to let the other person shine in the conversation.   So the first skill to learn is the self-control and self-editing function to know when to shut your own mouth and stop trying to impress and dazzle the other human being in front of them, and let THEM take center stage in your eyes.   This is not the same as “fawning over” someone.   It requires you to keep your mouth shut, not be all gushing and insincere.   When a man feels listened to on a date, I guarantee he’ll be back for more.
    I could give Amber a long list of other skills to develop her feminine side; but if she can spend some time on this first, most central new behavior, I guarantee she’ll start seeing positive results in her romantic (and other) encounters with men AND women.  

    1. 17.1

      I personally would love to hear more from you re: these tips.  

    2. 17.2

      BeenThruTheWars, I’m trying to buy that you’re a therapist and to be obejctive about your advice….but…

      “and sometimes ask the man to kill the (figurative) spider or lift the heavy box for me, even if I was fully capable of doing it myself, simply because I knew it gave him pleasure to do so”

      …really? That is so stereotypical, sexist, condescending, and most importantly.. manipulative!

      You need to be consistent….you are making suggestions that absolutely describe playign a role, manipulating, or playing a game…and then you say that you shouldn’t play a role or game.

      I agree that listening is critical..but most people are not good listeners even though all people rate themselves very highly as listeners.


  18. 18

    BeenThruTheWars, I predict that Amber among other women will find what you have to say hard to swallow, even if it is true. So let me add to your comments by saying that MEN who practice these skills (listening, making the other person feel intelligent) succeed with others as well.
    My boss (a man) is one example of this. He puts on a show of being a clueless goofball, and constantly makes us feel like the smart ones, so of course we’re more willing to work hard for his sake. But the truth is that he is one of the smartest people I have ever met – probably smarter than any of us.
    Amber: What it boils down to, for both men and women, is that you succeed in relationships if you make the other person feel important. Don’t play a game of one-upmanship and try to impress the other party with how witty and brilliant you are. Do you know – most people don’t care if another person is witty or brilliant! For brief moments, it’s nice, but if you have to live with someone who keeps putting on that show, it’s exhausting.   Instead, relax, and appreciate what the other person has to offer. Works in business, works in love.

  19. 19

    Most of my successful clients were the ones who chose different men instead of attempting to change their own personalities.
    IMO, the take home quote of Evan’s response.

  20. 20

    Great post, #11, That East Asian Man!

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