Dating and Mate Selection — 23 October 2003
The successful woman’s search for Mr. Right

Why do highly accomplished single women report having difficulties in
finding suitable mates? The common explanation is that many men are
intimidated by high -powered women and prefer to select women who allow
the men to maintain the power role. Though this may be an adequate
explanation for some men, the full answer is more complex.

A recent television program interviewed female Harvard MBA graduate

students. Several interviewees spoke of the need to be evasive when men
ask them where they attend school. They experienced that once a
potential date found out that they attend Harvard, he was likely to
vanish. “An intelligent, educated woman is threatening to many men,”
they claimed.

It is true that men, who seek sweet, compliant, subservient and demure
women, are unlikely to be attracted to highly successful females. Men
who are interested in a traditional 50_s like marriage prefer females
who are willing to undertake a supportive role to their powerful husbands.

It is also true that despite greater presence of women in the work
force, greater opportunities for employment for women and social
acceptance of successful females, our culture still looks askance at
highly powerful women.

There are many myths about the nature of a successful female. Here are a
few of them:

It is assumed that a high-achieving woman advanced in her career,
competing with men, by utilizing high levels of aggression,
competitiveness and drive. Those traits collide with the image of
femininity. Even males who seek an accomplished partner may be terrified
of an aggressive, competitive female.

Men may be able to share power with a woman, they may be willing to
negotiate, compromise and please their mates. What men are NOT willing
to tolerate is critical, controlling, overpowering females. Men dread
criticism, which belittles and shames them. Being controlled violates
their sense of autonomy and being overpowered diminishes their value.
Needless to say, most men will avoid females whom they expect may resort
to these behaviors.

Another false assumption is that a highly accomplished woman is most
likely hard. Men who think so confuse competency with an unfeeling, cold
personality. They assume that a woman manager needs to be harsh to
motivate her workers as most male managers do.

Research, however, found that women’s managerial styles are less
effective than men’s since women modify the rules to accommodate workers
emotional or personal needs. Men demand performance regardless of
extenuating circumstances. Thus, judging a woman’s character by her
title is unreasonable.

Additional misconception about powerful women is that they are so self-sufficient, that they have no need for men in their lives. Men
need to feel that they contribute to their women’s wellbeing and are
wanted and needed. Males thrive on feeling that they are their women’s
“heroes”. Fearing that they may not be needed deters males from
approaching successful females.

What men need to realize is that even the most independent and
successful female is likely to need two major contributions women
innately desire from men. Those are also the two attributes males are
naturally inclined to give to females- providing and protecting.

The Provider role does not necessarily mean earning more money. It means
having a leadership role in helping their wives achieve their goals and
get their needs met. For example, a husband can provide emotional
support to his wife by being a good listener and, when needed, a problem
solver. He may provide technical or artistic help, or any other talents
and skills he may have in enriching her life.

Being a Protector means enabling the wife to feel safe physically and
emotionally in the world. A man can escort his lady to her car at night
as a protector, or deal with a difficult business negotiations on her

Men also need to be aware that the softer side of women is biologically
programmed. Women are raised to please and gain their self-esteem, in
part, from how well they do so. A high powered woman is as likely as any
other woman to desire to please her man. A pleased and happy male
fosters a more accommodating and loving female.

Few men may also be aware that women have an innate desire to be
lovingly taken care of by men. The powerful businesswoman is delighted
to be pampered at home. Power, per say, is seldom a first priority for
women. Being loved is!

If you are a single highly accomplished female:

  • Do not assume that men are likely to be intimidated by you.
  • Allow your whole personality to manifest in your social life. Work is
    only one aspect of your many roles.
  • Help the man feel that he is needed by you.
  • Do not confuse being in control of yourself with controlling others.
  • Trust that a healthy, partner-seeking male is looking for you. ® Allow your softness and vulnerability to be seen by men to diffuse the
    myth that power equals meanness.
  • Remember the saying: “every pot has its cover”. Stay competent and be
    loving – your deserving partner will find you.

Offra Gerstein
June 8, 2003

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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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