Christine is a 41-year-old New Yorker. She’s competed in 11 marathons, runs her own consulting firm and is working on her Ph.D. She’s also single (pro tip: here are 10 things guys look for in their girl). Christine recalls, “I recently had a male friend tell me, ‘Chris, men just want a woman who’s going to be home and be a great wife and mother. You’re too intense. Look at you, you’re going 100 mph all the time, no guy wants that.'”
“I am attractive, in gosh-darn good shape, fun, great sense of humor, full of energy and life, smart and ambitious,” says Christine. “You would think these are qualities men would like — and most [men] say they do—but sooner or later, I feel like they begin feeling inferior or inadequate as a man or breadwinner.” Christine isn’t alone in her frustration. According to the book Why Smart Men Marry Smart Women, over half of single women believe that their success is intimidating to men.
So, do women really intimidate men? We asked men what they thought and were surprised by their answers.
1. YES. “Strong, aggressive, ambitious people intimidate weak, passive, lackadaisical people regardless of sex. They remind these people of the existential crisis that cause their current state of being. It’s the gap in intelligence —not gender — that causes the intimidation.” — Daniel, 25, Web editor
2. YES. “The intimidated male might not be intimidated by the woman, but by the power, ambition and aggressiveness, and his reaction may cause a woman to see it as her being a woman.” — Jeff, 30, software engineer
3. NO. “Do strong career minded women intimidate guys? I doubt it. It probably has more to do with these women having chosen to spend their time and effort trying to accomplish other goals instead of pursuing and working on relationships.” — Joe, 25, hardware engineer
4. NO. “It’s totally an excuse. Men use it when they can’t meet women too.” — Anonymous
5. NO. “No way no how, although, I am not intimidated by much, especially not women. I know this answer sounds a bit crude maybe or chauvinistic … but why would I ever be intimidated by a woman?” — Scott, 29, fitness instructor
6. YES. “Honestly, when it comes down to it, all men have a little bit of intimidation in them, simply because of the historical dominance of males in society. Men inherit millennia years of social and hierarchical dominance and either knowingly or unknowingly have an irrational fear of losing their territory.” — Jesse, 25, seminary student
7. YES. “My wife is smart and kind, but [the intimidation] wasn’t her issue, it was mine.” — Jon, 30
8. YES. “As a younger single man, I was intimidated by the women I was attracted to; the more sexually attracted I was, the more intimidated I felt. They had the power to grant or deny my romantic desires and, whether they knew it or not, they wielded that power. I believe it was a combination of a lack of self-confidence on my part and the natural forces inherent in sexual relationships.” — Bruce, 37
9. MAYBE. “The real problem may be considering women who are unmarried to be failures. We don’t usually think of unmarried guys in this way, if their lives are going well otherwise. Especially if they are very successful in other ways.” — Mark, 42
Recent research supports these conclusions. According to the 2005 Current Population Survey, a single 30-year-old woman is more likely to marry by age 40 if she has a graduate degree than if she doesn’t. But Jane Scandurra, producer and director of the documentary Single warns against reading too much into these statistics. “Either biologically or sociologically men have it ingrained in their minds that it is a competition,” says Scandurra. “There may be some guys out there who aren’t intimidated, but are there enough?”
“Of course men deny it,” laughed Marilyn Barnicke Belleghem, a family therapist. “they just aren’t telling the truth because the question intimidates them.”
So while there are no clear answers, it is evident that as society grows and changes the issue of how men and women interact is an ever evolving and complicated one. Women today lead richer lives and settle down for love and companionship, rather than out of social pressure or economic necessity.
And the good news is, some men find this to be a good thing. Says Christopherson, “There are many men who are attracted (both sexually and socially) to strong, powerful and/or influential women. They see these traits as contributing to the complexity of that woman’s character and personality.”
And he’s right. According to Why Smart Men Marry Smart Women, 2005 Current Population Survey data shows, “Successful women in their 30s have options — and [women] in their late 30s are significantly more likely to walk down the aisle than their less accomplished sisters.”
So there are good guys out there, now it’s just a matter of finding them.