Hi Neely,

I’ve been going on a lot of online dates where I feel bad admitting I’m successful. For example, I wrote that I love to travel in my profile. Last night the guy asked me, “So do you plan one trip a year?” I said that I usually go somewhere every few months. His response: “How? How do you have the money and vacation time?” I mean how do I even respond to that? Then the questions come about how I’m able to afford a house, etc. I feel like I have to feel bad about all I’ve accomplished. It’s not like getting a doctorate was easy but now I have a good job and good pay and I’m self-sufficient. But lately it’s like I feel like I should lie. Maybe I’m not dating the right types of men but it’s really hard to know what that type is by a profile. Hell the guy last night had a good job with multiple degrees. It would be interesting to see if other smart and independent daters have the same experience.

— Smart, Successful, and Frustrated

Dear SS&F,

I believe one of the biggest dating myths out there today is that men do not like smart, successful, independent women.

The media, sensationalized headlines, and older family members, collectively, may have scared you into thinking that your career title and salary level render you undateable, unmarriageable. But the real truth is that many men nowadays (we are in the twenty-first century, after all) want a woman who has her own goals and passions and ambitions in life. I hear this a lot from men. Unless they’re flat-out lying or engaging in dating dissonance (saying one thing, doing another), we can assume that many men do indeed appreciate a smart, successful woman.

But do we have to just assume?

Or can we look to those around us to provide incontrovertible evidence that many men appreciate and fall for all sorts of smart, successful women? Coining the term “SWANS: Strong Women Achievers, No Spouse,” author and speaker Christine B. Whalen, even went so far as to write a book about this topic: Why Smart Men Marry Smart Women. (For any woman who is feeling anxious about being single and successful, this free chapter from Whalen’s book is a must-read.)

So let’s examine the evidence, shall we?

Think about coupled or married people you know: friends, acquaintances, coworkers.

I’ll start with people in my life.

Do I know some stay-at-home moms who ended up leaving their jobs to raise children? Yes. Do I also know some coupled women who are in traditionally female-Its-easier-to-engage-inoriented jobs such as schoolteacher or administrative coordinator or artist that would be considered “non-threatening” to men? Yes. BUT I can also think of a  great many women who currently are lawyers, doctors, consultants, financial professionals, PhDs, high-level managers, and the like, who are happily married? Hell yes.

SS&F, why don’t you try this exercise?:

  • Make a list of 15 women you know who are in committed relationships (married or coupled) and write down their career and academic achievements.
    • Are they low-level employees with only Bachelor’s degrees?
    • Or are they in higher-level careers, with graduate degrees to their credit?
    • Or is there a mix of both?

I think you will find that plenty of women on that list are smart and successful like you (financially independent and two or three degrees to boot). Take it even a step further and ask some of the high-achiever women’s husbands if their significant other’s career ambitions ever freaked them out.

  • Alternatively, make a list of 15 single women you know who, like you, are struggling to meet men and settle down into a relationship.
    • Are they in relatively low-level, low-earning positions with only a Bachelor’s degree to their name? Can they only afford one vacation a year?
    • Or are some of them highly successful career-women who treat themselves to nice things?
    • Or is there a mix of both?

I think you will find that plenty of women on that list who aren’t SWANS have just as much trouble finding love as women you might categorize as SWANS, leading one to believe there are all sorts of reasons, aside from one’s societal status, why people remain single when they don’t want to be.

But let me make an important clarification: Men do not fall in love with women because of their status or wealth or academic title (M.D., PhD, etc.)? No. Men fall in love with women for all sorts of reasons, but I’m not sure I’ve ever heard a guy say that one of those reasons was her executive position at a bank.While-there-may-of

It may be that he admires her for her incredible accomplishments and smarts and career talents and that adds to the whole package. It may be that because she is an attorney or a doctor or a professor she can engage in intelligent conversations, and he appreciates that about her. It may be that her career and academic trajectory allows her to understand what he’s going through in his stressful job or degree program, and that makes him feel understood. It may be that because she is his equal, he feels supported, and that makes him feel safe. All of those things add to his attraction to and affection for her, sure, but I don’t think wage-earning power and career status alone is ever truly the primary reason for why a man decides to spend the rest of his life with a woman. (Perhaps there are men out there who disagree, in which case, I’d love to hear from you.)

So the question then becomes, what else do you have to offer men? Are you fun to be around? Are you thoughtful? Are you happy? Are you loyal and loving to those close to you? Are you supportive? Are you a good listener? Are you appreciative of men?

Alternatively, do coupled women say that they fell in love with a man because he was CEO or because he drove a Porsche? It may be that these things about a man initially impress some women, but ultimately, it is his kindness and good heart that allows her to fall in love with him and sustains the relationship long-term. (Let’s not forget about the importance of her kindness and good heart, too!)

While there may, of course, be some men who are intimidated by a woman who makes a ton of money or who has a boatload of degrees, which is really just a reflection of their own insecurities, many smart, successful men are looking to marry their equals; those who are not aren’t the right guys for you, anyway.

Regarding this particular guy you mention in your email to me: Move on. Don’t let his attitude or some other war story you heard from another single friend sour you on the entire male species.

It’s easy to devolve into a state of depression about dating, to proclaim that all men are guilty of x, y, and z. As a woman named Eileen states in Whalen’s linked chapter above: “The whole dating thing just feels hard, and sometimes we just want data that support the way we feel. Even if the news is great in the long run, it’s still hard, and we like to wallow a bit.”

It’s easier to engage in bitch-sessions with friends than to focus on the positive stories out there and to look at the contrarian evidence around you, evidence that forces you to confront your faulty beliefs about men. Unfortunately, the former mentality will always leave you stuck, angry, and unfulfilled.

I’m no stranger to this modern-day meme that men don’t want to date or marry accomplished, smart women. During my single days, my friends and I used to console one another with this line of reasoning when yet another guy disappeared on us. “Oh, you’re just too strong and smart for him, and that scares him.” It Men-like-smart-strongbecame a knee-jerk excuse so that we didn’t have to do the hard work of examining our own behaviors with or choices in the men we were meeting and dating, a way to blame the other and remain in victimology as opposed to turning the eye inward.

Men like smart, strong, successful women. They don’t like a woman who gives off the “I don’t need a man for anything” vibe or a woman who never lets her guard down or refuses to ever show a hint of vulnerability. Would you like, let alone want to marry, a man who gave off that kind of vibe or acted that way around you?

But if that woman I just described is not you, and you’ve simply just met a handful of lamebrains who can’t fathom the idea that you like to treat yourself to a few nice vacations each year, then keep your chin up! Be resilient, persistent, and stay hopeful, and eventually, you’ll find a man who admires what you’ve achieved in your life and falls in love with all the other wonderful pieces of you.

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