WTF?! I’m a single mom who has always been ambitious — but since my divorce 10 years ago my career really took off. Today I’m killing it as a Fortune 1,000 executive and despite your bashing of corporate jobs, I really love mine.
Needless to say, I intimidate men — especially those I date. In fact, I was the breadwinner in my marriage and my husband told me flat-out that he couldn’t deal with it. I don’t have trouble meeting interesting or successful men and have had some short-term relationships over the years. But when it comes to long-term relationships, guys tend to shut down and freak out — even when they make more than I do.
Case in point: I am currently seeing someone I really like, and sense a lot of relationship potential. He is a brilliant entrepreneur who is currently running a startup and launching a second. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t earn as much as I do, but we are clearly peers intellectually and in business — as well as in things like cultural tastes, values and all the good important stuff. Plus, I think he is really hot.
We’ve been seeing each other casually (but not yet sleeping together) for the past few weeks. We have really great conversations and enjoy going to the same restaurants and concerts. But I can tell he is really nervous around me, avoiding eye contact and acting shy sometimes, and when it comes to talking about our careers, sometimes he acts really interested in my work and says such flattering things about how pretty he finds me, and how amazing I am for my career while being a mom — it is music to my ears! But other times gets a little shifty-eyed when I talk about my accomplishments. I find I started to hold back and downplaying things that may hint at my success and act overly enthusiastic about his.
The thing is that I don’t see myself as more successful than him even though I probably make more money — which I don’t care about at all! There is so much potential for this to grow into something meaningful but I worry that this will be a repeat of my past relationships — lots of potential and chemistry and ultimately a petering out when he faces the possibility of being with a woman like me.
Alpha woman in Alberta
I am so grateful for this message. A lot of readers here will so relate — as do I. So my message to you is one part helping, one part therapy for me (cuz it’s all about me!).
When I hear anyone make broad generalizations about others, a red flags shoot up. ” I intimidate men — especially those I date.” I don’t doubt that some dudes are not sure how to date a successful woman. But if you keep experiencing the same thing again and again, there is just one common denominator: You.
I worry that you have not moved past your ex-husband’s insecurity around his success (because the problem was him — not your success!) and the role it played in the dissolution of your marriage. He was one man, and that was one relationship. There are other men and other ways of being with them. I firmly believe that the vibe we throw off is a giant, powerful force in who we attract to our lives and how those relationships play out. You have control over that vibe. You are attracting men who are just like your husband — men who are insecure with themselves, and therefor intimidated by you.
Also-slash-in addition: You may be inaccurately perceiving these men’s disinterest as intimidation. Maybe they are not into you for other reasons. Or maybe they actually really dig you, and you pre-emptively call things off for fear of being hurt again. This is so normal (and familiar!). It is also within your power to change.
Here is what I want you to do:
First, identify some happy marriages you know where the woman is a professional success — someone you admire and respect. Spend time with those people. Dissect how they tick — how they interact and share housework and talk about business. Surround yourself with the type of relationship you desire. See that it is possible. Learn the mechanics of those partnerships.
Second, give this guy a shot. It has only been a few weeks, and I agree — it sounds like the making of something special. Do not despair quite yet.
Third, turn it around. You already have established a certain, albeit awkward, flow with this man. That is difficult to undo. But it can be remedied.
Your next step:
Let him fuck you. Notice I didn’t say fuck him. No. Let him take over. Be the man. That means you are the woman.
What does that mean? The next time you are making out do not initiate a single thing. Every single step of intimacy is up to him. That does not mean you are a limp washcloth. That means you follow his lead. Is he unsure? Stumbles? Tell him how hot he is. How big. How much he turns you on. Mean it (because you do). Want him (because you do). Allow him to dominate in a way that is impossible for you to compete with.
Because you are the woman. And he is the man.
And that is what it is all about anyway.
Emma Johnson is a veteran money journalist, noted blogger, bestselling author and an host of the award-winning podcast, Like a Mother with Emma Johnson. A former Associated Press Financial Wire reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Glamour, Oprah.com, U.S. News, Parenting, USA Today and others. Her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was named to the New York Post’s ‘Must Read” list.
Emma regularly comments on issues of modern families, gender equality, divorce, sex and motherhood for outlets like CNN, Headline News, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox & Friends, CNBC, NPR, TIME, MONEY, O, The Oprah Magazine and The Doctors. She was named Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web,” “Top 15 Personal Finance Podcasts” by U.S. News, and a “Most Eligible New Yorker” by New York Observer.
A popular speaker, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality. Read more about Emma here.