Strong relationships require a strong foundation. To build that base, each partner must embrace who they are and continually strive to grow. In other words: Improve yourself to improve your relationships.
Simple. Smart. Intuitive.
But we all know that in real life, relationships are rarely that simple. I recently tweeted (actually a retweet from someone else) that the way to attract the best possible partner was to focus on improving yourself.
Though my tweet received a lot of likes etc., it also promoted a direct message from someone who was skeptical (I should say that I get a ton of people reaching out to me, so I’m rarely able to respond. However, this one caught my eye because I know it’s a tough issue for lots of high achieving women).
Specifically, her concern was that “I’m finding the opposite is true for females. The more achievements and accomplishments a female gets, the more it seems to intimidate guys who are then afraid to date them.”
So What’s the Solution?
She suggested, “Is the solution to downplay and hide success as a female until they get to know you?”
Simple answer: No.
Yet, it isn’t that simple.
If hiding your accomplishments and success isn’t the answer, what is?
Granted, it’s impossible to grasp the entire scope of someone’s situation from a few DMs. That said, the solution to this problem depends on which types of guys she wants to attract. Some guys are insecure, narcissistic, unstable, suffer from toxic masculinity, and will be easily intimidated. For these guys, concealing your accomplishments may be necessary at first (and perhaps forever).
If that’s the type of partner you want…keep on playing the concealment game.
But…and there’s always a but. There are other partners out there who will embrace and celebrate your accomplishments. To attract them, you shouldn’t hide your success. Instead, share it, emphasize it, and embody it. Own it.
Her response, “How do I attract the guys that will celebrate success lol”
A fair question that begs for a longer answer. So here goes…
How To Attract Guys Who Will Celebrate Your Success
First, an observation: If Twitter profiles and pictures are to be believed, the woman asking these questions should have no trouble attracting men. She’s legitimately attractive and successful. I suspect the same is true for a lot of women who struggle to find a partner.
The problem isn’t a lack of options, but rather identifying the right option.
Know Yourself. Finding the right type of partner starts with being as clear and confident as you possibly can about who you truly are as a person, a concept researchers call self-concept clarity (Campbell et al., 1996). We talk about this a lot in the Relationship Synergy program in terms of getting yourself relationship ready. Akin to self-understanding, greater clarity allows you to more accurately portray your authentic self to prospective partners. Partners then have the ability to become attracted to your actual self instead of some calculated version. Sure, this may result in attracting fewer partners, but the ones you do attract should be better. Quality > quantity.
Maintain Quality Control. The solution to finding better partners isn’t to lower your standards. Everyone has a preconceived notion of what an ideal partner looks like to them. Stick to it. In fact, you likely need to be a little tougher and raise your standards. Too often, we have some qualities we really want our partner to have, only to throw that wish list out completely just because the other person is hot or successful. Raise the bar and keep your expectations high. When you do, make sure your standards include a partner who is respectful, values you, is secure in their own attributes and isn’t intimidated by success. A simple red flag to look for would be someone who needs to “one up” your accomplishments by sharing their own.
Be Clear. The easiest way to put yourself first from the start and prioritize quality is to be transparent about what you want. Don’t sugarcoat it or downplay what you’re looking for. Put it right there in your dating profile or work it into early conversations. When you do, clearly state exactly what you want:
- a real relationship partner who respects you as their true equal,
- someone to not only grow with you but alongside you,
- someone who admires and celebrates your success.
If these are qualities you truly value, be upfront about it. Put it out there. Own it. The type of partner you want won’t run away from this; they’ll run toward it.
Don’t Date Sexist Guys. Duh. I mean, of course…who wouldn’t want to avoid these guys? The only problem is that research shows that women routinely fall for sexist guys (Gul & Kupfer, 2019). In fact, despite knowing better, women find benevolent sexism or the idea that “women should be cherished and protected by men,” attractive because it shows a man’s willingness to invest in the relationship.
Benevolent sexism also doesn’t feel particularly sexist. Rather, it almost feels chivalrous and romantic. But those seemingly positive aspects coincide with expectations about how men and women should act in relationships, and opinions about what roles each should play. Traditionally, those dynamics are linked to power and strongly favor men. Thus, if a guy (knowingly or not) assumes men should have more power in the relationship, they may feel the need to be “better” (smarter, braver, and yes, more successful) than their female counterparts. Men can accomplish that either by emphasizing their own (perceived) superior attributes or by minimizing your accomplishments. Ever been with someone who has to constantly remind you how amazing they are? Yeah, probably not what you want.
Sexist men are also more likely to see themselves as having lower power, often because they underestimated how much power they truly had (Cross et al., 2019). That dynamic creates problems because sexist men react poorly to a lack of power (e.g., by being more aggressive). Men may also reclaim power by downplaying their female partner’s strengths and minimizing them. Other more serious tactics for gaining power include putting their partner down or outright trying to undermine their partner’s success.
How to Avoid Sexist Guys. The key is to avoid sexist guys from the start. How can you pick them out? Sexist guys tend to use more assertive and manipulative strategies to attract women, such as insulting, teasing, giving backhanded compliments, or isolating the “target” from their friends (Hall & Canterberry, 2011). They play games, all of which help the guy to display his dominance.
But to be fair, guys wouldn’t bother with these approaches if they didn’t work. So who’s falling for this? Women who tended to agree with statements like “A good woman should be set on a pedestal by her man.” and “Women should be cherished and protected by men.” found men’s assertive strategies more appealing.
Sure, being put on a pedestal and cherished sounds romantic, but those beliefs are also sexist. Ultimately, women with sexist beliefs attracted men with sexist beliefs. All of which perpetuates the cycle of truly wanting a guy who treats you as an equal, but only attracting men who find female success threatening. Next.
You’re smart, successful, and confident. While that has served you well in most facets of your life, it can make romantic relationships more difficult if you have the wrong approach.
It’s tricky because faulty relationship beliefs (e.g., hiding who you are at first to help the relationship take off) often seem natural, normal, and acceptable. But, those beliefs have consequences. They make you and your relationship vulnerable. All the more reason to continue learning about relationships. As you become savvier, your relationships will begin to soar.
Hope this helps,
Gary W. Lewandowski Jr. Ph.D. an award-winning professor, researcher, writer, and relationship expert. His TED talk and relationship programs have been enjoyed by millions worldwide. As a Love Strategies Instructor and Course Designer for Relationship Synergy, he shares insights from 25 years of experience studying the science of relationships to help women build a deeper, more meaningful romantic connection with their partner.
Campbell, J. D., Trapnell, P. D., Heine, S. J., Katz, I. M., Lavallee, L. F., & Lehman, D. R. (1996). Self-concept clarity: Measurement, personality correlates, and cultural boundaries. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 70(1), 141–156. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-35220.127.116.11
Cross, E. J., Overall, N. C., Low, R. S. T., & McNulty, J. K. (2019). An interdependence account of sexism and power: Men’s hostile sexism, biased perceptions of low power, and relationship aggression. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 117(2), 338–363. https://doi.org/10.1037/pspi0000167
Gul, P., & Kupfer, T. R. (2019). Benevolent sexism and mate preferences: Why do women prefer benevolent men despite recognizing that they can be undermining? Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 45(1), 146–161. https://doi.org/10.1177/0146167218781000
Hall, J. A., & Canterberry, M. (2011). Sexism and assertive courtship strategies. Sex Roles, 65(11-12), 840-853. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-011-0045-y