The story below reflects the feelings of heterosexual women. Even though this piece highlights their thoughts on this particular subject matter, it acknowledges the kaleidoscope of dating perspectives that fall on the sexual and gender-orientation spectrum.
As often as we celebrate Lizzo’s self-love and Kristen Bell’s honesty, some women can’t help but feel it’s harder to find love when they’re stepping into their power. Even though these women are motivated by others to own their confidence and we as a culture are continuing to shatter huge portions of the glass ceiling, there’s still a division that persists in the fight for equality.
But before we point our fingers at what or who we think is to blame, it’s more important to acknowledge that this is, at the very least, the lived experiences of some of today’s most powerful and accomplished women.
As a sex, love, and relationship coach with a fierce passion for equality and openness, I host a number of female-identifying empowerment workshops, where we discuss topics like these. And when the attendees share their feelings and experiences about dating as empowered women, I am always surprised by the common perspectives that thread every class together: “I feel the more empowered I am, the more men are intimidated by me,” or “I feel men are afraid of empowered women.”
Even though I’m careful about keeping the groups focused on attendees’ growth and honoring their feelings, I often rebut by saying, “But isn’t it great that we get to weed out potential partners who aren’t right for us?” Responses are always mixed. Some women are adamant that their power directly enhances their dating experiences when it comes from a place of confidence, while others are unsure of how to communicate powerfully without feeling like they’re being judged.
For example, Nina* explained, “When I feel strong and capable of asking for what I want, I often find that some men feel uncomfortable or unsure of how to respond to that kind of candor. I don’t think they know how to [be with] a woman who is so forthcoming.” Laura* cited a similar feeling, “We say we want equality, but some men feel diminished when a woman takes up a lot of space…that’s their problem, but it makes it hard for me to date.” Even as a sex coach, I, too, have had my fair share of awkward dating conversations about my business and what I do for a living; however, I find that there are many men who are respectful and interested in celebrating what I do. Truthfully, I believe there’s a lot more nuance in how these individual conversations between men and women unravel than the collective generalized statements of my workshop attendees.
For instance, while one study cited that being promoted may double a woman’s chance of getting divorced, another noted that marriages where the woman has a higher level of education than the man tend to be happier partnerships. But in an era where we’re teaching young women and men that they’re equal, how can we extend this conversation to adults who may not have had that same conditioning when they were young and are now looking for love?
With this in mind, I decided to ask successful founders, CEOs, accomplished creatives, and executives a question: “How does being a strong woman impact how you date?” After much thought, they provided both context and practical advice on the matter. Here’s what they had to say:
Don’t worry about men, date yourself first.
Jordan, 27, an accomplished actress and world traveler acknowledged that owning her power made dating harder for a period of time while she adjusted to her newfound needs. “Once I fully embraced and accepted my own strength, I started attracting men who understood and respected me, too,” she said. One may argue that it’s “hard” to find someone you like enough to date in the first place, but sometimes, finding an equally empowered partner can feel like looking for a needle in a haystack. Jordan added that “sometimes an enlightened man can be hard to find, but they’re definitely out there.”
This seemed to be the main plight of the women in my workshops: They had absolutely no idea where these elusive empowered men were located. And being a busy woman with a vibrant life can make “searching” for a partner feel like a chore.
Join social organizations.
For instance, Georgia, 29, a creative director who has dated in London, said, “It isn’t like you don’t have to make some effort. Building connections is important whether you’re looking to date or not.” Georgia suggested joining a social organization for a cause you believe in, a local sports team, or a networking group, or volunteering in order to connect with like-minded people. “Your future partner may not be in the group, but the person who introduces them to you might be,” she added. Georgia also emphasized that finding a community based around something you believe in or are passionate about will potentially connect you with people who will celebrate your shared interests instead of being intimidated by your successes.
Explore your existing network.
Georgia also advised digging into your existing network. If you have amazing friends, tell them you would like to meet someone who aligns with your lifestyle and values. You don’t have to ask to be set up, just gently invite them to keep anyone they know on their radar for you. Engaging with your network can open up a world of otherwise unknown possibilities. She added, “If your friends already approve this person, then [they’ll] most likely be an upstanding individual.”
Create an open dialogue.
One of the unfortunate drawbacks of living in a patriarchal society is that it can feel impossible to communicate with some men because the undercurrents of toxic masculinity run so deep. Oftentimes, asserting your power and perspective means risking being labeled as a “bitch” or “difficult,” which never happens to a man who is equally aggressive with his opinions.
One of my favorite books for empowering feminine strength while making an impact is Miki Agrawal’s DisruptHER. Agrawal is an advocate, social entrepreneur, best-selling author and co-founder of THINX (the period panties) and TUSHY (a designer bidet). In her book, she highlights a Triple-Q technique for shutting down a man while engaging with them about this topic. She believes doing this will open a much more productive dialogue, even though you obviously don’t want to date these men in the first place. “Separation creates more divisiveness, more anger, and strengthens the other side,” she said. “To truly create equality, both sides need to be invited into a larger conversation in a way that is accessible.”
Keep in mind: It’s not the woman’s responsibility to change the way she speaks to accommodate men. We (men, women, and non-binary people) have been done a disservice by being raised in a patriarchy that enforces binary thinking and makes it difficult for us to understand one another. And when everyone makes it their personal responsibility to lead with language that creates openness and honesty without judging the other person’s own understanding and expression of their power, we can create much stronger opportunities for connection.
Whatever you do, don’t apologize for your success.
Leigh, 36, is a six-figure business owner and entrepreneur. She makes no apologies for her success or power as a business woman and is an avid-dater. “I find that sometimes men are intimidated by the way I talk about my business, but I am a pretty no-nonsense lady,” she joked. “Ultimately, my radical honesty has supported and enhanced my long-term relationships. And if a guy doesn’t like my honesty, then we probably wouldn’t be a good match, anyway.” The reality is, if a man is intimidated by your power—that’s great! #BoyBye. Leigh also noted, “To the right person, my success and power is one of the sexiest things about me…We get to celebrate each other, and that’s the kind of relationship I want.”
As powerful, dynamic, incredible women, we should view our success as an asset. But if you’re currently struggling to feel that way, that’s okay, too. In order to own all of who we are and how we show up in the world, we must fully embrace our innate strengths. Because at the end of the day, our success isn’t a deterrent; it’s a force to be reckoned with.