I work with a lot of amazing, successful women. A lot. And I am constantly impressed by these women’s tenacity, drive, and achievements in life. Most have made their financial wealth on their own and are very proud of that, as they should be. But with this success sometimes comes difficulty in finding a partner. Why is this?
As a recent example, I asked a client—late 50s, from New York, partner at a consulting firm—how her last date went:
“He was nice and well mannered, and we had a common interest in helping local youth. Also a common divorce experience. I’m unclear on his career history/track… therefore don’t know his leadership, achievement capability or financial security status. Questionable interest/experience/passion for international experiences, which is essential for me!”
“As for this – ‘Unclear career history/track…therefore don’t know his leadership, achievement capability or financial security status’ — you are not hiring him… you’re looking to date him. So, while, of course, this is important, so is how someone makes you feel when you’re together. It’s important to pay attention to those softer things too because you don’t want to date a resume. You want to date a real person who is interested in learning about you too and who treats you well. No need to size him, or anyone, up in one meeting. (I wouldn’t be doing my job well if I didn’t say these things. Please do keep them in mind.) Let me know if/when you plan to see him again.”
The important thing to note here is that my client is treating the dating experience like an interview process with the question in mind of, “Is he good enough for me?” This is not the way I recommend dating. First, everyone is “good enough” in their own way. Some people are more compatible, of course, but to so overtly judge someone based on his or her status is shortsighted. Rarely do you hear a happy couple talk about the merits of his or her partner’s “leadership ability.” A boss would, and should, be looking for this quality. But “leadership ability” doesn’t keep you warm at night.
Now, I am the first person to recognize that very often, someone successful—especially if this person built that success (and I mean financially) through hard work and motivation—wants to find someone equally successful. But not everyone’s drive is for the same thing.
The problem, especially for highly successful women, is that they often want the same caliber of man. I don’t begrudge anyone for that. But let’s say there are a small handful of men in that category. Now that we’ve narrowed it down to them, we have to assume that they are looking for the same caliber of woman. Some are, of course, but some aren’t. So now the pool has dwindled down immensely.
While a woman might look for her professional peer, often, while a man may certainly appreciate the drive, intellect, and success of a woman, he is also looking for qualities in a partner that he won’t find in his likely-intense work environment. These qualities are kindness, warmth, and affection. Let’s hope he’s not getting those from his fellow law partner!
What does this all mean? There’s a mismatch. Should women should lower their standards? Never! But rather, it’s important to remember that men and women are different and that there is more to a partner than the on-paper resume details. As I told my client, to size someone up based on the dollar signs on his W-2 is shortsighted. You don’t know a person on a first date. Or even a third or fourth. And on those later dates, you might find that this is someone who treats you better, has more time for you, and makes you feel secure. Because the flip side of every quality is the opposite quality… financial success could also mean workaholic, constant traveler could also mean discontent with (or absence from) home life, lots of “stuff” could also mean lots of debt. What I’m saying is that we never know the full picture, so it’s important to evaluate someone on who he or she is today—not a past divorce, not a bank account, and not perceived leadership status. Might that all be part of the equation? Sure. But it’s only part. Take each person as a whole, not as a list of stats and numbers that may or may not make you happy in the long run.
Erika Ettin is an online dating expert and dating coach who helps people navigate the world of online dating. Her expertise includes profile creation, photo selection and photography, message writing, and date planning. She is also the author of the book Love at First Site: Tips & Tales for Online Dating Success from a Modern-Day Matchmaker and the co-host of the popular dating podcast So, We Met Online…
Erika’s work has been featured in media around the country, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, NPR, and Ask Men, and she currently writes a weekly syndicated dating column. Erika studied economics at Cornell University and received her MBA from Georgetown. She has worked with over 1000 clients and is responsible for relationships, marriages, and the confidence some people simply need to “get out there.”