He’s Not Intimidated by Your Independence—He’s Put Off by It

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Photo by Jordan Donaldson on Unsplash

Hey Wendy,

I’m divorced with a child, and still manage to get the attention from reasonably good caliber men. I’ve been told (repeatedly) I’m the whole package—kid and all. Yet, my relationships don’t work out for foolish reasons. I’ve done the research and introspection and concluded that there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with me.

Your one video about how it is a put-off when a man finds the woman who’s an overall package these days came as a shock to me, but was also the answer I’ve been looking for—even before watching your video, I had started sensing it when men become competitive with me. I cannot change myself, so do I just play the feminine role of submissiveness if I want marriage and love? I’ve tried doing this before, but I did it through my actions—however, I believe the words I was saying to my men were still reflective of my desire for independence.

These stupid men say they love independent women, but they just lie because they don’t want to sound patriarchal these days?

I want love, so I’m thinking I will play or downplay my independence when it comes to these men, but in order to still be satisfied within myself, can I at least try and find a man who will let me be in my own world of independence when I’m not with him? And I’ll have to keep switching—unfortunately, because I’m born without a penis—which I’m willing to do if it leads me to an exclusive love, which is what I’ve also been craving.

It looks like the world is not ready for an independent woman who also wants and craves that deep, exclusive love and marriage and white picket fence and kids, etc. Thank you.

Shehan A.

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Hey Shehan,

You don’t trust men. You think they’re stupid. And they lie. Yet you want to be married to one?

Why?

We’ve got some bigger problems to tackle here, but let’s start at the root:

INDEPENDENT vs. PARTNER

When you look up independent in a dictionary, you’ll find definitions like:

  • not requiring or relying on others
  • not looking to others for one’s opinions or for guidance

When you look up a word that is the opposite of independent—partner—, you’ll find phrases like:

  • a person with whom one shares an intimate relationship: one member of a couple
  • either of two persons who dance together
  • one of two or more persons who play together in a game against an opposite side (partners in card games)
  • one that shares

Can you see that independence and partnership are the opposite of each other? Independent literally means you don’t need anyone for anything—you’ve got this. And unfortunately, most guys are literal.

When we state we’re independent, what they hear and see is a woman who doesn’t want a guy to rely on, to share life with, to get opinions and guidance from, or to have the type of relationship where you two can rely on each other and have each other’s backs.

Most men who desire committed relationships want to be relied on for things. They, like us, like to feel useful. They need to know they can contribute something. They want to make a positive impact in their partner’s life.

There’s no room for that with an independent woman who is the whole package all on her own.

What he expects to hear from Ms. Independent is “I’ve got my life together all on my own, and I don’t need you or any other man.”

A good man who wants a solid relationship needs to be needed. (Just like you do.)

Now, can you be an independent thinker, doer, and partner? Totally! In fact, that’s often a requirement for most men.

Can you be the kind of woman who knows and speaks her own mind? Absolutely! And strong men look for that in their partner.

Can you be fabulous and highly self-reliant? Yes, please—that’s hot.

But you can’t be 100% independent and be in a committed relationship at the same time. That’s an oxymoron.

THE WHOLE PACKAGE

So why are guys put off by the whole package? They’re not. They’re put off by the “what do I need you for” attitude that sometimes comes with that package.

Being capable, funny, smart, a badass boss bitch? All good—just as long as you leave a little room for a guy to contribute to your life in some way. To make your day a little better. To do things for you that spark your happiness.

THE COMPETING BUTTON

I have some real bad news for you about competition and dudes—they have a “compete” button, and it’s hardwired in.

You can push the compete button and elicit a negative response, or you could side-step it and try not to knock up against it. Totally your choice. You are an empowered woman with free will who can do any damned thing that you want. What I know for myself, though, is when I feel that pull of his energy shift from protecting me, cherishing me, and having my back to competing with me, being aggressive, or not treating me with care, I take a pause. I think back to our recent interactions to examine whether I’ve been unknowingly pushing his button. If this is the case, I’ll either a) make repairs—like if I’ve said something cutting/emasculating/mean, then I fix it—or b) if it was something run-of-the-mill that triggered his competitive side, I pivot and redirect conversation away from it. It’s not hard, and it doesn’t mean you’re not being true to yourself or making yourself small for him. It simply means you’re cognizant of his needs, just like he hopefully is of yours.

YOU GOTTA BE YOU

I wish for you (and all women) to be as bold, big, and amazing as you are. Be a total handful. Be bright and amazing. And do not contort yourself to fit someone else’s picture of you. You don’t need to become more feminine. Or more submissive. Or any of that nonsense. Just allow yourself to be the person who is open to receiving the gifts your partner wants to share.

FLAMING RED FLAGS

In your letter, you threw out some flaming red flags that I’m here to point out for your consideration:

Calling men “stupid” and “liars” tells us you don’t like men very much. You may have had some bad experiences in the past that have shaped this opinion, but it’s not going to serve you moving forward. Know why?

Nothing repels men faster and more effectively than being met by a bad attitude. If you carry the belief that men are fundamentally stupid and worthless around with you for long enough, every new man you meet will pick up on what you’re laying down—and then he’ll pick up and hightail it out of there.

I’ve been studying men since the olden days of 2002 as my full-time job, and what I know to be true is that both men and women lie.

We lie when we’re backed into a corner, or when we feel our life (or lifestyle) is threatened. Humans lie. It’s a person thing, not just a man thing. I can tell you how to stop getting lied to more often, but that’s another column for another day.

And men are “stupid”? As we touched on above, this tells me that you’re carrying around some hurt and frustration from past experiences that you haven’t yet done the work to heal from.

A good friend of mine whom I dated for many years once said, “I wish I could date women my own age, but the women in this town are so angry (he was around 55 at the time). They’re like burnt toast, all crispy around the edges. And when they meet me for the first time I can see it in their eyes, the flash of anger and hurt like, what assholic thing are you going to do to me?”

Now, I know many, many vivacious, happy, un-burnt-toasty ladies of every age, and I know that my friend was speaking from his own limited perspective. But his story has a useful nugget of truth in it: How can one find love if all we’re projecting is hate and distrust?

Healing from past disappointment can be a long, hard journey, but it’s absolutely essential if you’re going to put your best self out there and meet the right person for you.

“But how?” You ask.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Get a good therapist. Go see them more than once. Be willing to be vulnerable.
  • Cultivate non-sexual male friends and let them platonically love you up.
  • Let male strangers in your life make a difference for you by opening doors, offering a friendly greeting, helping you with your luggage on the plane in the overhead compartments, etc.
  • If you want to start shifting your opinions on men from the comfort of your own couch, grab my You Asked Men Answered interview series. I interview ten different men and have them answer the questions that are most compelling to womenkind. It’s pretty awesome and makes me fall in love with men all over again when I re-listen it.

THERE ARE TWO PARTS TO PARTNERSHIP

Last red flag? “My relationships didn’t work out for foolish reasons.”

In this assessment, who is playing the fool—you? Your ex? Both? I can tell you, unequivocally, why every single date and/or relationship I was a part of didn’t turn out. I can tell you exactly what part I played, even if it was a passive one. If what you want is partnership, then you have to own your part of both the wins and the misses.

Okay, Shehan. This was epic! Thank you for giving me the opportunity to unravel all the parts of your question—and please know, while parts of my advice may sound harsh, I share it all from a place of love and respect. You are not alone. Your question is a great representation of a huge portion of women and how they relate to men, as well as how they relate to the frustration of not finding love. If you need more from me, reach out for coaching and I’ll let you know if I’m taking on new clients at that time. I hope what I’ve provided here has given you direction and set you on your path to finding your dream relationship.

p.s. I’m sorry I didn’t reference the video you watched. I’ve been doing video interviews and solo pieces for two decades, so I’m not quite sure which one you meant. I guarantee you I didn’t say “men are put off by the whole package.” What I likely said was some version of what’s here in this column. In other words, it’s always a bit more complicated than that. Wishing you great luck!