Recently a young, single woman emailed me lamenting over her dating debacles. She’d read an advanced copy of my new book launching today, When She Makes More: 10 Rules for Breadwinning Women and was a tad frustrated to discover that she may need to have more of an open mind towards finding her “equal” or perfect “match.”
As a graduate of Columbia University leading a successful career in publishing, she was determined to find a similarly educated and career-ambitious man. “I know that you don’t have to have an Ivy League degree to be insanely smart and successful, enlightened and evolved…But honestly, I want all of it. I want the book-smart, street-smart and financially-smart. I want the well-dressed, cultured and sophisticated smart. Is that too much to ask for? I don’t think it is when you consider that I can reciprocate in all those areas. I’m not asking for anything that I can’t provide in return. I just can’t settle for less,” she wrote.
The fact is, particularly for young ambitious females, the chances of finding an “equal” mate in terms of pay and education is statistically challenging. And even if you do land a first date with this guy, there may not be a second, for certain psychological reasons (more on that in a moment).
First, let’s review the stats. According to a 2012 study by Reach Advisors, the median income of single women between the ages of 22 and 30 is now greater than the income of single men in that same age group in most cities throughout the country. “What it is saying is that young women are way more educated than young men. They’re much more likely to get a degree in the knowledge-based workforce and more of these jobs are going to women. That’s why the median income is higher,” says James Chung, President of Reach Advisors.
Further, more women than men place an emphasis on career aspirations at the moment. A recent Pew Research Center study found that 66 percent of young women aged eighteen to thirty-four rate their career high on their list of priorities, compared with 59 percent of young men.
The pool of men earning less and thinking less about their next big career move – but perhaps just as ‘equal’ to women in other ways – philosophically, personal values-wise – is greater.
Your significant other may turn out to earn less than you. His job may not be as “prestigious” or time-consuming. He may be ambitious, but not in the professional ways that you are. He may not have gone to a top-notch college like you did.
Are you okay with that?
Like this young woman who emailed me, I too, faced a tough road while single and searching for someone who was just as passionate about his career, as financially secure, and educated. I wanted my Alpha equivalent.
While I may have been interested in these types of men, the feeling was hardly ever mutual.
After describing my relationship failures to a male colleague, he, a married father of two, quickly detected the problem. You might not want to talk about your career or what you do for a living so much when you’re first getting to know each other, he offered. If you tell him that you have a Master’s degree and own your own apartment, he’ll lose interest. You have everything figured out, which is great for you. But all the while he’s thinking, ‘what will she need me for?’
The Caveman Within
As I began researching the dynamics between men, women, money, power and love for my upcoming book, I learned a great deal more about these psychological forces at play from academic studies and relationship experts.
For example, researchers at the University of Florida and the University of Virginia recently published a provocative study in the APA Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. It found that “men’s subconscious self-esteem may be bruised when their spouse or girlfriend excels.”
A separate study out of Cornell University concluded men are more likely to cheat on their wives and female partners when she makes more.
In fact, “Men who were completely dependent on their female partner’s income were five times more likely to cheat than men who contributed an equal amount of money to the partnership.”
Adam Gilad, a top relationship expert and former Graduate Research Fellow at Stanford, broke down the male mindset to me quite simply.
The core fear of men is that they’re inadequate on any level, he explained. And there are evolutionary reasons for this. “If a man was inadequate, he was killed or kicked out of the tribe. They took his wife, killed his kids. You had to keep up the reputation of competence and as soon as you were seen as incompetent you were seen as everybody’s bitch.”
The words “competence” and “adequacy” to men – even as wives are increasingly earning more than their husbands – still imply the ability to financially provide and take care of your loved ones – even as times are changing. So, as alpha women, if we’re demonstrating that we’re able to take care of everything on our own, that we don’t need a helping hand, then the alpha male won’t necessarily feel challenged and will move on.
“Traditionally men’s worth is based on their ability to supply resources. This is very traditional…It’s not going to change fast,” Gilad continued.
Catering to the Male Brain
It’s still possible for two alphas to attract. The question is – are you willing to cater to the male brain and respect how men and women differ in terms of expectations, mental processing, innate needs and even brain chemistry?
Let’s say you’re in. One way to execute this, experts say, is to be your “sexy, feminine self,” which can help to bring out his male, chivalrous self.
Gestures from him like opening doors, planning dates, giving you his jacket when it’s chilly, sort of fell out of favor because they came with the association that women needed to be taken care of, that they were somehow lesser than men and needed special protection and consideration. But these days, as women can clearly take care of themselves, if he likes opening the door for you, and you like having it opened, who cares?
“Step into your femininity,” says Marni Battista, relationship coach and founder of DatingWithDignity. “If you have a hard time letting him help you or be chivalrous that’s a big sign that’s something you need to work on in the area of giving and receiving because it’s an easy way to make a man feel masculine,” she says.
Next, discuss what you love, not just the technical details of your job on the date. Rather than get into the nitty-gritty of your responsibilities and how you’re up for a promotion, Battista encourages her successful single female clients to elaborate more on why they love their careers. When you’re asked about work why not say, “One of the things I love about my job is that I’m passionate about making a big impact on the world. I love what I do because I get to be on the forefront of change,” she says. “Talk about the personal part of your job. That’s a whole other conversation.” And one that can keep even the most Alpha men who are concerned about their supportive “role” in your life interested. “We don’t want first date conversations to be about work. Then it’s a business meeting. Then you’re networking.”
Benefits of Being With a Beta
Admittedly, I don’t think I “played up my femininity” to my advantage in those early years of dating, at least not enough to counterbalance any red flags my career ambitions were signaling to the handsome lad across the dinner table.
But that’s okay.
There’s another solution to finding happily ever after. It involves falling in love with a Beta.
There’s this reality we can’t escape and that is if you want a true partnership in your relationship or marriage, there needs to be balance. It’s very challenging for two people to race 100 miles per hour during the workweek and share a satisfying life together that includes a home, kids possibly, a pet and family obligations. If, as a woman, you know that deep down your livelihood and ego depends heavily on your career ambition and success, best to be with someone whose livelihood and ego is tied greatly to…something else.
Along the way, keep in mind that the man in your life wants to do the most important thing in your life. He wants to help. He wants to still “provide,” even if it doesn’t mean being the main financial provider. And he is out there. Just as there are many men who will be intimidated, there will be others who will be smitten.
Still, though, don’t forget that he’s a man. Together, you need to decide what his role can best be in your happily ever after story and he will do it, provided your support and praise. “I call men Pavlov’s gender,” says Gilad. “We have the most programmable persona. You appreciate and admire a man into his virtues. That’s it. A man needs to feel like he’s your hero.”
In my own marriage, I will be the first to admit that my sense of self-worth is tied immensely to my work. Eight months pregnant, I’m currently focused more on this book release than the fact that come June we will have another living creature among us who will need a lot of attention. My husband is first and foremost a family guy and that’s what I love most about him. He receives far greater satisfaction pursuing success as the man of the house and our family, as opposed to the man with the big, corner office. And that works well for us.
I receive daily reminders of just how wonderful life is with your unconventional equal, in fact. At the end of our last ultrasound appointment, the doctor told me my husband is a “keeper.” Of course, I’ve known this all along, but I was curious why she thought so. “Well, for starters,” she said, “He didn’t look at his phone once during the appointment.”
“That happens?” I asked. “More than you’d think,” she replied.