‘How Can I Stop Intimidating Men?’

Recently a reader wrote to me after a man she’d been dating for ten weeks broke up with her. She said that the breakup was mature and honest, but was dismayed that the man gave her the same reason she’d heard many times before. “They say ‘I deserve better’ and they just weren’t feeling it,” she said. “I am a successful woman with my own design business, flexible hours, excellent cook, above average in looks, extremely athletic, confident, and funny. I really have all the goods.”

She wanted to know why she was continually faced with this pattern and wanted to know how she could break the cycle, adding that she tried not to let her “masculine energy” take over.

“Since I have had to fend for myself all these years being single, I have mastered the art of independence,” she wrote. “As much as that can be attractive to a man, I really think it also is more intimidating to the majority of men. I really can go toe to toe with a man in most sports and activities—pretty face on the outside, but a competitor on the inside. In the end, they don’t like to be challenged and lose. As a matter of fact, on my first date with this recent guy, we went to the driving range and had a putting competition. I lost on purpose, as I was afraid of offending his manly-hood on a first date.”

When I was writing my book, It’s Not You, I spoke to many women who were told that they should be less intimidating if they wanted to attract a man, and one woman actually took that advice to heart. While dating a very traditional man, she pretended to be a girly-girl. She let him plan all the dates. She feigned incompetency when they were doing things like bowling or playing darts. The guy loved it, but she was miserable. She broke up with him, and I’m happy to report eventually met and married a guy man enough to handle a woman who knows how to pick a restaurant or hook a bowling ball.

Of course, everyone likes stories like this, but when you’re struggling with repeated rejections, it’s hard to not feel like you must be doing something wrong. The trouble is, when you start blaming your singleness on some fatal flaw, you put yourself in a tricky position. If it works, you’ve doomed yourself to pretending that you are incapable of negotiating a contract or acing a tennis ball—and spending your time with a very insecure man. If it doesn’t work, then you’re back to picking apart your personality and trying to figure out what’s “wrong.”

So rather than try and fashion yourself into the cultural ideal of a dateable female, why not relax and wait for the guy who appreciates you as you are? That wait might feel long its not you sara eckelsometimes, but it beats the alternative.

Sara Eckel is the author of It’s Not You: 27 (Wrong) Reasons You’re Single. You can get a free bonus chapter of her book at saraeckel.com. You can also find her on Twitter and Facebook. Ask her any questions here.

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