Are Men Confused About What Women Want And Threatened By A Successful Woman?

Okay, I have a confession to make…I am completely fascinated with gender issues. Especially around relationships, work and behavioural patterns of men in certain circumstances. FASCINATED!!

Are men threatened by successful women?

“Yes”, according to Dr Dina McMillan, a Social Psychologist!

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In Sarina Lewis’s article in Sunday Life magazine (this is from 2011 – I have a habit of keeping clippings to write about in the future!), Dr Dina says that in relationships where men feel threatened by their partner’s professional success, the relationship often ends in divorce.

She hears women talking about this at business functions all the time.  They talk about how hard it is to find a partner who stays long-term, because men often feel intimidated by women who are bright, educated and successful.   She insists that this is a culturally relevant scenario.

Wow, Dr Dina really got my attention with that!

Gender Expectations

So why is this?

Women have been fighting for gender equality since the first wave of the feminist movement in the late 18th century, through to the third movement beginning in the 1980’s continuing to the present day.

You would think that men would be used to career driven women by now!

So why do men feel so threatened by us successful gals?

I believe it comes down to the expectations we have of each gender and the set of social and behavioural ‘norms’ that are considered to be appropriate.

Of course, these expectations vary widely in different cultures, but I think it’s safe to say that in the Western world, men still grow up to believe they are the breadwinners. Couple that with an instinctual, innate need to protect and provide and it’s no wonder men living in today’s world are perhaps a little bit confused.

Feminine Energy

In the article, psychologist Heather Yelland states that she believes the issue lies with women losing connection with their feminine energy, operating from a more masculine energy that intimidates men in the same way that intimidating men do.

Makes sense to me!

There’s a difference between a strong woman achieving great things whilst still maintaining her femininity, and a strong woman who carries her work persona into her personal life.

Samantha’s Story…

In Lewis’s article, Dr Dina tells the story of Samantha Jayne, a 32-year-old executive.  Samantha experienced first-hand a partner who felt threatened by her success.

At the beginning of their relationship, Samantha’s partner found her drive and focus impressive.  However, as their relationship developed, he started to feel threatened.

She explains “It was just a problem of not being traditional, and some men find being traditional really, really important. It was just the feeling of him not being the breadwinner.”

Is it all about the feeling of a man not being a breadwinner, or is it more than that?

What Men Want

Men like to feel strong, capable and confident.

That said, women don’t necessarily need to earn less money for their man to feel this way.

However, they do need to allow their man to be… well… ‘Manly’!

Dina McMillan describes her experience with a local mechanic, who asked her out every time she brought her car in for repairs. She explains:

I’m very well educated, but I know nothing about mechanics, so I’d walk in and I’d be like a deer in the headlights. I’d have no clue. And they’d feel all strong and manly and their chests would pop up and I’d think, ‘Isn’t that interesting?’

Dr Dina goes on to state that men don’t fall in love with you, “they fall in love with how you make them feel.”  This is so true!!

She believes if you make them feel strong, if you make them feel confident about themselves, if you make them feel supported, “then they’ll like you.” Are you taking notes ladies?

I Think Men Are Confused

I believe 100% that us women should be able to strive for the same professional success as men, to include earning the same amount of money and feeling proud of what we’ve achieved.

However, I think it’s important that we respect our differences and appreciate the need for men to feel masculine and women to feel feminine.

What I really believe is that men are confused and have been for a while. I read a great article in the Herald Sun a year ago (another clipping I kept!) that was an excerpt from The Big Tilt by Bernard Salt.

Salt describes how “the modern man has constantly evolved in a bid to attract – and hold on to – modern women. Years ago a bloke was a bloke and that was that. Then in the 1980s, what women wanted from men seemed to change.”

Enter the SNAG – sensitive new age guy of the 80s. This was a man more in touch with his feminine side, who drank wine instead of a stubby and trimmed his mustache and slung sweaters across his shoulders.

This didn’t last – women’s taste in men was on the move again!

In the late 1990s a new type of man emerged – say hello to the metrosexual! This type of man has been around for at least a decade and may be identified as having a tuft of hair below the bottom lip, sports V-neck tees exposing his cleavage, spends the same amount (if not longer) in the bathroom priming himself, wears skin tight jeans with pointy shoes, uses moisturizer and waxes his chest and could very easily be mistaken for gay…sound familiar?

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But isn’t this what women asked for? For a guy to take more pride in his appearance?

Yes we did, and men obliged. So what’s the problem then? Well I reckon somewhere along the line men lost a bit of their masculinity. I also think finding a guy that has good old fashioned gentlemanly manners (at least here in Australia) can be hard. When was the last time you went out on a date with a guy (especially a Gen-Y guy) who opened the car door for you? I personally, and I know a lot of my girlfriends would agree, like nothing more than dating a guy who is a gentleman. In fact, it is the BIGGEST turn-off when they’re not. But I’ve heard from some men that when they try to open a car door or let women walk into a room first, some women reject this and feel uncomfortable when on the receiving end of this chivalrous gesture. This seems to be more of a problem with Gen-Y men and women, but I find this to be disappointing and a tad depressing. Again, men are confused about what women want.

Salt goes on to say..

In 2009, a British deodorant company released a survey of 2800 women aged 18-34 from 14 different countries (including Australia) revealing that women now want men to retain their masculinity. And not only that, but women want men to take the initiative and to have the self-confidence to ask them out in person. What women want in a man is a neosexual. Here is the basis to a new man that is part snag and part bloke.

Discussion to be continued…

What are your thought on this subject? Do you agree? Would love to have an open discussion about this, so please leave a comment below – women and men!


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  1. says

    All very interesting Liz, but somehow I think these un-manly guys need to take the responsibility here.

    For example, if a guy needs the constant validation from his partner that leads him to “spends the same amount (if not longer) in the bathroom priming himself”, then I’m really not surprised that they cannot deal with have a successful partner!

    For the men, I say it’s time to man-up, accept what we are and embrace having successful women in our lives.

    Disclaimer: I own pointy shoes, but I have no problem being chivalrous either ! 🙂

    • says

      Thanks for your feedback Callan! I so wanted to have a males perspective on this! And just for the record…I think a nice pair of pointy shoes looks very cool 🙂

  2. Yutolia says

    I feel like this puts all of the onus on women for men feeling threatened. I’m tired of hearing that women aren’t acting “feminine enough” when that can be very subjective anyway. One guy might think that you’re not acting feminine enough because you’re not super cuddly or submissive in bed, while another might think you’re not feminine enough because you expect him to help with the housework or childcare (I’m hoping this latter example is happening less and less, but I’m not sure).

    While I admit that women are not perfect and definitely cause their share of problems in relationships, it takes two to tango and men who are threatened by women who are more successful professionally need to work on their own insecurities.

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