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  • Writer's pictureSandy To

Do Successful Women Mind Dating Less Successful Men? Women Say "No" and Men Say "LOL"!

Updated: Jul 10




The question that comes up A LOT during my discussions on career women's partner choices is: "Do those women mind dating a man who's less successful than them?"


It's an interesting question, because the answer is both "yes" and "no." Why do I say that? It's because it depends on the woman. Some women who have more relaxed economic views would likely say they don't mind at all, while those women who are more traditional would rather find a traditional breadwinning man. A man who earns less than them wouldn't be up for that role, unfortunately.


It's a perennial conundrum: Why women who earn a lot and are considerably successful in their careers can't accept a man who's their economic inferior. I mean, they're "more well-off than enough" to be able to take care of the whole family, so why do they care if their other half is a breadwinner or not?


Before we delve into the issue of why some women care more about men being breadwinners than others, let's deal with the question of "why men are known as traditional breadwinners" in the first place.



In the pre-modern days, men were the only ones who worked for a living while women stayed at home. There was a clearcut gendered division of labor, and it was unheard of for women to be educated and go out to find jobs. Even for women in the leisure classes who had some form of education, it was for cultural attainment only and not for earning money. Imagine Emma Woodhouse from Jane Austen's Emma playing the pianoforte in front of an audience for a fee, or the Bennet sisters in Pride and Prejudice selling off their needlework to save their family from financial ruin - it would be preposterous and socially unacceptable. That was why getting them married off to rich men was their mother's one and only plan.


Back to the modern day: Women are now educated to a large extent, and have jobs that even surpass men. Why do some women still want to adhere to the traditional "male-breadwinner-female-homemaker model"? Well, if you think about it, it's probably "not all about the money" for some women. These successful women may have other considerations, such as status, power, societal influence, and "what other people think." (I.e.: What will my friends say if I'm dating someone who's only a ____! Gasp gasp.) The intangible things, so to say.


Or, for those on the "rich heiress" end of the spectrum, it's the division of assets - if they should go down splitsville. (Prenup is an absolute must! But then again, there are loopholes if you look close enough or hire a ruthless enough lawyer to dig them out. There are no guarantees. Or else why do acrimonious couples still go to court and make a big scandal out of these things?) So back to the tangible aspects like money again.


Ok, let's back up and not overcomplicate things. Let's just say, some women - no matter their career status or educational credentials - are just traditional in their mindset, and prefer a breadwinning man who will "take care of the family" in the most practical sense. It's their choice, their call. No judgement on a girl pining for her rich and powerful Mr. Darcy.


The most interesting thing I get from discussing this topic of women's and men's economic disparity is the different reactions from the two sexes.


The women podcast hosts all vehemently agree that women should try to see past a man's economic credentials and get to know the real person behind them; they should give these men a chance and give themselves a chance, at love. One of the whip-smart podcast hosts who's a successful businesswoman has a husband who's a lesser earner, but they work out perfectly and lovingly.


It takes two to tango. So while her husband is an open-minded and egalitarian "new man," she must also be understanding and appreciative - and not act like a "girl boss" at home. Understandably so, because home should be a comfortable haven and not a battle ground. No one wants to come home to a woman who resembles their boss-from-hell at work. Isn't it enough getting yelled at and screwed over at work? Why would anyone wanna go back home to that all over again?


It makes sense, because seasoned dating expert, Sandy Weiner says she always warns her women clients not to act bossy or superior and "put off" their date. She says that her male clients tell her it's women's bossy and imposing attitudes that "intimidate" them, more so than their high career status or what degrees they have.


Listen to our podcast episode "Why Successful Women Struggle in Love" for more stories on women dating below their status.


I also had a lively debate with noted TV and radio host, Dick Goldberg on the subject of men finding successful women "intimidating." It reminds me of the times when I would ask men if they ever felt "intimidated" by successful women, and given the choice, would they choose women who were more successful/richer/more highly educated than them as partners?


The answer from men is almost always an impassioned "Why not?" Followed by a string of, "Oh, I'd love to be a househusband and stay at home while my wife goes to work!" or "I'd love to be a stay-at-home dad and never have to work again!" or "I'd love to spend my wife's money!" Ladidadida.


Tis no wonder I gave up the thought of interviewing men for my last book, China's Leftover Women. I actually interviewed 10 or more men in hopes of gathering a more balanced view from both sides. But I was thoroughly disillusioned by the disingenuous responses from the men. So I gave up - and scrapped all of the those men's interviews, save for one, who had something decent to say regarding women's accomplishments. (It was that men fear that people would attribute their hard-earned success to their wives' success, and so they're apprehensive of dating successful women.) Fair enough.


Apparently, from men's point of view, they are not intimidated by successful women and therefore find it inexplicable that some successful women won't accept dating less successful men. "It's like shooting themselves in the foot," said Dick,"no wonder they can't find partners." But the truth is, giving hypothetical answers to hypothetical questions is always easier than confronting the reality. The fact is, none of those men I interviewed had wives or girlfriends who were more successful than them. So no wonder they would give such off-handed answers.


Women, on the other hand, have had first hand, real life, experience of being rejected or jilted by men for being successful professionals or PhDs, so a lot of them can tell you that "it's not as simple as just choosing a less successful man." It comes with the requisite criteria of such men being "open-minded" and "egalitarian" too, to accept their wives or girlfriends being the more successful ones.


Nevertheless, both sexes need to keep their expectations in check so women won't feel resentful "dating a less successful man" or men won't feel resentful"dating a more successful woman."


For more details and insights, listen to me and Dick Goldberg's lively but friendly debate to hear both sides of the story.

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