Are men intimidated by you?

Letter from a reader, on how to find Victor:

Most recently I dated a man who I was apathetic about meeting because he didn’t meet my list.  We clicked instantly and had dates that were a “blast” and as soon as I was ready to fall, he ran.  A scared Lance afraid of who he could have been with me.  He was no doubt intimidated by me, so I’m still learning how to make a man feel good about who he is and all that he has accomplished.  As you know, for successful, intelligent women, this is no easy deal.  How do you balance making a man feel good about being with you while impressing him with who you are so he wants to continue, and when/how do you stop impressing him? I knew, living in a blue-collar town that dating men local to me would be a challenge, but I gave it a shot anyway. He was “impressed” with me at first, but then he had to face questions like what could he do for me?  I know the answers, but he’ll never get to hear them.  It was my job to make him see how wonderful he was with me.  I’m still wrestling with this and recently turned down a date with a man in a similar situation (less educated, less worldly, less credit, you get the idea…).   I don’t take all the blame here as I do want a strong man, and he wasn’t, but I do want to make sure the next guy can’t resist me even if my list intimidates him.

I meet this intimidated man one more time to exchange some things from our short, but intense, 2-week relationship.  If you have any sage advice for this last opportunity, please do let me know.  I’m leaning towards just being positive – happy and energetic, but unavailable (even though I am).

Yours, Maggie B

Maggie B —

Great letter!  Now, I’ve never met you, and I don’t have any idea what your dynamic is on a date with a man.  But this much I noticed: you mention several times that men are intimidated by you: “He was no doubt intimidated by me.” And then they disappear.  I am here to tell you that, unless you’re having a very thorough exit interview with these dudes, you don’t have access to that kind of information — especially if they disappear.  He could have left because he lost his job, or his dog died, or the Steelers had a 4-game losing streak.  Or because he thought you were mean.  And it would still look the same.

And when you say that they’re intimidated, you’re subtly putting the onus on them: “I’m fine — they’re just intimidated by my greatness.”  I’d like to bring to your attention the hard undertone to that, and it could be the thing that sends the guys running.  It’s also disempowering to you, because when the issue is on them, there’s nothing you can do about it.  But if it’s on you, you can grow into the person that solves the problem.  Responsibility is power.

What I would encourage you to do is to err on the side of kindness.  In fact, it’s much better to impress them with the expansiveness of your heart and the depth of your compassion than to do so with your accomplishments and intellect.  Trust me — they’ll figure it out eventually that you’re whip-smart, and they will appreciate you for it.

But lead with love.  Leave business of impressing to the guys — heck, we’ve been building pyramids, making fortunes and starting wars for thousands of years to impress women.  If the women start trying to impress us, we’ll be as good as unemployed.

So just be nice to the guys.  If you’re that one woman who’s being nice to them, they’re just grateful out of their minds.  The more you’re attached to your ‘list’, the more these poor guys will be on the defensive, wondering, “How can I possibly measure up?”

It’s like you’re a food critic, and these poor guys are trying to make you a home-cooked meal.  How can they win?  So let the inner food critic go.  Appreciate men for what they have, and accept their humble meal for what it is — real nourishment and a show of love.  Otherwise, if their cooking goes unappreciated and you go hungry, who wins?

So let you be their big win.  And, from a man to you, remember: there is nothing more attractive to a man than a woman’s vulnerability.

go get ’em

Categories: Dating for Women

15 Comments on “Are men intimidated by you?”

  1. Angie

    Dr Ali — This was a great answer to her. I have given similar advice to a college roommate who says her boyfriend isn’t sympathetic enough in her (somewhat frequent) needy moments. Apparently he doesn’t say nice things unless she prompts him too, which is a whole other can of worms. I gave her similar advice to this passage of yours: “It’s also disempowering to you, because when the issue is on them, there’s nothing you can do about it. But if it’s on you, you can grow into the person that solves the problem. Responsibility is power.”

    One thing that didn’t ring wholly true to me was your comment that “they’ll figure it out eventually that you’re whip-smart, and they will appreciate you for it.” Yes, in many cases men will realize this, and your larger point seems right to lead with your heart. But my last boyfriend knew I was smart but didn’t think I was really that smart and knew (and acted like) he was definitely smarter. Some guys are just somewhat arrogant and blind in that way, and it applies in most of their relationships (or maybe just their relationships with women, but again, a whole other can of worms). Despite our two years together, I don’t think he really took the time to appreciate the depths of my smart (or my humor). It was more of an “isn’t she quirky” kind of thing.

    But now I know what that looks like and I can steer clear. And thankfully I am now dating a guy who does appreciate my smarts and humor. It is a world of difference.

  2. H K

    This is one of the best blogs! Great insights & advice!! A follow up question- what does vulnerability look like to a man? Especially if women are working so hard to not appear too needy, emotionally available & scare the guy off from the other end of the spectrum?
    Thx :-)

  3. Nancy

    Hi Dr. Ali–
    I have to play devil’s advocate here, since I’m in a similar situation. What you are saying to her is essentially, “lower your standards, honey.” What she wants is to find a man of equal intelligence and accomplishment. It seems like that may be too much to ask in her small town – I would advise her to widen her net rather than settle for something less than what she wants.

    The trouble with settling for less is – what happens when she hooks up with one of these sweet, well-meaning local guys, then meets her match on a trip to a professional meeting, or on a plane? You just don’t want to put yourself in a relationship where part of what you want is missing, so when someone comes along and satisfies that intellectual hunger, you would be tempted to stray. It’s better to wait for someone who fulfills both emotional AND intellectual needs.

    Thanks for listening,

    1. Ali Binazir MD MPhil Post author

      That’s only an issue if you’ve structured your relationship such that ‘straying’ exists at all and can therefore be a problem.

  4. Betty

    Hi Dr Ali,
    Another great article… so wise you are… and witty as usual!
    I have a question: When you refer to a women being vulnerable, and a man being attractive to that quality best of all, are you referring to a woman,”leading with love” as you stated?
    In other words, what vulnerable qualities are you talking about that men most like? Just wondering.

  5. Goddess J

    Men absolutely run when know they can’t live up. Men act almost entirely out of their own insecurities. I went to the number two law school in the USA and the men THERE.. who were cream of the crop intelligence wise… told me they hoped to meet a girl who went to somewhere like UVA Law — smart, but not THEIR level of smart — just to make sure they were on top. (The things wrong with that statement are many, of course, but they said it, plenty of them.) I think the number one problem with dating these days is that men no longer understand their role because women no longer truly need them. They don’t know who to be. At the same time, if we act like we need them, they get scared off and wonder what wrong with US that we would like THEM. It’s a real problem. There is no great answer for the smart woman. You can’t LIE about your background and your education, and you shouldn’t have to. And the guys don’t give you long enough to figure out if you are really vulnerable deep down. They run. Dr. Ali, I know you are trying to help us. But we could spend all day evaluating how to “fix” the problem from our own end…and we’d still be stuck with the same old men.

    1. Jeff

      “…same old men”. Jeez, Goddess, thanks for figuring out all men. Your comment implies an attitude towards men in general – and that is the turn off. You are just a wee bit too condescending.
      At the risk of generalizing myself, most lawyers are in it for themselves, so of course the law student men you met want someone they can manipulate – after all, isn’t manipulation much of what lawyers practice?
      Wait. You went to law school as well! Hmmm….

  6. Deb

    OK, so what do you do when the guy DOES say he’s intimidated by you and feel he is out of your league? I know I asked before if this was just bullshit… and I got crickets from you end. But this article just made me think of it again.

  7. lm

    “It happens so rarely that if you’re the one woman being nice to them, they’re just grateful out of their minds.”

    Well, no.

    At that point, they take you for granted, and don’t treat you well.

  8. lm

    I think it’s interesting that Goddess J’s really sincere questions remain unresponded to. I mean, *crickets*. I’m getting the same level of non-response from another (male) “dating expert” to whom I posed the exact same question.
    I mean, it’s clear what the problem is — it just really seems to me like no “expert” is willing to offer any kind of potential solution beyond “Women, change yourselves and your presentation completely!”

    Well — if we succeed in doing that but men behave the exact same way — if you “intimidate” them, they run; if you try to be vulnerable, they call you “dependent” and /or “needy”, and then they run — how has anything changed? What problem has been solved?

    Come on, male dating experts — according to your tomes and wisdom, aren’t men supposed to be the problem-solvers?

    1. Ali Binazir MD MPhil Post author

      Thanks for your comment. To address your questions and concerns:
      Goddess J makes some great points, but there is no question in there. Go ahead, look through the whole thing — not a single question mark. No question, no answer.

      Some men are going to think you’re out of their league, and that’s all there is to it. It is not your job to convince them otherwise. However, if there’s something you’re doing which makes you come off as intimidating, there is something you can do about that. A reader who was shy was told by her business school classmates that she came off as aloof. She figured it out, fixed it, and now she’s much more approachable.

      In any case, my job is not to teach you how to cover the world in leather so you can walk around barefoot. My job is to point out to you that it’s much easier to wear shoes. Likewise, it is not in your power to change men, but you do have the power to change yourself. So go forth and be powerful.

  9. camilla


    I have a similar issue. I’ve been seeing a guy for about 3 months now. It’s quite obvious that I’m out of his league in the way society thinks i.e I am better educated, more successful, more attractive etc but I really like him because he’s kind, thoughtful and hot in bed. My problem is he’s recently told me we’re not a match because I like art, history and politics and he just likes football, drinking and hanging out with mates talking rubbish. I don’t think we have to like the same things but he insists we have to have the same interests. In my view that would make it a very boring relationship but I agree that we are two very different people. It’s very painful being rejected for things that I consider positives and not negatives. P.S I have never tried to rub my intelligence in his face and have always showed an interest in things that he liked.

  10. Lisa

    What about when you’re afraid to be nice to men because niceness hasn’t worked in the past? For example, being told things like, “you’re too nice,” as an insult regarding the way you deal with others or the ease you let things go, or the fear of becoming a doormat? It’s possible – even probable – that my dating experience is limited to the type who would behave as such, but niceness has always seemed to hurt more than help me.