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Wellness > Sex + Relationships

Are Guys Intimidated by Success? Why the Girl Who Has Everything Doesn’t Have a Boyfriend

You’re at the holiday dinner table when the dreaded question drops. “So, have you met any nice boys lately?” Grandma asks, reaching for the potatoes. When you admit that you aren’t currently dating anyone, she cries, “But you’re so smart! Why don’t you have a boyfriend?”

 Good question, Grandma. It makes sense that girls who juggle a full course load, an internship or job, a host of clubs and activities, and a vibrant social life would be the most attractive to guys, doesn’t it? Wouldn’t a guy want a girl who’s smart, passionate, and well-rounded? The answer turns out that maybe they don’t.
During last night’s gossip session with my friend Tara, she commented, “The reason Mason [her crush] doesn’t think of me of as anything more than a friend is probably because he thinks I have my whole life together when he doesn’t.” Tara is an incredibly bright, career-driven business major with high grades and an impressive resumé. She’s also gorgeous, easy to talk to, and has a great sense of humor – in other words, she’s a great catch. So, why is she – and so many other great catches just like her – out of luck?
Are college guys intimidated by successful, smart, career-driven girls?

Her Campus turned to Patrick Wanis, Ph.D, an expert on human behavior and relationships, to gain insight on what’s going through those crazy guys’ heads when they let you smart, sexy, savvy girls slip away. Are guys intimidated by successful, smart, career-driven girls? “Unfortunately, they are,” he says.Men are intimidated by intelligent, successful, and powerful women. They might be initially impressed, but ultimately, the relationship leaves them feeling powerless and emasculated.”  Yikes.
Tara learned this lesson the hard way. “Mason likes the idea of a stereotypical girly-girl who’s flirty and [sexually] easy because it makes him feel more masculine. It’s an ego boost when these girls fawn over him and throw themselves at him. I don’t do that,” she says.
Georgia College & State University sophomore Lindsay saw firsthand how easily guys can be intimidated by girls. “I once went on a date and the guy asked me about my career goals in life. After I told him he actually verbalized that I was intimidating. I am as sweet and gentle as they come, but I feel as though my driven work ethic repels guys,” she laments.
The same notion holds true even for platonic relationships. Becca, a sophomore at Yale, says, “When I got into Yale, some of my guy high school friends actually told me, ‘You’re too good for us now,’ even though they had known me for years.” Harsh? Absolutely. But uncommon? Far from it.

“What about all my accomplishments?”

For girls who succeed in every other area of life, it can be frustrating to understand why they might be unlucky in love. Dating coach Evan Marc Katz might have the answer.
“What never occurs to women is that they’re being evaluated on far more than their most ‘impressive’ traits,”
he writes on his blog. “The flip side of being bright is being opinionated… The flip side of being entrepreneurial is being a workaholic.” In other words, the same traits that help you succeed in academics or a career can actually hurt your romantic success.
Next comes the sticky conundrum that the traits that matter to you might not matter as much to guys. Your business savvy and professionalism are great when you’re trying to nail an internship interview, but potential suitors might not find those characteristics as appealing. “Men do value intelligence, but they also want from their girlfriend what they can’t get from their business associates – warmth, affection, nurturing, thoughtfulness,” Katz says.
Cut to the chase: What do guys want?!
Imagine two girls who are equally attractive in looks and personality and are equally attracted to the same guy. The one difference? Girl A is passionate about her budding career, while Girl B doesn’t have quite the same drive. In a survey of eight college guys, seven out of eight said they would prefer Girl A. (To contrast, when a group of twenty-one girls was given the same choice between Guy A and Guy B, a unanimous twenty-one of them chose Guy A. “Why would I want someone whose life ambition is to play video games all day?” asks University of Kansas sophomore Tess.)
Clearly, it’s not your drive for your career that turns guys away. Rather, Wanis suggests it’s the way that drive makes guys feel that scares them off. He says, “So many men say they want to be in a relationship with an intelligent woman, or a successful woman, or a motivated woman, but once they actually are in that relationship, they might find that this woman is so confident that she doesn’t actually need them.” Taylor, a senior at University of California – San Diego, saw firsthand how an imbalance of confidence could hurt a relationship. She says when a former boyfriend of hers chose not to go to college, “I would sometimes pretend that I hated school or I wouldn’t talk about my grades and classes.”

What’s a girl to do?
You don’t want to come across as The Big, Bad Businesswoman, but you don’t want to come across as a total ditz, either. What are your other options? If your first thought is to purposefully fail your Calculus test in order to get closer to your best frenemy’s boyfriend à la Lindsay Lohan-as-Cady Heron, think again. (In general, following in Lindsay’s footsteps is probably a bad idea at this point in her career.)
Whatever you do, never dumb yourself down to snag a guy! If you feel like you have to be ashamed of your success in order to keep his interest, he’s not the one for you. “A woman should never dumb herself down,” says Wanis, “but she should allow the man to feel masculine, and that means letting him occasionally take the lead. I’m not saying you should allow him to control you or that you should be perpetually submissive, but sometimes, you should let the man be a man.”
In practical terms, letting “the man be the man” isn’t as terribly 1950s as it might sound. Does he want to pick up the check on your first date? Don’t put up a big fuss over paying your half. Does he open the door for you? Smile, thank him, and enjoy his sense of chivalry. Of course, asserting his masculinity shouldn’t mean that he gets a free pass on punching out every guy who looks your way, but the more masculine you let him feel, the more confident and secure he may be in your relationship.
Jeremy, a senior at Northern Arizona University, says, “Women shouldn’t be afraid to let their nerdy side out for some fresh air. Guys like real girls, not pictures clipped from a magazine. Be who you are, be interested in what you do, and you’ll be irresistible.”

Do you secretly have all the lyrics to Schoolhouse Rock memorized? Do you have a quirky hobby like making your own jewelry or rollerskating? It’s okay to let that side of your personality shine through! Guys love to see a girl’s personality outside her involvement with school and work, so make an effort to talk about anything but those subjects within the first ten minutes you talk to a guy.
Tough Love
Wanis’s advice is all well and good. You want to be perceived as a friendly, sweet, approachable woman? Fine, bring out all your most feminine wiles. But what about those women, I asked Wanis, who like to embrace their strength and aren’t naturally comfortable being vulnerable?
“If you want to be tough and all-business in a relationship, go ahead. You’re going to have a tough time finding a guy who wants that in a woman,” he says. Some might find Wanis’s answer a bit harsh. Different strokes for different folks, right? Not necessarily – there’s good logic behind his answer. Wanis explains, “If you do find that guy, you’re ultimately going to resent him for being completely submissive.”
The Bottom Line
Ultimately, guys can be intimidated by your success. Step into their shoes for a moment – you have to approach this confident, driven, attractive bombshell, say something somewhat witty or alluring, and hope that she won’t reject you right off the bat. That’s a tall order, isn’t it? Of course they’re a little intimidated. But intimidation doesn’t have to be the death knell of every relationship.
Focus on all of your positive traits outside academics and career, “let the man be a man” sometimes as Wanis says, and simply enjoy getting to know the guy wooing you at a party. You know how to study hard in school, so study up on these relationship rules and you’ll be on the fast track to success.
College students across the country
Evan Marc Katz
Patrick Wanis, Ph.D – human behavior and relationship expert

Originally from Boston, Hannah is now a sophomore at New York University and loves life in the big city. Her favorite things include poking fun at celebrities on Twitter, yoga, leopard print shoes, Frank Sinatra, and her little sister Julia. Hannah was Her Campus's first editorial intern in Summer 2010 and has since continued her involvement with HC as the High School Editor and head of the High School Ambassador program. She is a former Seventeen and Huffington Post intern, where she researched and wrote about celebrities and once made lunch for Kylie Jenner. Read her short-form ramblings at @hannahorens.