I was sitting around a table with some associates once after a conference, chatting about nothing much when the subject of frivolous purchases came up. I commented that I had yet to invest in the ubiquitous MP3 player, as the CD player in my car worked fine and I couldn’t justify the expenditure. A woman I knew sitting across the table from me casually said, “Why don’t you have mine? I hardly use it anyway.” I was taken aback by her offhand generosity, and tried to protest that I could hardly accept such a lavish gift from a casual acquaintance. She leaned toward me and stared me in the eye. “I’m a single professional who regularly speaks on the conference circuit. I’m pulling in over $150,000,” she said. “How much do you make?” I stammered that my income was considerably less, and she leaned back again, her case closed. “So take the damn iPod.”
While I am still grateful for my friend’s generosity, the way in which she justified it gave me pause. I am all for women being recognized for their accomplishments, and I know a number of women who are more capable than I am in so many fields. I respect them immensely and think they deserve the recognition and remuneration they get, and probably more. However, there are some in that position who feel they need to use their achievements as some kind of leverage and for us guys, it is a huge turn-off.
It is no secret that we men are competitive. Call it a remnant of the hunter-gatherer instincts, or a survival tactic, but by and large men will try to outdo one another, or at least compare themselves with their peers in any and every field. Maybe it is a redundant evolutionary urge, with our flash cars and golf handicaps echoing the plumage displays and hunting prowess of the animal kingdom. Whatever the justification, we can’t help but want to outdo the other guy, and take our place on the top of the heap, however briefly and no matter how trivial the subject. Showing off for the ladies is a dumb but almost unavoidable part of the process that most men engage in at some point, usually in their youth (although some never grow out of it).
But what happens if this alpha-male display of superiority, with its unspoken expectation of desirability, gets trumped by the very object of our attention, the woman we are trying to impress? Suddenly the guy in question is shut down. How does he prove his virility and masculinity to someone who outshines him in the ways he want to be measured? He can’t, and so the conflicting feelings of desire for intimacy and defending his dignity make any emotional commitment very, very challenging. Not many men will actually think in these terms, but essentially this is what is going on inside. Us guys are used to competing with one another, but it is usually the male-display thing in one form or another. To suddenly face the same situation with a woman confuses and frustrates us.
What we want to do is find someone we can support and provide for in some fashion, not arm-wrestle for who will wear the pants. This does not mean that women should dumb themselves down and play the pathetic damsel-in-distress for the sake of their man’s ego. That would be a disservice to them both. But it does mean that the ladies need to consider how they are letting their man feel he is providing something they cannot in the relationship. If she earns more than him it clearly isn’t money; maybe it is physical security. If she is a black-belt and he barely tops ninety pounds then maybe it’s business savvy. Whatever the combination, the key is to seek to recognize how you compliment one another. It no more makes you weaker to acknowledge that he is the best one to manage the finances than it diminishes him to know that you are the better one to maintain the family vehicles. As long as he feels somehow needed, he will want to stick around to be your knight in shining armor in that way. But if he can’t seem to offer anything that you don’t already have covered, he probably won’t bother. So girls; strive to excel, but don’t try to compete with him all the time, because there are already plenty of guys around doing that. Instead look for the ways you complement one another and make sure he knows about them.
Excellent points Dan. I have met many women who just absolutely love to compete. That’s great, I don’t have a problem with competitive women until it comes to dating. In life men are constantly on their toes trying to compete. Whether its for:
* a better job
* higher salary
* competing against other businesses
* competing in sports
* competing against every man around them, to be the alpha male
That is just to name a few, I could create a list a mile long on the types of things men are competing for. This means that men are in a constant state of competition 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. There is only one time when men no longer have to compete, that is when he is with a woman he is dating. When he is with you, he can actually let his guard down and relax. If you bring competition into that relationship, he won’t be able to truly feel comfortable around you.
I knew one married woman who worked with her husband as sales people for the same company. Now its tough enough working with a spouse, but what made things worst for this couple is she would become angry if he ever out sold her. When she had to take time off for a maternity leave, she could barely handle the fact that her time off meant he would be selling more then her. She was so competitive she always had to beat at everything. Well she eventually did just that. She beat her husband right out the door. There was no place in his life where he could relax, everything became a competition and when he couldn’t handle it anymore he left.
Listen having a little competition between you and your partner can be fun when it comes to a game of pool or tennis. When the competition turns into a demonstration of who is the better person, perhaps you need to ask yourself “Why do I need to know that I’m better then partner?” Remember relationships are about two people having different strengths, by being in this relationship you are stronger together. It is not about showing them that you are the stronger person.