“She seems too serious or angry.”
This is an issue I’ve talked about before. Some women, especially women with strong opinions and a willingness to express them, can seem angry or stand-offish to guys. He may mistake an interest in a discussion or debate for being scolded or even talked down to. He may worry that every conversation is going to be a lecture rather than a sharing of ideas.
Similarly, men may feel as though they’re walking through an emotional minefield and worry about accidentally triggering a reprimand or tirade because of an off-the-cuff comment, poorly chosen word, or a miscommunication. Feeling as though he’ll always be on the defensive, or having to explain himself, or that he’s always going to be hearing about why he’s wrong, can turn guys off.
What Can You Do About It?
Having strong, firmly held opinions or views is a good thing. It’s how one comes across that can frequently be a problem. This is an issue that affects men and women; men are just as prone to going into lecture mode and talking down to women, especially if they have a pet interest or opinion they feel strongly about.
The key here is the use of language and tone. This can be a tricky subject at times; telling someone, especially a woman, that her tone is undermining her position is a classic derailing tactic, minimizing what a woman has to say. However, a conversation between two people, especially if it’s between two people who are interested in each other romantically, doesn’t have to be a particularly contentious episode of Crossfire. It’s possible to have a debate – even a spirited one – without making the other person feel as though they’re being harangued or talked down to. Softening the language, using fewer declarative or imperative statements can make it easier to have those discussions or exchange of views without making a man feel as though he has to defend or justify himself. Similarly, tone of voice, facial expression and body language can completely transform the tenor of a conversation. If you’re a serious person, a smile and slightly higher pitch can make you seem less angry or antagonistic which – in turn – will make him feel more at ease and less intimidated.
“She’s smarter / more driven than me.”
Some men need to feel as though they’re the dominant partner in a relationship. Others want to feel needed by their partner, while still others are worried that they won’t match up in terms of ambition and feel like lazy slugs in comparison.
This ties back into the idea of gender roles; according to tradition, men are supposed to be the head of the household – the breadwinner, the father figure. He’s expected to have the answers. The man is supposed to be the dominant figure in the relationship and the family. When a woman is demonstrably smarter than he is, it can feel as though traditional roles are being overturned. Even amongst geek guys, this can be uncomfortable.
Similarly, guys want to feel needed by their partner. A woman who’s driven, a woman with ambition, may make him feel as though that he would be a second place consideration to her job or her goals. If he’s not equally driven, he may feel that he will inferior in comparison.
What Can You Do About It?
This is another case of a strength being seen as a hinderance. Being smart, ambitious, and driven are undeniably desirable attributes, and most men will appreciate them. However, there may be a difference between perception (his view of you) and reality (your real personality).
A smart woman shouldn’t try to pretend to be less intelligent than she really is. A man who’s intimidated by a smart woman or who can’t handle non-traditional gender or relationship roles isn’t going to make for a happy or successful relationship with an “intimidatingly” smart woman. However, sometimes intelligent people can’t resist a chance to show off or even use their smarts like a club. This is obnoxious, regardless of of gender. It can take a little self-awareness, but it’s worth looking into how you handle conversations and how people respond to you. If you’re the sort of person who corrects others regularly or always has to have the last, definitive word on a subject, you behavior could be off-putting to others.
If you’re particularly driven or ambitious, it can help to point out – or even emphasize – that you have a life outside of your goals. This is about having a balanced life, something I frequently advise men to cultivate. A reminder that you aren’t all business, all the time can help assuage the guy’s fear that he will forever be taking second place to the other parts of your life.
“She’s more sexually experienced than me.”
AKA: The Chasing Amy.
Kevin Smith isn’t known for emotionally insightful or earnest movies, but Chasing Amy is – to my mind – one of his best and most emotionally honest. The main character, Holden, is fine with the fact that Alyssa has likely slept with as many women as he has… but as soon as he finds out that not only has she slept with more men than he has, but that she’s also far more sexually adventurous than he is, he freaks out. Why? Because deep down at his core, he’s intimidated by this.
Many men have issues with women who have a wide degree of sexual experience. This is partially cultural – women are supposed to be pure and innocent – but also because he wants to be The Very Best1 .
Every man knows that the more partners a woman has, the better the odds that he’s not going to measure up in some way. The odds are good that she will have had a lover with a bigger penis, who could last longer during penetration, who gave the most amazing oral sex… the list goes on and on. In addition, some men will ascribe unrealistic import to whom she has had sex with. He wants to believe he’s special, that he stands out from the herd. If a man beds lots of women, according to popular culture, it means that he has something special. If a woman sleeps with lots2 of men, it must mean that she’ll sleep with anyone.
The more men she’s slept with, so the thought goes, the less significant he is. He’s no longer special. He’s just one more dick in a long line of cocks. And the odds are likely that he’s not the last, either.
The less secure he is, the more he’ll have issues with a woman’s number of sex partners.
What Can You Do About It?
The most obvious answer is to not date men with hangups about numbers or a woman’s sexuality. A man should be able to accept a woman as a holistic person, number of sex partners and all.
But, on a more practical level, the number of sex partners that either of you have had isn’t a great topic for a “getting to know you” conversation. It’s hardly forbidden – I think there’re very few topics that are off limits for a first-to-third date – but it’s generally something that I would recommend on holding off on sharing until after you’ve actually had sex. Even then, neither of you are likely going to want exact numbers; too wide a difference in either direction (and the exact definition of “too wide” is going to vary drastically from person to person) has a high probability of making one of you feel insecure or inadequate.
If the topic does come up early (i.e. before sex), the best answer is “enough to know what I like” with a smile; it suggests experience without going into the possibility of being an overwhelming number. If he presses, tell him you don’t kiss and tell. Exact numbers are for when you’re both more secure in your relationship – and sometimes not even then.
- like no one ever was… sorry, sorry, I couldn’t help myself [↩]
- for suitably variable definitions of “lots” [↩]