Too successful for a mate?
Today's talented, ambitious women are staying single in droves. Are they too busy, too picky or -- horrors -- too awesome?
By Kris Frieswick, MSN Money
The majority of my most successful, good-looking, educated, talented girlfriends are still single.
If they had Y chromosomes, they would have been married a decade ago. Instead, like successful single women all over the country, they trek into their mid- to late 30s on their own -- experiencing fabulous professional success, buying real estate and making savvy investments for the future, without much going on in the relationship department.
Carolyn Kaufman, 33, has a doctorate in clinical psychology and teaches college in Columbus, Ohio. She is a perfect example of a woman who has everything except a date. "I have this crazy belief that I have the right to expect my potential partner to be at least as successful as I am, and to have as many things to offer as I do," she says.
Good luck, Carolyn. With more women than men earning advanced degrees -- 61% of master's degrees conferred in 2007 will be to women -- those kinds of men are going to become harder and harder to find. (They call it the pinnacle of success for a reason: The view is great, but pinnacles are by nature narrow, pointy places. There's no room for a crowd.) Video: Does education help or hurt?
Then there's the issue of time. Most highly successful people work crazy hours, which makes it even more difficult to meet a suitable match. Christine Mohr, director of marketing and community relations for the YMCA in Washington, D.C., is out nearly every night of the week at fund-raisers, benefits and business dinners. "The person I'm trying to find is just as busy as I am," says Mohr, 29. "If we're both that busy, when is the time when we're going to meet?" She says the men she does meet at these events are usually married.
Of course, you have heard all these excuses before, from women both successful and not – I'm too busy, there are no good men left, they're all married or gay, etc. But there's another factor at work for women at the top of their game: They're intimidating to men. No matter how enlightened most men claim they are, few are ready to pair up with a woman who is more successful, better paid and better educated -- not to mention better traveled, more connected and more socially savvy than they are.
Talk back: Are singles better off financially?
Even Kaufman's dream of marrying her equal may be wishful thinking: Experts say that highly accomplished men tend to marry women who are lower on the professional and educational food chain than they are, traditionally choosing women over whom they can exert control.
"I've heard men say, 'Why would a woman want me if she can do all that stuff herself?'" says Kaufman. "He was totally missing the point."
Mohr says her ex-boyfriend confessed his feelings of inadequacy to her one night after a couple of beers: "He said, 'I was just really intimidated by you and I didn't know what to do.'"
It's the dirty little secret of the battle for gender equality. It's not that men still don't believe women are equally capable, they just have a hard time visualizing their role in a relationship when the woman outranks them on all the measures they use to gauge their own success. It's a little sad for the men, really. It also makes it very difficult for these power chicks to find a partner.
So what's a girl to do? Review your expectations. (Hold on, I didn't say lower them. I said review them.) Video: Make a list
I abandoned the expectation of many "must-have" items in my years of dating before I met my husband. It's not that I couldn't find a man who possessed the right qualities, but it turned out they were irrelevant to a happy relationship. Was it crucial that my husband have a master's degree? No. Would it be a deal- breaker if he didn't love mountain biking as much as I do? No.
In the end, common values and goals, generosity, intelligence, respect, a warped sense of humor and a mutual attraction floated to the top of the list. Nearly everything else on that list was negotiable, including income and educational attainment.
"As you get older, you get more clear on what's important to you," says Dr. Debra Condren, a psychologist, career coach and author of "am-BITCH-ous" -- which explores how and why women sabotage their own ambition, and why they should cut it out.
"I was very picky about men," Condren continues. "I wondered if there was anyone out there who was going to value and appreciate me. (But there) are many men out there who want a smart, competent, ambitious woman as a partner and to share in making an income."
He just might not be a CEO with a Ph.D. in astrophysics.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are more than 14 million unmarried women living alone -- about 15.2% of the total households in the nation. That percentage climbs slightly each year. In fact, in 2005 for the first time ever, households run by singles outnumbered households headed by married couples. Video: Standards too high?
Experts say that the divorce rate is one factor contributing to the trend. Another is a tendency among better educated, more secure women to postpone marriage.
For lots of these highly successful women, when given the choice between marriage and their current life, single wins, hands down.
Wendy Simmons -- a 39-year-old Brooklynite, founder and president of PR firm Vendeloo, a former club owner and a current world traveler -- loves being single. She was married for one year at age 25, but felt so trapped that she is having a hard time putting a positive spin on the idea of doing it again.
"The longer you go without marriage, the more complete you make your life, the more difficult the idea of a compromise in marriage becomes," she says. "I may be ready to try again, but every day I feel more and more like a confirmed bachelor. I see so many people struggling in relationships that it scares me."
Simmons rejects outright the notion of dumbing herself down to make herself more marketable to all those executives looking for a "wifey".
"For a lot of guys, the simple girl is easier because the man's role is clearer: They make the decisions," she says. "It's those things that I'm afraid of -- a life of compromise every single day.