Whether you're a celebrity or high-powered businesswoman, your power can add a tricky dimension to romantic relationships.
Rihanna once revealed that her single status was not by choice; rather she felt men were intimidated by her success. "Not to sound crazy, but yes I think men feel intimidated. And I think that's very difficult because it's a lot for them to handle, especially being in the public eye. It can be difficult. It can be tricky," she said.
The 23-year-old Bajan star has certainly accomplished a lot, including numerous hit singles and albums, two fragrance launches and brand endorsements (Nike, Clinique and Gucci). We speak to relationship coach Savannah Steinberg about whether men are indeed intimidated by successful women.
What type of men or what qualities should women who are in powerful positions seek out in men?
Steinberg: You need to be with a man who can be with your power. For most men this can be a threat, and this can cause endless troubles and “power struggles”. So a man who is confident and comfortable in himself enough to let you be the star or powerhouse you are. An insecure man can bring a whole lot of dynamics into the equation that make it hard for the relationship to succeed.
If a woman is powerful or independent, what can she do to not come across as pushy?
Steinberg: Harville Hendrix, the author of Getting the Love You Want and Keeping The Love You Find, speaks about using your relationship as an opportunity to grow. One way is to stretch to meet your partner half way, so possibly the thing that contributes to your success is that you are assertive and know what you want and go for it, which can be seen as pushy, so in a relationship it may be that you consciously work on creating a balance so you create a win-win versus a win-lose situation. This way the relationship can be empowered.
How does a woman being independent/powerful influence the dynamics of a relationship?
Steinberg: There is an energy dynamic that occurs in relationships, where if one partner is very dominant, it can unconsciously force the other partner to go into submission mode. The more pushy or dominant the one becomes, the most the other is polarised and has no choice but to become passive, as these are unconscious energy dynamics at play. This can also be seen in the model known as Transactional Analysis, where one is dominant or “parent” and the other “child”.
Both of these are ego states, meaning reactive positions, and when in "child", there are only two ways to respond – compliance where you just accept, or rebellion, where you actively resist – and this will not get your relationship where you want it at all. The idea is to both be in "adult" – which is equal partners, not in ego states. So typically speaking, when you are powerful this can unconsciously create this dynamic, and your job can be to be aware of this and to work on being "adult" and creating a partnership energy.
Do men feel intimidated by powerful women and why?
Steinberg: Depends on the man. If we look at how things have shifted in the last 100 years, there was a time we as women couldn’t be educated, we couldn’t vote, we had to be at home raising kids, we were not in power and not allowed to be in power. Now we are coming to the other end of the spectrum. Never before have there been more woman in power as there are now. In this context I think many men may feel unsure of themselves or feel threatened as their role is no longer clear.
The man used to be the breadwinner, and now this is not the case any more. To adjust to the times, most families need double incomes, so both work. This challenges the dynamic as now women work full time as much as men, and yet when they get home they still need to take care of the kids and do all the housework etc. Woman are starting to have enough and asking for support, and this can be very unsettling and even threatening
What attributes or qualities can women tone down if men feel intimidated by them, or should they not do this at all?
Steinberg: If you need to compromise who you are in a relationship, this is a formula for disaster. Ideally you want a man that can support you in your power and stand next to you as an equal, not someone you have to adjust to so they don’t feel threatened.
Do men feel their manhood is threatened when their partner is more powerful/independent then they are?
Steinberg: At a core level, even unconsciously, I think they do. In our collective conditioning there is still the expectation that man is the protector, brings in the money and looks after the woman, and this runs deep, and to really see this for yourself consider the following question: when you think of men typically, what are their roles in a relationship? And when you think of women, what are their roles in a relationship? Roles may be blurred, but most of us will answer men are the breadwinners, they protect, they fix things that don’t work – the DIY man.
The woman is the carer, she looks after the kids, cleans the house, makes the food, looks after you when you are sick, etc.
That is still engrained in our awareness whether we apply it or not. So when a man can’t provide, and doesn’t need to fulfil any of these typical roles, that can be liberating on the one hand, or be incapacitating and bring out a lot of insecurity in him.
I have worked with couples where the woman is the breadwinner and the man is the stay-at-home dad, and somehow this also doesn’t work. Times are changing, more and more we are needing to work WITH each other and not for each other, so we are both independent powerhouses, and where this is not possible, take the time to create some really clear agreements so it works for both of you and there is no undercurrent from all the unshared stuff.