Am I too intimidating to get married?

September 5th, 2017 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 22 comments

I have listened to your analysis of romantic relationships and am left wondering what your best advice is to a charming, active, healthy, financially well off, single woman who is over 50 who dearly misses the intimacies of married life?

I am called intimidating and “a tough act to follow”.

Janet

Dear  Janet,

As always, we start with the disclaimer that without knowing you personally we might be way off the mark in our advice. However, we hope we can at least encourage you in the right direction.

You certainly have a lot going for you. At the risk of sounding completely politically incorrect (all right, we enjoy being politically incorrect but it still is risky in our “gotcha” society) perhaps you have too much going for you?

How can that possibly be? As hard as the social engineers have tried to change human nature, men still thrill to being needed. We don’t know who calls you intimidating and a “tough act to follow,” but whoever is doing so may be trying to point you in the right direction.

We aren’t suggesting that you give away your money or damage your health. We certainly would encourage you to stay charming and active. We don’t mean that you should hide your intelligence or conceal your competence. But perhaps you could nurture a softer side of yourself?

We have a suspicion that not only might this help your love life, but it could help friendships as well. Practice giving your point of view in a gentler way and allowing others to speak without pointing out their mistakes. Allow others to take care of you rather than always being in the leadership role. You might even try dressing in ways that are more feminine and soft.

We hope that you will rediscover a part of you that you might have suppressed and that will round out your character.  We sincerely wish you speedy success in meeting a worthy partner.

Gently yours,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

 

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22 comments

mike says:

You have a given a very gentle but effective advice……God bless you, your family and ministry

Susan Lapin says:

Thank you, Mike. When we served a synagogue we saw a number of women who had made themselves so aggressive in the pursuit of their careers that they had stifled their femininity. We wondered if the same is true for Janet.

Jean says:

Good advice, Susan. Sometimes it is not the rigors of “career chasing” that hardens a woman, but the hard times that come from not having the nuturing, help, love and companionship that a true Godly man should show and give a woman. We are lacking this terribly in society.
Without a proper family foundation (from the father) and spiritual covering (from a husband), many women “fend for themselves”, making them tough, hardened, and more aggressive …without the woman realizing it.
I know this from experience….. as l, too am ’50-something’ woman without a man, who grew up in a dysfunctional, abusive home. Once l was able to grow past that, found what l thought was a “good man”, married and had children — he decided years later it “was not for him”. So in raising children alone, and having to shoulder all the weight of Life alone can make one “less feminine”.
Now l am not suggesting this is the reason for all ladies with such a situation….but let us realize there are other circumstances.

Susan Lapin says:

Very valid point, Jean. In many ways it becomes a vicious cycle, doesn’t it?

Jeremy R says:

That’s a very great point, Mrs. Lapin. Though it is hardly ubiquitous, many of the women I’ve worked with professionally had apparently sacrificed their femininity on the altar of vocation under the mistaken belief that it had somehow made them appear soft and weak. On the contrary, I’ve watched my wife operate from a position of authority and power while still embracing her femininity. I have to wonder if it isn’t an ideal of a progressive, feminist agenda, to minimize feminine qualities in women while trying to foster them in men. How ironic!

Susan Lapin says:

It isn’t ubiquitous, Jeremy, but it is hard for women to balance femininity with authority. Your wife is a talented woman to be able to do that. We certainly give confusing messages to both men and women today.

Janet says:

I sent a thoughtful response I’m not sure if you received. Bottom line is that I’m anything but a career barracuda. I have found that I need to gently mention my (minor) career in Landscape Architecture to get respect for being anything more than a stay-at-home mom. My drive for a family runs deep because I grew up with a very splintered family; sick mother, special needs siblings, father running as hard as he could to keep this together and often exploding in rage.
Strangely I came to the wisdom of acting the female by getting to know a transvestite. He said he came to do this because his wife did not take that role and if she wasn’t going to bring the soft and pretty, well, he would. Haha!
That’s when I decided I wanted to be the girl so enhanced my wardrobe and enjoying that role. Men do like it better and I am getting all those compliments at 59 I never heard at 20 or 30 or 40. You guys are right on that point, but there is more I have discovered.

Happy to chat more because I have been studying this issue for some time and find it fascinating. I want everyone who wants love to find it.
Janet

Susan Lapin says:

I’m so glad you followed up, Janet. Sounds like you have some very interesting information to share. You and others are, of course, correct that there are many other reasons than career for women to come across as more aggressive than might be best. Once again, we truly wish you success as you move forward.

Elaine says:

I think it is true for me as well.

Mark Lampe says:

I see Susan’s hand in the response, let me add that some men find intelligent, knowledgable women who are financially successful intimidating. As a male who has been a student of the dynamics between males and females for a long time allow me to say that yes you might be intimidating to those males who are lacking. We are living in a society where women are excelling scholastically, while men are dropping out and expecting more for their underachievement. In my youth I was an Airborne-Ranger where the word can’t didn’t exist, nowadays it is used all too commonly as an excuse to be acceptable as a failure. So yes, in the current culture you are intimidating to many, but don’t let that hold you back, because there are people who do applaud strong women who strive for being the best they can be.

I too am in a similar spot and understand Janet’s predicament. I have 3 minimum requirements with men: They must have a job (or be retired and/or can support themselves), they must have a place to live (preferably have their own place) and they must have a car. Sorry to say, but as you get older, it seems like the dregs are left. I can’t tell you how many men don’t pass “the interview”…and that doesn’t even begin the part about having similar morals, values and interests. I’m in San Francisco, so the likelihood of meeting anyone that even thinks like me is dubious at best….Good luck Janet – you are better off alone than with the wrong person.

Susan Lapin says:

We would agree with you, Annette, that Janet is looking (rightfully) for a strong, competent, successful man. However, her question suggested that she may be aware that she comes on strongly, perhaps too strongly, even to female friends. As we always say, we are working with minimal info when we answer questions.

Lois says:

I had to raise four children, mostly on my own. As both mother and father to the children, I had to learn how to take charge and be decisive … qualities necessary for the head of a family. People often mistake these qualities for aggression, especially in women, but they’re not the same thing.

As much as Janet may want to be married, if she has a forthright approach to life, she might find it difficult to play damsel in distress for any length of time just to find a husband.

Janet should focus on finding someone who will appreciate her competence. There are match-making services especially for executives. If that doesn’t work, it’s better to be single than to spend her life stifling her true personality.

Susan Lapin says:

I hope we weren’t suggesting that Janet stifle her personality as much as find parts of her personality she may have hidden or suppressed.

Janet says:

Janet here, I gave up my career a long time ago in favor of raising my family. Never looked back. I always wanted the family more than the career. I am the antithesis of the driven, working woman, although my short career in landscape architecture was rewarding and seems to garner some respect.

Money happened in my life independent of any pointed effort on my part. It was a happy surprise best forgotten about.

You are right about looking feminine and acting receptive working. Men respond very well when I wear dresses and defer to them with respect. They look surprised when I softly tell them I like being the girl but am able to make a decision if needed. I remember what you have said about the male/female dynamic and it is serving me well.

It has been difficult to find suitable fellows, but it is helping to hold an attitude of abundance of prospects and practice receptivity, appreciation and respect when I meet them.

I had a lovely dinner with a kind, interesting and beautiful gentleman this evening so things are looking up.

Thanks for addressing my frustration.

Susan Lapin says:

Thanks for responding, Janet. It is hard to find real “men” these days, sadly. Our culture certainly works against encouraging men to be the best they can be. We do hope that things keep looking up.

Kevin says:

Our culture certainly works against encouraging men to be the best they can be?

Susan Lapin says:

Kevin, you put a question mark there so yes, I do think we encourage a lack of masculinity leaving males with encouragement to be barbarians or wimps. There are many books on the subject.

francis ansah says:

Whenever I read through my copy of Thought Tools, my heart is awash with words of gratitude waiting to be expressed, but when I read through the comments left by other readers I find they have more succinctly expressed what I am thinking.
Thank you for your ministry.

Gervase says:

Is “intimidating” how she is perceived? Which asks, why is that so? Which you addressed. Or, does she expect someone to be someone else, a dream someone?

What may be off-putting to one man, may be intensely attractive to another; it starts with chemistry, that unknowable attractive force. I think the question may be, what next? To become love, attraction must survive the initial weeks, or months, the intense physical chemistry which starts the process. To do so requires someone, then both, to make a leap of faith. We are hoping to find someone who loves who we are, just the way we are. To find that someone requires one (then hopefully both) of the parties to begin, to start, loving, cherishing, and accepting the differences between them. In other words, we have a critical choice to make: to accept and love the differences between us, or not. Possibly most critical to the question here posed: will we do this BEFORE the other person is willing to do so? Will we quit expecting and love: take the leap without care for the consequences. Can we just love another as they are and see what happens next, stick around long enough to see if we are loved for who we are?

Thank you so much for all you do. I am grateful and blessed for the gifts you give to me in my life.

Carol Dourte says:

With 2 children to support, I went back to college and In the70’s became the first woman hired by a prominent, national CPA firm. Not trying to make a statement, just trying to provide for my kids. All these responses bring tears to my eyes as they remind me of my struggles. It was not until I was in my 60’s and established in a career that I really did not want, that I felt free to be become more “feminine” at work. The response from my male colleagues was very positive. But, of course, it is no longer the 70’s. As Susan mentioned, it is a vicious circle. If only there was a handbook!

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Well done, Carol–
by all measures, you made a success. Just one thing: there IS a ‘handbook’. And our ministry is making that Handbook accessible to everyone!
Wishing you continued success and happiness
Cordially
RDL

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