Are Single Women Today "Too Independent"?
- Christianity Today Copyright Christianity Today International
- 2004 21 Jul
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With the ever-changing landscape of relationship definitions, we all need God in our lives first. It's very easy to say, "I can't get along with her because she's too independent." It's much more difficult to say, "I'm uncomfortable with this woman because she makes me feel unneeded and useless."
Women may ask, how do I create in this otherwise big strong man a feeling of inadequacy? The answer is you don't. Most men use this technique to keep free of responsibility. It's not that they can't accept a woman who's able to take care of herself. Rather, the issue is that they can't accept themselves for who they are. They don't want to admit in this modern world they want a girl who will cling to them and make them feel big and important. That's the only way some guys can feel like a man. This stems from insecurity issues.
Of course, there are also women who have issues of their own and overcompensate for their feelings of inadequacy by being too assertive.
So we all have problems. Find a man who realizes he can do nothing without God in his life, and you'll find a good man, capable of accepting a strong woman.
I disagree that guys use "women are too independent" as a cop-out. While independence may not be the exact word to use, it's definitely a huge problem. It's good that women today have many more options and acquire many more skills than women did 50 years ago. However, I see so many women take this a step further and adopt an attitude that says "since I did all these things by myself and the women of the past didn't, I'm something really special and it should be hard for a guy to catch my interest." Now, I agree women are special and amazing creations of God, but I see this egotistical attitude coming out quite often. Every time one of my male friends or I approach a girl we're interested in, we're quickly turned down, often before we've even had a chance to finish a sentence.
I have no problem with a woman making more money than I do, being better at fixing cars than I am, or having a larger social group than I do. But I do resent being told I'm not worth enough for her to go out with me. That hurts more than you can imagine. I'd like the chance to get to know someone without being made to feel as though I have to climb a mountain before I'm deemed worthy of her time. I'd like to go for coffee with someone who doesn't have to pencil me into her day-timer in between countless other appointments. And I'd never do less for someone who expressed interest in me.
I continually see men who like passive women. Especially in the South, where I live, most men seem to desire a woman who will take care of the home well. I think it's also a byproduct of our conservative evangelical culture, where traditional roles are upheld.
I've always felt a bit out of place in this culture, though, because I like independent, "alpha female" types. Most of my friends—young and old—think I'm a bit crazy, but there's nothing I find more attractive than a woman who can lead and succeed. I personally need that type of woman to keep a strong man like me at bay at times.
Personally, I think it's the men who are saps because they want a passive woman, instead of a
As a never-married single man in my mid-thirties, I can empathize with the plight of single women who need to be somewhat independent just to make it in life. There's certainly nothing wrong with having a job, paying your bills, and maintaining what you own. It just seems for a lot of the single women I know, the desire for independence has subtly choked out the desire for a relationship. I think many single men feel they need (and want) a feminine woman in their life more than many single women seem to "need" a man. The culture says, "Women don't need men." That's fine for those who never want to get married. But men don't want to feel like an "optional accessory" in a busy woman's life. Men need to feel needed, just like women need to feel cherished.
The current trend in profiles on Christian dating websites is that women are "marketing" themselves in typically masculine ways. They seem to hope they'll attract a man by enjoying things men traditionally enjoy doing with their buddies, such as camping, hiking, playing football, rock climbing, rappelling, running marathons. Yet the Christian men I know aren't looking for a woman with whom they might play football; they want a woman with feminine qualities and delicate charm, someone who requires gentleness and security. For the most part, men, even the quiet, domesticated types, want to be the rugged partner of the pair. Christian men want a godly woman who wants to get married, live in a house, and raise godly children with them, without feeling she needs to keep jet-setting around the world as though her single lifestyle hasn't changed.
I think both single men and single women could learn some valuable lessons from our grandparents' generation. The roles of both genders were clearer then, and relationships were about the mutual pairing of a man and a woman who needed and wanted each other for their God-given differences. Women have made needed advancements in recent decades. That's a good thing. Now it's time for men and women to balance the scales to keep what they've gained without losing the love and romance our grandparents enjoyed.
I've dated some very dependent women, both Christian and non-Christian, and as a result of those experiences, I've come to the conclusion I'd rather date (and eventually marry) an independent Christian woman. To me, a confident, self-assured, ambitious, and Christ-centered woman is an incredible rarity and the only way I'll ever have a truly fulfilling and healthy marriage, if God chooses to bless me with one. An independent woman isn't intimidated by the calling God has on my life or my responsibilities to him, because she can separate my responsibilities from herself and not take my time apart from her personally. And she has her own calling I must support.
Sure, independent women can be a little intimidating; it's important for us guys to feel needed and for us to be able to be providers on some level. We need to be able to be protectors in those areas the women in our lives are vulnerable. We need to be wanted, needed, and loved wholeheartedly. It's also important for us to have someone we can confide in, someone who can help carry our burdens, someone we can be vulnerable with, someone who can hold us and make us feel safe.
I think a problem is that many men lack the ability to be a provider on a romantic and emotional level, so they rely on being a provider in other areas—financial, physical security, etc.—in order to feel important and needed. Those "other areas" tend to be, in my opinion, the areas guys are most intimated by when women can handle them without us: career, leadership, ambition, assertiveness, and the like. I think many men interpret "independent" to mean "I don't need anyone but myself." But rather than admitting why they're intimidated or why it makes them feel inferior, and rather than communicating these feelings, many guys just cop out with "she's too independent" and never learn what they might be missing out on in a relationship with that person.
And then there are those of us who have been cheated on. I understand the fear of infidelity when it comes to an independent woman. It's easy to jump to the conclusion that if she "doesn't need me," maybe she'll find someone else. Personally, I believe a confidant, strong woman is more likely to work things out in a relationship and be willing to confront issues in the relationship than to run away from it or find solace in the arms of someone else.
I have dreams that are important to me, and it's extremely important to me the woman I'm romantically involved with is supportive of those dreams and recognizes the responsibilities in ministry to which I may be called. It's equally important to me that she have her own dreams I can be supportive of and that she not mold her life to fit mine (as some of my ex-girlfriends seemed to want to do), but rather we each mold our lives to fit each other's. I think a strong relationship has to come from two independently strong individuals who are in a relationship for all the right reasons; people who are strong enough to communicate honestly, admit their fears to one another, have the inner strength to accept the faults of the other, and be able to forgive when needed.
You're right on the money when you say men need to feel needed. That's crucial to our self-esteem—maybe too crucial. But we need to feel like we can come in and "save the day" if asked. When men tell women they're "too independent," it may be a masked way of asking, "Where do I fit?"
When women take on the role of woman and man in the household, it leaves the obvious question of "Where does the man fit?" I understand a woman's need to be able to take care of herself, and I applaud women in their efforts to learn how to fix leaky plumbing, etc. Women need to understand that when they turn down offers of help from men in major things such as installing a window air-conditioning unit or in minor things such as carrying their groceries, we feel as though we're being deprived of our "job." I'm not saying women need to seek assistance if they can do the job themselves, but they shouldn't turn down an offer of assistance just because they can do it. Chivalry isn't dead. At least it won't be if women will allow us to be chivalrous.
I'm not sure if the issue is that men don't like women to be independent, since we realize you can't put your life on hold. However I think men do enjoy the feeling of a woman being dependent on him. I know I loved the feeling whenever one of my previous girlfriends asked me to help them. I loved doing things for them. I loved the feeling that I was taking care of their needs and wants.
When we're looking for a mate, we also subconsciously wonder if an independent woman would be less likely to want to be a stay-at-home mother looking after the needs of the family. I think men are still wired to be task-oriented and to feel they should be taking care of the majority of the physical (financial, home-repair, etc.) needs in return for having the majority of their emotional needs met through their wife.
One of men's biggest needs is to be admired and respected by the special woman in their life. And that feels a lot harder to achieve if she has all the abilities herself. Men are told they are supposed to be the leader; but it's difficult to feel like a leader if the woman's skills and abilities exceed yours. I think that's one of the reasons men tend to seek younger women, since we have more to offer a girl who's just starting out. Is there a way around that? I believe so—by women asking for and accepting help from the men in their life.
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