In the romantic movie “I Do” now playing in Chinese theaters, the actress Li Bingbing (love her!) plays a successful 38-year-old businesswoman unlucky in love. Disregarding pressure from her peers and society that she escape her leftover status, she insists on finding true love.
In real life, Li Bingbing, also 38 and single and facing many of the questions facing her character in the movie, suggests that we change the term “leftover women” (剩女) to “flower blossom women” (盛女). I love it! “Blossoming” is such a great concept because it evokes a flower who is beautiful in herself.
But, as her character finds in the movie, when you’re a woman, having a successful career is both good and bad for your love life. It’s good because good men like independent women, and women like us know how to be independent. But it can be bad because the behaviors we develop for a successful career can be the wrong behaviors for success in the love department.
Seems more than a little unfair, doesn’t it? For men, a successful career and successful love life go together. For us women, it’s a bit more complicated.
For a woman, does a successful career lead to an unsuccessful love life?
This is a question I’ve wrestled with in my own life.
As women who achieve, we’re used to proving ourselves constantly. No matter how successful we become, people see us first as women, and so it becomes second nature to demonstrate to everyone exactly how outstanding we are. Those of us who climbed our way up the corporate ladder did so by climbing over the men and besting them at their own aggressive male behaviors.
But when a man likes you he’s not looking for a partner in business – he’s looking for a partner in life. If you confuse this and behave on a date the way you act in everyday life – impressive – you may impress him with your intelligence and capability, and he may want to hire you or do business with you, but that doesn’t mean he’ll want to date you.
So, when you’re on a date don’t be the Boss Lady. Don’t talk business, and don’t try to attract him with your business acumen. Don’t display your debating powers; don’t try to trump his comments. You might see yourself as capable, modern, persuasive and confident, having a fun intellectual exchange. But to him you may be coming across as competitive and argumentative. He’s not looking for a lawyer; he’s looking for a girlfriend.
Yep, I’ve made all those mistakes myself
All this took me many years and a lot of wasted dates to figure out. Because I am the Boss Lady. For years, that was me, treating first dates like business dinners, showing off my independence, demonstrating that I am just fine without a man. But just because you don’t need a man does not mean that that’s the right attitude to lead with on a date. The bigger your job, the harder it is – and more impressive it is to him – for you to not talk about work, and just be a woman and a human being.
What should you talk about? Personal things. Your family. Movies you’ve seen. Where you’ve traveled. What you like to do for fun. Something other than work, anything other than work. Rather than go into performing mode, reach out and ask about him.
Right about now, some of you may be getting irritated. You might be saying, “But Joy, this is just how I am! My work is who I am! I love competition! I love talking shop. Are you trying to push us women back to the Dark Ages?”
I know how you feel. We behave in ways for which we’re rewarded. In the workplace, we’re rewarded for being capable and, that’s right, for being “male.” Is it unfair for the world to demand that after work we switch sides and become “female”?
Depends on how you look at it. It’s not unfair, if being “female” is being nice, and gracious, and reaching out to really connect with another human being. That’s just good behavior for any relationship.
Stop impressing, and start receiving the love of a good man
A man may not want someone simple, dumb and uncomplicated, but that doesn’t mean he’s looking for a work colleague in his home. He’s not taking his female work colleague off on a glamorous vacation or making passionate love to her. He’s debating company strategy with her. He does respect her, but he doesn’t want to come home to her after a long day of work.
He’s looking for the woman of his dreams, the woman whom he’ll love and be successful for. So don’t try to persuade him that you are deserving. You are deserving! You’re a queen! He wants to deserve you! One reason that love is hardest for successful women is that we need to learn to stop impressing, and start receiving the love of a good man.
Anytime you worry too much about someone else’s approval, that person will lose respect for you. Let him earn your love.
Let there be a 9:00am you and a 9:00pm you
You’re a successful woman, which means that you are highly capable at modifying your behavior for success. Just as you’ve learned how to modify your behavior to make it in a man’s world at work, now modify your behaviors to relate to those same men after work.
Let there be a 9:00 a.m. you, and a 9:00 p.m. you. Think of how you’ll be someday with your own children, or how you are now with your niece or nephew. You don’t give them a speech in your rockin’ high heels and Prada suit. No, you kick off your heels and you smother them in love. You reveal different sides of yourself with different people. When you’re with him, let the gorgeous self shine.
Don’t get mad at the unfairness of it all. There are worse things in life. If you let him treat you like the queen that you are, then you’ll never feel like you need to choose between a great career and a great man. You’ll be able to enjoy both. Besides, after working so hard at the office, just sitting back and being beautiful like a flower blossom, and letting a good man take care of you can be –really nice.
** L.A. area friends, please join me for a very special interactive discussion about the choices facing us in life, career and love. I’ve spent the past year thinking about these issues for my book, and will share with you some real-life experiences, lessons and regrets from my own career and love life. This event will be held in Chinese and will be especially directed at modern Chinese women. Men interested in eavesdropping on the discussion are welcome to attend as well. Friday March 30 from 1:30-3:30p on USC Campus. Details here.