Power Strug­gles

When suc­cess clashes with love

True Love - - Front Page - By Phila Tyekana

More and more black women are mak­ing strides in busi­ness and at work, be­com­ing pow­er­ful in the process. Their suc­cess is ad­mirable, but one won­ders if they en­joy the same pros­per­ity when it comes to love. Un­mar­ried pow­er­ful men are praised as el­i­gi­ble bach­e­lors, while sin­gle women are re­duced to spin­sters. Singer and ac­tress JLo is al­ways la­belled a cougar, while me­dia mogul Oprah Win­frey is con­stantly ques­tioned about her re­la­tion­ship with St­ed­man Gra­ham. Sim­i­larly, su­per­star Bey­oncè – who brings as much money into her mar­riage as her hus­band, rap­per Jay Z – often de­fends her­self against ru­mours that their union is doomed to fail be­cause she is too pow­er­ful. The nar­ra­tive seems to be that since al­pha women are in­tim­i­dat­ing, they re­main sin­gle. Surely this can’t be true. Here at home, we have the likes of Baset­sana Ku­malo and Dr Pre­cious Moloi-Mot­sepe, who are pow­er­ful and mar­ried to in­flu­en­tial, wealthy busi­ness­men.

Psy­chol­o­gist Claire New­ton says a pow­er­ful woman needs to be in a re­la­tion­ship with a man who’s psy­cho­log­i­cally and emo­tion­ally strong, who can ac­cept her as she is with­out feel­ing threat­ened.

“What a woman should be look­ing for is a man who has high self-es­teem and emo­tional in­tel­li­gence. Such a man will know that no mat­ter how pow­er­ful his partner is, it does not take any­thing away from him, nor re­flect any weak­ness on his part,” she says

Re­la­tion­ship coach Dudu Nh­la­bathi has a dif­fer­ent view. She be­lieves an al­pha hu­man (man or woman) puts them­self first and has to lead. “Take pow­er­ful women, for ex­am­ple: they tend to be al­phas, and often it’s their de­sire to take the lead and con­trol the out­come of things that have en­abled them to achieve ca­reer suc­cess. This is where the mis­align­ment oc­curs: most men have been so­cialised into be­liev­ing a man de­ter­mines the out­come of the re­la­tion­ship. From the day he meets you, the male de­cides whether he’ll give you the girl­friend ti­tle or not.

“An al­pha woman strug­gles to place her fate in the hands of an­other, and this often re­sults in a huge power strug­gle in

the re­la­tion­ship. It takes ma­tu­rity and self-aware­ness for this re­la­tion­ship to work. Al­pha males re­spect al­pha women in busi­ness, but these women often fail to arouse lov­ing feel­ings in these men. Their com­pet­i­tive na­ture even­tu­ally turns men off,” says Nh­la­bathi.

So does that mean that a pow­er­ful woman should date a man less suc­cess­ful than her? Yes, says Nh­la­bathi. “Al­pha fe­males fare well with a beta male, or a com­bi­na­tion of the two. A beta male is not weaker or less am­bi­tious, but he’s com­fort­able with the woman tak­ing the lead and is at­tracted to a strong, am­bi­tious woman. The con­flict comes in the way the African man has been so­cialised. A man is mea­sured by his abil­ity to pro­vide for his loved ones, and should a woman take care of the fi­nan­cial well­be­ing of the fam­ily, most African males feel emas­cu­lated.”

The chal­lenge with dat­ing a man who doesn’t wield the same in­flu­ence is that the woman may not re­spect him. “A pow­er­ful woman may be em­bar­rassed when she and her man are out so­cial­is­ing with her suc­cess­ful col­leagues,” says Nh­la­bathi. “It’s not re­ally the suc­cess that in­tim­i­dates men; suc­cess­ful women can come across as ag­gres­sive, and this scares men. Ag­gres­sive women scare other women too. Men are not all the same; weak men tend to be in­tim­i­dated by strong peo­ple. It has noth­ing to do with the women. On the other hand, a se­cure man won’t be in­tim­i­dated by a suc­cess­ful, fem­i­nine woman. Each gen­der pos­sesses a special qual­ity which the other can­not re­place. The no­tion that men are in­tim­i­dated by strong women is often an ex­cuse used by women who want to jus­tify their bad dat­ing habits.”

New­ton says the im­por­tant thing to recog­nise is that not all pow­er­ful women strug­gle to find love. Hil­lary Clin­ton has en­joyed a long union with for­mer US Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton, and the cou­ple ap­pears to be stronger now that Hil­lary is the one run­ning for the pres­i­dency. Busi­ness moguls Ipe­leng and Given Mkhari are also proof that an in­flu­en­tial woman can find love.

The trick, says New­town, is that women can put too much ef­fort into their ca­reers and men may per­ceive them to be out of their league. “Men fall in love by do­ing, by be­ing ac­tive, not by re­ceiv­ing. Men want to lead, pro­tect and pro­vide for. Most suc­cess­ful women fail dis­mally at not al­low­ing the man to show af­fec­tion in a manly way. They don’t know how to ac­cept help, gifts and acts of kind­ness from a man,” she says. Lilitha, 39, met her hus­band while at uni­ver­sity. When they grad­u­ated,

she moved up the cor­po­rate lad­der quicker than he did, be­com­ing pro­ject man­ager at one of South Africa’s dig­i­tal cor­po­ra­tions. “He was sup­port­ive and never com­plained,” she says. “But I felt I had to dim my light by not talk­ing about my suc­cesses and be more sub­mis­sive so he could feel more like a man. I felt I had to over­com­pen­sate just to make him feel manly.”

Te­bogo’s hus­band lost his job and has been a stay-at-home fa­ther for two years. “It was a big blow at first be­cause the power shifted con­sid­er­ably. But my hus­band doesn’t mind stay­ing at home and look­ing after our two daugh­ters. He re­spects me, and I don’t gloat about how well I’m do­ing at work,” says Te­bogo, 42. Her friends, on the other hand, say she should leave him and find a suc­cess­ful man. She ad­mits her re­la­tion­ship would be bet­ter if he was work­ing as be­ing the only bread­win­ner is stress­ful.

Rianette Lei­bowitz, au­thor of Not For Sale – Re­la­tion­ships of

In­flu­ence, says: “We need to make cer­tain sac­ri­fices and com­pro­mises to main­tain our partner’s re­spect and keep our re­la­tion­ships safe. But a woman should not have to dim her light for the sake of a re­la­tion­ship. She may, though, have to put cer­tain as­pi­ra­tions on hold if her pri­or­i­ties call for it – for in­stance, when she has a baby her pri­or­ity is moth­er­hood; the pro­mo­tion at work can wait.”

So what’s the se­cret to find­ing love when you’re the boss at work? Nh­la­bathi says like at­tracts like, and the same pas­sion women pos­sess about work can be eas­ily em­u­lated in a re­la­tion­ship. “Con­fi­dence is the most at­trac­tive trait a hu­man be­ing can have, and pow­er­ful peo­ple ex­ude it. We are at­tracted to peo­ple who are more like us, or like that which we want to be. That’s why pow­er­ful women are at­trac­tive. They need no val­i­da­tion from a man and they know their worth.

“The big­gest turn-off is a clingy per­son who needs con­stant re­as­sur­ance. Be­ing around a con­fi­dent per­son makes you feel good about your­self; their good vibe rubs off, and who can re­sist such a per­son?”


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