What an Ambitious Man Seeks in a Woman

What an Ambitious Man Seeks in a Woman

What an Ambitious Man Seeks in a Woman

1920 1038 Michael Petraeus


any discussions about relationships these days inevitably lead to a debate why so many intelligent, successful women stay single. What happened to the men? Where are they? Does female success scare them away? Do they not like independent, accomplished women? Should modern females “know their limits”, like in the famous (and hilarious) Harry Enfield’s sketch and play just sweet, gentle, delightful creatures?

While I generally believe there are more great women than men today, it’s not like the latter are completely absent. Nor is it true that they do not think deeply about their female counterparts.

This article is not about all men – it’s about smart, open-minded, curious and, most importantly, driven achievers.

An ambitious man is composed of two elements
– an open, inquisitive mind and a drive to succeed.

Many men are smart and yet accomplish little in life, because they lack motivation and tenacity to act. There are also those who are very driven, but their minds are shut to the broader world and they excel only in their narrow field.

“Intelligence without ambition is a bird without wings.” / Salvador Dalí

Ambitious man I am writing about is a well rounded individual with a thirst for life, for experience, for knowledge, for discovery and for success. Success, which can be defined in many ways – it’s not always about money, and certainly never ONLY about it. He simply knows what he wants – wealth / fame / recognition / knowledge / worldly experiences etc. – whatever gives him a sense of accomplishment and motivates him to action. That said, he’s also open-minded enough to be caring and understanding. He knows there is a life outside of his professional battles.

The reason I chose to write about smart, energetic, aspiring men – and women – is that they started to redefine what intimate relationships are about today. They reached a level of independence that allows them to make choices tht nobody could ever make before. Despite what romantic writers have tried hard to convince us for years, men and women rarely married out of love. For ages it’s been more about survival and prosperity, largely impossible to achieve without a spouse. Not anymore.

In the developed world of the 21st century young, educated, motivated individuals are largely self-sufficient. They focus on their personal success and don’t have to marry. And because they enjoy lives even their parents wouldn’t be able to imagine, the way they think about finding a partner for life is also very different.

So, where will these changes lead us? And how will relationships of the future look like?

You will find a lot of articles published by and about females, perhaps you are even aware of the term SWANS (Strong Women Achievers, No Spouse), which was coined to describe successful, educated women who struggle to find a good partner. This piece, however, aims to lend a male perspective to a topic fraught with prejudice and stereotypes – chief of which state that men are shallow in their understanding of women and in their expectations towards relationships with them.

Even though, as a gender, we are wired to judge women visually, smart, driven men will look beyond the first impressions to find more important, underlying character traits – qualities that affect how a really attractive woman behaves more broadly.

1. Curiosity

Curiosity is what sets apart the achievers from the failures, the smart from the dumb. It’s the inner drive for knowledge pushing us to read, learn and explore, the cornerstone of independence and creativity. Passionately curious people drive the entire humanity forward.

An intelligent, ambitious man desires a woman who asks questions, who strives to improve, who is open to new experiences – because so is he – and there’s nothing more fulfilling than pursuit of discovery hand in hand with the person you love.

“Life has taught us that love does not consist of gazing at each other but looking together in the same direction.” / Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Modern man seeks a partner who has broad interests, grows in a field she’s passionate about, who understands the world and can enrich his life – just as he wants to enrich hers.

Curiosity is the prerequisite to all improvement – both personal and professional – and it strikes a killer blow to complacency.

Complacency destroys everything that was once great. It brought down empires so it’s not a surprise it can erode simple human bonds as well. When we stop caring, as we once did, things begin to crack and fall apart.

Success, in any sphere, including relationships, is not a destination or a goal – it’s a continuous process – and only those who are thirsty for improvement can achieve and sustain it.

2. Independence

Personal independence breeds authenticity and authenticity breeds trust.

“There are more copies than originals among people.” / Pablo Picasso

As I already mentioned, industrious, driven men seek women who don’t need constant encouragement, who can take care of themselves and are accomplished in many ways. Genuine, original, unique. But independence goes beyond that.

It’s about conscious choices and taking responsibility for them. It’s about owning your life. There’s a quote circulating the world so much these days, that it’s bordering on becoming a cliché, but it does carry a lot of wisdom:

“If you love somebody, let them go, for if they return, they were always yours. If they don’t, they never were.” / Khalil Gibran

In the days of old, relationships were held together by economic dependency of men and women on each other mixed with a serious dose of social pressure. But today the former has eroded and the latter is gone. People are no longer forced to marry – it’s their decision to be together.

So it’s important that this decision is made consciously and independently. You can only really ever trust a person who is resistant to manipulation, mature, assertive and self-aware. These are the qualities only independence can guarantee.

3. Courage

An attribute so often expected of men is also very relevant for the “weaker” sex. Courage is about staying true to yourself, your beliefs and pursuing your dreams. Ambition and vision brought to life. An ambitious man desires a woman who is active, who doesn’t need encouragement, who is driven, who lives for a purpose, has the courage to explore, do the unconventional, create.

In one way or another she is fearless.

“I fell in love with her courage, her sincerity, and her flaming self respect. And it’s these things I’d believe in, even if the whole world indulged in wild suspicions that she wasn’t all she should be. I love her and it is the beginning of everything.”
/ F. Scott Fitzgerald (about Zelda)

Perhaps she’s a lone globetrotter, thirsty to experience the world by herself? A dedicated scientist or a driven businesswoman tirelessly combating the bureaucratic machinery to make her ideas a reality? Or a devoted artist or a writer, studying famous creators and having her passion take physical form in the shape of paintings, sculptures, photos or words…?

Courage means standing up for what you believe in and what you desire – and making it happen. A bold woman doesn’t wait for the prince on a white horse to arrive – she’s a strong, valuable person on her own. She owns her life and her passion for it is burning brightly – scaring away the meek and attracting the daring. And since she knows what she wants she doesn’t settle for mediocrity in any sphere of life.

4. Class

This rejection of mediocrity also means that she will not lower her standards in her own behavior. A classy woman knows what’s “right” in any situation – even when “right” means “difficult” – earning trust and respect in the process.

“Class is an aura of confidence that is being sure without being cocky. Class has nothing to do with money. Class never runs scared.
It is self-discipline and self-knowledge. It’s the sure-footedness that comes with having proved you can meet life.” / Ann Landers

Ambitious men – despite their inner drive – don’t make rash, emotional decisions about relationships. They do not like to waste time – they want to invest it – with someone who is worth their trust and commitment.

Class is about honesty in everything you do. It’s more than basic savoir vivre, elegance and tactful small talk. At the core of class lies selflessness – understanding that the common is more important than the individual good. Integrity and trust are the cornerstones of any long-lasting bond and smart men seek them just as much as women.

5. Taste

Female beauty is about more than just an attractive body. Body has an expiry date – regardless of how much you try to prop it up with silicon, botox and visits to the surgeon, it will decay.

An ambitious man looks not for a woman who reaches her peak at 25 and then desperately tries to preserve what’s left of it, but for a woman who can create even more beauty with time. It’s not only about ageing with grace – but making the world around her beautiful as well. Good taste leaves its mark around a person, defining not only their appearance but also their environment, thanks to their aesthetic vision.

“Elegance is not the prerogative of those who have just escaped from adolescence, but of those who have already taken possession of their future.”
/ Coco Chanel

An elegant, creative woman follows trends but doesn’t copy them – she seeks inspiration and her drive is natural and shows her genuine self.

This authenticity is very important, because it’s a promise that how she presents herself is not aimed at impressing others, but is a means of self-expression. Her inner spring of creativity will not dry up – and any smart man would only be too happy help sustain its flow.

6. Care

This is the final, emotional – and critical – element. Care is something else than just knowing the right thing to do – it’s feeling the need to engage, the need to be intimate with your partner and be at his side.

“Women have always been the strong ones of the world. The men are always seeking from women a little pillow to put their heads down on. They are always longing for the mother who held them as infants.” / Coco Chanel

Being a man is a lonely task. Men have always been expected to lead the charge, to fight at the frontlines, to conquer, to achieve, to rule. Faced with challenges, a “real man” has to withhold his feelings and exhibit courage and decisiveness. Expressing emotions is a sign of weakness.

But men are humans too and home has always been a natural refuge for them, a place where they heal their battle wounds and regain their strength for future combat – whether it’s to be held in a muddy trench or a corporate cubicle. The only ones they could have ever been vulnerable to are their mothers. Mother never judges harshly, she is always there to support her son.

This unconditional care is lost when a man leaves his childhood home – but he yearns for it in the home he has set out to create for his family – and himself.

Just like women need their partners to “shut up and listen” every once in a while, even the strongest men require support and care when they find themselves in doubt or in peril. Those who have been denied this sanctuary in life escape into alternative forms of stress relief – like alcohol – or succumb to depression, which has brought down even the most successful.

An ambitious man is self-aware, he understands his vulnerabilities and his needs. This is not something you can dismiss or hide. He looks for this understanding in his partner. Men don’t need their home to be another battlefield – they have enough of them elsewhere.

The real test of a relationship comes when life goes downhill. Nobody wants to suffer alone – it is the one thing we all dread – and the key to why we keep hoping to find a partner that will be there for us when we need him.

Here’s a heartwrenching quote from Lauren Bacall about Humphrey Bogart’s health struggles:

“After a few weeks, he had recovered enough to go home, though the treatment was not over. He would need X-ray therapy, and he had lost about 30lb. (…) When he came home we were waiting for him — I was standing at the top of the stairs, with our children either side of me. With that chewing gesture of his, the one that signalled some strong emotion, he said:

‘This is what it’s all about — this is why marriage is worth it.’

I smiled down at him, on the verge of tears, suddenly realising that he was too.”

The Goal of a Modern Relationship

Since successful women can now enjoy independence, they no longer have to get married to hope for an enjoyable life. Men these days have it easier to get the basics covered as well. Sex is no longer a taboo, and it’s much easier to have it – with no strings attached – than it was 60 or 70 years ago. A modern man doesn’t risk starvation either – with abundance of companies offering even the most exotic cuisines with a single phone call, having a housewife to provide food and drinks is no longer a necessity.

Some ring the alarm bells that families are dying and our societies will disintegrate. That we all become self-centered consumers who choose quick stimulation over dedication, “amusing ourselves to death”. Sure, dumb people do.

Smart men and smart women understand that while it’s not easy to find a partner, it’s also the first time in human history we can enter relationships that have a much deeper meaning than simple survival.

How much more can couples achieve these days, given all the freedom they enjoy thanks to the progress of past generations? How much more time can they spend together not being stuck at work or over the kitchen sink – but exploring the world, experiencing arts, sports, culture, supporting each other in their personal pursuits and being creative outside of the corporate office?

Sure, less children are born but they are raised in a much better environment than there has ever been – and a couple of self-conscious, curious, independent and ambitious parents can propel their kids to much greater achievements. We don’t need more people – we need better people.

Relationships in the developed world are no longer about dependency and roles each gender has around the house. They are about partnership, two together being more than separately.


Synergy has become the raison d’être of intimate relationships in the modern age. We are only eager to enter them when they promise superior experience to what we enjoy as singles.

And that’s fantastic.

Isn’t it better that they are built on mutual respect, trust and conscious commitment? That they allow us to maintain personal ambitions with all the pleasures of having an intimate, dedicated, valuable partner by our sides? That we no longer have to sacrifice ourselves but, instead, create something greater, together?

Ambitious, smart men appreciate and embrace female independence, creativity and aspirations. They want to be part of this synergic equation because they understand how much more fulfilling life is having such a talented, driven, multi-dimensional woman by your side – and being an equally valuable partner to her. Once you’ve realized that, there’s nothing less you will settle for.


Michael Petraeus

Marketing & business strategist, entrepreneur, blogger, explorer and traveling photographer, publishing about the past, present and the future.

All stories by:Michael Petraeus

Michael Petraeus

Marketing & business strategist, entrepreneur, blogger, explorer and traveling photographer, publishing about the past, present and the future.

All stories by:Michael Petraeus
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