Why Women Test Men

* Note: I’ve had the comment section on my blog turned off, but it has since been re-enabled.

In my last post, entitled “How to Be a Man,” I wrote about women “testing” men. Here’s a paragraph from that post:

Why Women Test MenLet’s look, for example, at the parable of Adam and Eve, where God commands them not to eat the apple from the Tree of Knowledge. Eve disobeys God and eats the apple anyway, and then commands Adam to do the same. What does Adam do? He obeys Eve instead of God. He eats the apple. The moral of the story is that a man will do almost anything to please a woman.

But here’s the thing. Eve didn’t really want Adam to eat the apple. What she wanted was for him to say, “No, I will not listen to you. I will not give you more power than God.” In other words, Eve didn’t want a man she could control. She was testing Adam, and he failed.

After that post was published, I received an email from a man named Tom who asked me why women test men. “Why do women have this need to test men? I get it, and the evidence of my life has born this out. But why?”

Dr. Robert Glover, author of No More Mr. Nice Guy, is the first author (that I’m aware of) to identify and write about this behavior on the part of women. Many do it unknowingly, he says, because they don’t “feel safe” knowing they can push a man around. “She wants to know you’ll stand up to her. That is how she will feel secure in the relationship.”

Here’s an example. In Megyn Kelly’s memoir, Settle for More, Kelly writes about a date she had with her husband Doug before they were married. The pair was sitting at a “swanky” cafe in Georgetown, and there was a man in a black tuxedo “selling single red roses for the price of an entrée.” Doug apparently nodded to the man to come over, but Kelly stopped him.

“Doug, Doug,” Kelly said. “That’s not necessary.” When she saw that Doug continued to engage with the man, Kelly “commanded” him to stop. “I’m serious. Don’t.” But Doug ignored her and told her she was “going to have a rose tonight.”

In the very next sentence, Kelly writes that she “loved” being “overruled.” She wasn’t used to that, she wrote, “certainly not after I had commanded.” Whether either of them was aware of it or not, Doug had just passed Kelly’s shit test.

Women who test men will sometimes even provoke an argument just to see how her man will react. “No woman seemed to want man who was totally compliant,” writes John M. Townsend in What Women Want—What Men Want. “An altercation could show her just how much stamina and self-respect he had, where he would stand up for himself and draw the line, how much he cares about what she did or felt.”

Women with strong personalities are the women most likely to test men. When these women are in a relationship with a man, they need to know he’s stronger than they are. That’s the only way they’ll feel safe. Women who don’t have strong personalities want to feel safe with a man, too (yes, so basically all women want the same thing: a strong man), but they’re less likely to test a man since the energy these women exude doesn’t compete with male energy the way women with strong personalities do.

As a man named Karl wrote on my Facebook page: “What alpha females really want is an alpha male. But…if she gets an alpha male, there will be a power struggle to emasculate him because she’s an alpha, too. Are alpha females confused? I’m an alpha male, and I find it very confusing. This is the whole gender problem in America: confusion over roles, leadership, control, power, sex and money.”

Indeed, that is exactly where we are. This “testing” women do may be as old as the earth (hence the story of Adam and Eve), but the dramatic change in women and women’s roles has allowed such testing to become ubiquitous.

This is very off-putting for some men, and I get that. But it’s the nature of the beast. So what are your options? There are three. You can look for a woman whose personality is gentler in nature (this will be hard since the culture has conditioned women to be “strong”); you can bow out of relationships altogether out of sheer frustration; or you can come up with a strategy to deflect the situation when it happens.

The latter is particularly helpful for a man who’s already married to a woman who tests him, and they have children together, or for a man who’s already knee-deep in a relationship and the testing has only recently begun. What can these men do?
They can not kowtow to their wife’s or their girlfriend’s demands. They can show her that they are, in fact, the stronger sex. Because at the end of the day, that’s all she really wants to know.

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Suzanne Venker

Suzanne Venker is an author, speaker and cultural critic known as “The Feminist Fixer.” She has authored several books to help women win with men in life and in love. Her most recent, The Alpha Female’s Guide to Men & Marriage, was published in February 2017.

Reader Interactions


  1. I find this very interesting. I’d like you to comment on something. It seems that the “shit test” often times is winnable only by chance or indifference. A strong man will put up with nonsense from the woman he loves, yet he would fail Megyn Kelly’s shit test for respecting her wishes. If he is indifferent of her feelings or masquerades as if so, he passes the test but there remains the issue of indifference and questionable respect…or the realization that the success of his desired relationship is in the hands of a simple coin toss that informs how he might behave toward her in future scenarios.

    I have reconciled with myself that unless it is clear that a woman is fully charged and accountable for her words and deeds, I will listen to her with no more than only one of my two ears specifically because of the scenario expressed above. Would you suggest I am wrong for or about this? I would like to know your thoughts.

    Many thanks.

    • I’m not entirely sure what you’re saying. A woman who’s “testing” will always respond positively to a man who proves himself stronger than she. That’s ultimately what she’s looking for to feel safe.

  2. Whether primal, instinctual…whatever…behavior like this points to nothing more than manipulative games, and is certainly not the foundation of a mature, intelligent and mutually beneficial relationship. Sad.

    • I agree. being nice to a woman is genrally unappealing to them which is completely counterintuitive to what we as men would think a woman wants. Over the years I have grown and shaped as a man from a beta male to an alpha male and ironically my relationship success is greater now as an alpha male. I treat women in a way that I often think is wrong or disrespectful but they like it so I guess whatever they want as what they get. It just seems screwed up to me. Women’s brains are such a mysterious thing.

    • Not that I’m aware of. I think men are far too straightforward for that in general. If they’re unhappy about something, they’re more likely to act out than to subconsciously test their wives.

      • Mmmm…I disagree…what else would you call it when a man doesn’t call for a few days after a great date or some other emotionally intimate moment? I think this is an unconscious test on the part of a man “will she be needy? Will she chase me?”

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