I’ve known a few men who could handle it – mostly men who didn’t define “success” in terms of money — but more than not, I’ve suspected this was true:

According to a new study, men experience a blow to their self-esteem when their female partners experience success, even when they aren’t in direct competition. Women’s success also negatively impacts how men view the future of the relationship, researchers found.

“There is an idea that women are allowed to bask in the reflected glory of her male partner and to be the ‘woman behind the successful man,’ but the reverse is not true for men,” says study co-author Kate Ratliff of the University of Florida.

Ratliff and University of Virginia researcher Shigehiro Oishi put study participants through a series of five experiments to gauge how a partner’s success impacted men’s and women’s implicit and explicit self-esteem. In cases when a woman outperformed her male partner in social or intellectual tasks, men registered a dip in their implicit self-esteem. Meaning, they didn’t report feeling insecure to researchers, but negative feelings and low self-esteem were nonetheless registered on word association and other tests used to gauge unspoken attitudes and feelings.

Women did not register negative emotions when their partners succeeded. Interestingly, when their male partners performed well on a task, women felt more confident about the future prospects of their relationship. Men, however, felt worse about the future of their relationships when their partners were successful. ”So thinking of themselves as unsuccessful might trigger men’s fear that their partner will ultimately leave them,” Ratliff and Oishi wrote of their findings.

Which, at least for some guys, explains the need for stay-at-home mommy types. She’s so much less likely to leave – or so they think. I used to know one woman who was banging her butcher for more than ten years. The day her last kid was out of the house, she dumped her husband and moved in with the butcher.

3 thoughts on “Success

  1. What would you expect? Women are judged by their looks and men by “success”. Not all women, but many many women are very open about the fact that they expect their men to make more money. And they can be very poor sports when they do better than male competitors, making humorous and yet pointed fun of the man for losing to a woman. At least women of my generation and earlier were/are often that way (fortunately I’m gay and don’t have to deal with that).
    Look what happened to that younger guy that married Kathy Griffin. He sounds like he was a bit of a mess with mommy issues, but he probably was hoping he was set for life when he married the millionaire comedian and actress and was part of her TV show. That would have been the normal expectation if the genders were reversed. And yet she expected him to continue being self employed and accused him of “stealing” $80K from her over more than a year. Not even pocket change for a hollywood golddigger. Which is more or less what he was, but somehow Kathy acted like the victim and told the world he was a thief. If she was a man, she would have been laughed at for not understanding her money had a lot to do with his attraction to her, and not in the way comedians try to be laughed at.

  2. Locally I’ve noticed an interesting development in the last couple of decades. My neighborhood is fully of yuppie women who married older hippies. I think it shows how much good sense some of these young women have. Once their lucrative careers were launched, when it was time to look for husbands, they realized that older guys who happened to be hippies were a great solution to the problem of finding a genuinely nice, egalitarian man to wed. I’m pleased to report that those marriages are doing well, and those old hippies are the envy of their friends.

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