When a Wife/Partner Succeeds, Men Lose Self-Esteem

512px-Ernst_Ludwig_Kirchner_-_Man_and_woman_-_Google_Art_ProjectNot long ago a friend’s first book was published, so when I arrived at her home for a visit I eagerly voiced my enthusiasm and congratulations for her accomplishment. Moments into the interaction, her husband strode across the living room to a bookcase and returned with a copy of a book he authored 15 years ago. I thought it odd that he turned attention away from her achievement toward his long-past one, but now I understand why.

A new study finds that men feel worse—deep down in the subconscious—when their romantic partners succeed. Published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, the research shows this effect even when the pair are not competing in the same line of work . The authors of the study expected that “a man might feel threatened if his girlfriend outperforms him in something they’re doing together, such as trying to lose weight.” But they were surprised to find evidence that the subconscious self-esteem of, say, a male poet, would fall significantly following the success of his wife in a completely different domain, such as investment banking or party hosting.

The researchers conducted five experiments with 896 people in heterosexual relationships. In one, 32 couples took a “test of problem-solving and social intelligence” and then were told by the researcher whether their partner had scored in the top or bottom 12 percent. Hearing how their partner scored did not affect how men said they felt, but their scores on a test to see how they felt subconsciously (called “implicit self-esteem”) revealed a different picture:

Men who believed their partner scored in the top 12 percent demonstrated significantly lower implicit self-esteem than men who believed their partner scored in the bottom 12 percent.

A man’s implicit self-esteem is hurt by a romantic partner’s success, the authors propose, because he automatically interprets her success as his own failure—a byproduct of men’s competitiveness. Another possibility: Her success challenges the gender stereotype that he should be relatively more competent, strong and intelligent than his female partner. A third explanation offered is that the man’s thoughts about his partner’s success trigger a fear that he is not good enough for her and might lose her.

Additional experiments conducted in the Netherlands yielded the same result: Men said they felt fine about a partner’s success, but their implicit self-esteem showed the opposite. Further, two more studies conducted online of 284 men and 373 women in the U.S. found, again, that “men subconsciously felt worse about themselves when their partner succeeded than when she failed.” And it gets worse: the men’s self-concept plummeted even more when they thought their partners had succeeded at something at which they had failed.

It’s a depressing trajectory: When she fails, he feels best; when she succeeds, he feels bad, but not as bad as when she succeeds at something at which he’s failed. Amanda Marcotte thinks these findings should trouble men:

Feeling insecure and competitive with your partner is no way to live. The researchers suggest that these kinds of feelings might be mediated by relearning how to think about gender roles, i.e., becoming more feminist. So add one more study to a growing pile that shows that feminism, despite conservative claims to the contrary, is actually good for couples and for harmony between the sexes.

It’s a good thing my friend’s husband authored a book 15 years ago to cushion his falling self-esteem. Unfortunately, a final experiment in this research finds evidence that he also probably feels worse about the relationship as a result of her success writing a book. But luckily for him, the research finds that his wife won’t reciprocate the negativity and instead feels good about the marriage when he succeeds.

Drawing by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner from Wikimedia Commons


  1. Sarah in Texas says:

    Was this same study also done for the inverse? As in, the women’s self esteem was measured related to the success of their male partners? It would be interesting to compare the data. My first reaction to this headline was one of anger and annoyance that anyone would begrudge their partner’s success. But as I continued reading, I remembered very distinctly a past relationship when I was experiencing some career failures and was dating a guy who was having wild professional success. It made me feel like a total loser, much much more so than I would if I had been single or dating someone not quite so successful. I’m sure it goes both ways, at least for some.

    • For the most part, women don’t feel badly about their relationships when their partner succeeds, according to the last paragraph in the article. There are surely men who don’t feel bad about partner success, and surely there are some women who do. But I think these studies deal in generalizations, and not all people always behave the same as everyone else of their gender.

      • In other words, no generalization is worth a damn, including this one.

        • Actually, generalizations are crucial to the study of sociology. They aren’t conclusive absolutes, but they bring the data from raw facts and figures into a human context that can be properly interpreted and used. Without them, all studies of society are meaningless and no targeted social advances can be made.

        • Rob Platford says:

          I think it`s important for women not to marry such completely insecure men in the first place.Couples are supposed to be partners, not competitors. Any man this insecure is a pussy.

          • Mary Leonard says:

            Pussy? Really?

          • Really “isecure pussy” think about what message such gendered language creates – you have just equated female genitalia with weakness and poor behavior….no wonder men are insecure when women succeed – language use implies women are instrincically not supposed succeed…

          • Pussy is a misogynistic word. It’s as male chauvinistic as sissy.

          • If using the word “Pussy” is defined as being a misogynistic word, why is that my wife tells our child to quit being one after each football game he complains about being sore? Misogynistic, or a term used to describe men – by women, has no real bearing on the word pussy.

            The whole word is used to describe weakness in context in such statements when in reality, the female genitalia physically “takes a beating and keeps on ticking”. Our societies are so messed on terminology/meanings that it sickens me in their lack of education.

          • Rob, I agree that women shouldn’t marry men who are this insecure. It is sheer misery to find it out too late which is what most women do. However, insecure men are often very good at hiding their vulnerability so it’s too often difficult to recognize before committing to them. I find it interesting that others who replied to your post bypassed your main point and went on to attack your terminology. It’s exactly what my narcissistic, insecure mate does all the time in order to avoid addressing a problem.

          • Neil fumicelli says:

            That guy probably worked all day thinking about trying to buy something nice for his wife who probably just used him for a place to stay while she did porn with everyone. I would be willing to bet that he was never insecure before he caught on to her

    • Yes. 🙂 According to the article above, the researchers tested BOTH partners, not just the men–the studies were on gender *differences*, and in order to determine differences you have to have data on both groups. (Click on the word “study” to get to the APA paper on the series of studies.)

    • Sara yeah I’m competitive too. It might be generational since the article was referencing an older couple, the guy wrote his book 15 years ago so they aren’t just out of college and they did not say the ages of the women and men tested in the study. What you are saying resonates more with younger gender norms than with older couples. A lot of people still use the older second income/housewife gender norm ideal but a lot of younger couples have switched over to more of a dual income model.

    • Yes,it clearly states such findings in the last sentence.

    • I agree that this may go both ways but I believe that men feel it the most because they feel it challenges their masculinity. Society still has them believing that they are suppose to be the sole bread winners so when their female partner achieves more it makes them feel inadequate. Honestly I don’t think that should be the case, times have changed and I think they should welcome the help their spouse is willing to give. These times are too hard.

    • I think the last line of the article says that they did test the reverse, “But luckily for him, the research finds that his wife won’t reciprocate the negativity and instead feels good about the marriage when he succeeds.”

    • See the last line. Apparently not. Wife cheers hubby’s achievements. It’s a male thang.

  2. Yup.

  3. Deborah Biele says:

    I’m not at all surprised. I have experienced the fall out of a partner’s loss of self esteem. Resentment creeps into the relationship for both people. He resents her success and she resents his lack of appreciation for her accomplishment/s.

    • I’ve lived through this. When I switched jobs and was learning computer programming as part of my new work, my ex had a hard time with it. When he saw that I was working on my algebra deficit in order to get better at programming, it was like a door slammed shut: later it emerged that he’d been held back a year at school because he had struggled with math. (As I had in elementary school.) He started being extremely rude to my friends who were also involved with programming and computers, and indeed, resentment grew. (And I didn’t understand any of it. He had so many things I didn’t, why begrudge me that?) Sadly, I’m not surprised that the study would come up with such results, also not that there would be a difference between what men say they feel and how they are actually affected. I live in the Netherlands, and my ex was Dutch- there is a strong competitive element in the social fabric (sublimated by the Calvinistic emphasis on ‘not standing out in a crowd’) but what’s constantly amazing to me is how few women one sees in the business world- not a single bourse-listed Dutch company has a woman on the board of directors. And jokes about women having “three brain cells” are still rife.

    • Yep

  4. I wonder if men have the same reaction to male partners’ successes.

    • I’m really curious about this! And maybe same-sex female couples, too.

      • Rommel John Miller says:

        this is an interesting find, I do believe that much of my male low self esteem comes form seeing so many of my male peers being successful and becoming wealthy while I languish my life as a 100% Service Connected Disabled Veteran with mental illness. So I guess it is true, men do suffer greatly in low self-esteem when they see others in their social circle as being successful and erudite. I am not gay, and I think gay partners do have similar tensions, I am just confused and sad at why I feel like such a failure all the time.

  5. Alison Loris says:

    I think anyone who is depressed and/or dealing with low self-esteem can have trouble when someone close is doing well. I had a severely depressed woman friend basically dump me because something started going well in my life, and she couldn’t handle the contrast.

    It’s possible that the results of these studies reflect not only male competitiveness but also widespread insecurity among men as the world changes. The part in the report about men maybe being afraid they were not good enough to keep a successful partner supports this view.

    • True, I can totally dig that. We are separating out into more defined social classes which is probably more important than gender these days. So he might be worried that she can find a more alpha partner if he still keeps ‘being a loser’ or whatever he views himself as. It is hard to be a knight rescuing the princess when she is the one bringing home the bacon. So it is probably a bit of self righteousness and fear of rejection combined.

      • Neil fumicelli says:

        I wonder how things would have been if she was completely honest with him like he was with her. I believe that things would be different, but then she couldn’t have all that fun hiding who she really is and she would probably get bored living one lifestyle. Why be one person when you can lie to everyone and be lots of different people. I bet she never sits still long enough to think about reality and I also bet that nothing she attempts as far as relationship goes will ever prosper. A dishonest person is not only lying top everyone around them, they are lying to themselves. She might have every excuse in the book, but at the end of the day she just super sucks. She will get tired of lying one day. Good luck hiding from God! He sees everything and takes good notes.

    • Had a similar problem of my own when I started doing better academically in Year 8 – I was given top marks for a Home Science assignment and this friend of mine, who *used* to be my best friend got really jealous of me and started being really bitchy towards me for reasons I couldn’t understand. Also, she was a real self-pitier too but I had no trouble being sympathetic towards her when she was having problems, and I was quite happy for her own successes as well. But she couldn’t be happy for mine? What was up with that?

      • She was just just thining of her self, what ever you did to help her, it did not count for anything. A person who does that to a friend, should be told. She won’t like the truth, if you don’t tell her the truth, she will carry on being bitchy towards you. She will learn from this. As to help each other. and Instead of. Me, me, me, sernario situation. or carry on. And let her get a way with it. The way she treats you. When you a being a Success. In life or business. As right now. She is getting away with it. Because you welcome her to just that. You put welcome on a door mat, and you will get walked on. It’s human nature. If you are to kind to peaple. All the time. thats a Sighn of weakness. Unless you. Put people in thier place. If you do none of these thing. Peoplr will continue to SHIT ON YOU. for EVER. God bless. :-).

  6. Men tend to see women as inferior, so when she proves she isn’t, men don’t like it. It threatens their sense of superiority.

    • Really? Do we have to go there? It could also be because women are encouraged to seek out successful mates..meanwhile men aren’t taught to be predisposed one way or the other. Ultimately I think most people would take a hit to their self esteem if their friend or a total stranger they take the test with score higher than them.

      Maybe this is more of a universal paradigm that is counteracted by the fact that success for women in a western relationship dynamic is getting a successful significant other.

      • Carol Wolters says:

        Actually, Peter, guys ARE taught to get THE hot babe, the cheerleader, the cute …, and if a guy has a successful woman as his … (companion, spouse, partner) then he is EVEN MORE successful. Hello, “Trophy Wife”.

        I agree that if my friend and I both took the same test and he/she scored higher, I would be bummed. Not a gender thing, just a competitive thing.

        But don’t be fooled, men are still taught to be judged by the woman whom they have beside them. And women still feel that judging.

        These days, EVERYONE is judged by the PERSON whom they have beside them.

        BTW, I wonder how these comparisons stack up in gay or lesbian relationships? Just curiosity.

      • Men are taught to seek out mates who are younger and dumber.

    • well, that’s particularly bitter and not at all what this article/study are all about

  7. Aye aye aye! I have seen this first hand numerous times. And it isn’t necessarily just success that causes this insecurity, but also potential success. I am divorced, and I could tell you the exact day my relationship ended … which was 4 years before my ex-husband moved out: My first day of college. I had spent 4 years as a housewife/mom and decided to go to college when my second child was 3 months old. At first my husband met me with mild resistance, essentially just calling out the reasons why I shouldn’t enroll – You know, really good reasons such as being away from the kids, not being home to make dinner (say what?!?!), and the fact that he was active duty military and could deploy at a moment’s notice. Once I began classes things quickly worsened. Then it was guilt trips about how I spent less time with him, how he had almost no spare time because he had to watch the kids 2x / wk for 3 hrs. By the end of my first year, and having made the Dean’s list every semester for straight A’s, he just grew bitter. He would intentionally do things that he thought would keep me from completing my schoolwork or attend class. It created a great deal of resentment on my part. Why shouldn’t I be entitled to accomplishments as was he? He began cheating on me too. (Which I discovered toward the end of our relationship, hence the reason we’re divorced.) I did, however, agree to counseling when I had first learned of the infidelity. He admitted to the therapist that he had begun cheating before my first semester was even up. When the counselor asked him why, he said that he knew how intelligent I was, and he knew that earning a degree would open endless opportunities for me. The counselor asked why that would be a problem, my ex-husband replied that he knew I would eventually be more successful than he, and that made him insecure. He claimed that being able to “get” other women restored his self-confidence, but that it was also his (obviously passive-aggressive) way to get back at me. WOW. I asked him to move out shortly afterwards because it occurred to me that anything I ever accomplished would become some trigger for mutual animosity. I wanted someone to be proud when I crossed the stage, not a husband who became angry with me for earning that short walk.

  8. Successful says:

    How old were these men? What about if their male friends succeed? I bet the men were older and also felt bad when anyone but them succeeded.

  9. Marko Tondrius says:

    When a woman does better than a man, he knows she’s going to hold it over him, to try and jee him up to do even better, and bring in more money.
    She knows that although men earn more than women, it is still women that control 93% of purchases.
    He becomes depressed because he knows he’s going to have to work harder, and get less in return.
    He’s already grown up knowing that things like domestic duties and childcare and so on are split down the middle, or at least that’s the accepted Square One from which to begin negotiations about it. And that’s well and good, as it should be.
    However, when she works longer hours and he necessarily picks up the slack around the house, she still expects him to earn as much or more than she does. Thus when she does do well, although he is genuinely happy for her, because he loves her, he knows that at some point, her greater success will be the yardstick by which his own efforts and more importantly results, are measured by.
    If he does better, and earns more, then that’s fine by her – it’s a sign he’s trying.
    Men don’t measure their relationships by signs and signals, they’re more immediate.

  10. Total bullshit article. My experience is exactly the opposite. I was just recalling to a friend of mine how I had had a conversation at Thanksgiving with an ex-girlfriend’s family friends (she grew up with them) about spirituality. It was a nice discussion, lasting maybe a half-hour. Later she was totally pissed, practically screaming how she knew such-and-such an author (who I had introduced into the discussion), “Just as well as you do!” Well, then why didn’t you join the discussion? I asked. No comment.

    She is the second woman I have been with who was completely insecure about herself, to the point that she could not compliment me, praise me, or even acknowledge any of my accomplishments. None of my male friends have this issue (i.e. insecure, like my exes), but several of their wives/girlfriends do.

    So either this supposed study was conducted in some alternate universe, or it’s bullshit.

    • The fact that a study doesn’t line up with your personal experiences doesn’t make it a crappy study. For one, their sample size is a whole lot bigger than yours.

    • Seems to me, George that if she was “the second woman” you’d been with who was “completely insecure”, you are seeking out insecure women – for a reason. Maybe it’s you who lives in the alternate universe??

    • George…maybe you are picking insecure women or maybe you act extra cocky and know it all in front of others…ever think of that???

    • Neil fumicelli says:

      I agree, because that wife earlier was lying, her husband always praised her on her accomplishments and would have been proud to stand by her side as she continued to succeed. He loved to take her fishing and bragged on her when she caught the biggest fish! That’s just one example, I know he didn’t Care about much, but he loved that girl.

  11. “Anxiety is love’s greatest killer. It creates the failures. It makes others feel as you might when a drowning man holds on to you. You want to save him, but you know he will strangle you with his panic.”
    – Anaïs Nin, February, 1947

    I understand these studies addressed heterosexual partnerships, but I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if this was also the case for fathers of daughters, brothers, cousins and male friends. It is a totally depressing picture…but one I’ve come up against my entire life. All of the men in my family are like this.

    Is it any wonder I’ve made a clear choice for myself to keep on keeping on? With or without them. Get on board or move aside. See a therapist. See a hypnotherapist. Educate, recondition yourself / selves. Remediate. Why should this be MY problem?

    I’ve reached a point in my life I’m resolved I neither need nor want the dead weight.

    • Assuming the reason for these feelings are instinctual, I’d suggest a successful woman find ways to help their partner overcome the unfortunate natural tendency. My wife is very much better than me in almost every way and in all honesty, I have felt blows to my self esteem with her success. I’ve also noticed that when she makes an effort to include me in her success, much of my insecurity disappears. A kind word thanking me for my support goes a long way.

      Obviously, I’d love to find a way to change my attitude, but nature moves slowly in this regard. And Leah is right in saying it is not her problem. Yet, I’m glad that this sort of study brings the issue to light so men can realize the feeling is just a tendency of the past that can be ignored and women can understand their man’s insecurity may not be entirely voluntary.

      • Good point. My husband is quite competitive, and I know he has mixed feelings about my success. But he often acknowledges the help I give him, and I love him dearly, so I don’t need him to be an enthusiastic cheerleader – I can do that for myself. And I make sure that he knows how proud I am of him and that my success is his success, because he helps and supports me. I know that he makes allowances for my weaknesses, and so I reciprocate. The result is a really happy partnership. And that is the whole point.

        • Kbaustin, your husband needs to take responsibility for his male chauvinism and he needs to build up your ego as least as much as you build up his ego.

        • Neil fumicelli says:

          Awesome!!! I am so glad someone is having a successful marriage! Rock on!!!

      • I can appreciate this. I’m quite sensitive to other people’s feelings, always have been, and so this “resistance” or form of control, however conscious or unconscious, is painful to me. I have a felt sense of it, which makes it harder to move past or overcome without it affecting me or slowing me down some, if not plenty. Honestly, the women in my line have long been acutely aware of this and made accommodations, to the point of bending over backward or diminishing themselves so the men could feel superior or in control or ranked higher for the sake of their comfort and ego. Anything beyond as a female and you were “rocking the boat”, labeled or somehow castigated or punished.

        I agree, change can be slow and excruciating. If such men could see what effect this has or the impediments, handicaps, oppression, suppression and repression, all the suffering this causes their relationships with the women in their lives, would it motivate them to examine themselves and even attempt to change such ingrained responses? As the dominant group, I believe they don’t see it. Or some do and don’t care…provided they get their way so all will be right in their world again…the order restored and with them at the center of it.

        After witnessing and living the effects of this, not just for myself, but seeing it all around me, I’m simply getting impatient. I can’t speak for you or your wife’s experience or relationship, but I can’t ever recall any one man in our line ever doing the same for me or the women in their lives. And that is the part that is getting beyond exhausting and makes me want to scrap it and get as free as I can, which in and of itself may be wishful thinking, but I’m going to try. Life is short. It’s my life. And as much as anyone else’s, my life, and my potential, matters.

      • “Assuming the reason for these feelings are instinctual, I’d suggest a successful woman find ways to help their partner overcome the unfortunate natural tendency.”

        That is a very male chauvinistic statement. It is not a woman’s responsibility to help men overcome their insecurities. It is completely the man’s responsibility to deal with his subconscious male chauvinism.

  12. Celeste Dauphine says:

    Have there been studies about parent-child relationships? My mother discounts, dismisses, denies, or diminishes every accomplishment her five children make — then, somehow, finds a way to take the credit. It’s weird. Perhaps there’s some research data about this?

    • Yes, the studies about parents who treat children as less than human and find ways to take credit for all their accomplishments (but none of their failures) explain this phenomenon called narcissism. There’s a whole website about having narcissistic parents — you’d love it.

  13. Or maybe the guys were upset about being lied to?
    I know I would be upset about being lied to in my face about a test that I know I got a perfect score on…..just for the sake of some pro-feminist agenda? The experiment is flawed, and so is the mindset that men have to feel good about losing. If a man takes a female partner and feels crappy when he is not the breadwinner…. is that somehow bad?? Is it any different than a male “partners-up” another dude and feels awful about not being the breadwinner?? Its probably the same thing, so gender makes NO difference. However, there is a name for males that leach off of women, and THEY are the ones to complain about….NOT the ones trying to be the breadwinners. This article does successfully show that men should keep behaving EXACTLY how we were designed to, and women will still find something to hinder their own satisfaction.


    • What lies are you talking about Eugene? It’s a STUDY.

      And btw, the pro-feminist “agenda” is to save the human race from male-inflicted violence, war, poverty and greed.

      Can you dig it?

    • ” If a man takes a female partner and feels crappy when he is not the breadwinner…. is that somehow bad?” Yes, it is very bad because it shows that he wants to be in the superior position in the family and diminish the woman.

  14. I’m really surprised by how much interest a very over-generalized article on textbook human sexuality, power plays, could be in the 21st century. Haven’t we moved on by now with more pressingly important social issues other than the “battle of the sexes” bullchit? Obviously, the answer is no. If you aren’t mature enough to be in a relationship with someone then own that, buy some cats/dogs, and start by learning self-sacrifice anyway possible. I feel sorry for people who are hung up on stuff like this – that perhaps have dysfunctional lifestyles and dysfunctional relationships with other people. Sexism is splitting hairs when the real issue should be about what is real individuality, does the person you are with even know who the F they are yet? Most young people would probably answer, no they don’t know who they really are yet. Why do you need to have a relationship in the first place then? Traditional reasons? Trial and error? The hard way?!?!? How quaint. Sure, you are going to need a scapegoat eventually for those kinds of problems too. The contrast only becomes that much more apparent when you are truly in love with someone else because you emotions have no where to hide anymore. That’s why being alone is nice sometimes. These kinds of issues were already there way before you can blame it on the opposite sex. Choose to not be a relationship if you don’t know who you really are. Grow and develop as a human being as best you may, and perhaps you won’t seek out others who simply reflect your own personal developmental inadequacies that will only drag you under.

    • The battle of the sexes bull&hit is only bull&hit if you are the winner in the battle, that is “male”. Your privileges are wide-ranging and you probably aren’t even aware of most of them, not having been female.

  15. green healer says:

    There is significant research to support the theory that it is not Male or Female that is actually being measured, but rather comparative levels within each individual of Masculine Hormones or Feminine Hormones. This can account for not only why some men and some women don’t fit this model, but also for the changes that happen in our emotional competition/cooperation responses as we age. And my personal experience: as a top athlete, I was built like a guy, competitive and lacked empathy/compassion. An injury in my 40’s shifted my physical activity level, and I began to *soften*… I grew hips and breasts for the first time, I lost my desire to compete/win, and I began to experience compassion. The last was the hardest on me because I found myself feeling shame as I remembered how I had treated people when I felt competitive…

  16. Matthew Versaggi says:

    Rubbish! This articles fails to take into account arrested self development from either gender that is the sole causal factor in the self esteem of a spouse taking a hit when the other spouse is successful. I’d argue further that when rubbish like this hits the academic papers it becomes ingrained in the minds of people who now tend to believe, “that’s just the way it is” and never question further if it’s a larger issue of just people not continuing to ‘grow up’ and just getting older. Toss in the anecdotal evidence and it becomes a virtual fact. Even more egregiously, idiot articles like this unconsciously teach people to focus on and spend emotional energy on the negative aspects of a relationship and conveniently forget to mention that the unconscious mind tends to manifest what we focus on the ‘most’ in *real life*. And we wonder why the divorce rate is so high….

    • Your entire comment is the anecdotal evidence you’re railing against. As opposed to, say, an official study, involving hundreds of test subjects, which is what the article is based on. Not agreeing with it does not imply that it is “idiotic.” Flexing your hubris isn’t going to convince anyone of anything and your limited personal experience cannot possibly outweigh a professional study with nearly 900 test subjects. Maybe just take a step back and actually consider different viewpoints now and then and if, after that, you still don’t agree with them, don’t find yourself compelled to tear down everything that doesn’t agree with your personal viewpoint. You don’t have to set fire to everything you don’t agree with.

  17. Marvin Trowbridge says:

    There are several business books that were written in the 60s about achieving a win-win situation vs a win-lose situation! This culture in the past has been attempting to groom all of us in a win-lose mentality! It is, I believe more about this than gender related. I will however concede it is most likely magnified with opposite sex relationships. As a male who’s mate is very successful- I can state unequivocally – I am extremely proud of her – she has overcome stereotypes, rigors of raising a family and various other obstacles to reach her goals. We have been married over 40 years now and I owe that to mutual respect and cooperation vs a win-lose attitude!

  18. And the takeaway is, what? Don’t succeed if you’re a woman? Men are petty jerks? Whether the study is accurate/ scientific or not, what’s the point? Some men lose self esteem when their wives do better- probably many more don’t. Some wives probably lose respect for their husbands when they lose a job or their income declines- also, so what? I find these “studies” to be ridiculous and just a means to stir the pot…

  19. This article certainly supports my experience in my first marriage, which worked well for many years–all through his part-time and full-time college and grad school. But when I began my college years, which he supported at first, he was happiest when I was struggling, and depressed when I was succeeding. It felt to me that we were destroying each other.

  20. Not all men are like them. Many are though. They may insist that they are not, before the wife/partner attains some accomplishment/success. That’s when you see their true colours. They are pathetic, insecure dick-heads.

  21. I agree in part. I think ti has a lot to do with how the guy was raised. My FIL is always calling my MIL stupid.(we won’t go into HIS insecurities here) This is what my husband grew up with. I tried to get him to go back to college, and when he yelled that he was NOT GOING BACK TO SCHOOL, I went back to school for my masters. Since then there was a change in our marriage, and when I am working he pretty much tries to sabotage it. I get very little support and no encouragement; only negativity.

  22. I’d be curious to know what the ages of the men surveyed were, because this is so very far from my own experience with male partners, male friends…. under 40.

  23. I enjoyed a major boost to my career this past year and my partner was less supportive than I would have hoped (he didn’t express disappointment, but he didn’t offer much encouragement), whereas he failed repeatedly to advance in a completely different field within the same time frame. It all makes sense now…

    Such a shame, I’ve done my best to cheer him on and let him know the way I feel about/think of him hasn’t changed at all, but he still seems discouraged…

  24. F. Neumann says:

    A couple things:

    1) As someone mentioned above, in order to find out if this is truly a gender thing, the study needs to have included data on homosexual couples as well – do gay males have the same issues when their partner is succeeding? What about lesbian female partners, are they always as accepting?

    2) Also, in the case of the men who say they’re supportive but their “implicit” self-esteem shows a drop, it seems like the authors and many other commenters just presume that’s from a sense of “competition” with their mates. But I really don’t think that’s the case, or at least it’s not as often the case. I think it might be more tied in with the culturally-male sense of having self-worth heavily dependent on being a “provider”. If that’s the case, then a successful mate wouldn’t so much drive a lower self-esteem because the male felt like he was “losing” in a “competition”. Instead, maybe the perceived loss is against the male’s own internal sense that his necessity as a “provider” has now been diminished, that he is simply not as necessary or as important as he thought he was. This is NOT the same thing as “competition” at all.

    I’m not trying to justify it, mind you, just pointing out that a reduced sense of self-esteem from a partner’s success might not stem from a sense of competition, but rather from a sense of not measuring up to a cultural standard.

  25. The study was done only with heterosexual couples. I wonder what the results would be if it was expanded to include friends: male-male; female-female; male-female?

    A friend from university started off with a job and income similar to my own, but in the last ten years his career path has led to an income about five times greater than my own (and mine is pretty comfortable). We’re still great friends, but I’ll admit to the odd pang of jealously over his “success”. (Probably the fact that I’m very happy in my own career and have a wonderful family and a bit better home life than he does helps to mitigate any negative feelings.)

    The study indicated that the women generally didn’t begrudge the success of their male partners, but if they had instead been put up against friends, male or female, would the results have been the same? Would a woman be equally happy for the success – even against their own failure – of a friend they otherwise thought of as equal? Would a man?

  26. I have experienced this firsthand and it came as quite a disappointment, I must say. In fact, it was one of the factors that doomed our relationship. The more successful I was, the more resentful and insecure he became. So sad. He was 54 years old.

  27. Bruce Williams says:

    This test was not unbiased. There is no evaluation done on how women react when presented with situations that challenge their sense of self. This test was just a test that showed what we already know, men are more competitive than women and as such have lower self esteem when someone else, anybody, does better than them. Nothing new.
    And as we all know men will fit on a bell curve of this feeling. Varying from no effect to “going ballistic” over it with the majority being in the range of a temporary subconscious negative feeling.
    The clue to the bias in this test is that men are mentioned 134 times in the text, women 67 times. So this test was not a test of self esteem for both genders but rather a test of self esteem for men v women on those subjects that men feel important. Why did this test not include situations for which women feel “success” is important?

  28. I have suspected this was true for years but it wasn’t until 10 years into my marriage when we were jointly working our taxes that I pointed out that this was the first year I made more money than my husband; about $5,000 more. The look on his face was pure devastation. I very quickly told him that he added a financial benefit to the household far exceeding the $5,000 extra that I earned as he provide all the repairs around the house and garage meaning we did not have the expenses of having to hire a mechanic, plumber, electrician or carpenter. He broke out in a big smile. I though it best not to mention that I also saved us money by not having to hire a maid, cook, babysitter,nurse, accountant or seamstress.

    • So Debby, you were being subservient by not mentioning how much money you saved the family because of your homemaking skills. Your husband needs to deal with his subconscious sexism.

  29. ajsimonsen says:

    I could have clipped from several dozen posts, I just happened to grab this one:

    >>> So he might be worried that she can find a more alpha partner if he still keeps ‘being a loser’ or whatever he views himself as. It is hard to be a knight rescuing the princess when she is the one bringing home the bacon. So it is probably a bit of self righteousness and fear of rejection combined. <<<

    Or, or… it could be that when a woman makes more money they resist and object to comingling finances or creating shared goals; identifying earnings as mine, rather than ours. And that this, in turn, leads guys to see the writing on the wall: I am expendable, replaceable and interchangeable. Maybe that’s why his self-esteem is suffering?

    I speak as a male who has dated smart successful women, every one of them with more education. But it would seem they can’t accept a guy who is less successful in “career” categories/accomplishments. To be clear, I’m a homeowner with low/no debt and I work for a non-profit doing work I love. Yet, yet… when it comes to women walking the talk of role reversal and equality and all that… they still seem to want a provider over a partner. It’s women who won’t seriously consider someone who is less “successful” then they are.

    • I’ve known women who dated less “successful” men and they said that most of these guys expected intense ego stroking and it got exhausting, especially since “successful” men are not expected to stroke women’s egos.

    • Neil fumicelli says:

      I agree completely

  30. My father was Dutch. When I was ready to go to university he said to me that he didn’t want me to go because he didn’t want me to be smarter than him. I thought it was an odd thing to say but in light of this article it gives me a new perspective.

  31. What does ” becoming more feminist” mean? Doesn’t she really mean “becoming more balanced?”

  32. This only happens IF you are not actually a MAN!

  33. I’m curious to know whether there is a correlation between the results of these studies and the frequency and severity of domestic violence. I’m also interested to know if a similar lowered self-esteem issue happens to men in the workplace around competent, high-functioning women thus accounting, at least in part, for the continuation – even in this day in age – of women being held to a higher standard, sexual harassment, gender-based pay discrepancies, promotion glass ceilings, and other forms of workplace gender discrimination. Sexism runs soooo deep. It’s tragic.

  34. I love the ruckus that articles like these cause when folks try to wrap their heads around research articles and the studies’ outcomes and compare them to their own experiences. Keep in mind that the study elicited subconscious indicators of self esteem, in addition to partners’ conscious reactions. There is a lot that goes on without our being aware if it. Check out Harvard’s Project Implicit : https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/ and check out your own subconscious biases; including your sense of self-esteem. You might be surprised!

  35. What is the purpose of this study? Did the authors just want to justify the male-dominated status quo or are they going to use this data to help men deal with their subconscious sexism?

    Also, how are feminists going to use this study? How are patriarchalists (or “complementarians”) going to use this study?

    I suggest that feminists start insisting that researchers do studies on couples who are working on their subconscious male chauvinism. Project Implicit, a Harvard-based group that studies subconscious sexism and racism, shows that with awareness and work, people can become a lot less chauvinistic.

  36. Rob Platford says:

    James, Give me a break. You sound like an android. Do you over think everything? i`ll bet you do.

  37. Rob Platford says:

    Any woman that marries a man like that deserves what she gets. My girlfriend is very well off. Much more so than I am. I am proud of her. I prefer smart women. It would be difficult for me to respect a woman that doesn`t choose to do something with her life, and clings to me as though I am some sort of lifeboat.I raised my son all by myself from when he was a baby. Consequently,my career trajectory was off to a slower start than my girlfriend`s is. Any man that is as insecure as the one described should seek help from a professional. And yes he is a pussy. Of course, we don`t want to hurt anyone`s feelings by telling them so, or by telling them to stop blaming others for his life.We want to massage his ego so he doesn`t feel bad. You women blow me away. You get what you deserve. You chose that man for your partner. You both would be better served to have higher expectations for each other. Furthermore, a couple are supposed to be partners, not competitors. No wonder the divorce rate is so high. Some men are marrying their mothers, and women are marrying men that are children. Ridiculous!

  38. Rob Platford says:

    Also; you idiots that think the term; (pussy), refers only to the human anatomy of a woman, should look the definition up in Webster`s dictionary. That would be like calling someone an (arm). It means that the recipient of the moniquer is cowardly. Unbelieveable.

  39. I love that this outcome is based on a test that suggests the men don’t actually know how they feel, but an abstract test created by a psychologist claims to know better than they do how they feel. “..their scores on a test to see how they felt subconsciously (called “implicit self-esteem”) revealed a different picture:” There’s no point arguing with someone who says to you…ah you may think you know how you feel but I know better than you because I’ve done a test with you that tells me how you REALLY feel. There is an arrogance in this that is staggering. Any difference of opinion the person who is ‘feeling’ may have about what they feel is dismissed because it is suggested it is ‘unconsciously’ how they feel and the psychologist doing the test ‘knows better’. What was the point of asking the men how they felt in the first place if their answer was going to be ‘trumped’ by what a psychologist armed with their ‘test’ told them they were feeling? This isn’t scientific in any sense of the word.

  40. As many of the responders have suggested, there are many men (like my husband) that have no hit whatsoever on their self esteem as we succeed. This group is growing.

    But isn’t this an opportunity for men to figure out what assumptions they are making about their success? That is, this is not a stick to hit women with and make them lower their ambitions. This is a carrot for men to grow and learn.

    Jodi Detjen
    co-author, The Orange Line: A Women’s Guide to Integrating Career, Family and Life

  41. Michael Musto, a gossip columnist, pointed out years ago that when the female partner wins the Oscar, divorce follows. It has proved true.

  42. I can’t believe how sexist women who read Ms. Magazine are. They deny everything that feminism is about. First of all, they invent things that fly in the face of research. And younger women love to think, as all women do, that their man is different! Dual careers is fine, says the research — as long as the female isn’t more successful!

  43. I can relate very well to this article. I think it just makes the man feel less useful around a successful woman. Very bad recipe for marriage.

    • Stephen Sharper says:

      I’ve been gathering information on feminist apostates for some time and would like to know if you wouldn’t mind sharing your feelings on your experiences as a feminist up til now? My e-mail is ssharper@gm.slc.edu

  44. It could have something to do with the fact that men have trouble believing that they can be valued outside of the money they bring into the relationship basically they feel they have to be needed because they can never be wanted. GMP did an article on this, I will link to it as soon as I can find it.

    They believe that if their wives become financially independent then they have no reason to stay with them. I think that this view is more common among the older generation then my generation or they could fear that they will be forced into becoming house-husbands, a role that is treated by society with so little respect that no man would seriously consider it.

    That is my theory.

  45. Guy From the Northeast says:

    Skimmed a lot of these comments. Seems that some number of men may still be insecure and angry when gender issues are spoken of with what is candor. Men will be men…mysogny on the 50 yard line….. what a bummer…. sad to see guys getting angry at what is an article about a study, instead of making some kind of attempt to understand and deal with these issues whether it applies to them or not.
    I’m definately sure that as much as I would completely and totally admire a partner’s success that I might, on some level, have insecure feelings that if she does very, very well, she might want a relationship with a very successful man and would leave the relationship.
    And you know what? You have to try to understand these feelings and put them aside and move beyond them as best one can. And if it becomes difficult to work through these feelings, all I can say is put them on the bottom shelf in some remote area, as best you can, even if you are still feeling them, and continue to cheer your partner on. And if she does see insecurity, just say, ‘It’s my thing, I’m working it through, and like I just said, continue to tell her you admire her and she’s doing great

  46. Societies in every country try to make Males tough from infancy. They are given love and honor only on condition of some achievement, status, etc. This was designed to keep Male esteem and feelings of self-worth low to make Males continually try in the physical world and even give their lives for some ounces of love and honor from society. From a young age through direct or indirect modeling and experience, they are taught they will receive more harsh treatment, ridicule, and discipline for appearing weak in some way. We are teaching them from infancy, they will receive more harsh treatment, more ridicule, and less love and honor when appearing weak in some way, even from close family and others around them. For Males there is a kind of mental/emotional cannibalism allowed by society from the belief, “boys/men” should be strong”. This is allowed from everyone around them. Even if not, from years of experience, any sign of weakness becomes a very powerful secondary reinforcer for an expectancy of much more harsh treatment from others, especially those close to them. – The idea boys/men should be tough (and false genetic models) allows this as the only tool for change.
    The world of Males was designed to make Male children, boys, and men, tough. This was to create very tough individuals to compete in a very physical, unforgiving world. Now, we are living in the information age and all has changed except for the same treatment from infancy to make Males tough. In the information age, we need to have lower average stress. This is redefined as lower layers of mental work from less fear; less aggression toward a person that would create more uneasiness; less tension; less preparation for defense; and more trust/communication/support from others. Having lower layers of mental work allows for more mental energy to perform mental work. Also, we need mental, emotional, social support and much verbal interaction with trust to create more complex communication skills. We need love and honor simply for being persons without qualification.
    However, our Male peers are still receiving the old tough treatment to make them more able physically. The belief Males should be strong allows aggressive treatment of Males as early as one year, designed to create more layers of agitation, fear, and tension, so they will be prepared to fight, defend, and be tough. This is coupled with much “less” kind, stable, (very little verbal interaction) and less mental/emotional/social support, knowledge, and skills for fear of coddling. This increases over time and continued by society from peers, teachers and others in society. This creates more social/emotional distance from parents and other authority figures who have knowledge; lags in communication, vocabulary, sentence structure; also higher average stress (more layers of mental agitated conflicts, fears taking away real mental energy) that hurts learning and motivation to learn; also more activity due to need for stress relief; also more defensiveness and wariness of others further hindering emotional and social growth; and higher muscle tension (creating more pressure on pencil and tighter grip) that hurts writing and motivation to write. It creates much lag in development creating a learned sense of helplessness in school. This differential treatment continues through adulthood, almost fixing many Males onto roads of failure and escape into more short-term areas of enjoyment. Also society gives Males love and honor (essential needs for self-worth) only on condition of some achievement or status. This was designed to keep Male esteem and feelings of self-worth low to keep them striving and even give their lives in time of war for small measures of love and honor. Males not achieving in school or other are given more ridicule and discipline to make them try harder. Support is not an option for fear of coddling. Many Males thus falling behind in academics then turn their attention toward video games and sports to receive small measures of love/honor not received in the classroom.
    Since we as girls by differential treatment are given much more positive, continual, mental, emotional/social support verbal interaction and care from an early age onward this creates quite the opposite outcome for girls compared with boys. We enjoy much more continuous care and support from infancy through adulthood and receive love and honor simply for being girls. This creates all of the good things: lower average stress for more ease of learning (we do enjoy much freedom of expression that make us look less stable at times); lower muscle tension for better handwriting/motivation; higher social vocabulary/low stress for reading/motivation; much more positive, trust/communication with adults, teachers, peers; and much more support for perceived weaknesses. We are reaping a bonanza in the information age. The lower the socioeconomic bracket and time in that bracket the more amplified the differential treatment from a young age and increased and more differentiated over time. My learning theory and article on the Male Crisis will go to all on request or can be read from my home site at http://learningtheory.homestead.com/Theory.html

  47. On the flip side, I know of a working mother who left her stay at home husband because he was getting alone too well with the kids. She was getting jealous so decided to end the family.

  48. This is only true for insecure men. My husband totally gets off on my sucesses and when I’m kicking life’s ass. My successes seem to manifest in him as, “You see that? She’s MINE. You gotta be a real man to catch a woman like that.”

    I love it.

  49. Neil fumicelli says:

    I believe that people can change to benefit their spouse if they really want things to work. I’m still trying, still going to church, still a work in progress. One thing that will never bother me is my wife’s accomplishments. She is a very intelligent and driven woman. I am so proud of her that I keep holding on to that one little piece of hope that keeps her in my heart no matter what. I don’t Care that her career is way better than mine, I do what I like, I fix stuff. I will never make the money she makes and I don’t mind, I Adm humble today thanks to my new relationship with Jesus Christ. He changed my life! 🙂

  50. I often wonder, if men are really as intelligent as they have made us believe over the centuries..just a thought

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