Men Feel Threatened By Successful Girlfriends, Confirming What We Hoped Wasn't True

08/29/2013 04:57 pm ET
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A scientific study has confirmed something many of us hoped wasn't true -- that men feel threatened by their female partners' success.

Psychologists Kate Ratliff from the University of Florida and Shigehiro Oishi from the University of Virginia conducted five different experiments with 896 participants overall to see how the men in heterosexual relationships were affected by their female partner's successes. The results are detailed in a paper published in the August 2013 issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology -- and it's not pretty.

In one of the experiments, researchers asked 32 different couples to take a test that supposedly measured their intelligence. The tests were not actually graded, but each participant was told that their partner scored in either the top 12 percent or bottom 12 percent of all university students. Men whose partners allegedly scored in the top 12 percent scored lower on an implicit self-esteem test than those with partners who allegedly scored in the bottom 12 percent. In other words, when men's female partners were shown to have high intelligence, the men felt worse about themselves.

For the final two experiments, researchers recruited 657 participants to take an online test. The 284 male participants were asked to recall a time when their partner was successful in a specific area, for example intellectually or socially. They then took an implicit self-esteem test. The results showed that regardless or the type of success a woman had, their male partners felt bad after thinking about said accomplishments. This was especially true when their partner had succeeded in an area where the respondent had failed.

"It makes sense that a man might feel threatened if his girlfriend outperforms him in something they're doing together, such as trying to lose weight," Ratliff said in a press release. "But this research found evidence that men automatically interpret a partner's success as their own failure, even when they're not in direct competition."

According to Men's Health, this insecurity stems from the fact that "males are more likely to interpret 'my partner is successful' as 'my partner is more successful than me.'" Laura Tedesco suggests that men respond to news of their girlfriend or wife's success with a good attitude instead of seeing it as an affront to their own accomplishments. "Go ahead, bask in your own private victory," wrote Tedesco. "You’ve managed to snag a driven, capable woman. We call that success."

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