Successful Women Make Their Male Partners Insecure, Researchers Say

There is absolutely nothing men hate more than a successful woman. At least that’s what the newest study released by the American Psychological Association claims.

According to research published in the APA’s Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, based on the results of five different experiments, it is safe to conclude that subconsciously, even if he appears to be cheering on the success of his wife or girlfriend on the outside, inside the male partner’s self-esteem is diminished by her achievements.

Entitled “Gender Differences in Implicit Self-Esteem Following a Romantic Partner’s Success or Failure,” the study’s authors examined nearly 900 people in a variety of situations and discovered that when asked to think about their partners doing something well — whether it was something that they were competing against each other in, or a non-related task — the men “subconsciously felt worse about themselves.”

“In sum, men’s implicit self-esteem is lower when a partner succeeds than when a partner fails, whereas women’s implicit self-esteem is not,” the paper concludes.

Like nearly every socially-based scientific study, the conclusion has to be taken with at least a modicum of skepticism. However, the results do have interesting implications on the current state of women in the workforce, both in our ridiculously slow gains when it comes to earning equal pay for equal work, as well as the troublesome fact that despite decades in the workforce, we still have nothing resembling parity in positions of power.

Women still represent less than 20 percent of Congress, have yet to win the White House and are currently at an all time low in state governorships. Despite our growing fascination with the new breed of female executives in high powered corporations, women still hold less than 5 percent of the CEO positions in Fortune 1000 companies.

A key element of the “successful women make their men feel bad about themselves” study is that, if true, the results weren’t just an American phenomenon, but also applied in countries that exemplify gender equality in the labor force. “[L]ike American men, Dutch men who thought about their romantic partner’s success subconsciously felt worse about themselves than men who thought about their partner’s failure, according to both studies. They said they felt fine but the test of implicit self-esteem revealed otherwise,” claims the study’s authors.  If this internalized sexism really does reach across all boundaries, even into countries where their own economic and education systems seek to aggressively decrease gender bias, how much harder will it be to decrease the impact implicit sexism has on a labor and political system that is currently battling in many ways to return women back to their homes and out of the public sphere all together?

If women can’t be successful without their own partners allegedly becoming “insecure,” no wonder the glass ceiling remains almost as solid today as it was when we first entered the workforce.

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

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Kate S.
Kate S.2 years ago


Margaret Goodman
Margaret Goodman2 years ago

I read once that most psychological experiments only show the thinking of middle-class college sophomores.

So, although I know sexism exists, I would take the conclusions of the cited studies with a big grain of salt.

Heidi R.
Past Member 2 years ago

I agree entirely with @Lone Wolf.

I would add that insecurity in the male is unfortunate, but love is love and commitment is commitment, no matter who is more successful in the work place.

Lone Wolf
Lone W.2 years ago

A partial cause for this, apart from the lack of trust mentioned by others, is that we live in a "guilt ridden and blame assigning" society. Young men are told that they are to blame for being more successful than women, so they should be ashamed and they should step aside. Like many blame-based actions, this leads to resentment.

What is worse, is that it also, by putting the blame entirely on men, it basically insinuates, that left to their own devices, women are not capable of being successful. In reality, women who are not successful have mostly themselves to blame, because, as human beings, women can be successful on their own. There are as many smart women as there are smart men. But there are also as many dumb women as there are dumb men.

Let's put gender war aside, and just give people a chance, regardless of gender.

Arthur Goh
Arthur Goh2 years ago

The gist of a lasting and happy relationship is about owning our strong commitment to complement (not competing against) our partner. Once we compete, someone has to lose. Got that?

This study simply lacks wisdom.

Tim C.
Tim C.2 years ago


Christine W.
Christine W.2 years ago

Thanks for sharing.

Emily W.
Emily W.2 years ago

It hasn't been that long that women have been able to joint these high ranks in careers, so its no wonder that men still feel insecure by successful women. It's going to take time for men to be 100% comfortable and secure with having a women as an equal partner.

Shannon Moody
Shannon Moody2 years ago

blah, blah,'s human's insecurities that keep this shit going. My husband makes considerably less money than me, I don' t make him feel bad about it, and he isn't jealous of me. We're a team, equal as partners, and both secure enough within ourselves to not give a shit about little things. We accept each other for who we are, not for what we make in our careers. i always thought that's what relationships were about.

Linda Kristensen
Linda K.2 years ago

I wonder how the result would have come out if the men had been compared to other men in some way? The same?