The American Psychological Association today issued a news release with the headline: “Men Feel Worse About Themselves When Female Partners Succeed.”
Here’s a quote: “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,” says the study’s lead author, Kate Ratliff, PhD, of the University of Florida. “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.”
Ratliff and her research team arrived at this conclusion based on several related experiments. In one of them, men who were told that their partners scored in the top 12 percent on an intelligence test suffered lower levels of implicit self esteem than men who believed their partners scored in the bottom 12 percent. In another experiment, men who were asked to think about their partner’s success felt worse about themselves than men asked to think about their partner’s failures.
I can’t wait to wake up tomorrow and see how all the morning news shows handle this one. Just in case you weren’t completely sure: That was sarcasm.
Yes, there will be dating experts reminding women of those 1980s style rules. Don’t ever let on that you are smarter than him….Never one up him in a game of wits….Always let him win at Atari….If you know how to solve a Rubik’s cube, do so in secret…
You know what else the talk show pontificators will be saying? This: Female-headed households are doomed! Yes, they will dust off some old arguments about how men are genetically wired to be breadwinners and how women are genetically designed to soothe screaming infants to sleep. They’ll mention other research that came out earlier in the year. You know, they’ll mention that study that found that men who did more traditionally female chores were rewarded with fewer trips to the bedroom than men who did manly things like stood in the yard in a pair of jeans, a tool belt, no shirt, and a drill. (Okay, maybe those researchers were onto something).
“Don’t mess with genetics, people,” they’ll say. “If we don’t do something about these super successful women, men will all end up on the streets, muttering to themselves about the unfairness of it all and holding signs that read I Would Work But My Wife Destroyed My Self Esteem So Please Hug Me and Tell Me You Like Me.’” Others will get all melodramatic and predict, “The Y chromosome is likely to completely disappear! Soon, the double X will run the world!”
And you know what happens when the world is run by women, right? You might want to take a Xanax before you read more. Trust me. The following knowledge is quite anxiety producing. In a woman-only world:
Personal hygiene products are freely available in every single public restroom.
Every day is Wear Yoga Pants To Work Day.
Daycare is free, and the people who work at daycare centers are among the highest educated and highest paid workers in all of society.
Crazy scary, right? It’s almost enough to get you thinking about doomsday prepping.
But I digress, and, yes, I also exaggerate.
And, yes, maybe these findings got under my skin because maybe I’m a successful career woman and maybe I am a tad worried that the money I earn will one day have my stay-at-home husband out on the streets begging strangers to tell him that they like him.
After all, not only have I out earned the man since the day we met, I can also beat him at the hula hoop.
So right after my husband finished making me my lunch, I asked, “Does it bother you that I’m more successful career-wise than you are?”
“Um, no,” he said.
“These researchers said that men who are married to successful women have low self esteem. Do you have low self esteem?”
There was a very long silence.
“You don’t know what self esteem is, do you?” I asked.
“Look, you know, men? We don’t think about our self esteem.”
You want to know who thinks a lot about self-esteem? Women. We buy three-quarters of all self-help books. We’re also the ones who pay $100+ an hour to tell a stranger about that traumatic thing that happened to us during our childhood that makes it impossible for us to feel worthy enough to ask a waiter to please put our salad dressing on the side because salad dressing contains tons of calories, you know, and we’re trying not to consume calories because we’re already embarrassed to wear a bathing suit pretty much anywhere, including the dressing room, and we can’t even imagine what it would be like to wear one after we’ve consumed salad dressing that we couldn’t bring ourselves to tell the waiter to put on the side because we didn’t want him to think we were being bossy because no one likes a bossy woman, right?
Interestingly, despite our fragile little egos, we women seem to do okay when it comes to our partners’ successes, according to the latest research. If our partners beat us at Boggle, we are unfazed. Perhaps all of those therapy appointments and self-help books are getting us somewhere.
Or perhaps that’s because we’re still following that advice from the ’80s and we’re losing that game of Boggle on purpose, which really, if you think about it, means that we are winning.
No wonder it doesn’t faze us.
At any rate, a very smart and successful man, I believe his name was Winston Churchill, once said that “success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.”
Might I suggest that the solution to this fabricated problem is not for women to continually throw the game and stop being so successful. Rather the solution is for all of us to learn how to fail greatly. The first time any of us do pretty much anything: we fail. The next time: we fail a little less fantastically. The next time: we muddle through. The eight hundred millionth time after that? Someone says, “Wow, you are so good at…” and we’re all like, “Really you think so?” and they’re all like, “Yes, you so are,” and then we’re like, “Oh, no I’m not. You know who’s great? You! You’re the one who is great!”
And then we walk away smiling because failing eight hundred million times did a lot more good than just earn us a compliment. It also did this: taught us that, with enough effort, anything is possible.
And folks: that’s self confidence.
Self esteem is not found in the knowledge that someone else is failing just so you can succeed. No, it’s found by failing, and then, through that failure, learning how to succeed.
It’s also found in humility.
My husband might not be better than I am at earning money, and he might not be able to beat me at the hula hoop. But you want to know what? He’s a better driver than I am. He’s also way better at doing anything that involves a Shop Vac.
And if I ask him, “Dude, what is seven times nine?” he yells out, “sixty three!” But if he asks me the same question, I’m all like, “I don’t know. Let me go find a calculator, okay?”
He can build a real live fire in a fire pit, too. If you asked me to build a real live fire in a fire pit, you want to know what I would do? I would call my husband, and I would ask him to do it.
Yeah, he’s awesome at a lot of things. And I am awesome at a lot of different things.
And two people being awesome at different things is what makes for an awesome marriage.
Sure, behind a few successful women, you might find meek little men. But behind this successful woman, you will find this: a strong and successful man who is completely adored by his wife.
Read more of Alisa’s writing at ProjectHappilyEverAfter.com.