Posted by Neharika Sabharwal on August 30, 2013

Feel a twinge of envy when your girlfriend scores a big promotion? Rest assured, you are not the only one! There are men who have no issue with a romantic partner earning more or being more successful both socially and intellectually, but apparently there aren't many of these.

According to an intriguing new study, men are intimidated or feel emasculated by the success of their girlfriends. A man’s ego takes a beating and his self-esteem is bruised when a girlfriend or wife succeeds than when she encounters failure. Women on the other hand harbor no such feelings and revel in the triumphs of their partner’s accomplishments.

"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," wrote lead author Kate Ratliff, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Florida.

Details of five experiments
In a bid to assess whether male self-esteem suffers when female partner succeeds the researchers conducted a series of surveys and computer tests on heterosexual couples in the U.S. and the Netherlands.

They studied roughly 900 men and women on college campuses and websites in five experiments.
In the first experiment, 32 couples were given a “test of problem solving and social intelligence.”

The respondents were either told that their partner scored in the top or bottom 12 percent of all University students. They were subjected to a computerized word association test to assess their level of self-esteem.

It was noted that men who believed that their partner scored in the top 12 per cent exhibited lower implicit self-esteem as opposed to those who were under the impression that their romantic other half scored in the bottom 12 per cent.

Two more studies conducted in the Netherlands, also revealed similar outcomes. Partner’s success made Dutch men feel subconsciously worse about themselves than those who thought about their partner’s failure.

Findings of final 2 experiments
The final two more experiments comprised of online surveys of 657 participants in the United States, including 284 men. They were asked to reflect about a time when their spouse was successful at something that they botched, whether in a social, economic, or intellectual setting.
The analysis revealed regardless of the setting, men subconsciously tend to feel worse when their female partner excelled at something.

In contrast, female participants reportedly felt better when they deliberated about a time their partner succeeded rather than a time when he failed.

Ratliff stated, “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. 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.”

Findings of the new study are published online in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

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