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On The Talk, Jeannie Mai revealed that her husband felt emasculated because of her successful career, and well, her chunkier salary. Mai’s husband’s sentiments, it seems, are shared by many other men with significant others. Needing to be most prosperous half, “straight men feel bad about themselves when their girlfriends succeed,” NYMag reports.

According to a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, researchers discovered that men often compare their achievements to their girlfriends’ or wives’ success. If he presumes that his woman is more successful than himself, he will interpret his own lifework as failure.

‘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,’ said the study’s lead author, Kate Ratliff, of the University of Florida. While the study finds that a man’s self-esteem often correlates with his woman’s successes or failures, “the same does not ring true for women – they do thrive in the shadow of a successful husband,” DailyMail said.

“When comparing all the results, the researchers found that it didn’t matter if the achievements or failures were social, intellectual or related to participants’ own successes or failures – men subconsciously still felt worse about themselves when their partner succeeded than when she failed,” DailyMail added.

How did the researchers manage to come up with these conclusions? Well, in one experiment, couples were given a test of problem solving and intelligence. The investigators then told partners that their significant-other scored in either the top or bottom 12 percent of all test-takers. They later asked how they felt about their partner scoring either high or low on the test—and of course—all of them claimed that they suffered no loss of self-esteem. So researchers implicitly tested their self-esteem by using a computer program that “tracked how quickly people associate good and bad words with themselves,” DailyMail said. The participants were not told about their own test performance.

According to NYMag, here’s what they found:

No one would admit to feeling differently as a result of their partner’s performance, but men whose partners scored in the top 12 percent showed “significantly lower implicit self-esteem” than those whose partners had scored in the bottom 12 percent. […] Women’s personal self-esteem was not affected by their partner’s test score, but they felt better about the relationship when their partner was successful.

The study was conducted with 896 Dutch and American participants with five experiments.

Ever experience a man that felt intimidated by your success?

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