Study: Men Lose Self-Esteem When Their Significant Other Succeeds

C. Price

Written by: C. Price

C. Price

C. Price is part of's content team. She writes advice articles, how-to guides, and studies — all relating to dating, relationships, love, sex, and more.

Edited by: Lillian Castro

Lillian Castro

Lillian Guevara-Castro brings more than 30 years of journalism experience to ensure DatingAdvice articles have been edited for overall clarity, accuracy, and reader engagement. She has worked at The Atlanta Journal and Constitution, The Gwinnett Daily News, and The Gainesville Sun covering lifestyle topics.

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When a woman experiences personal success, it’s not uncommon for the man in her life to feel a bit of resentment, and a new study seeks to better understand how and why this happens.

Shigehiro Oishi, a researcher at the University of Virginia, brought several couples together for group exercises where they basically competed with one another for a common goal.

The men and women were tested separately, not able to see the other gender’s progress. Each gender group was surveyed after the exercise and given a series of word association tests to prompt unspoken emotions.

When the men were told their partners had outperformed most of their group, it slightly impacted their own self-esteem levels and they were more likely to have issues with that success.

“When men found out they were

outperformed, it impacted their self-esteem.”

The same pattern did not repeat when women discovered their partners were outperforming their group.

According to study co-author Kate Raff, from the University of Florida, it’s a clear double standard.

“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,” she said.

Additionally, men were found to have a less favorable view on the future of their relationship when their partner was perceived as more successful.

The researchers suggest men seeing their partner find success might trigger fears “that their partner will ultimately leave them.”


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