Why Do So Many Men Get Upset When Women Are More Successful Than They Are?

It sounds so stupid and old fashioned, but a lot of dudes are still really intimidated by successful women — especially when we’re more successful than them. Since I can’t invade the male brain on my own, I enlisted the help of my cute (and definitely more successful) boyfriend to see just how he would feel if I had a more lucrative job than him. He’s cool with it, but here’s what I learned about why many guys aren’t:

  1. It makes them feel like they can’t provide for you. Guys are nurturing in the sense they want to provide the basics for their lady. Food, water, shelter and safety are top priorities when it comes to taking care of someone, so if you’re buying groceries and paying most of the rent, they can feel a little useless. It’s not say they don’t want you to pitch in — I’d argue that most guys aren’t interested in a total mooch — but it makes them feel good to know that they’re needed.
  2. They feel embarrassed by their own job if you’re more successful. That annual income isn’t as brag-worthy if you’re making more. It’s in their nature to compete with their own gender, but not you. Your boyfriend wants you to think that his job is cool. He wants you to respect him for what he does for a living, and if it’s not bringing in as much dough as yours, he’ll feel like you don’t.
  3. It hurts their ego if you’re the one paying for dinner. Like it or not, the waiter always gives the guy the check. Think about how he feels if he has to hand that bill to you when everyone working at that restaurant probably expects him to pick up the tab. While they might act tough, guys’ egos can be really sensitive to those sorts of things.
  4. Old school thinking tells us the guy has to be the breadwinner. We might be making milestones when it comes to breaking gender norms and traditions, but they’ve been traditions for a reason. People feel happy when they feel important, and for years, men have felt important by financially taking care of their wives and children. It’s engrained in their brains, and it’s just going to be harder for some to let go of until they find a different way to feel needed.
  5. Guys know their friends will make fun of them for being less successful. Bros are known for teasing their fellow bros about the way they act with their girlfriends. Though they might not really mean it, his friends will definitely make fun of him for making less money than you. And just because he acts like it doesn’t bother him, doesn’t mean anything. A lot of it boils down to being respected, by you and by their friends.
  6. They fear your parents wouldn’t accept them. Parents worry about who’s going to take care of their little girl. You could buy a house and be financially independent for years, but your folks will still be concerned with what your boyfriend does for a living. He knows this, and if you make more money than him, he’ll feel the pressure not only from himself but from your mom and dad. He’ll want them to trust him enough to be able to take care of you, and having a good-paying job can do just that.
  7. It puts pressure on them to get a better job. If you’re making more than him, it might make him feel the need to step up his game. Sure, it’s not a terrible result of the situation, but you wouldn’t want him to leave a job he loves just because he’s worried about not making enough. If you make an effort to show him that he still takes care of you in hundreds of other little ways, it might take some of that pressure off.
  8. They worry you would leave them for someone more successful. Just the way you worry he might leave you for someone with bigger boobs, he worries you might leave him for someone richer. We all have our insecurities, but it’s hard to ignore them if they’re in your face every month when the rent check is due.
  9. They want to spoil you and feel like they can’t. If you buy him an iPhone for Christmas and he gets you a new sweater from Old Navy, he’s going to feel like a big old turd. If he’s worried about how you feel about him making less money, it’s because you have a guy who really cares about you. He wants to give you the things you want, and it’s going to make him feel bad about himself if he can’t.
  10. They’re afraid you won’t be happy. Really, it comes down to you. So before you get all upset and start ranting about women’s right and the new normal, take a step back and consider his feelings. They might be coming from a sweeter place than you thought.
Emily is a writer, dog mom, and occasional narcissist living in what her mom refers to as “a bubble.” Geographically speaking, it’s more like Daytona Beach, Florida. A graduate of the University of Central Florida, she is a community editor for a local newspaper and spends most of her time trying to convince her dog to cuddle.