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No, Men Don’t “Secretly Want Their Wives to Fail” August 31, 2013

Posted by geoff in News.

Yeesh, another sorry article. This time there’s really nothing wrong with the science – it’s the crappy spin put on it by the Telegraph that’s the problem. Here’s their headline:

Men secretly want their wives to fail

Men feel worse about themselves when their wives or girlfriends succeed, especially in an area where they have failed.

The second line is a fairly accurate summation of the study, which found:

According to the study of 896 heterosexuals published in the APA Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, men subconsciously had the lowest levels of self-esteem when they thought about a time when their female partner thrived in a situation where they had failed.

Another kind of “duh” observation. Guys don’t want to think that they suck. At anything. So when they’re told that they suck, it lowers their self-esteem. They feel bad about themselves. They want to do better.

So far it doesn’t imply that they want other people to fail. But wait, there’s more:

In the final two experiments, conducted online, 657 American participants were asked to think about a time when their partner had succeeded or failed.

When comparing all the results, the researchers found that it didn’t matter if the achievements or failures were social or intellectual, men subconsciously felt worse about themselves when their partner succeeded than when she failed.

Ignoring the dubious merits of online experiments, I don’t think this changes anything. Guys are competitive even when they’re not in the game, and they also need to feel needed. When their partner succeeds without them, they feel unnecessary and their self-esteem drops.

Har. Now that I’ve waded through all that, I just ran across a quote from the lead author of the study. It pretty much dispenses with the Telegraph’s ridiculous headline:

“I want to be clear — this really isn’t the case that men are saying, ‘I’m so upset my partner did well.’ The men aren’t acting different toward their partners. It’s not like the men are being jerks,” Ratliff said. “It’s just hurting their sense of self to be in a relationship with someone who has experienced a success.”

So, lame Telegraph author and editors, men don’t secretly want their wives to fail. We just want to be everything to them.


1. Retired Geezer - August 31, 2013

Mrs. Geezer don’t know nothin’ bout computers, auto repairs, plumbing and carpentry.

I don’t know nothin’ bout cooking, stained glass, animal husbandry and nurturing.

We balance.

2. Jimbro - September 1, 2013

I am a guy who eagerly awaits my SO’s earning her nursing degree. She had her kids young and whittled away at college for years. She has recognized my support for her returning to school full time by working her ass off and carrying straight A’s in all of her classes. To me, that is a signal she appreciates the opportunity. To steal RG’s quote “we balance” and I’m guessing that’s one way to have a happy relationship.

3. digitalbrownshirt - September 2, 2013

I’d be thrilled if my wife was making enough money for me to retire early. Her failures are my failures and mine are hers. Her victories are my victories and mine are hers. That’s the way marriage is supposed to be.

4. Retired Geezer - September 2, 2013

And DBS has a fine son that they both are proud of.

5. geoff - September 2, 2013

I’ve always been a huge fan of my wife’s successes. But on those occasions where she made more money than I did, I have to admit that it lit a fire under me to pull more weight.

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