TODAY   |  August 31, 2013

Do successful women make partners feel self-conscious?

A new study says that men feel worse about themselves when their female partners succeed, but that they just might not admit it. What does this mean for relationships? TODAY’s Lester Holt and Erica Hill interview psychotherapist Dr. Robi Ludwig and relationship author Greg Behrendt.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> i'm not mr. mom. i could be, but i'm not.

>> i love it. i take time off and go to the beach.

>> it's an us, it's not a me and a you, it's an us.

>> i will feel very uncomfortable about it.

>> if i make more, be happy i'm accomplishing my goals and i'll do the same for you.

>> psychotherapist dr. robby ludwig and author is here. good morning to both of you.

>> good morning.

>> only one man admitted in the sampling he would feel bad about himself. the study said subconsciously men feel threatened and their self-esteem suffers if their wife does better. are we that shallow we can't admit it or do we not recognize it?

>> i feel like the poll was taken in 1950 . i think -- here's what i think. men define themselves by their accomplishments and women can get, you know, feel good about themselves in a relationship with their families. women define themselves differently. men have to have accomplishments to feel good about themselves.

>> i think, too, it has to do with their self-esteem and how they interpret that success. if they interpret it to mean they are not good enough or they are a failure or will be unlovable, that success will be threatening. i have to say, i agree with you. i have found that is not necessarily the case. in fact, the opposite.

>> it's interesting when you talk about this being done in the '50s. it's about how much money do you make? how successful are you in your career. when that balance gets threatened, especially as the study found, if the woman is more successful in a field where the man failed before.

>> yes.

>> then you kind of understand a little bit.

>> absolutely, it can happen.

>> that's why i don't golf with my wife. i feel like the -- it feels like men, you know, men have a tendency to want to be, how do i say it? seen as valuable. you know what i mean ? in a relationship, they want to take care of people.

>> i think there's something about being protective. they want to rescue. perhaps a successful woman in some cases may not help a man feel that way but there are things women can do to turn that around. really, a partnership is about each partner pursuing their dream. if you are really helping the man in the relationship to pursue his dreams, then i think it can be --

>> i would argue that guy has other problems as well.

>> the thing that struck my is cultural differences in the way women are viewed in society. i know it's a cross section .

>> we like the idea. women like the idea of a successful man. it helps her feel successful as well. we are socialized that way. if we are lucky enough to have a successful man choose us, we are doing well in life. i think it is changing for men. think of all the stories of how men coach their wives or their partner to handle or ask for more money. the mature man says in the end, if you are with somebody doing well, your lifestyle is better.

>> no doubt.

>> good discussion. thanks to you