ERP 063: How To Keep Your Relationship Strong (when she is more successful) – Part I [TRANSCRIPT]

ERP 063: How To Keep Your Relationship Strong (when she is more successful) – Part I

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Welcome to The Empowered Relationship Podcast, helping you turn relationship challenges into opportunities and setting you up for relationship success. Your host, Dr. Jessica Higgins, is a licensed psychologist and relationship coach who shares valuable tips, tools and resources for you to dramatically improve your relationship.

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Hi, thank you for joining me today. It’s always a pleasure to share this time as we explore relationship topics, so that we can feel more connection, stronger and more skillful in our relationship, so ultimately we’re creating the type of love that we yearn for and long for, which is really available to us.

Before we get started, I was on my iTunes podcast page last week, and I recognize there were some testimonials or reviews that I had received and I hadn’t read, and I just want you to know that it totally makes my day. It’s so touching to hear people’s comments. I’m going to read two to you today, I’ll read a couple next week.

This one comes from Julie23M and she titles this review “Powerful relationship help” with a five stars, and she writes “I’m glad to have found this incredible resource that’s teaching me the skills I need to do my best to problem-solve and be a good, understanding partner in my relationship. I was so excited to see all the materials available on Dr. Jessica Higgins’ website too and cannot wait to tap into those. A very powerful and helpful podcast. I’m so lucky to have found it.”

Thank you for that review; again, it just makes my day. The second one is from Gosia Meyer Jewelry, and she titles it “Jessica is amazing!” and she writes:

“Dr. Jessica Higgins is absolutely amazing. I had a private session with her about my relationship, and she seems like she can read your mind. She can show you a totally different perspective on your problem and open your eyes on possibilities. I highly, highly recommend her podcast, her work and her coaching sessions. Huge thumbs up!:

Thank you both so much for taking the time. I know it’s not the most fun thing to hop on the computer and write a review, but it really does mean a lot to me and I do think it helps the show grow as well, so if you’re getting any value out of this podcast I would love for you to hop on over and write a review. That can be done on iTunes, Stitcher or wherever you’re listening to this podcast.

Today’s podcast title is How To Keep Your Relationship Strong When She Is More Successful. This is in a relationship where maybe the wife or the female – obviously we’re talking about heterosexual relationships here – is more the breadwinner, maybe earns more, and is that a threat? Some people would say it’s emasculating. So I came across this article, it came out of the Psychology Today June 2016 magazine, I get that every time it comes out, and I was reading this article, it’s called “Acting a fool – why is female intelligence a turnoff for some men, even those who profess otherwise”, and this is by Jena Pincott. This is something that I have been interested in for a long time, because I very much subscribe to a feminist perspective, and this is where men and women have equality, and I’m a huge advocate for men’s health and men’s development and overall well-being. And I’m also a huge advocate for women to feel empowered and also being able to pursue and explore their potentiality as well, so equally. And I know the experience of a man and a woman is different, but that there’s really support for both journeys.

I’m very much aware of a lot of gender issues and just how this shows up in the relationship as well, and I can tell you, I remember in undergrad I was at a very research-oriented undergrad school, and I was studying in a lab, I was working for a psychologist, I was on all these honor society boards – I was doing everything that you want to do in undergrad to really set yourself up for a traditional doctoral program. Well needless to say, I was looking at all these really successful psychologist women that were really successful in their field and publishing, and were tenured, and I was getting to know them better and learning about their personal lives and thinking “Wow, they’re amazing in their profession and it seemed, in my opinion, mediocre as a mom, and probably as a wife”, and I just remember just feeling really torn around really wanting to pursue my career, but also really being very interested in family and showing up really fully in that way; I was like “Do I have to choose? Can I be really successful and can I also have a really beautiful family and home and husband?”

And this is something that I’ve really tried to be intentional about and be conscious around, around really trying to create health in both avenues in my life – really having healthy family relationship and also wanting to be successful in my career, and that they don’t have to be contradictory, they don’t have to be competing, and I think largely women have had to choose in the past.

So back to this article, she writes “Two women in their late twenties walk into a Manhattan bar. One energetic blonde named Jayne, is the co-founder of a financial technology start-up. Her friend, Tina, is a computer programmer with a tattoo and an Ivy League degree. Both single, they instinctively know not to talk about their jobs with any men who approach them. Guys shut down, Tina says.” We see this in so many different examples.

It reminds me, I think there was a Sex And The City episode, obviously year and year and years ago, and the character Miranda is an attorney and she’s dating and finding that men are turned off by her success, so she’s speed-dating and I think she was talking about she’s an attorney and nobody just seemed really that intrigued, and then she was like “I’m gonna try something else on”, so she said “I’m a flight-attendant”, and she got a date, and it was obviously a sense of humor about the whole thing. But I think from a lot of angles this is operating on us. Instinctively, women will be – again, this is the biology, and this is not necessarily where we always want to make choices. It plays a role and it’s going to maybe be instinct, but there is conscious choice that we can make here; but women tend to make choices about men and dating around what resources they bring, whether that’s “Are they bigger than me, are they stronger than me, are they smarter than me, do they have more money than me and can they protect me? What resources do they bring?” where men typically tend to think about she’s going to care for him, how he’s going to feel with her, the support that she offers.

Then we have socialization. I remember, I think from a very young age – this is my own process, and there’s probably lots of reasons why I did this, but I was very aware of wanting to kind of play down, not trying to be too smart, just so that I could feel connected to my peers, and probably unconsciously a lot of this operates without our awareness, that I would  try not to seem like a threat to men when I was dating.

I’m obviously married and been married, but when I was dating tried to seem very approachable and accessible. I have certain things that I have accomplished, I have graduate degrees, but really trying to just play into the connection, and I think that’s just part of who I am. I have a really big heart, I love people and I’m super interested, I’m naturally curious and I like to be social, so I think that that’s been a strength as far as connecting with others. Who knows, one could argue that I have played that down, right? That I have in some ways under-emphasized whatever accomplishments I have so that I don’t seem threatening.

So in this article, Acting A Fool, by Jena Pincott, she is quoting Lora Park who is at the State University of New York at Buffalo. She’s done research and she’s saying ask a straight guy if he likes smart women and it’s likely that he’ll say yes. Even ask him if he would go for someone that’s smarter than he is, again he’d likely say yes. But in one of her studies she really probed to go deeper with this concept. They conducted a study and they asked their subjects to take a math test, then manipulated each man’s results to make it higher or lower than that of an actual woman sitting next to him. When the man’s score was higher than the woman’s, he was more likely to put his seat nearer to her and express romantic interest. But when his score was lower than hers, the study showed he was likely to feel less attracted to her, less masculine himself, and less interested in getting her contact information or going out on a date with her. He also sat his chair further away from her.

So fascinating. And what she’s also pointing out here, Lora Park – again, this is from the State University of New York at Buffalo – she’s saying that actually female intelligence is one of the things that men are really attracted to, and it’s one of the strongest predictors of romantic interest, but she really underscores and emphasizes that it’s when a man has a sense of feeling outperformed, that’s when things get tricky.

So in this article that I’m talking about, Acting A Fool by Jena Pincott, she talks about another study and this is from Kate Ratliff out of University of Florida, a psychologist there, who looked at men’s self-esteem in regards to their girlfriend, perhaps outperforming them on a social intelligence test or even reflecting on some academic or intellectual success that they might have had, and what she found was is that it’s actually this kind of automatic negative thought process that men have; it’s like a gut reaction, it’s not a thought out process. So Ratliff explains: “Without even realizing it, men reframe – Wow, my partner is successful, and I am unsuccessful.” So again, this is pointing out the outperforming; somehow, on some level they’re doing better than I am, so it’s reflecting poorly on me, or some sense of “I’m not doing enough”, or I could even say inadequacy.

And to take this one step further, Ratliff is saying that the bloat of the ego, so this interpretation of your partner’s success is somehow a reflection of how I’m unsuccessful, is hurting how men see their relationships. Again, this might be self-inflicted, it’s the way the guy is interpreting their partner’s success, but that it’s having an impact on the quality of the relationship. And in this article they’re talking about how this isn’t a conscious thought-process, that gut reaction, and it’s not even really thought out to interpret partner’s success as a threat.

So if either one of you are going to bring this topic up, if you’re in a heterosexual relationship and you as the woman are more successful, or if you as the guy or the man’s partner is more successful and you want to explore this topic together, it might not be readily available if you’re the man, to think about your partner’s success as a threat, or that you think of yourself as less in contrast to your partner’s success. So it might not be so fresh and available, you might have to kind of really explore this a little. In this article she is quoting “People are not very good at introspecting and reporting why they do what they do.” So we’re just not always really aware of what we’re feeling.

Through this episode I’m going to give you some really good questions to ask yourselves, some things to consider and some real tips and keys to work together around this topic if this is something that happens in your relationship as far as the female being really successful and the male not feeling that successful, or maybe isn’t the breadwinner.

One of the things that comes out of this article that’s really hopeful is that from the research that men can’t feel great even when a female partner outperforms them if they view the relationship itself as an emotional resource. This is so key, and this is why I think there are so many psychologists and people talking about the importance of the emotional connection. So if the feeling tone and the way a man feels that the relationship provides resource, and that the connection is strong, that that’s going to really insulate from some of these maybe negative interpretations and the impact of that on the man’s self-esteem, self-worth and also the quality of the relationship. So it would almost buffer and be a source of strength, to feel that level of connection.

Another study that’s talked about in this article is where they – this was done out of the University of Toronto – basically told the guy that their significant other scored higher on an intelligence test. But this time, they had to rate the degree of closeness to their partner beforehand as well as afterward, which made him reflect on the warmth and affection they felt for each other. So this is actually priming them to think about their connectedness before getting that news, and after getting that news.

So what they found was that those that were close to their lovers, the news of their partner’s superior test results actually activated feelings of connectedness and affirmation of the relationship’s value. So essentially they’re saying the result was that the male’s self-esteem remain intact. The article just goes a little bit more to talk about when we can feel this sense of connection, that there’s a ‘we’, there’s the team, that we’re in a relationship and we’re better together. You might be good at A, where I might be better at B, or vice-versa, so that there’s some complementary aspect to what we bring to the table.

The article pretty much stops there, but I’m going to try to take this a few steps further, because this is having a pretty big impact on a lot of people’s relationships. I believe this was in 2013, there was a New York Times article, I will post that on the show notes for you to reference; there’s also this Huffington Post blog about basically women being less satisfied in marriages where they’re the breadwinner. So there’s some statistics that were in that New York Times article basically illustrating that this is a growing phenomenon, and that there’s a large percentage in the workforce that are either the primary breadwinner or they really contribute in a big way to the family, so feel free to check that out. I think it was quoted out of that New York Times article that couples in which the wife earns more report less satisfaction with their marriage and higher rates of divorce.

I think there’s a lot that has been said about women feeling like they still – even though that they’re working full time and may even be earning more money, that they’re still doing a lot of the domestic work because they don’t want to emasculate their men, or there’s this guilt around their success, or that they’re tiptoeing around how much they’re contributing and really not wanting that to be a tension factor in their relationship. And granted, I know I’m really zoning in on how problematic this can feel in a relationship, and I know that there’s a lot of different family structures, from the very traditional, gender-normed relationships where maybe the woman stays at home and is doing more the domestic child rearing and the man is at work in the workforce and is the breadwinner; or you have actually where there is a lot of men that are now stay-at-home dads and that is something that they’re really enjoying and that there’s a group of men that are really loving that role and then also that it provides the opportunity for the woman to really excel in her career, to have that freedom, to have that support, and that it’s the same kind of dynamic that when she is at home that the home is taken care of, and the kids are cared for, and that they’re really able to spend really quality time together, that there’s that partnership that’s really beautiful.

And then there’s anything in between – you have two people working, you have people that try to tag-team it. I’ve had some clients where one person works the earlier shift during the day and then the other person works the later shift and they kind of rotate; they don’t actually see each other that much as a couple, but they’re really caring for the kids and sharing the load equally. So there’s all kinds of variations, and some really have done this successfully and I think that’s beautiful, and I’m going to give you some real tips around how to create success in this area. But if you’re feeling some tension or that this might be playing a role in your relationship, I’m just pointing out some of this research and how this can have an impact on your relationship.

So just even last year CNN – I’ll post this on the show notes as well – talked about a study that was done in the University of Connecticut, and that it showed that men who solely depended on their wives financially, economically, are at the most risk for cheating. So the study revealed that the men that were a hundred percent – the stay-at-home dad, were the ones that were the most at risk for cheating.

Again, I’m saying there’s many angles to this because one of the big factors here is was this by choice or was this by forced circumstance? Sometimes life presents hardships where we get laid off or we get fired, or something happens and there’s downsizing or a particular venture didn’t work out, and there’s the reality of having children and wanting to care for them, and you have to make decisions. Sometimes it happens to be that the woman has more opportunities, so it makes more sense for the dad to stay at home. That’s on a logical level, but again, if we’re not being really honest how that’s going to play a role, or how that would impact in what the emotional quality or the self-esteem or all the things that are going into that, you could think that it’s a good choice. But if we look at it from a well-rounded perspective there might be more to consider. So that’s kind of more of what I’m posing here for you today.

On the same note, if a woman feels as though it wasn’t her first choice to be the breadwinner, she might feel some level of responsibility, overburdened, feel resentment like that’s not really what she had planned out for herself, so it wasn’t really her ideal either, there can be some issues on her end as well. As you can tell, there’s a lot of different variations of this. I’m just pointing out again what the research is talking about and really posing it for conversation and for you to think more intentionally and consciously about what you’re creating in your relationship dynamics, particularly around gender roles.

Again, the tips that I’m going to offer you, and I have nine to offer you, and I’m realizing that I’ve shared a lot of research with you and points with you today, so I’m going to give you the first – I want to say three, but realistically I’m going to give you the first two, and then next week I’ll share the next seven with you.

This is again in the theme of strengthening your relationship, strengthening your connection, because if that bond is solid and that connection is solid and you’re building your partnership and you feel really plugged into what you’re creating together and you’re both engaged in that, this is all going to feel way easier to deal with. Because again, we have some instinct here, we have society’s judgments and our family’s beliefs, and there’s a lot of pressures here, and there’s a lot of things operating, so it’s easy to get swayed. I can tell you really openly that my husband and I have been very conscious about what we’re creating together and what we want together, and I still have moments of doubting myself around our division. I can tell there’s some really traditional parts of my husband that he really loves when I cook for him and when I make meals for him and I care for the home. I think it’s one of his love languages, those acts of services. And if we’re going to divide time, like if I’m trying to grow – essentially I’m growing a new business.

I had a successful private practice where we lived in Boulder, Colorado and now we’re living in Santa Barbara, California, and I have been trying to create more programs to offer people because I find that most people don’t have access to this information unless you’re really self-studying. So I’m wanting to provide this information in a new way, and it’s essentially creating a whole different business model. So I’m investing all of this work, it’s like a startup; it’s about relationship, and then I’m taking time away from what would be normally our time together, and I’m like how ironic is that, that I’m trying to help people gain more success in their relationship and then I’m kind of sacrificing some of my time with my husband and how I would normally show up for him. I feel like that’s less pressing now, but in that first year – which was last year – there was a lot of push for me to even put my mind around starting a new business online. There’s so many things involved that I just had no idea, and I’m self-teaching myself and the whole bit. And I feel like my husband and I are really strong and we communicate and we talk about these things, particularly when there’s feelings that come up, but I’m just telling you honestly that there’s been moments where I’m like “Is this okay that I’m investing all of this energy?” And even if it becomes really successful I don’t want to outshine him; he’s got his entrepreneur ventures – I’m aware of these tensions and it’s unfortunate that that is true, but I’m just revealing that it’s in me as well.

Even as conscious and intentional as we try to be, I still have twinges of wondering if our more egalitarian approach in relationship has a negative impact sometimes. And again just to reiterate, the fact that this is in me, it just gives me the opportunity to address it. It doesn’t have to overpower me just because I might have an instinct or have a wondering or fear or whatever, that it’s just an opportunity to kind of really address it, and that’s with being more mindful and intentional and conscious; and the relationship is largely about the willingness to confront some of these things and to address them. Despite how uncomfortable, sensitive and vulnerable these topics might be at times, I really want to encourage the mindset that this is actually going to allow you to create much more of what you’re wanting in your relationship if you can address these things, really work with them directly and ultimately work together with your partner to create what you’re wanting. Even if there’s some differences, there’s still… I mean, this is what my course is about largely – helping couples negotiate some of these very natural, normal, different ways of  thinking, seeing, feeling and working together to really build this win/win or build something that feels mutually beneficial and feels great to both people.

So there is opportunity on the other side of some of these tensions. If we ignore it, we can tend to do the default, we can tend to succumb to some of our instinctual tendencies or impulses. That’s not bad, but it’s just do we want to be reacting or do we want to be really discerning. In the coaching world they say “Do you want a life by default, or do you want a life by design?” If  we look at our whole life and that we have a lot of choice, do we want to be designing our life or do we want to be in default mode? It’s kind of the same concept here.

Okay, so the two points that I want to address with you in this episode, and again I’ll offer seven more in the sequel to this episode, but the first one is just kind of reflecting on what kind of life you really want, and this takes some individual introspection before even talking to your partner, because I think sometimes we get persuaded or we get influenced by a partner – and that’s not a bad thing, we want to feel that influence – and it can be distracting; we can lose connection with what’s true for us. If we’re heavily focused and considerate of our partner’s perspective, we can really not be in touch with ourselves.

So this first point is what kind of life do you want? As I mentioned in my little story about me being in undergraduate school – and this has been a constant conversation in my mind around just who I want to be as a woman, who do I want to be in a relationship and just how to negotiate what I want to create. So do I want the traditional, gender-normed relationship, or did I want something different.

For me, I was very interested in this more egalitarian approach to a relationship where both the masculine and the feminine are really valued; it’s not like we’re both just androgynous, but that we can support each other and that we can have strengths and we can both be contributing and that there’s real value for both of our contributions and input. So what that really looked like for me as far as career is I wanted to have a career where I had flexibility so that when we have a family I can work but also be really available as a parent, to be having the opportunity to be creating value and meaningfulness in the world of my career, but have the flexibility where I can perhaps work from home or work a longer day to then compensate to have the day off the next day, or to be able to negotiate my schedule and have some freedom around that, so that I could really be available, and that my partner would have something similar, where he would have some level of flexibility so he can do the same thing – maybe work a longer day and then be available to the family on another day.

Whether or not it’s he works two days, I work three days or vice versa, but that there’s a way that we would really feel fulfilled in our careers, but also be really available. And that’s kind of what I enjoyed. But there’s other people that I so love, and there’s many people who do this, where one person stays at home and it’s really beautiful that there’s a real focus and attention to the home, and the way that that works so nicely. There’s someone that’s home with the children and caring for the home, and then the other person is working and being able to excel in their career. So there’s many versions of this.

I know I already mentioned this, but I’m just reiterating, what kind of role – do you want the traditional, do you want some of your own kind of unconventional, made-up… I mean, you can essentially make this up, you can design it. And I think sometimes we forget, we don’t always see that there’s different opportunities. If you live close to family, as far as child rearing, do you have family helping out? There is lots and lots of different strategies around how to negotiate relationship, marriage and family and child rearing, so this is all really up for you to decide, and it’s a little harder to be unconventional because it does require you to think this through. You have to craft and really design, rather than just going with the default. It’s easier to just go with what is, this is what you do, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Sometimes we do that work to really introspectively get clear on what we want, and we want the traditional, and that’s amazing that you want that and you chose that, that’s great; you want to honor that. But again, I’m suggesting that if we don’t have the inquiry, we can get then – there’s this term called ‘reluctant breadwinner’, or ‘reluctant stay-at-home-dad’, or ‘reluctant stay-at-home-mom’, like this isn’t in congruence with what’s going to make you happy. So if what you’re really longing for, what you really want is not congruent with what you’re doing, I don’t know how you’re going to be happy.

So if you’re saying “No, I really want to be in the work field, and yet I’m home”, that’s out of alignment. That’s incongruent and I don’t know how you’re going to reconcile that. I mean you can for a period of time, if you’re going to say “Okay, for this amount of time I’m going to sacrifice”, it’s for a greater good and you’re going to hopefully have then the opportunity to pursue the things that are meaningful for you. But if you’re just going to hang it up and say “I give that up” – some people have to do that and they get that there’s a choice there, but there’s a lot of things to weigh and I wouldn’t want you just to let that go out of sake of convenience or just what seems rational. This is your life, you’re living your life – that’s important and that’s so valuable and so special, so to just give up on you and what is meaningful for you, I don’t know how that life is going to feel quality.

Again, this first point is just what the life that you’re wanting in regards to gender roles, division of labor, and having honest, real conversations. After you get clear, is this something you can talk about with your significant other? Because again, society, family – there’s a lot of pressure here, particularly for men; and for women, it’s just different. There is a lot of socialization and maybe there’s a lot of instinct and biology for men to provide, to be excelling, to be accomplishing.

Historically, at least in this Western culture of United States, there hasn’t been as much monetary value associated with domestic work, so it’s easy to think that that work is lowly or not as significant; this has been a lot of the women’s movement: a) having equal opportunity; we can do things in the world and make a big difference and have skills to offer industries, and that the work at home, and the domestic work and the child rearing – how important that work is. Some people would even argue that’s the most important work, even from a societal standpoint. You’re raising another human being, and the character building and all of the things that go into that, the health and the well-being. It’s enormous. So there’s a lot to be said here, but again, this is important to look at.

And not only do what you want, but what are you inclined for? If you’re nurturing and you like caregiving, then it’s likely that you’ll want to be at home. You’ll want to be doing the lion’s share of the caregiving. But if you really like being in the world and you’re a social person, and you want to be interacting and be intellectually stimulated, it’s likely you’re going to want to have some foot in the world of the work field. Again, just what is really congruent with you – your personality, your energy level. It’s really common that we’re striving for so much, and we have these dual income families that have a lot on their plate. So another thing to weigh here would be perhaps is it just about making making making more more more money money money? Or is it weighing, “Okay, what’s the quality of life? How much money are we wanting to make, and how much time are we really wanting to be available for our life and our family?” There’s something to really weigh there – who important is it?

I think I might have mentioned, we had a friend visiting in January, and he is in the world of finance and he’s brilliant in economics and math, and he was telling me – I forgot the person he got it from, it was some person he was telling me about – anytime you want to purchase something that it’s a good thing to think about how much of your life force energy, how much of your time, not only to get the money, but also to get ready, to commute, all the things that are involved for you to generate the amount of money to pay for the thing you want to buy – is it worth your life energy? Is that a good trade, so to speak? The amount of energy it took for you to generate the amount of money to trade for the thing you’re wanting, it’s a good assessment measure. Is this really worth it? So if you’re looking on a bigger scale in your family and in your life…

Play is so important to me. You guys have heard me talk about how much I like to play beach volleyball, so I try to get out on the courts at least four times, sometimes five or even more times a week. That’s a good chunk of time. So that work/life balance is very important to me, and there’s a lot of things that that fulfills for me – it’s social, it’s physical, it’s nature and I really can justify that. And some people wouldn’t; that’s a chunk of time.

As I mentioned, I have essentially started a new business and it takes an enormous amount of work to get that up and going, so some people would not make that choice, but it’s mine to make, it’s my life. So again, I’m just inviting you into what do you really want in the way of your life, quality of life, division of labor, what’s really congruent with your happiness and just money really, and how to balance this. You’re not going to probably have your big end answer. This is something that you want to be in conversation with yourself about. Some people, this is like the first time they might even ask themselves this question. So just even ask the question and if you’re thinking “I don’t know”, that’s good, that’s a good place to start. But I would invite you and ask you to continue asking that question. Stay with the question, don’t just drop it. Be in the place of wondering, spend time contemplating “What would feel really great? What would I really feel happy with? What would really be fulfilling? If I had the magic wand, what would want, what would I craft? What would I really love?”

So again, just kind of designing what would be a really good fit. It does perhaps bring up some angst, because if it’s very different than your current circumstances, your mind is going to start maybe to freak out, like “Wow, I don’t even want to think about this. This just feels so overwhelming.” But if it’s true for you, it’s true for you, and it’s probably already having an impact. So by you directly looking at it, it might feel more uncomfortable, but it’s likely that it’s not like it’s just hidden somewhere having no impact; I bet you it’s playing a role in your life already, so you might as well look at it. And you have ultimate choice always. It’s not like by looking at it it’s going to start running the show. You want to just say “This is me gathering information. I ultimately get to choose.” So there’s always your choice in this.

Alright, number two – it’s a little bit in the same kind of vein here. It’s really getting specific about “What does it mean to me to be a man?”, “What does it mean to me to be a woman?” Again, these are largely things that unless you’ve taken a class or done a workshop that’s really prompted some of these questions, it might be a relatively new concept to even consider what that means. Because we have certain role models in our family, and we may or may not want to replicate that. We may be inspired by that or we may be turned off by that. So what kind of paradigms have you gotten around what it means to be a woman, what it means to be a man, and that’s forever evolving, right? 60 years ago what it meant to be a woman is very perhaps different than what it means to be a woman now, and that’s just even societally. But you put personality, you put interest, you put an individual in that question and it’s going to vary, even right now. For a pool like a hundred women you’ll probably get some similarities, but you’re going to get some differences.

Because again, if you’re a man and you’re saying what does it mean to be a man, and it’s about contributing and providing for your family, or perhaps having a legacy in the world, you’re going to want to be in the workforce. Those are things that if that for you is your definition… I mean, my husband is not entirely like this, but there is a flavor of this. He was brought up in the Midwest, and I think like many men his sense of identity and worth has a connection to his work in the world. There is a significant interaction there. He had a period where he was not working and it had a huge impact on his self-esteem and his feelings about himself. I think that’s just a growth process for him in general, but I think there’s something about what it means to be a man, for him.

I was telling you a moment ago about this study that CNN had written an article about last year by Christian Munch – he’s an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Connecticut – and he was a part of this study where he found that men who are a hundred percent dependent on their wives are more at risk for cheating. This is for men where it wasn’t by choice. Being dependent on their wives when it’s incongruent with what it means to them to be a man it kind of threatens their man card. I know I’m teasing here a little bit, but it’s true. It’s a really big blow to a man’s identity or ego or sense of self, and that can feel very compromised. This is where we get into the emasculation and just feeling really threatened. So while it’s not super skillful, if a man is going to have an affair, in some ways you can look at it – Christian Munch is saying – it’s a way of reestablishing their masculinity, even if it’s done subconsciously. It’s not like “Oh, I’m gonna go have an affair so that I can feel good about myself”, most people don’t think that way.

There’s another quote here that I want to read to you, and this is by Andrew G. Marshall. He wrote “How can I ever trust you again?” and he’s talking about this very topic of the woman being the breadwinner and the dad being at home, but it’s not necessarily congruent with what is really fulfilling for him. He’s saying one of the problems is a social stigma of men not really feeling like staying at home is valued, or feeling even validated in himself. Again, this is connected to what I was just saying a moment ago. So he said “Most men don’t have affairs, but when stray when they feel desperate, when they feel unheard, unlistened to”, and I think this is true for men and women. He goes on to say “It’s demeaning to say they need their ego stroke, but when you step off the primrose path – by this I mean the usual path most go down – you need to do a lot of talking.” So what he’s saying is when we go through our developmental process in relationship and get out of that romance phase, we’re going to kind of be out of the ‘happily ever after’ feeling and we’re going to be challenged by some of these things. So the real goal here is to do a lot of talking, he’s saying.

He goes on to say “If a man feels emasculated and as if he has lost his purpose in his life, he needs to ask himself some hard and difficult questions. Who am I? What gives my life meaning?” The easy question is “Do I fancy this other woman?” The simple answer to that is often “Yes.” So if you’re just saying “Oh, am I attracted to this other person?”… So if you listened to my last podcast around can men and women be friends, that attraction towards someone else is easy; we’re going to feel that multiple times in a month, in a year, in a life, towards other people. That’s just a human, natural response. So to ask yourself “Do I find her attractive?”, you’re going to say “Yes”, but that’s not the real question. So he’s prompting “Who am I? What gives my life meaning?”

So those are the two points that I’m offering you today in this topic of when the woman is more successful, how to keep the relationship strong. I would love for you to comment. You can comment on my website on the show notes page, and you can also find the links to these articles listed at the bottom, in the section that’s titled “Mentioned”. If you scroll further down, I would love to hear your feedback, or you can always e-mail me. You can find all the ways to reach me on my website, which is DrJessicaHiggins.com and you can click on Contact, find the ways to reach me there. I would love to hear from you. Also, if you have another question or concern that you would like me to create a podcast episode on, you can do that as well.

Be sure to join me in the next episode, the sequel, to How To Keep Your Relationship Strong When She Is More Successful, and I will be offering you the seven more tips around keeping your relationship strong and really building a partnership that is really meaningful to you. Until next time, take great care.

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Dr. Jessica Higgins ~ Relationship and Transformational Coaching