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How To Deal With A Partner Who’s More Successful Than You

No room for insecurity here!
by Ysa Singson | May 20, 2017
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Last year, based on The World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Global Gender Gap Report, the Philippines ranked no. 1 in gender equality in Asia. That said, whether out of necessity or lack of interest, you’d be hard-pressed to find a woman who isn’t a part of the workforce. In fact, in some industries, women are climbing the ranks much faster than men. This, however, doesn’t mean that men have become accepting of women who surpass them professionally—even if she is a loved one.

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According to counseling psychologist Dr. Joy-Alvi Aranas, Filipino men still find it difficult to accept their partners’ success. Why? It’s largely due to the standards placed upon them by society, but also the pressure they put on themselves. Historically, men have always been programmed to think of themselves as providers; successful women are seen as a threat to that part of their identity, which can lead to low self-esteem.

An experiment by Kate Ratliff and Shigehiro Oishi published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology supported the idea that men still aren’t comfortable with having a more successful partner. The researchers had 32 straight couples take an intelligence test. Though not graded, each participant was told that his or her partner scored in either the top or bottom 12 percent. And sure enough, the men who believed they had “high-scoring” partners had a lower score on a self-esteem test.

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Some also believe that men see their partner's success as a reflection of their abilities in that if she’s “winning” or progressing, he must be failing. Women have a different approach; women see a man’s success as an added bonus—something that’s good for their relationship. Again, this is where traditional gender roles come into play. 

But what is it like to have the woman be the breadwinner of the family?

Tim and Sandra have been married for nearly 10 years. In the beginning, they both worked, but after they moved out of their parents’ house and Sandra landed a major promotion, they both decided that it’d be better for the kids if Tim became a stay-at-home dad. Tim shares, “It was really hard at first. My ego took a major hit. Especially because even my siblings asked me, ‘Hindi ka ba nahihiya?’ A part of me was ashamed, but I realized that it wasn’t because I wasn’t proud of my wife. Eventually, I realized, ‘Kung uunahin ko yung hiya ko, magugutom pamilya ko.’ But I think it also helped that my wife didn’t make me feel like a loser. My household contributions, though not financial, were very much appreciated.”

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If you’re feeling insecure, Dr. Aranas advises,“How you perceive yourself and the situation greatly influences the kind of relationship you have with your successful partner. Communication is still the best ingredient in any kind of relationship. Being honest with your partner about your feelings will help her understand your side. But both parties should take part in working for harmony and peace [in the relationship]. Accept that the pressure [and discomfort] exist, analyze where they’re coming from, and work from there.”

Dr. Joy Alvi R. Aranas,  RPsy, RGC is a counseling psychologist from Pathways Counseling and Assessment Center. For consultation, you can visit him at 718 Sunday Street St. Joseph Village, Panapaan, City of Bacoor, Cavite.

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