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Macho Men Threatened When Women Earn More

A new study shows why macho men often struggle in their relationships.

By Kristin Wong Jul 20, 2012 2:43PM

Photo: Tim Kiusalaas/Getty ImagesGender roles are becoming increasingly marginalized, but that doesn't mean they've been tossed out for good.

Researchers from Fordham University in New York recently conducted a study which found that "macho" men feel threatened when their female partners make more money than they do. Bad news for macho guys, considering that just this week, a new survey found that the majority of women in the U.S. are the breadwinners of their households.

The Fordham University study included 47 men who had higher-earning female partners. Researchers Patrick Coughlin and Jay Wade assessed the men's feelings on masculinity, the quality of their relationships and "the importance of the disparity in income between them and their female partners," according to the press release.

According to the results, when the man had a traditional view of masculinity, he was more likely to report a low-quality relationship. And, you guessed it—he was also more likely to place an importance on the income disparity between himself and his partner.

"Our results demonstrate the importance of masculinity ideology in understanding how and why men with higher-earning partners will have low or high quality romantic relationships," Coughlin and Wade said in the press release. "The findings are relevant to men who are married as well as non-married men in a romantic relationship."

Sure, it's easy to write these guys off as closed-minded meat heads (especially when they're labeled "macho"), but there's another side to the coin. Surveys seem to show that women also tend to have traditional views of gender roles when it comes to money. For example, earlier this month, a survey conducted by an online dating site found that a whopping 75 percent of women are unlikely to date a guy who's unemployed.

"Not having a job will definitely make it harder for men to date someone they don't already know," said Irene LaCota, spokesperson for the site, It's Just Lunch.

But according to LaCota, the results have less to do with money and more to do with women's concern that the guy is "engaged in activity." Apparently, women view unemployed men as having a lack of drive and ambition. Fair enough, but here's the thing. Unemployment didn't have the same social stigma for women as it did for men. Two thirds of men in the survey said they had no problem dating a woman who's unemployed.

The point is, while these "macho" men could easily be written off for their insular views on gender roles, women often seem to have those same antiquated views.

As a good friend said to me recently, "most of the women I go out with make way more money than me, yet I'm still expected to pay for the date."

Even though I argued relentlessly with him about this, he has a point. Many of us want the traditional gender roles and the double standards to exist, but only if we get to pick and choose when. So can we really blame the machos for feeling threatened? The issue is simply not that simple.

The press release continues:

"The breadwinner role for men is still the accepted norm in marriage, and allows for and supports the husband's power and authority in the family. It is therefore reasonable for a man who earns less than his female partner to feel removed from this traditional gender role, and feel a void because he does not fulfill this role."

Men may have been bringing home the bacon for ages, but if the latest statistics are any indication, it looks like it's time to redefine our roles.

What do you think? Do you expect the man in the relationship to make more? Would you date a man who made substantially less than you?

Photo: Tim Kiusalaas/Getty Images

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Jul 22, 2012 7:32PM
I gave up trying to figure out gender relationships long ago.  I've dated men who had problems with my drive, who said I wasn't feminine enough, simply put I just got tired of trying to fit a role of what everyone thought I should be.  I had the one great fortune of dating a man who loved me for me, didn't care that I worked really hard to get through college & grad school, didn't care that I made more money, was OK that I did not want kids but was happy because I loved his child dearly (& put up with his ex-wife's antics because I loved her.) Unfortunately, this man died.  However, I am luckier than most because we had 8 great years together.  It seems it has had to last me for a lifetime. Why can't we just accept people for what they are and see the beauty in what we have to offer? Why do we have to have such harsh lines that restrict what and who we should be? Why can't we both just contribute 100% to the relationship whether it be monetarily, physically or emotionally?  I cringe when I hear how this cycle will be continued by witnessing how some parents treat their children.
Jul 22, 2012 6:54PM

During my marriage of almost 18 years, I was the major breadwinner making over $130,000 as a sheriff detective working my 40 hour week with an additional 40 - 60 hours if overtime for the 2 week payperiod.  My ex-wife worked a 40 hour week for a union grocery chain as a checker and then receiver which had some overtime.


In the end it was during the counciling sessions that the words came out,,,"You work all the time and have no time for your family....hmmmm lets see the big house, your days out with your girlfriends getting your nails done ect. ect.....well you know what ...I came into this world alone and I EXPECT to leave it alone..thank you very much!


During the divorce she was able to reduce her reported hours to the minimum required to maintain her health benefits and insure I pay a higher amount of support.  She even told the kids they could decide where they wanted to live further undermining my parental authority....the family law court doesnt give a rats **** what the woman does to hurt the father.


So in my opinion woman can earn their **** off as long as they pay their fair share of support in the end.


As for my current girlfriend of 8 years I can tell you not much has changed it's all what have you done for me today....I guess I'm just a bad love maker, and should have paid more attention in sex ed class.  

Jul 22, 2012 6:15PM
My ex wife used to say "Don't you want this for your family?" "Don't you want to be able to do this for us?". I used to work 3 jobs at one point to bring home good money to pay ALL the bills, buy us a home and put her kid through daycare. Leaving me No time for enjoying my Family. What did she do in the time? She worked a seasonal job 9 months a year and a part-time gig as a camp counselor for 3 months and part-time waitressing at a country club. NOT even coming close to what I was bringing home. BUT still all I heard was "You need to make more money." Driving around town with her girlfriends, wearing those big 'bug' sunglasses doing the 'lunch' thing with them. While I was out making the money. Eventually, I said "Enough. If you want these things, then you get a FULL-time job and help me." Did she? Yep, BUT she also had an affair with the owner of the country club for money.
Jul 22, 2012 5:33PM

Although I was raised partially during the transition from this, anybody remember when women were at least said to go to college to earn their so-called "Mrs" (pronounced "em-are-ess" [M.R.S.]) degree?

Jul 22, 2012 5:02PM
As long as a woman pulls her weight and does her job, I don't have a problem.  I do have a problem with  women who are fragile and frail, but have been with the company for a long time and are given favors just for that. If a woman pulls her weight and doesn't use her sex to get favors, there is no problem.  But if a company gives her favors because they are afraid of harassment or discrimination lawsuits, I definitely have a problem with that. And one more thing...women don't think like men about any one specific job. If she is given a specific job just because of her  seniority, and it takes her longer to do that job than a man because of her way of thinking, I have a problem with her making more than a man who could save the company money whereas she probably lost money, but there again, the company was afraid of being sued.
Jul 22, 2012 3:44PM
I don't care if my husband makes less or more than I do. My first husband did feel threatened because I made more than he did, and he was usually unemployed. However, any money he DID make went toward his hobbies and not to the household, which I absolutely had a problem with. My new husband makes more than I do, and he pays the mortgage, I pay the bills. We both spend money on ourselves and on each other. We're fine with that. 

I'm also an old-fashioned woman, but in this day, both must work to pay for a household. Samia, "not work as hard as a man"? Since when did women NOT work as hard as a man even if they worked in the household? I work just as hard as a man, at home and at my job ( I work full time AND keep house), and neither I nor my husband feels it detracts from my femininity or health. Even the Bible describes a woman being productive with her hands, buying and selling land, making things to sell, keeping the house, raising the kids,  taking care of her husband. Read Proverbs 31. I seriously doubt women today could do all those things listed, but that would be one hard-working woman! 
Jul 22, 2012 3:40PM
I think its ironic that a man is considered "macho" by abiding by the traditional role of shoveling money and spending very little time with his kids. Anyone can get a job of some kind (I DO realize exceptions apply), but taking care of kids is work, HARD work. It's harder than quite a few jobs I have had in the past, and harder than the job I have now. I have been on both sides of this fence though, the sole "breadwinner" (I HATE that term) and the one who stays home taking care of the kids. When I was home (my wife was working), I was scorned, mocked, and frowned upon in almost every way by so many different people. It got very old very fast. "Get a job", they said, "get 2 jobs!" (If you are in this same position, be prepared for this). If I had heeded that "advice" (about the 2 jobs) I would never see my kids. I would either be working or sleeping. But since traditional men aren't supposed to have emotions, I guess this shouldn't matter. "Macho" men leave raising kids to the woman and apparently aren't supposed to care too much about being with their kids. I see this all the time and I think it's completely ridiculous. End of my rant...
Jul 22, 2012 1:54PM
Call me an old fashion woman or whatever but I think a woman shouldn't work as hard as)a man (unless she has too); it takes away so much from her femininity and health. it is very natural that a man feels that way, threatned by a high-earning partner. I think a man should be the the head of the family; it is just natural... to resolve the problem of earning disparity, women should work part-time and spend their other time taking care of kids, husband, themselves and household..it is better for both the man and the woman. Let a man be a man and a woman be a woman...
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