I’m proud of you. No, really, I am. And I don’t want to be that guy, you know, that guy who gets a twist, very much resembling jealousy, in his heart each time your success shines in front of me.
How many of us women have already heard these excuses, this praise we feel deep down is not a hundred per cent meant, this support that is given because this is the politically correct thing to do? How many times have our triumphs been spoiled and downgraded by this feeling, yeah you know the one I mean, let’s not be afraid and say it shall we, this feeling of guilt that we feel each time something good happens to us professionnally?
The number of women who actually feel guilty because of their success baffles me, and don’t go thinking now this was in the past, that it doesn’t happen to young women and men nowadays. It still does, and you will find many examples around you of women who tiptoe around their partners because they earn more than they do, because they’re more successful, or popular or what.
Go around your closest friends, and ask them, you’d be surprised by the results. Many men still think that it’s their social role to be the providers for their homes and family, and therefore find it just plain abnormal that their girlfriend/wife/partner earns more. Besides, it’s not just a question of money: having an intellectually challenging job is still regarded as the men’s right. Oh the woman can work all right, you know, she can have an admin job and be underenmployed, let’s have the men get the interesting substantial positions. However, when the man is bored at work while the woman is thriving, women often have to bear the brunt of a grumpy partner, who will say all the right things, with all the wrong tones of voice and attitude.
From my (limited, I must admit) experience and the conversations I had with many women, the man adopts different kinds of attitudes when it comes to his partner being more successful than he is, the most widespread being Dr Jekyll and Mister Hyde. In public, he’s ecstatic about you and your success and will tell everyone how proud he is of you. That’s because he is, but also because this attitude makes him look good as a man of the world who’s modern and open minded and who doesn’t mind being overtaken by you. In private though, he will (subconsciously, he’s not a sadist) make you pay for every extra penny you earn more. The classic means are: turning into Grumpy Man the Great, being moody for no reason and taking it out on you, not helping more at home even though your accrued responsibilities call for an increased support, refusing gifts you want to give him because he can’t stand deep down your glorious economic independence and relative wealth, in a word he’ll say he’s proud but that’ll be about it.
All of which, for some reason, will drive you to minimize your success and make you walk on eggshells whenever anyone speaks up about how fabulous you are and how right your employers were to recognize all your hardwork. You figure, it’s either that, or bearing the brunt of having to deal with Stony Faced SweetHeart at home, and frankly, you just don’t have the energy (not with that new job you don’t).
Of course, society values a couple where the man earns more than his partner, everyone joyfully accepts this model and you’ve never seen a man feeling guilty or like an impostor because he’s the breadwinner of his family. Much to the same in that configuration, you’ve never seen a woman making the man pay for his success: on the contrary, she’ll be there for him, thinking Oh poor thing, he works so hard, I shall make him dinner so he doesn’t have to lift a finger when he’s home, I’m so proud of him (and truly mean it and act on it)blah blah blah.
So what’s wrong with this picture? The whole situation of course stems from how men are raised and the concept of masculinity in the world we live in. Perhaps if men were less defined by what they do and more by who they truly are, and if their parents told them from their childhood that women who work are to be equally praised as Stay at Home mothers, and their successes celebrated, there would be less Mr. Hydes in this world. Great, so let’s raise our children this way. However, in the meantime (that is, until we actually have children), it is the woman’s job to shed the guilt, put her foot down and just say:
“Listen my friend, I have worked my ass off, my work has FINALLY paid off, I earned every single little bit of that salary/praise/promotion, and if you have a problem with it, this is, well, YOUR problem. Deal with it, and if you can’t, well, find a way. I refuse to be punished for something I earned”
And gentlemen, be man enough to embrace your partners’ careers, give it a chance, you’ll see improvements in your lifestyles, improvements in your relationship, and you’ll see, improvements in your self esteem. It’s nice, to be your partner’s hero.