Men find me intimidating
This time, they had to rate their degree of closeness to their partner beforehand, as well as afterward, which made them reflect on the warmth and affection they felt for each other.
For those who were close to their lovers, the news of that person’s superior test results appeared to actually activate feelings of connectedness and an affirmation of the relationship’s value. “The more the male partner can focus his thoughts on the ‘team’ aspect of the relationship, the better he copes,” says Rebecca Pinkus, a psychologist at Western Sydney University who researches strategies that couples use to overcome divisive comparison.
The task led to a drop in men’s implicit self-esteem, as did news that their girlfriend outscored them on a social-intelligence test.
“It’s more of a gut reaction of negativity, not a thought-out response,” Ratliff explains.
He could achieve this, she says, by taking pride in his partner’s abilities and being happy for her successes—an attitude known as the “empathy response.” He could think of their skills as complementary: “She excels in domain A, whereas I excel in domain B.” Or he could focus on how his partner’s intelligence might benefit him or their life together in a variety of ways, like a better job that boosts them financially.
The bottom line, Pinkus stressed, is the perception of a shared fate, an overlapping of identities, a sense of “we.” But how does a brainy woman get from “me” to “we”?
“Without realizing it, men reframe ‘Wow, my partner is successful’ as ‘Wow, my partner is successful .’” The blow to the ego, however self-inflicted, appears to hurt how men see their relationship.
In Ratliff’s study, they distanced themselves from their partner and were less optimistic about their future together.
If a woman they met seemed smarter or more ambitious than they believed themselves to be, they dialed down their romantic interest.
A better strategy than propping up male self-esteem by hiding her own intellect, Park suggests, is finding a man who’s supportive of a prospective mate’s intelligence and ambition from the start.
A woman has more options if she’s willing to override romantic scripts that encourage her to underplay her strengths and make men think they’re smarter than she.
Two women in their late 20s walk into a Manhattan bar.
One, an energetic blonde named Jayne, is the cofounder of a financial technology start-up.
“People are not very good at introspecting and reporting why they do what they do,” Park says.