Men: would you date a woman more successful than you?

There’s a lot of talk about gender equality, particularly these days with fourth wave feminism such a prominent topic. But what about when inequality between a couple occurs naturally? I’m talking about when one partner is more successful than the other. This seems to be totally acceptable when it’s the man, it’s even expected. Very rarely though do we see a couple where the woman outranks the man in terms of job superiority or salary.

A few years ago we knew a couple where this was exactly case. The wife was incredibly ambitious and ran her own, very successful airline recruitment company. After they had their second child, the dad gave up his job as a fitness instructor to care for both children full-time. This made perfect sense as she brought home a lot more money than he did, and besides, as the boss of her own rapidly growing business, she couldn’t afford to work part time or not at all.

This all worked quite well for about 9 months or so. Eventually though he went back to working at the gym and they hired a full-time nanny. Her business continued to thrive and yes the marriage ended after not very long. It was never said that that’s why they divorced, and rarely is there ever just one reason that a couple break up over. But he openly said he was unhappy at her ‘attitude towards money’- take that to mean what you will.

We see it all the time in Hollywood marriages. Jennifer Aniston split from Tate Donovan at the height of her Friends career; Sandra Bullock famously split from her former husband Jesse James just weeks after her Oscar win.

Is it too simplistic and too sexist to ask whether many men are unhappy with their wife or girlfriend earning more money than them because they, the man, want to be the bread winner? Is it true that men have an innate sense of wanting to provide, in the same way that many women have a maternal instinct to care for others?

Well before every feminist shoots me down at that last point, let me say that it comes down to gender roles and what we expect from each other in a relationship. In some cultures it can be clear cut- that doesn’t make it acceptable, but at least the lines have been drawn.

For us Asians, men are very much expected to be the provider.  Women are often steered into careers considered more desirable or suitable for a woman so that she can make a ‘good marriage match’ by not outranking her future husband man. It’s fair to say that in the case of arranged marriages, a successful woman wouldn’t even be paired up with a man who was less successful than her, even if they were educated to a similar level. It’s simply not the way the culture works. The model is very clear: men provide for, women care for.


This is a situation where men are told that they have to be the more successful one, and women are given the message that they mustn’t be. That’s just all kinds of wrong and I’m not even going to get started on it.

But when it comes to dating there are no such parameters, and the guy would be seen as an ass hole for ending a relationship because he couldn’t handle that the woman made more money than he did.

Or is it just an unspoken rule of dating?





8 thoughts on “Men: would you date a woman more successful than you?

  1. No offence but after reading your blog i felt that your’e not aware of the changing dynamics of relationships these days. I’m an Indian and i can vouch for the fact that at least men from my generation..and that too a lot of them have actually diffused the gender barrier. And you know why thats happened – coz’ they were raised really well by their moms. So if women need equality as wives/girlfriends etc. it is their responsibility it bring up their sons really well and without discriminating from their daughters. I’m proud of not all, but a lot of men out there . I call them REAL men since they don’t feel threatened by a successful women’s presence. Others are cowards.

    • Thanks for your point Akriti, I welcome discussion!
      I’m glad that you’ve had a good experience of the men in your generation, as you put it. Yes you’re right that men who feel threatened by a woman’s success are somewhat cowardly. It’s really just a question I wanted to put out there, I am NOT saying all men are threatened by successful women.
      As for whether women “need” equality, well frankly we don’t have it and that is widely acknowledged. So yes, we still need equality and must continue to fight for it. You’re right too that we need to be raising our sons to value women, that is a starting point in the fight for equality.
      Thanks for stopping by.

  2. Well written piece! I agree with you. Even though some men are changing, in my experience most men (I am going to say Indian based on my experience) get intimidated by a confident, outspoken woman. And this is just in the first date phase.

    • Thank you!
      Obviously I was being provocative in what I was saying; clearly some men are not challenged by a successful woman- but an awful lot still are! I actually think that it manifests much later than the earlier stages of dating. I personally think in the early stages a man can even be drawn to a woman because of her success, it can be a turn on. but when a couple are planning their lives together and roles are naturally starting to fall into place.
      Thanks for commenting!

      • Yeah I agree – I know first hand that women are not expected to be more successful than men; they won’t make a good match who’ll look after the house and kids while the man works. And like you said, that’s all kinds of wrong I don’t even want to get started on. Yet from my experience of men who don’t belong to asian cultures, some are actually attracted to women’s success. But yes, it can cause troubles. Not just because the man feels threatened, but maybe because the woman develops some sort of superiority complex also. Tricky business!

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