While walking in the supermarket a couple weeks ago, I spotted a headline that made me do a double take. It was about Bethenny Frankel, whom I do not care for one bit, but has been going through a semi-highly publicized divorce with Jason Hoppy. Normally, I wouldn’t care at all about the state of her relationship, but in this case, I couldn’t help it; the headline stated that Frankel was left by Hoppy because he resented her for seeing more success than himself.
At first, I was irritated — how could somebody think such a stupid notion that the primary reason a man would divorce a woman is because she’s more wealthy, famous and respected than he is. Well, maybe not the “respected” part, but being well-known and rich can go a long way. And then I started thinking about how successful women have been told for, well, forever to be modest and never emasculate a man or outshine him. Why? Essentially for this very purpose: so his ego will remain intact and he won’t run home sobbing about how somebody built a bigger sandcastle next to his. But part of being a successful woman, in my opinion, is always building the better sandcastle regardless of what people think of it, nor how they feel about you because of it (as long as you’re not crushing theirs in order to do so). METAPHORS!
Anyway, according to “sources,” this was one of the main issues between Hoppy and Frankel. On an episode of her spinoff, Bethenny Ever After, he even states, “You’re right. There has been a little resentment. I’m trying to be [happy] but I feel like I’m being judged for the fact that I didn’t make it,” and on another, “As a man, I never thought I’d be in a situation where my wife, financially, was this successful.”
First of all,
Second, and very sadly, amid the numerous pieces I read about their relationship, it seems that many acknowledge Frankel’s desire to fix their relationship and attempts to do so by taking off time from her busy schedule, it seems that she’s still being blamed for their split because, um, she should’ve just avoided being so successful in the first place…or something. After all, men > money > self-fulfillment.
Unfortunately, many successful women blame themselves for doing “too” well, which theoretically repels men like garlic to a vampire unless you’re extra-extra-eggshell-careful. There are guides for successful women to navigate the dating world in a “sensitive” way to avoid men being intimidated; likewise, there are guides for men on dating successful women. And there are also plenty of firsthand stories that are disheartening (and yet so, so believable).
In this Daily Mail piece, Zoe Lewis recounts a man who refused to continue dating her out of envy and/or spite:
When a long relationship broke down a few years ago, my then boyfriend cited my intelligence as a reason that it wouldn’t work. Did he mean I was too stupid?…
Sadly, it was quite the opposite. He told me that he just didn’t want to go out with a woman who was clever and successful. He said it meant that I could never let any discussion go, or concede a flawed argument; I had to solve problems when they arose, and would argue political points with him.
He was an actor in his 50s and said he just wanted ‘an easy life’. In other words, he wanted a bovine woman who wouldn’t challenge him mentally or emotionally – someone who would make him feel superior and boost his self-esteem.
Obviously, this guy sounds like an asshole, not to mention painfully boring (seriously, who doesn’t want somebody they’re with to challenge them intellectually OR emotionally?). Also, never date actors.
Sadly, this wasn’t Lewis’ last problem with men resenting her for doing well: another guy wound up ending their relationship because, as he put it, “you’ve got two flats and I haven’t even got one.” Lewis found herself covering up her success in order to seem more attractive by avoiding mentioning she’d graduated from Cambridge, despite that being an incredibly difficult feat, and would never mention her career.
But then she loses me entirely when she doesn’t blame the idiotic, self-hating men who are entirely in control of their own lives for how they behave:
“Much as I hate to say it, I think we successful women are to blame for men’s reluctance to be with us. In the process of becoming Alpha women, we’ve lost our femininity. If we want to be happy in relationships, we have to get that back – even if that means ‘unlearning’ some of the things that have got us to the top. What do we want more – a relationship or a career?
Almost all the women I’ve asked that question want a relationship, including me.
Men love vulnerable women. We need to accept that, just because we’ve changed, we can’t expect them to. I don’t think they can.”
I want a career. Most of the women I know want careers. Most of the women I know do love dating, but want their careers and would not stand for a partner who got in the way of that. Many of them have partners and careers, both of which are working splendidly for them. Why? Because if somebody loves you, he (or she) won’t care that you’re successful — he’ll be thrilled about it. And if he wasn’t totally excited, he would at least make you not have to shoulder the weight of that insecurity and let you enjoy your happiness, as you would hopefully allow for him.
If men want to pout in the corner with some tiny violin music playing as they feel embittered towards women because boo hoo, the world owes them and stupid strong women stole that away, then that’s perfectly fine. That’s their right. They can resent successful women all they damn well please because it’s not going to further their careers, light their ambitious fire or give them anything other than wrinkles and rants for their Blogspots.
Though this issue does seem to pervade many women’s lives, I do think it is, at least in part, a generational thing. While the women in these articles are primarily in their late 30s and 40s, and therefore likely seeking men around the same age, I have yet to meet any men my own age who are intimidated by success in women. When I asked several male friends of mine — all in their mid-20s — whether or not they would resent, break up with or refuse to date a woman more successful than they, each said, “No.”
One stated that, as long as she didn’t mind that he couldn’t afford everything she could, he would find it very attractive because, as he put it, “independence is sexy.” Another said he’d be extra interested in a woman specifically because of that success. Others simply said various versions of, “Absolutely not.” Each of these guys is in a different field of work, from a different part of the country and has various dating backgrounds, but all found it more appealing than not when a woman is successful, including more successful than themselves.
I have yet to experience a guy sincerely resenting me for success — I’m 23, just started paying my own rent last year and am definitely by no means rich, famous or otherwise warranting the adjective “successful” and its typical meaning. However, I have had a significant other act bitter towards me because of our employment statuses. Oddly enough, it was all the way back in high school (I’ve since never dated somebody who didn’t have a job, partially because of this) with a guy who was a “musician.”
He was about 4 years older than I and played several instruments well, but made money off of, oh, none of them. He had dropped out of college to pursue his music, refused to get a job because it “got in the way” of his dreams and even quit the one his roommate managed to obtain for him after a week because it was “impeding” his “art.” I was going to school, maintaining good grades, doing extracurriculars and working 20 hours a week in retail and 10 a week in food service. He thought that this made me “shallow” because I was “working for the man” (i.e. trying to get money for college), but had no qualms with asking me to lend him money for rent once when his parents refused to pay it (douchebag still owes me a $200). He later confessed that he criticized me because my job made him “feel like a loser.” Though he could have changed his employment situation so very easily, he still felt upset with me for some reason.
Of course, it is not easy change his or her employment status or monetary situation or level of success. In this era of unemployment and uncertain money situations, it’s difficult for any of us to just spontaneously get successful. But there is no reason to resent your partner for it. And if you do, at least be courteous enough to discuss it and not simply make her feel guilty for doing well; that’s just plain cruel.
If you love somebody, and he or she loves you and happens to be doing well, then it’s better to feel lucky — especially if you share a home or children, thus making both your lives a lot more secure. At the very least, use your partner’s success to inspire yourself to do better, not feel embittered. Jealousy and resentment take few people far, and serve primarily to ruin solid relationships.
If you happen to be the person who’s being resented, tell your significant other that deserve to feel proud, not ashamed, of the good things you have done and the achievements you’ve obtained. Being supported about the positives in your life is equally as important as being supported during the tough times, so choose a partner who values you and recognizes how wonderful you really are rather than someone who uses you as a bar at which he measures himself. And do not blame yourself for another person’s insecurities; you deserve your self-esteem, and are not responsible for constantly boosting someone else’s.
Oh, and this attitude that certain men should somehow be resentful of successful women, and that females should lie down and be demure because it makes the more insecure fellahs feel a little less sensitive about their own shortcomings? I recommend rejecting it wholly. If you work hard and receive rewards as a result, you deserve those; don’t let anybody, including stupid dating guides, tell you otherwise.
Then again, I’m very single and want a career more than a relationship at this point in my life, which may or may not change (then again, I also see myself in ten years having kids, a career and still no relationship), so take any advice I dole out with a grain or ten of salt. For now, I just think it’s worth the wait to find somebody who wants me to be successful just as much as he or she aspires to be, and vice versa.
Photos: Bravo, Jersey Shore, The Daily Show, Modern Family, ActionSportsNow.