Macho men whose female partners earn more than they do have poor romantic relationships, partly because they are stressed by the difference in income.
Conversely, men who are not rigid about their masculinity do not consider the difference in income as important and have a better
relationship with their female partner.
Patrick Coughlin and Jay Wade from Fordham University were interested in the effects of this growing trend on the experience of marriage and the quality of romantic relationships in particular, the journal Sex Roles reports.
The study is based on a survey of 47 men, who had a female partner with a higher income. Researchers assessed their beliefs about masculinity, the quality of their relationships, and the importance of the disparity in income between them and their female partners, according to a Fordham statement.
They found, on the one hand, that the stronger a man's endorsement of traditional masculinity ideology, the more likely he was to report a low-quality romantic relationship, and the more he perceived the difference in incomes as important.
On the other hand, the more a man endorsed non-traditional masculinity ideology, the more likely he was to have a high-quality relationship with his female partner and not place too much importance on the income disparity.
They said: "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. The findings are relevant to men who are married as well as non-married men in a romantic relationship."
The breadwinner role is still the accepted norm in marriage, which 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 fulfil this role.