For Love or Money: When You Out-Earn Your Guy

So your salary has a few zeros on your guy's. Big deal, right? Well, maybe for you. But when Dean Chandler's girlfriend began picking up the tab, his feelings about her success got, shall we say, a bit more complicated. Step inside his mind.

It was cute back then. "She's so smart," you'd tell your friends and family. "Yep, she just got promoted. I'm so proud of her!" you'd sing over your cubicle walls to anyone who would listen. And, boy, was she grateful. "He's so supportive," she'd gush to her friends over a second glass of chardonnay. For everyone involved, it was great.

After that promotion came another. You loved it. It validated your intelligence and good taste. Ah, the pride you took in her being yours. And there were other benefits. After work, while she was off doing whatever it is smart women do to get ahead, you had time to hit the gym, play a few rounds of Golden Tee and have a beer with your friends.

On your ultra-supportive days, you'd stop by that great (and cheap) little Thai place where she loves the dumplings and pick up dinner for the two of you. You'd have it all set and ready to eat when she finally got home. It was the least you could do for the one you love.

Then, the next big deal comes her way. She calls you, all excited, and wants to celebrate by going out to dinner. She suggests the place. You use the romantic candlelight to squint at the absurd prices on the menu, and you begin to sweat. As she orders the first bottle of wine, you cringe at the thought of the hit your wallet's going to take.

When the check comes, you start to pray that your Visa won't be declined. That's when it happens. She grabs the bill jacket, pulls out a blinding, metallic-sheen credit card and says, "I've got it."

The words hit you like a platinum fist. Your legs go limp, your throat tightens, your spine begins to decompose. You look at your beautiful woman. The soft candlelight has thrown her angelic features into near-sinister shadow. In what some experts call a "moment of clarity," you realize she is more successful than you are.

This is what some other experts call a "paradigm shift."

Success is a particular thing. Like shaved heads, bikinis and cowboy shirts, it's perfect on some people, unsettling on others. On men, success is an aphrodisiac. It attracts women like sample sales or free martinis. This is a 150-proof cultural truth.

For women, though, success is difficult to carry off. It will certainly repel the weak men of the world. Worn too brazenly, it can send even the strongest hunter in search of smaller game.

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