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The Oscar Curse Also Has a Blessing - Many Successful Women Trade-Up

May 19, 2010 | Updated May 25, 2011

The so-called Oscar curse where a smart beautiful woman's success bruises her husband's delicate ego compelling him to run into the arms of some dim-witted damsel du jour is missing a crucial ending. It can turn into a blessing and many of these women trade-up.

Sparked by the revelations of Jesse James having an affair with a tattooed tart and newly minted Best Actress Sandra Bullock responding to this drama by moving out of the house, Daily Beast reporter Nicole LaForte did a wonderful job of putting the spotlight on how many Hollywood relationships are strained after their wives take home a little golden man named Oscar.

After all, the day before the Jesse James revelation came news that Kate Winslet, who won the Best Actress award the year before, was separated from her husband, director Sam Mendes.
LaForte pointed out how the marriages of other winners such as Hillary Swank, Reese Witherspoon and Halle Barry soon deflated post Oscar season.

And while that is true, one can argue that these women traded up. Hillary Swank left Chad Lowe and dates her agent, John Campisi. Reese Witherspoon was a class act who never slammed Ryan Phillippe the father of her two children after his affair with Abbie Cornish. Witherspoon retreated to heal her wounds and then started dating the talented and caring Jake Gyllenhaal. Sources say he wanted to marry her but she wasn't ready. And as far as Halle Berry, leaving Eric Benet, she has now found happiness with model Gabriel Aubry and their daughter Nahla. Julia Roberts may not be with Benjamin Bratt post-Oscar but soon fell in love with Danny Moder, with whom she has three children and what she has described as true happiness.

As with most cheating men who marry high and then cheat low, they don't want to remain with their paramours. Ryan Phillipe recently broke up with Abbie Cornish. Tiger Woods isn't looking to leave Ellin for any of his numerous porn-a-whorics but working hard to reconcile with his wife. Jesse James clearly is ashamed and upset that he's hurt his wife and issued an apology. He wants her back.

Best Actress award winner Susan Sarandon is the one who broke up her 21-year relationship with Tim Robbins last year and is now reportedly with a dreamy-eyed 31 year old ping-pong player. And it is unclear - but implied - that Kate Winslet was the one getting bored in her relationship.

The fact is that beauty, money and charm creates options for any gender who possess these qualities. And there will be more men - not less - who will appreciate these benefits.
Especially since a recent Pew Research Center survey found that 22 percent of husbands have wives who earn more than them and in nearly a third of marriages, the woman is more educated.

Now obviously since I deal with marriages in trouble, I have seen a growing trend in how resentments marinate when wives are more successful than their husbands. It's as if men act out by saying, "I'll have sex and feel macho because she looks up to me and I feel bigger and stronger." But here's what is not being reported. When they wake up in the morning after the affair, they suddenly miss the nice house, the interesting life and conversation, the frolicking of children.

The women also learn that they sometimes abuse their own power as well by focusing so much on their needs and losing a certain softness - sorry but it's true - that men enjoy. The skills used to succeed are not the ones that sometimes benefit intimate relationships. But the smart ones know how to click the channel and stop being bosses when they come home and ease into being friends and lovers.

As my colleague Dr. Mark Banschick says, wives who are more successful do have the added challenge in making their husbands feel needed and just like we as a culture have learned to navigate co-parenting in divorce, we now need to implement techniques for when a woman is more successful than her husband.

"Their success runs against basic Caveman biology where men need to feel they are taking care of the woman," he says. "Now this is all in the head of the man. We are, after all, moderns, and men have to adapt to successful women, who after all, are just people who need love and attention, even if they have made it. It's paramount that both partners acknowledge this tension in the relationship, laugh about it and turn into a small thing and stay soft and related to each other like young lovers so that resentments don't poison the relationship."

And then there are other strategies too. Dr. Bonnie Eaker Weill points out that separations are often too long. "Successful women are now traveling more," she said. Also, don't rely on emails. "You need to hear someone's voice to stimulate connection," she said. "Emails are not the same. They don't produce the same endorphins. You have to stay connected in any marriage."

Sometimes a gal can do all the right things and the guy still ends up being a jerk. However, the woman's power does give her more options than ever before. She has the money to leave and find happiness elsewhere.

What annoys me is that the subplot simmering insidiously is that successful women won't be able to find love. Au contraire.

And as far as Sandra Bullock is concerned, such a delightful, loving, interesting woman who also opened her heart to become a devoted stepmother is clearly going to find love again. "I never knew what it was like for someone to have my back," she said of her husband before he stabbed her in the back. My bet is that she won't come back. At least to him. It will be Jesse James' loss and some other guy's gain.