When career wins equal marriage failures

Sandra Bullock and then-husband Jesse James attend post-Oscars Vanity Fair party in Hollywood,...

Sandra Bullock and then-husband Jesse James attend post-Oscars Vanity Fair party in Hollywood, Calif., March 7, 2010. (WENN.COM)

William Wolfe-Wylie, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:00 AM ET

It might be called the Oscar Curse around this time of year, but men have long been threatened by a woman's success, sometimes to the point of ripping a marriage apart. Now there's even hard research to back it up.

In a study entitled "The Oscar Curse: Status Dynamics and Gender Differences in Marital Survival", researchers at Carnegie Mellon and the University of Toronto found that the little gold statue can take on a very large meaning in a household.

"Men may eschew partners whose intelligence and ambition exceeds their own," says Sue Moon, a PhD student at the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management who worked on the study. "And men and women who do not conform to gender stereotypes may elicit negative attitudes not only from their spouse, but also from other family members and observers."

The team looked at Best Actress winners and found that the risk of divorce was more than 60% higher than non-winners. Best Actor winners had no such risk.

This year's crop of nominees could prove no different. Natalie Portman, newly engaged and pregnant, poses particular potential for drama, her fellow nominees all seemingly immune from much marital discord. Fellow nominees Michelle Williams and Jennifer Lawrence are single, automatically bucking the curse, while Nicole Kidman and Annette Bening both seem happily married. But then, so did Sandra Bullock.

But power struggles and relationship meltdowns aren't limited to the rich and the famous.

Lynda Snyder at the Calgary Counselling Centre sees all kinds of couples, but most of them suffer from the same root causes of their unhappiness.

"Any sudden change in the relationship can be disruptive, positively or negatively," she says. "If a couple has coping strategies that allow them to deal with change, you're good. If a couple doesn't have good communications skills that allow them to adapt to that change, then problems arise."

Essentially, quick changes like promotions, awards or anything else that might change the power dynamic in a relationship don't create new problems, they just amplify relationship issues that have always been struggling beneath the surface.

That falls right in line with Moon's research.

"In any case, there is probably value in men and women being conscious of the potential effects of career success, to protect against its possible consequences and enjoy more of its benefits," Moon says. "So hopefully we'll be seeing less of the Oscar Curse -- and this social phenomenon more generally -- in the future."

Cheater's code

Relationships may be complicated, but who cheats on their partner and why is surprisingly straightforward. Christin Munsch, a researcher at Cornell University, told the American Sociological Association in 2010 that cheaters all share a few key characteristics:

-       When men are more economically dependent on their partner, he is more likely to cheat

-       The more economically dependent a man's partner is on him, the more likely he is to cheat

-       Women are less likely to cheat when financially dependent on their partner

-       Nobody is likely to cheat, regardless of financial dependence, if they are satisfied in their relationship

-      The more religious, the more educated and the more satisfied with the relationship, the less likely someone is to cheat

The Oscar curse

Do women who in the Best Actress Oscar face a doomed love life? Well, kind of. Here are the Cole's Notes for the curse (for the years as defined by the Academy):

2009 - Sandra Bullock -- Status at the time of award: Married to star mechanic Jesse James since 2005. The Curse at Work: James' infidelity came to light shortly afterward, ending the marriage by June 2010.

2008 - Kate Winslet -- Status at time of award: Married to Sam Mendes since 2003. The Curse at Work: The two split in 2010 on good terms.

2007 - Marion Cotillard -- Status at time of award: Dating director Guillaume Canet. The Curse at Work: Non-existent. The two are now expecting their first child.

2006 - Helen Mirren -- Status at time of award: Married to Taylor Hackford, her partner since 1986. The Curse at Work: Not even a blip on the radar, no change in relationship status.

2005 - Reese Witherspoon -- Status at time of award: Married to Ryan Phillippe since 1997. The Curse at Work: Classic example. Within months of the win, the two were divorced.

2004 - Hilary Swank -- Status at time of award: Married to Chad Lowe since 1997. The Curse at Work: About a year after her award, the two separated and were divorced by May 2006.

2003 - Charlize Theron -- Status at the time of award: Dating Stuart Townsend. The Curse at Work: Delayed reaction. The couple broke up in 2010 after nearly ten years together.

2002 - Nicole Kidman -- Status at time of award: Divorced from Tom Cruise. The Curse at Work: Not so much. Her career kept growing, and she fell in love with country singer Keith Urban. They've been married since 2006.

2001 - Halle Berry -- Status at time of award: Married to Eric Benet. The Curse at Work: Separated in 2003, divorce finalized in 2005.

2000 - Julia Roberts -- Status at time of award: Dating Benjamin Bratt since 1998. The Curse at Work: They split three months later, though maintained it was purely amicable with no hard feelings. Roberts married Daniel Moder, the cameraman for her 2000 film The Mexican, in 2002, once his divorce was finalized.


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