Successful Women Dating: Myths and Realities
Do Smart Men Really Marry Down?
About 14 years ago, the psyches of successful single women were singed with worry when journalist John Schwartz wrote a New York Times article titled “Glass Ceiling at Altar as Well as Bedroom.” He claimed that “men would rather marry their secretaries than their bosses.” The following year, Maureen Dowd followed with another Times column (and a book, Are Men Necessary?), agreeing with Schwartz. The authors’ clear thesis: Men prefer to marry down. Since then the media have continued with this narrative lending credence to the successful women dating blues.
Many of the college-educated, professional, or financially successful women in our coaching program worry that they are overqualified for love. Some think it best to hide their success when they meet a guy. Others feel like they have to hold on to the one DUD they’ve got, even though he is not working out, because their chances out there are not good. This is true even for twenty-somethings like Jo, who works in the financial sector. “It’s simple; I feel nervous talking about work on a first date.”
Successful Women Dating: Separating Myth from Fact
Both Schwartz and Dowd relied on one study to support their claims. Let’s scrutinize this study, which was published in the Journal of Evolution and Human Behavior. Researchers tested 120 male undergraduates by asking them to rate their attraction to a photo of a woman who was described as a “supervisor,” “co-worker,” or “assistant.” When it came to dating or marriage, these undergraduates indicated that they were more attracted to the “assistants.” That’s it. From this study of undergraduates, the authors concluded that men prefer nonthreatening women as life partners.
The research has at least four serious flaws. To begin with, this was a study of students at a university, not men who were at an age where they would normally be choosing a mate. Second, there were only 120 subjects, not an especially large sample from which to draw such sweeping conclusions. Third, the “supervisor” was described as someone who has “responsibility for disciplining absence or poor performance on your part, for rewarding reliable or creative performance.” These young men were rejecting a woman who had hypothetical control over their careers! They were not rejecting a woman who was simply described as powerful.
Finally, the study’s design was all in relation to a photo with no real interaction. In conversation, brighter women might easily have an edge in relating to smart men. By all clinical and research accounts (as you’ll soon see), intelligence and intelligent conversation play pretty important roles in mate selection! In short, Schwartz and Dowd’s premise about successful women dating is built on a house of cards.
Do Successful Men Marry Down? Absolutely Not
Is the notion that successful men tend to marry down borne out by other research? The answer is a resounding “No.” Many studies of mate selection conducted around the world find that the rule of homogamy applies. That is, spouses tend to show similar educational achievements! They also marry partners who are similar in attitudes, religion, and values. In the last thirty years, as women have become better educated, they have tended to marry educated men. This trend has replaced the historical pattern where, because of a lack of educational opportunities, women were more prone to marry the more educated males. That is, to marry up. Today, because people spend so much time in school, they deliberately look for partners in college or graduate school.
Researchers Blossfeld and Tim, who have studied homogamy for over a decade, found that educational homogamy rates have increased over the last century. For women in their forties in the U.S., over half, 51 percent, married a partner with the same degree. Only 27 percent married up and 21 percent married down. Education has changed our society, and women have not been hurt by this. In fact, they are the primary benefactors. So successful women should go into dating with confidence.
Recent Global Studies on Mate Selection
Two studies conducted in Europe and Australia show that smart men prefer smart women and are happier for it. First, in a study of educational homogamy in marriage in 22 countries, 14 countries showed a strong tendency toward homogamy. While in seven, the men actually married up! Second, the Australian study on 5,000 subjects revealed that men who married educated women are happier than those who partnered with uneducated ones. Furthermore, the author concluded that a man’s happiness level grew by 8 percent for each year of his wife’s post-high-school education. So a college graduate brought her man 32 percent more happiness than a high school grad. Solid research conducted around the world shows that the more educated women have become, the more attractive they are to the opposite sex.
A 2017 study shows that women with advanced degrees now outnumber guys at the same educational level. These researchers looked at U.S. census data which showed that the number of men who marry down is decreasing. While the number of men who marry up is increasing. For men in the 1990s, 38 per cent married down and only 25 per cent married up. In the latest figures 28 per cent married down, while 35 per cent married up. So men of all types prefer dating and marrying successful women.
Do Looks Play a Role in Successful Women Dating?
Beauty plays a key role in the romantic selections men make. But here’s the surprise. Smarter women actually tend to take better care of their bodies and therefore may be more appealing visually. Being visually appealing or, as researchers term it, having body symmetry, has long been known to be an important component in mating. Not just with humans but in the entire animal kingdom. In her terrific book, Why Smart Men Marry Smart Women, Christine Whelan concludes that smart women have both beauty and brains and are therefore more appealing. Her bottom line in is, “Gentlemen prefer brains.”
The news is good ladies, for successful women dating and finding a great partner. You do not need to worry about your ambition and power destroying your chances for love.
Five Tips for Successful Women Dating
- Solid research shows that you counter your negative beliefs with positive love affirmations.
- Remember to make a love relationship a priority in your life.
- Get more education if you need it.
- Explore your receptive and beautiful feminine side with men.
- Let men be helpful.
Final note on successful women dating and relationship issues
There has been a delay in the age at which women marry and bear children. But they can still do both—and not necessarily in that order! Study after study has concluded that education is becoming less of an impediment to both motherhood and marriage.
So file all these positive realities in your mind. These days you can have success, marriage, and children if you want them. And be with a loving guy who is a winner. This post on successful women dating issues was excerpted in part from my newly revised and updated dating advice book, Love in 90 Days.
Additional Resources for Successful Women Dating
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As a relationship expert, I've helped thousands of women get the love they want-even when it seemed impossible. I'm Dr. Diana Kirschner. You might know me from my PBS Special, seen me on Oprah, or have read one of my bestselling books.
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