Marry Smart

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Author, professor and journalist Dr. Christine B. Whelan first shattered the myth that men are intimidated by successful women in her book Why Smart Men Marry Smart Women. Now, in a second book, Marry Smart: The Intelligent Woman’s Guide to True Love, she’s back with more advice for high-achieving single ladies who are looking for a man who will appreciate their accomplishments. Here, Dr. Whelan talks about her grandmother’s terrifying relationship advice, why men don’t reject women because they’re intimidated, and how personal success increases your odds of romantic success.

Q: Why did you write this book?

A: I went on a nationwide book tour [for Why Smart Men Marry Smart Women] and spoke to thousands of women, and time and again they would come up to me and ask for advice and practical applications. This second book is grounded in the same data, but is chockfull of advice on how to apply it. I think so many young women want to be in a relationship so badly that they’ll pretend to be someone they’re not to get into a relationship. They think they have to downplay their success to get a guy to like them. But the whole message of my book is: Don’t do that! Smart women should be looking for the guys who will be even more into them because of their intelligence and career accomplishments.

Q: Where does the idea that men don’t like smart women come from? There’s a pretty pervasive idea that men would rather marry a flight attendant than a cardiologist.

A: The conventional wisdom comes from statistical bad news of generations ago. As recently as the 1980 census, a woman who had a graduate degree or earned a good salary was significantly less likely to get married and have children. But right around then, things started changing. For young women now in their twenties and thirties, having a college or graduate degree and excelling in your career actually increase your odds of marriage.

Q: But why are those outdated perceptions so tenacious?

A: There are a couple of reasons. The media loves bad news. What’s going to make a better headline – that these smart, successful women are going to be alone forever, or the idea that these women can have it all? But it’s not just the media. You have your mother, grandmother, and well-meaning aunts all asking when you’re going to get married. My grandmother would say, “Honey, you’ve got to use what Mother Nature gives you before Father Time takes it away.” How’s that to raise your blood pressure? Well-meaning family members perpetuate these myths. And you have the young, single women themselves. We perpetuate the myth that men are intimidated by us because we’re so fabulous and successful. It makes us feel a little bit better, but it also makes us feel terrible. We’re succeeding in all of the ways that we think we’re supposed to succeed so why is that hurting our love life?

Q: So men do not reject women for their success?

A: No. Time and again, this has been proven – not just in opinion polls, but in statistics about who we’ve married. This doesn’t mean that all men are interested in a smart, successful woman; it means that the kind of man that one of these smart, successful women want to be with is [out there]. And it’s not just about getting married, it’s about being in a partnership with someone who’s right for you. And the idea of lying about who you are and downplaying your success is a recipe for disaster.

Q: Do high-achieving women do best with similarly high-achieving men?

A: Absolutely. The idea that opposites attract is a myth – it’s more that like attracts like. That works in all socioeconomic and educational backgrounds. For the most part, high-achieving, smart women are going to end up with high-achieving, smart men. But, at the same time, we need to be a little bit careful about thinking outside the box and not falling into traditional gender roles. The conventional wisdom is that a woman needs to “marry up,” that she needs to marry a man that is taller, stronger, more successful, more educated and makes more money. It just doesn’t have to be that way. We marry for love now, and that offers all kinds of freedoms – especially for a woman who is well educated and earning a good salary on her own. If she’s working 70 hours a week, a guy who works 100 hours probably isn’t a good match. What about a guy who is going to support her career? I think about 55 percent of married women who make more than $50,000 a year are married to men who make less than they do. It’s very common for women to be matching or out-earning their husbands these days.

Q: If you had to sum up the secret to meeting a great guy who loves smart, successful women, what would it be?

A: The first tip is really to just get out there and meet a lot of people. Expand your social network. One of the things I’ve been recommending is that you host a bring-a-friend party, where you invite 10 or 15 of your friends and have each of them bring two friends you don’t know, ideally single. And for the women, you don’t necessarily have to go straight for the single guys. You can go for the single women you don’t know because they know a whole different social set of guys. If you expand your horizons and meet new people, you’re going to expand your number of possible matches. So many women, especially when we get out of school, work 10 hours a day and then come home and crash in front of the TV. And then on weekends you go out with five of your girlfriends. This is not the way to meet a guy. You’ve got to get out there.

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