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…