Monday, October 21, 2013
My college friend posted this article and asked for general opinion. I personally don't like the term "dating down"; I may bring home the bacon and even cook it in our household, but I could be where I am, live in this town, or be as happy as I am with my boyfriend. He is my partner and I often tell him, "we are in this together!" Because I handle all the finances, he doesn't alway understand exactly how much he helps out. I also don't consider myself "dating down" because my boyfriend uses his degree in Education, while I~on the other hand, don't use my degree in Science working at an ice cream store. lol
Why are so many successful women dating not-so-successful men? MORE.com’s relationship expert delves into the trend.
By Sherry Amatenstein, LMSW
Marcia Reynolds’s husband of five years was a trial lawyer. Her next long-term significant other, a physician. However, for the past four years, Reynolds, author of the book Outsmart Your Brain, has been happily involved with a man who will never be invited into Mensa.
At 52, the Arizona-based author and corporate coach has four more academic degrees and makes twice as much money as her boyfriend, a personal trainer. Yet Reynolds enthuses, "Karl is my knight. Unlike my exes who were threatened by my success — my husband wanted a stay-at-home housewife! — Karl’s my biggest cheerleader. I fly around the world on business while he takes care of the home and the cat."
Reynolds, currently working on a dissertation about high-achieving women in the workforce, finds comfort that she’s not alone in her predilection for a man content to bask in the shadow of her success. "My research found that 70 percent [of the working women she interviewed] are the primary breadwinners, yet feel their relationships are true partnerships."
When a woman is secure in her own identity, it’s practically irrelevant who is wearing the white or the blue collar. She can withstand snide comments and negative value judgments from friends and family, as well as her own fleeting discomfiture when her partner prefers a Big Mac to a Kobe Burger.
For many 40-plus women who have done the be-with-a-guy-with-money thing and found it wanting, a successful relationship no longer hinges on finding an outwardly successful man. The turn-on for Michele Harris, a twice-divorced credit billings manager, is emotional generosity. The 47-year-old New Yorker’s current boyfriend, Wayne, earns "a lot less" than her six-figure salary. She explains, "My previous boyfriend was a millionaire, but he did things like putting me on the train at 11 p.m. to go home alone. His golf game mattered most to him." As for Wayne? He’s "the polar opposite — he opens car doors and worries about my well-being. He helps out financially as much as he is able, but, more importantly, he truly gives of himself."
Paul F. Davis, author of the book Are You Ready for True Love?, offers another potential reason for the surge in women "dating down": "Women with a mothering tendency and a nurturing nature feel empowered with less successful men because they feel more needed and desirable."
Paul F. Davis
Sometimes a forty-something woman dips into the lower end of the socioeconomic pool in the hopes that her financial superiority will protect her from falling into a relationship with yet another controlling man.
Author and therapist L.B. Wish, PhD, MSW explains, "If she’s been hurt emotionally the first time around by a high-powered ex, she may think holding the purse strings means holding the power."
But if one partner takes this dominant role too far, she could sabotage the relationship, says Dr. Wish, who works with couples and families. "She wants to be the one to make decisions about where to vacation and whether to buy that expensive new car. Instead of having her opinion discounted, she’s the one doing the discounting." Dr. Wish entreats, "It’s important for her to have empathy for her partner’s position. As the saying goes, walk a mile in another person’s moccasins."
Dr. L.B. Wish
At midlife, many men have made their mark, so are no longer totally focused on their careers. Yet they’ve been programmed to derive the bulk of their identity from their professional persona. Respect for their contributions — and a willingness to compromise — is essential. Dr. Wish offers an example: "If you want a spa vacation and he says that would bore him, find a spot that offers something for both of you."
"You Can’t Find Everything in One Man"
There will always be tradeoffs and accommodations in any relationship. The biggest impediment might be not the huge earnings differential between the couple, but the yawning intellectual gulf. Marcia Reynolds, the woman involved with a personal trainer, confesses, "After seeing a thought-provoking movie I’ll be dying to discuss the conflict between the characters, but Karl just focuses on the action." She concludes, "You can’t find everything in one man. Friends and colleagues can engage in stimulating conversations with me. I’m the mind; Karl’s the body. When I get home exhausted, he can stretch me and make the kinks go away."
The crucial point is to search your soul to intuit why you’re in this relationship. Do the pluses greatly outweigh the negatives, or are you running from something — perhaps yourself?
While having money doesn’t mean a man will make you happy, neither does his not having money hold any guarantees. Certified life coach Sally Landau asks, "Is the appeal that he’s a ‘bad boy’? This may be the most rebellious act [a woman’s] ever tried in her very careful life — dating someone so far out of her social circle." And woe will befall the woman who thinks she can change, say, her other half’s musical taste from disco to Mahler. Landau says, "If you fell in love because he was so real, so authentic, then just keep loving him for what he brings to the table."
It’s a good thing the "dating down" trend is catching on, as men now make up barely 40 percent of our national college population. But in the end what truly counts is not what’s in your separate bank accounts, but what’s in your hearts and minds.