On “Marrying Down”


When I tell someone I don’t know well, that I’m engaged the first question they ask is, “What’s his name?” and then inevitably, “What does he do?” When I answer that J works in the warehouse of a big box electronic store, they usually ask “Oh, is he in school?” My doctor, my professors, that chick that sat next to me in the class I can’t remember, none of them seem satisfied to hear that he works in a job that is neither meaningful nor pays well.

A Practical Wedding has a post by a woman named Rachel who talks about dealing with a thing you wouldn’t think was a thing anymore except of course it is for some people: being a woman and marrying someone who is less educated than you, and/or makes a lot less money.

How Rachel pulls apart the generational aspects of her mother’s advice are really interesting. She says that her mother “was an unfortunate member of a generation of women trapped between traditional gender roles and a changing economy,” i.e., her mom was the de facto primary breadwinner when her dad’s construction business took a downturn, which really shapes what her mom wants for her:

As I grew older my mother counseled me to find a partner with a good education and a strong work ethic. She warned me of the pain of leaving your infant at daycare for the long hours needed to earn enough to support a family. She encouraged me to pursue my own education but also not to settle for a partner who didn’t earn enough so that I could stay home while my children were young.

When I first met J he was taking a college program in technology, which pleased my mother enough for her to approve of my dating him. We met at the electronics store we both worked at part time while we were in school. Five years later J still works there, now full time. He never finished his college program and has no interest in the field. He works hard and puts in overtime hours every week to support our baby family while I work my way through graduate school. I love him immensely and I am deeply grateful for the mind-numbing work he does where he earns enough for us to pay vet bills and buy groceries.

It sounds like Rachel and her partner know what works for them, and have been really thoughtful about it (which is more than many can say), but that doesn’t preclude dealing with everyone else’s weird judgmental crap, which is still the worst.

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