There’s Levels To This: Does It Matter If Your Man Is As Educated As You?

February 22, 2014  |  

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“I absolutely cannot date a man who doesn’t have a degree,” a close friend of mine told me a few years ago. This particular friend has a bad habit of saying extremely elitist things with no regard for the lifestyles and values of those around her. The funny thing is she often talks about things she prefers in a man that she doesn’t even possess herself. She has a degree, but like many of us in this economy is struggling to see it pay off financially for her. What I’ve noticed is that by her being so focused on a specific list of what she wants in a man, she hasn’t dated at all in quite a while.

The reason why her comment stands out in my memory after all this time is because I remember the time I discovered an old pay stub of my fiancé’s and discovered he was making more when he graduated high school than I am now. He never went to college or even junior college for that matter, but he did work hard, built a business of his own and is one of the most “people smart” people I know. If I would have had the mindset that my friend has when I first met him, I would’ve totally slept on a man that compliments me not only personally, but professionally and financially as well.

I’ve come across a few articles lately discussing the importance of dating someone on your same education level. Earlier this week on MadameNoire, a letter was posted from a woman who felt her man wasn’t on her level, but when I continued to read it sounded like she had more of a problem with his maturity level and social skills rather than anything he did or didn’t study in school. HelloBeautiful also posted a piece where findings from the Pew Research Center revealed that American wives were more likely to be more educated than their husbands. In a situation they referred to as “marrying down”, they reported, “Among college-educated newlyweds, 39 percent of women pledged their undying devotion to a non-grad. Only 26 percent of men did the same.” The study noted that the trend seems to be prevalent among newlyweds, probably due to the fact that women have surpassed men educationally in the past two decades. What’s even more surprising: Women may be marrying down when it comes to education, but that’s not the case when it comes to income. According to the study, 58 percent of better-educated women married men who earn more money.

I fall into the latter category, but I wouldn’t say I’m marrying down as much as I’m marrying different. When I first met my fiancé one of the things that most attracted me was the fact that he settled on a house the year after he graduated high school. At an age when most men were worrying about what club they were going to hit up on the weekend, he was trying to make his mortgage payments. I witnessed him build a business, saw that he had great credit and how observant he was about the world around him. While I was floating from class to class in undergrad he was teaching me about things you only know when you’re street smart, like always being aware of my surroundings (I was raised in a nicer section of Philly so I was a little naïve when it  came to crime and being suspicious of certain people). He taught me things you can’t learn in school and it’s one of the reasons I think he’s been able to be so successful without relying on a piece of paper that basically says, “You went to school and have $20,000 in debt to show for it!  You’re so smart!” Don’t get me wrong, I’m not marrying just because he has great credit and knows how to manage money. I’m pretty independent myself, but I didn’t allow myself to get caught up in nice cars, degrees and flashy clothes without paying attention to things that really make a difference when you’re building a life with someone.

I’m not discrediting the value of a good education either, but what I will say is if that’s a major dealmaker in choosing a mate, you might be selling yourself short. Every man lacking a Bachelor’s degree isn’t automatically broke, trifling and lacking culture. Women can be so focused with what a man looks like on paper that they may not even realize he’s discussing books that some professor didn’t assign him to read, he knows more about the Tea Party agenda than most CNN reporters and that even though he’s pushing an old Buick his credit score is that college grad’s SAT score squared. I know a lot of dumb people with degrees, and just because a piece a paper says you fulfilled some credit requirements doesn’t mean you know a damn thing.

I’ll take a man with good work ethic and grind any day. A man that knows that degrees aren’t what they used to be and doesn’t think having one means he doesn’t have to work hard. “If you feel like you’re settling, than you are,” was the response Dr. Sherry wrote on Essence.com in response to the woman’s letter about her man being less educated than her. Being ignorant and lazy is completely different than being uneducated and working smarter. I’m not suggesting that women shouldn’t have standards, but don’t let standards block you from having a man who’s respectful, responsible and loves you, even if he doesn’t have tons of student loan debt to show for it.

Toya Sharee is a community health educator and parenting education coordinator who has a  passion for helping  young women build their self-esteem and make well-informed choices about their sexual health.  She also advocates for women’s reproductive rights and blogs about  everything from beauty to love and relationships. Follow her on Twitter @TheTrueTSharee or visit her blog, Bullets and Blessings.

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