My Advanced Degree Is Ruining My Relationship

Unhappy married business coupleA recent study, reported in The Wall Street Journal, has found that women with MBAs are twice as likely to be divorced than men with an MBA degree. And that women with professional degrees in law or medicine also seem to get divorced at higher rates than their male counterparts as well.

“Women with M.B.A.s described themselves as divorced or separated more often than women with only bachelor’s degrees (12% of female M.B.A.s compared with 11% of women with only bachelor’s degrees) and more than twice as often as men with M.B.A.s (5% of whom reported being divorced or separated), according to Prof. Wilson’s study. The study will be published next week by the Witherspoon Institute as a chapter in a book to which Prof. Wilson contributed, “Rethinking Business Management.”

“According to Prof. Wilson’s study, women with law or medical degrees divorce less often than those with only bachelor’s degrees, but are still more likely to divorce or separate than their male counterparts (10% of women with law degrees and 9% of women with medical degrees, compared with 7% of male lawyers and 5.1% of male doctors).”

There could be several explanations for this disparity: women in the professions spend longer in school and may be choosing to defer starting a family or focus on personal relationships. Once they do choose to wed, they also spend longer hours on the job than most other women meaning less time is being spent on the marriage. In the case of doctors, they also tend to move around a lot as they complete their residency training, which can put a strain on marital and family relations as well.

However, Caitlin Weaver over at The Naked MBA has an even more interesting and plausible theory:

“The fact is that ambitious, career-driven women are not attracted to guys who want to stay at home and change diapers. They want similarly ambitious men in their lives. And a lot of ambitious, career-driven men think they want to marry high-achieving women.

Think about how many couples meet in business school, for example. After a few years, though, men realize that marrying their equal was not such a good idea, because now there is no one to pack lunches in the morning or drive the kids to soccer practice. And women realize that marrying a man on his way to the top leaves them stuck holding the diaper bag. Divorce ensues.”

Studies have shown that most people are attracted to someone with a similar level of education, income (although I’m sure most guys will disagree with this point) and attractiveness. Even the folks over at the satirical Stuff White People Like acknowledge the social pressure to date someone as “well-read” as you are:

“In social situations there is a good chance that a poorly read person will admit to not having read Nabokov beyond Lolita or that they are unfamiliar with Umberto Eco’s essays on reading. Of course, there is the off-chance that they might commit intellectual and social suicide by asking your friends if they “loved The Da Vinci Code as much I did?” This is extremely embarrassing and reflects poorly on them. Ultimately, their actions are more of a statement about you and your inability to date someone of adequate literary experience.”

Kelvin Lee, over at The Bizness Blawg of Kelvin Lee, touts the benefits of marriage for successful business leaders:

“Now why is a lovelife, or a significant other, or even a wife, seemingly so important for one’s success? For some, the significant other provides significant support in their work as well.

Anna C. Sobrepena, the wife of Chito Sobrepena, who is Executive Vice President of Metrobank, one of the largest banks in Southeast Asia, is a good example.

In a recent Inquirer article, Anna wrote about how she would “sit in conferences he participated in, attend workshops and meetings when it was allowable, and get a feel of the milieu he was immersed in most of the week.”

She would also make an effort to cultivate conversations and good company during the required dinner events every big corporation would have. This, no doubt, helped Chito do well in his occupation and his climb up the corporate ladder, and most probably encouraged him to make time for the love of his life, who always supported him.”

Again, the theme that one spouse must support the other in order for one to achieve great success comes through. However, who is to say that they both haven’t worked for their success? Kelvin offers the example of Bill and Melinda Gates, both of whom worked at Microsoft and who co-founded the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Certainly Bill is the more successful partner, but does Melinda not work hard for their success? Do they not both share in the spoils?

I think the trick is not to necessarily find someone as ambitious about their career as you are about yours, but to find someone willing to support you and work with you to achieve shared goals instead of competing for the hardest-worker award.

Reader Alert: Any married folks out there care to share some success (or failure) stories about marrying someone more/less ambitious?

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5 responses »

  1. Pingback: My Advanced Degree Is Ruining My Relationship | Relationship Advise - Dating Disasters

  2. Pingback: Medicine » Blog Archive » My Advanced Degree Is Ruining My Relationship

  3. I read a book called “Why smart men marry smart women” by Christine B. Whelan. The stats seem to be biased however, the point she made is worth listening to. Just my 2 cents.

  4. i know anna sobrepena. she’s not just a woman who supports her husband’s career, she leads a pretty active life. editor in chief of a leading lifestyle glossy, she happens to be involved in several civic and cultural organizations. she shows that a woman can have a great marriage and a full and active life besides.

  5. i read something else anna sobrepena wrote in the inquirer sometime back on being a corporate wife. sounds like someone who is happy to be a wife. her column/ article mentioned bite size efforts that made sense. is she a regular?

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