I have been receiving a lot of questions on relationships over the years; some face-to-face and others on email. I have been answering these questions privately until I realized that the issues raised could help many more people. So, from now on, every Wednesday I will be picking a question from you and trying my best to answer it. To start us of, last week I got an email from a lady (name withheld) that I thought was very important.
Does education matter in marriage? When does it become a problem? My boyfriend has a diploma and I have a Master’s degree.
This question does not have a quick fix answer. Technically, having different levels of education should not affect a relationship. In a perfect society it would not matter who is learned and who is not or even who is older than the other. Unfortunately, you and I don’t live in a perfect society and so the issue of education is usually a thorny issue. To best answer this question, there are a few things we need to look at.
Who is more learned? It matters who has the higher education level. In this case the lady is the one who does. Most times when the man is more learned it is not an issue. This is because structurally the man is the one who offers leadership and just like age, it doesn’t hurt if he knows a little more. When it is the woman who is more learned, it sometimes causes an issue.
How far apart are you? A small gap e.g. diploma and undergraduate is alright but like in this case, master’s degree and diploma is likely to be a problem. But it may not be an issue the two of you are OK with it.
How does it affect your interactions? The reason why education may be an issue is that it has a way of affecting how you interact with each other. It affects our everyday life since our education is usually a reflection of our experiences. Also it affects our way of reasoning. When discussing a topic it helps if both of you are knowledgeable on it or at least there is no obvious disadvantage to one party. When you tell a joke your partner should not give you a blank expression. Majority of time in marriage is spent talking about random mundane things. You discuss issues from politics to farming to technology to any number of things. It helps to have someone who can engage you intellectually. Luckily there are people who may not be educated but they are street smart. They are smart in the ways of life and they can get you out of a murky situation. They may not have a certificate but they are intelligent in their own. The point here is that hanging out with each other should not be a chore; it should be fun and engaging.
Red flags: Education is not a big deal, character of the people involved is. How you both handle the difference is what matters.
If the man is secure in his place and he feels respected regardless of the different levels of education, then by all means it is OK. However, if he constantly says, “you are saying/doing that because I have a Diploma and you have a Masters” then that’s a problem. You need a man who has no self-esteem issues. If he is constantly trying to prove you wrong or put you down because of his inadequacy then run.
As a woman you need to make it clear that you honor his leadership despite the education difference. You are not to pull the “I know more than you do” card or even insinuate it in conversation. When a man feels respected by his woman, he is assured of her love.
What can you do?
If your man wanted to study but situations of life did not give him a chance, let him enroll for school and support him. If you have a degree and he does not, give him a chance to catch up (this only applies if he wants to). If your parents had felt this was a major issue, it will comfort then to see him study.
Education should not affect a marriage if you approach it with wisdom. It is a beautiful thing as long as it is not used as a “who is better” measuring contest. Here’s the thing, one of you might even want to go into lecturing and so they will need to even get a PhD. This should be a point of celebrating your partner’s achievement not feeling inadequate.
The whole point of marriage is supporting one another. So, if your spouse is taking a class, engage him/her when he comes home, discuss assignments with him/her. Don’t look at their grades like a towering parent or constantly disapprove their points. Instead, give them time to study by helping out with chores. Take the kids away so your spouse can study in peace for an hour or two. And by all means, if there is a graduation, go for it.