A friend of mine is terribly worried that our next generation of high-achieving women may be destined for unhappiness because they will have difficulty in finding husbands. Are our self-affirming messages to today’s smart, capable young women setting them up for future misery?
This well-intentioned concern raises some interesting points. First, it assumes that a person needs to be married (or have a soulmate) to be happy. While most of us would agree that humans are happier with companionship (hence solitary confinement being a punishment) and that we would feel blessed to find a soulmate, many may take issue with the implication that marriage is necessary for personal happiness.
Second, this concern takes a traditional view of what constitutes a suitable partner. Historically, women have been deemed to be successful only if they marry at or above their station, whereas men could marry anyone they wanted to, especially if the woman was a beauty. Therefore, the more educated and commercially successful a woman is, the smaller the talent pool from which she can choose a husband. Are we really still governed by these traditional societal norms?
As well, this worry assumes that men won’t feel comfortable dating or marrying a successful woman. And if he does, there is the further implication that it is the woman who ultimately will have to make a binary choice between career success and family life.
You may say that statistically speaking, my friend is right to worry: people do tend to want to find a partner and have a family, many men may still feel threatened by high-powered women, and societal norms still hold their sway. But surely the solution is not to stop women from pursuing their aspirations and impose our choices on them?
Personally, I think the world has a great capacity to change. I recently read about another example contrary to my friend’s worrisome scenario: Julia Gillard, the newly elected Prime Minister of Australia, has found happiness with her hairdresser turned estate agent boyfriend, who also happens to be a whiz in the kitchen and highly supportive of her career (Telegraph.co.uk: bit.ly/cRNxNZ).
While it is only one (more) example, it nonetheless gives us all greater hope that successful women are finding wonderful men in all walks of life and vice versa. As they say, “why marry a doctor when you can be a doctor yourself?” And maybe there’s some great guy who would prefer to marry a doctor rather than be one himself. You just have to be clear on what you are looking for.
And while statistics may portray an accurate picture on an aggregate basis, they are pretty much irrelevant when it comes to any one person’s situation. For example, just because only 20% of people survive a particular type of cancer doesn’t mean a thing if you happen to have it. Irrespective of the odds, for the individual the outcome is binary: you either live or die.
So as individuals, we can afford to ignore the historical odds. After all, it takes just one. It happens all the time. You just have to be open-minded and on the lookout for the scenario you want.
In life, there are no guarantees that you will get what you want, but at least you have to try. Otherwise, you truly do end up miserable. And that is a sure thing.