As if you don’t already field enough unsolicited advice from overbearing friends and relatives, a Princeton alumna is suggesting that female students take advantage of their undergraduate years to find a husband.
If you haven’t read the letter that The Daily Princetonian printed from Susan A. Patton, an executive coach and human resources consultant who graduated from the school in the ’70s, here’s a recap:
For most of you, the cornerstone of your future and happiness will be inextricably linked to the man you marry, and you will never again have this concentration of men who are worthy of you.
Here’s what nobody is telling you: Find a husband on campus before you graduate. Yes, I went there.
She doesn’t stop there, either:
Of course, once you graduate, you will meet men who are your intellectual equal — just not that many of them. And, you could choose to marry a man who has other things to recommend him besides a soaring intellect. But ultimately, it will frustrate you to be with a man who just isn’t as smart as you.
Here is another truth that you know, but nobody is talking about. As freshman women, you have four classes of men to choose from. Every year, you lose the men in the senior class, and you become older than the class of incoming freshman men. So, by the time you are a senior, you basically have only the men in your own class to choose from, and frankly, they now have four classes of women to choose from. Maybe you should have been a little nicer to these guys when you were freshmen?
Patton says she was inspired to write the letter to the editor after attending a conference on campus about women and leadership. While there, she asked some female students if any of them wanted to get married and have children. “They looked at each other before they sheepishly raised their hands,” says Patton. “They all did, but they were afraid to say so unless the other women were willing to say so. … I thought, ‘For all of the advice they’re being given about professional development, no one is telling them how important it is to pay attention to the personal side of life as well.’”
After the letter got picked up by the media, The Daily Princetonian’s site crashed, presumably because of the influx of traffic generated by the controversial advice.
Here’s the thing: Personal views aside, tons of relationship research shows that it’s actually better not to get married straight out of college. Here’s why:
Your odds of splitting up are lower
The divorce rate in the U.S. has been on the decline since 1980—and the fact that women are getting married at an older age explains at least 60 percent of the decline, according to a 2011 study published by the Social Science Research Network. While the riskiest time to get married is in your teens, your chances of going through a divorce are about 34 percent if you get married between the ages of 20 and 23—compared to 20 percent if you get married between the ages of 27 to 29 and 8 percent if you wait to get married until after you’re 30, according to a survey by the National Fatherhood Initiative. “The longer you wait to get married, the more education and wealth you’ll have, which will translate to more stability when you get married,” says Brad Wilcox, PhD, director of The National Marriage Project at The University of Virginia.
You’ll make more money
College-educated women who marry after 30 make about $ 15,000 more than degree-holding women who get married in their early- to mid-20s, according to data from the American Community Survey. What’s more, women who get married after 30 also tend to have a household income that’s a little more than $ 20,000 higher. “It’s pretty well documented—what a substantial number of women do is sacrifice their own ambitions to those of their partner,” says Leslie Bennetts, author of The Feminine Mistake: Are We Giving up Too Much?, who points to a study done on brides written up in the New York Times’ “Vows” column. “Half of them quit their careers the minute they got married,” says Bennetts. If you wait to get married until you’re more established in your career, you’ll be less likely to abandon it the second he puts a ring on it, she says.
You have more options dating-wise than ever before
One of Patton’s biggest arguments: College is when women have the most options in their dating pool. That may have been true before the advent of online dating, but now you have plenty of single men to choose from. And that whole notion of only being able to date dudes who are older than you? You can throw that out the window. “I think that her advice, not only is it old fashioned,” says Bennetts, “but her understanding of the way the world works is extremely outdated.”