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Educated woman/uneducated man - can it work?

(124 Posts)
sparklet Sun 18-Jan-09 11:59:19

I'm divorced with a DD of 10 and have been with my current BF for coming up to a year. He treats me really well, is gentle and kind, we share some interests and he's the most wonderful lover I've ever had. We've talked about marriage and he's said he wants to spend the rest of his life with me, but I'm in no hurry as I want to get to know him really well first.

There's one issue in particular I want to be comfortable with and please don't think I'm a snob but I can't ignore certain signs. I'm highly educated middle-class, he's skilled working-class (a carpenter) and simply not as knowledgeable/cultured as I am through no fault of his own. We do have lovely talks about quite deep things but I have to be careful not to use long words and can't really share my love of music and literature with him. His manners are a bit suspect sometimes too! He has a bit of a chip on his shoulder and I have to be careful not to come across as too assertive or he gets upset. Also I'm finacially secure and although he's generous to a fault, he's not good with money and has very little to show for many years of hard work and earning decent money. I can't see problems arising as long as we just continue to date but I'm nervous about living together/marriage.

Ivegotaheadache Sun 18-Jan-09 12:40:13

I was (am) in the same situation as the OP, he was a carpenter when I met him and I was in my last year at university.

I didn't give a second thought whether we were culturally matched, but I was more cultured, travelled and educated than him.

BUT, only because he hadn't had the opportunity to go to university and take a different path in life, his parents didn't push him like mine did (I put myself through uni by the way) and he didn't know what t he wanted from life let alone how to make it happen.

He is very intelligent adn since we have been together he has moved up in his profession and is now a site manager doing a degree course to take him even further.

He says he wants to progress partly because I give him nudges and tell him he can be whatever he wnts to be, but also when the dc's came along it fired his need to provide and earn enough money to buy a house, cars and all the other stuff that come with it.

I am now a SAHM (wasting my hard earned education and culture smile ).

I sometimes use words that he doesn't know but not because I'm more intelligent than he is , but because I'm such a book worm I come across these words. I just tell him what it means!

But I don't know everything because I've been to uni, there are lots and lots of things that I don't know that he will have to explain to me.

I don't think you're a snob and you're right to give these issues some thought, but most of them needn't be a problem unless you make it into a problem.

Forget about his manners, find other people to share your interests.
But I would be a bit cautious if you're not allowed to assert yourself, what makes him upset? Is it because he feels threatened by you?

aseriouslyblondemoment Sun 18-Jan-09 12:45:56

Gunner think that last bit was a tad harsh
but i can see where you're coming from
i dont think that sparklet values those things most
i think that she is merely thinking in terms of the complete package as there is the possibility of moving the relationship onto the next level.
i would also not wish to be with a man who didnt share the same interests as me or challenge me mentally
i would not wish to dumb down
did too much of this with exh!!

cat64 Sun 18-Jan-09 12:46:21

If you are 'being careful what you say' and 'changing the words and phrases you use' around him, after a year of being together, then that doesn't sound good for a lifetime relationship to me. To be thinking long term, you need to be really comfortable and relaxed with someone. Relationships can work where one partner likes to go to theatre / opera / museums / art galleries and the other doesn't. They can work when one partner feels uncomfortable in the company of the other's friends or family. They 'can' work where there are lots of differences between partners, but only if both partners acknowledge, and are comfortable with the differences. I can't see how it can work if you are pretending to be different from the person you really are, so far into a relationship. I'm sure we are all 'polite' or 'on our best behaviour' on the first few dates, but if the relationship doesn't move on from you 'trying to make him comfortable' then it doesn't sound like an equal footing for a relationship.

ladyjuliafish Sun 18-Jan-09 12:50:25

DH and I are from different backrounds. I'm private school, professional parents, proper subject at uni, have broad general knowledge.

DH parents are immigrants. His dad hasn't had much formal schooling and left home at 12. His mothers education suffered from moving around a lot and going to school in england without speaking english. Non of DHs grandparents can read or write. DH has never read a book (I read all the time). There are no books at all in his parents house. He has little general knowledge, doesn't follow the news, read a paper (except back pages) etc. DH has bad GCSEs and got into uni by doing a foundation course, did made up subject and scraped a degree. He is now self employed "skilled working-class".

We get on like a house on fire. We've been together 12 years and married for 7. I can't explain it. He has his friends to talk about 'transfer windows' etc. I have my friends to talk to and my reading group for literature. He has been to a few plays etc and enjoyed them but we basically have nothing in common.

He doesn't have a chip on his shoulder though and he doesn't mind that my english vocab is much broader than his as he speaks 3 languages fluently and unless you count asking the way to the youth hostel in French, I only speak 1.

treedelivery Sun 18-Jan-09 12:55:58

I'm uni educated [though no paragon of learning or culture I must say] and I always thought I'd 'end up' with someone like me. I think actually most of us do imagine that, so I don't think you are snobby, just really looking at what makes you you, for perhaps the first time. It will be an enriching process for you to see that humans can communicate across these divides, if you marry or don't him, this lesson is a good one.

I am with DH, a man who didn't get the 5 GCSE's. I would never have imagined that. NOT because I'd be like ''Oooo thicko'' but because I would never have imagined having anything in common or actually meeting tbh.

I realise now, that what makes me me is not that I have enough education to enter into a debate with whoever about whatever belief I hold. What makes me me is the actual belief I want to debate in the first place.

DH [mostly] shares my values and I share his. I may be more able to put mine in essay form, but he still has his values. He can express them in a usefull way. He has become more assertive, from listening to me debate. I have become more able to listen and read people from having to see his pov when not expressed the way I'm used to.

I'll admit to sometimes thinking 'I wonder what they think' when my down to earth working class lad is telling daft jokes to a room full of the 'next class up', and so I look and generally they are laughing at his jokes. If they are judging him in a negative way then I would rather not have them as friends tbh. That was in the early days, I haven't felt like that for ages now I think of it.
I am probably much more likely to suffer from his friends thinking 'silly stuck up bugger' when I'm having a rant about the rubbish shops where I live! smile

I would urge caution on one thing - I made the choice to have dc's with this man, to move to a run down 'not my sort of town' town in an isolated location, as his work was there and I felt that as the part time mum to be I should make this sacrifice.
My sacrifice, my earning potential, my choice - but on a really bad day I have to slap the demon that says 'ahhh if you'd married well.....'. I do give him a good slap and a kick [the demon, not dh], but I can see how to resent could eat a marriage up. Dh made many sacrifices to be with me too, and I don't rate mine as greater. We all have our demons and that is mine. I married great.

Be very aware of your demons and really look at who you are before commiting, either to this man or to a judge or to a millionaire. They are the same demons, and all relationships take sacrifice. I think modern ideals of 'the one' make us spend so much time looking at if they are right for us, we forget we might have to be right for them and bend and mould to make the one we love happy.

Phew - can you tell I'm waiting to labour and restless and bored? Sorry for the mega post blush

mumoverseas Sun 18-Jan-09 12:57:04

I was in the same situation as OP around 5/6 years ago, divorced with two children. I believe I am well educated and had an excellent career and through my career moved in very upper middle class circles.
For approximately 2 years I was with someone who was also very well educated and in the same career as me although he was much higher up the ladder than me. He was also well spoken (as I think I was, without meaning to sound a snob)and also moved in the same circles as me. HOWEVER, he was a complete wanker and treated me like shit.
After time on my own, I met a man who had a comletely different background to me. He did not have the benefit of the education I had received and although he had a good job we were worlds apart. In particular, (again without meaning to sound snobbish) his accent bugged me). He was from South London (apples and pears and all that)and I was from the Home Counties and (I think) well spoken. He had some habits that bugged me but I have no doubt that I had some that bugged him.
Anyway, despite the differences between us, I fell madly in love with him, married him 5 months after we first me and we are having our second child in 3 weeks. There has been a bit of adjustment on both sides and like Ivegotaheadache, I chose to give up my career and follow him abroad where he is working and I am a SAHM. I do miss my career/old lifestyle at times however it was worth giving it all up for my soulmate.
If he is the one, he is the one and it shouldn't matter where he went to school or what he does.

Pan Sun 18-Jan-09 12:59:37

I am guessing the answer is 'it can work if you let it', but from the sounds of it you don't really want it to. Are you fearing you will be hankering after a Culture Show man after a while? And we haven't mentioned the "L" word as yet......

Sounds like you are placing socially-determined values above your strength of attachments to him. These sorts of relationships/marriages work every day for other people.

And one year in, what else do you need to know about him before being confident??

what2donow Sun 18-Jan-09 13:00:42

OP, I can understand entirely where you are coming from. My advice - based on experience - is not to ignore these alarm bells which are telling you all is not well.

I am from a very working class background however both my parents were intelligent and intellectual, they just had no formal education. I have never met anyone as well read as my dad, yet he also did a manual job for a living. Thanks to my parents, I went to a top uni, and got a good degree. I now have a very good job and am financially independant.

In terms of men though, I have never felt attracted to what I inwardly think of as 'office monkeys' blush. Based on my dad's example real men to me have to do hands on jobs......however the vast majority of those men are not on my intellectual level, simple fact. That hasn't meant I am not attracted to them, nor vice versa. But, it has been a problem with the ones who have been nasty about my intelligence, or the job I do.

The man you describe could be my Ex (although he does a different skilled manual job). He was still living at home in his mid 30's, with only a couple of £1,000s in the bank despite having worked for over 15 years earning a very good wage (as much as I was at the time, I'd worked for 4 years & had my own house...). Fast forward 7 years, we got to a stage where my eldest DC (who is 11 - previous relationship) and I would have conversations he couldn't follow, where we would argue constantly and every argument would end with him in a rage because he couldn't express himself, and where he wouldn't even accept the sky was blue because he couldn't bear the thought of me knowing more than him.

He is not a nice man, and never was. Your man may never end up like this. But my experience has taught me that whilst someone doesnt have to have exactly the same IQ as me, we have to have similar goals, and interests, and plans.

The man I was/am seeing now rarely reads a book, yet thinks it lovely I have 100s of the things, and asks me about them - & tells me about stuff he likes to read....whereas my ex who hasnt read a book since leaving school thought my books took up too much space and used to regularly ask me to chuck them out.

Gunnerbean Sun 18-Jan-09 13:10:14

I have a friend who at the moment is trawling the dating sites in the hope of finding a new partner followig her divorce.

We were talking the other night about how when you are older, maybe divorced with children like her, the list of boxes you want ticking when looking for a new partner seems to get longer and longer.

People are often looking for the complete perfect package in a man and it's no wonder they are disappointed when they can't find him.

Most people acknowledge that no one is perfect. I think my DH is about 80% perfect, for me, and he has many fantastic qualities that I really value and feel I am lucky to have found him but for example, he doesn't share all my interests, he is sometimes not as communicative as I;d like him to be and he didn't go to uni whereas I did (not that I think that particular point is remotely important). Despite this we still get on well and what I would consider to be a great marriage.

I don't look to my DH to provide me with everything I need in life. Friends and intersts that I pursue independently of my DH fill in the gaps.

You have to strike a balance and I think that anyone who is looking for the holy grail of a man who is perfect in every way and with whom they're 100% compatible is wasting their time because the likelihood is he is just not out there.

i think that the OP's chap sounds great and in her shoes I would prefer to focus on his good points - he treats her really well, is gentle and kind, they share some interests, he's got a good job (and would probably be really handy around the house which is godsend I can tell you!), they have lovely talks, he's generous to a fault and and is a great lover too!

However, from the concerns she has already expressed, the nature of those concerns and they way in which she has expressed them, I think with the OP she will not be compatiable with her now partner long term which I feel is a shame for her.

treedelivery Sun 18-Jan-09 13:14:30

So the lesson for today, I think, is nice people are nice, arseholes are arseholes, traits are traits - and those human traits cross ages, races, creeds and castes.
So something as artificial as education hasn't a real hope of over shadowing a relationship where the joys of showing each other things, of being nutured into growing as a person, exist and develop over 50 years or so.
I do believe though, that to let and trust a person and a relationship do this magic, takes guts, hard work and some fairly crummy times too. I'm 4 years into our relationship and I don't expect to like him for the next 50 without a falter. I sure as hell couldn't expect that from him, I'm an old bag at times.

NewAmazingBeginning Sun 18-Jan-09 13:15:31

I think the fact you have to ask gives you your answer tbh.

roddersb Sun 18-Jan-09 13:17:42

Hi there

I can appreciate what you mean.
My husband and I are from disimilar backgrounds although do share a similar level of inteligence albeit for different reasons. I am quite cultured and have a lot of information held in my head as well as being very interested in current affairs so this helps me when in circles of people who I dont know so well or from different backgrounds and I can pretty much mix with anyone. My husbands knowledge is more limited to certain things and he is also not very confident which has raised some issues when we get invited out.

I love reading really challenging books and need to be able to think about what is written whereas my husband wants the story on a plate. Hence we do not discuss books.

We both love psych films as well as good british crime dramas so we are ok here.

I am into killing it cooking it and eating it and my husband needs to have his looking nothing like what it was in the first place so a problem here but we get round it by me doing all of the cooking.

Ultimately we love each other very much and have been together for 8 years and still passionate about each other despite the names we call each other such as him a heathen and an uncultured neandathal and he calls me a snob and a middleclass moron.

LynetteScavo Sun 18-Jan-09 13:22:15

Do you also avoid using long words with your DD?

My DH has interests that he can never share with me - now matter how hard I try I cannot be reomotely interested in F1 racing- it really doesn't make a difference to our relationship.

daftpunk Sun 18-Jan-09 13:22:36

maybe he's having doubts about you? how do you know he's not thinking..."hang on a minute, maybe i'd be happier with somone on my level"...

treedelivery Sun 18-Jan-09 13:25:25

So true daftpunk. I can see DH backing out of the room when I get some book out he knows I'm going to rant about. Usually a rant against men too. Bless him he must yearn for a less cerebral love mate sometimes.

MrsMattie Sun 18-Jan-09 13:30:36

I don't think you're a snob at all@the OP.

I think your concerns are legitimate.

I have had relationships in the past with men who were far less educated than me and it has caused problems. My mum (Oxbridge educated) and dad (left school at 13, manual labourer) had a disasterous marriage (the root of which was undoubtedly my dad's insecurities about being married to such an incredibly bright, achieveing woman).

However, these examples are only anecdotal. While I sympathise with your concerns, I do think it's s best to take each person you meet as an individual, rather than make generalisations about relationships and class/education /whatever.

If he is kind and lovely and you love each other...well, don't try to fix what ain't broke.

MrsMattie Sun 18-Jan-09 13:31:54

I have made so many typos, I don't come across as very educated, do I? grin

MrsMattie Sun 18-Jan-09 13:31:55

I have made so many typos, I don't come across as very educated, do I? grin

Pan Sun 18-Jan-09 13:36:46

interesting no-one has come on and said "I'm a bit fik, but my dh is a real brain-box..." yet....smile

clam Sun 18-Jan-09 13:38:49

ivegotaheadache - I don't thnk your situation is the same as the OP's though, as your DP is happy to learn new things (am aware that sounds patronising. Sorry) but hers doesn't appear to. He seems to find it threatening when she uses long words and becomes assertive. That makes a big difference, in my view.

twinsetandpearls Sun 18-Jan-09 13:39:43

My dp has a much lower level of education than me, he left school with hardly any O levels and had to go straight into work and then into the army.

He then left and worked to support himself doing a HND in something I do not understand.

I have a very traditional academic degree from a good university and am quite an arty farty liberal type.

We do both come from very dysfunctional working class or even underclass backgrounds and that binds us, we get each other in a way other people dont. We both have a burning passion to give dd the best start we can as we knoo how our own very difficult bakgrounds have held us back.

Our educational differences but more importantly political differences have caused huge tension though and dp does have a chip on his shoulder about it. We are in counselling at the moment and it is a recurring theme. I am not sure looking back now if I would have allowed myself to fall in love with someone from such a different educational and professional background.

But having said that it is good to have a meat and 2 veg type man bring me to me senses sometimes as I am a quite irritating navel gazing bleeding heart liberal who could whitter on for hours.

MrsMattie Sun 18-Jan-09 13:40:41

lol@twinset! You both sound lovely grin

He sounds like a diamond, tbh, and I think I am more concerned by the fact that you actually think there's an issue here than I am by his chip! I suspect he gets upset because he senses your stifled feelings of inequality. He must know that you are careful not to use long words etc, and I imagine he knows that these things are a problem for you. He may not be educated but I doubt he's stupid.

DP and I are from similar backgrounds in theory, although my parents vigorously encouraged me to fulfil my potential educationally, while for his family the fact that he was very bright didn't have a bearing on things - he took an apprecticeship along with all of his mates. I am educated to degree level and have a professional job, and as such am the main earner. He's done a succession of fabrication/manual jobs since we met. He's now a SAHD for financial reasons. He may not share my interests nor I his but we've found new things that we can do together. The only area of friction is money or our lack of it but that's a problem that applies to any relationship in some respect.

On your criteria I would be kicking him to the kerb. We've been together for over 6 years though, and we're best friends. I can talk to him about anything and everything and he is my greatest advocate and supporter when things are tough.

I think you need to be really honest with yourself about how much of a problem these differences are to you, and even if the truth is distasteful to you, you should base your decisions about where it's going on that. I think committing yourself could be a recipe for trouble because it sounds like deep down there are things about him which don't conform to your ideals about how your partner should be. Or maybe you need to rethink those ideals?

coolbeans Sun 18-Jan-09 13:42:27

I don't think love conquers all in the slightest, and there are plenty of "red flags" you've posted about your relationship that suggest it is worthwhile thinking about the future and next steps.

Of course, some relationships thrive where each partner is from a different background, but if it matters to you that your partner understands and shares your interests, then it matters and it is silly to ignore that.
Nothing to do with snobbery.

And it should make you think long and hard if you he starts getting upset and defensive if you use "long" words. Do you really want to have to police your vocabulary for fear of upsetting your partner?

I once went round a Klee exhibition with an old boyfriend and he keep spouting the old, "a five yr old could have done that" line. It was a deal breaker for me. Just too different.

RealityIsMyOnlyDelusion Sun 18-Jan-09 13:43:29

Well, actually....

DP is a highly educated engineer, he is also a musician and has an encyclopaedic knowledge of classical music.

I left school at 16 and have always worked in shops/pubs etc.

The thing is though, is that I am not unintelligent, have a huge base of general knowledge and am always willing to learn things. I'm also pretty well-read.

In fact DP always says that he is the less intelligent one in our relationship.

If the OP's DP is 'thick and proud' and the sort of man who wouldn't want to broaden his horizons but in fact would rather the OP dumb herself down, then it is doomed.

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