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How important is it to have a similar background to your partner?

(63 Posts)
Tottie24 Thu 10-Dec-15 10:54:54

This is something I think of quite a lot as it seems to be far more important to my mother than me, but does she have a point? I was lucky enough to have a private education, however never dated anyone with a simelar background. Having been divorced for two years I am finally starting to move on and have started seeing a guy, hence questioning everything as scared of things not working out. I've always been slightly embarrassed by being privately educated, I have no idea why, but Infact I'm really uncomfortable with the whole 'class' thing really. Interested to hear the opinion of others and really hope not to offend thanks

Lilipot15 Thu 10-Dec-15 11:02:40

I went out with someone who it turned out had a real chip on his shoulder about me going to a private school and university (despite having a better paid job than me!)
My DH and I are from more similar backgrounds and I do find it easier but I suspect a lot of that is due to him being a generally nicer person. It does mean that we have similar attitudes to, say, how we plan to support our children in the future. I think my ex was very angry about what he saw as me being privileged. The irony was that I was the one was who more careful with money, he earned a lot but would just spend it on very expensive gadgets.

Either way, when you are dating, I think it helps to meet your new partners family quite early if it is getting serious and suss out their attitudes to each other.

ThroughThickAndThin01 Thu 10-Dec-15 11:03:15

I don't think it's important.

What is important is a similar outlook, direction in life you want to go in, values, and compatibility.

Alastrante Thu 10-Dec-15 11:11:28

Thinking about my relationship and those of friends, no, I don't think the private school/state school thing is important.

There are dickheads everywhere and if you end up with any as partner or peer group (or family!), it'll seem like that's what matters. But what really matters is their chip/arrogance/inverse snobbery/outright snobbery etc. School type isn't a deciding factor in who is a dickhead.

The only thing I'd add is that if families are 'compatible' i.e. on the same wavelength, then that's a massive plus when you're together and bringing up children. Not sure if class is a part of that, you can be middle class and unbearable or middle class and fab iykwim.

chrome100 Thu 10-Dec-15 11:14:18

I went to private school and then to Oxbridge. My DP grew up on a council estate and left school at 16. It's never been an issue for us.

momb Thu 10-Dec-15 11:19:59

ExH similar education/class to me. Public school, met at uni. Didn't end well but essential values were similar.
DH and I have very different backgrounds and very different opinions on loads of stuff I'd never considered to even be an opinion: just thought it was so. We do have differing values on several issues based on our backgrounds.....leads to some interesting discussions but certainly not a barrier to being happy together.

I agree with Through, it's more shared values that are important, rather than the past. Where you want to go, rather than where you have been.

Though if I look at my relationship history, I have pretty much only dated people from a similar background to mine, but I think that is more do with the fact that most people I know socially are from a similar background.. Or maybe it's an unconscious bias, or that at some level you "click" more with people who you share experiences with. Not sure. It's not something I set out to do though.

unlimiteddilutingjuice Thu 10-Dec-15 11:36:13

I think it might be easier to go out with someone from the same background. You would be more likely to share values, cultural reference points erc and that can translate into feeling that you "get" each other. Not necessarily better though. If you put the effort into understanding and showing respect for each other a cultural divide can be bridged and you can both be enriched by your differing experiances.

pallasathena Thu 10-Dec-15 11:51:06

Personal opinion - I don't see it as 'lucky,' to have had a private education. Indeed, I see it as yet another class barrier erected to divide the nation into a spurious set of 'have's' and have not's'. The reality is that there are very many excellent state schools whose pupils are equally, if not more 'lucky,' to be educated rather than hot-housed, who are capable of mixing with all sorts in society and who are sensitive to the barriers erected by society in order to maintain a so called elite.

The fact that you are embarrassed at being privately educated is most likely because you are aware of the nonsense that surrounds the whole class ideology and its hard, when your mum chips in with such advice. Hard to find your own way through all the nonsense.

People are people. A private education can both open doors and close them. I've seen both happen to good friends and family members. A door opened for someone close when he won a scholarship to a top private school then got into Oxford to study physics. A door closed when a previous employer's son became a junkie after becoming addicted to drugs in his private school's sixth form. Both from good families. Both nice kids.

Look at a person's character, not whether or not they've had a private education. And look at the way they treat people. There can be a strange arrogance that surrounds some of the privately educated that has nothing to do with ability or character or talent or anything really; but has everything to do with a very odd and increasingly anachronistic sense of personal entitlement.

LemonBreeland Thu 10-Dec-15 11:54:54

I don't think background matters. Just having a similar outlook on life.

Your DM probably wants you to be with someone privately educated too from a snobby point of view.

DH went to boarding school and lived in many different countries growing up. I went to the local comp. I did better in my exams than DH though, and also went to uni, where he didn't. Swings and roundabouts really.

mrsmugoo Thu 10-Dec-15 12:12:01

I don't think it's that important. DH went to a private boarding school, his parents are professionals and have lived all over the world. I went to a comp, my parents are blue collar and still live in the town where they met at secondary school.

However my DH and I met at university and have had 15 years of shared experience, travelling the world, building up joint friends and whatever our backgrounds were, we have always felt very equal.

FWIW our parents get on really well and I've never been embarrassed when they've been to my parents humble semi-detached in a cul-di-sac despite them living in a gorgeous county cottage.

Ridingthegravytrain Thu 10-Dec-15 12:13:34

Same as chrome for me

blueshoes Thu 10-Dec-15 12:46:30

Dh and I grew up and were educated in two completely different countries but are both from middle class families. The difference in background is not an issue - we are both university educated with professional jobs in the same field. I think each of us has moved on a little from our respective parents' values and have a common outlook in our own family unit.

Artandco Thu 10-Dec-15 12:54:48

I don't think it's important as such, but I do think it's important you know each family side is different so you don't offend them.

Ie my parents have been relatively poor their whole lives. When we go there to stay we don't discuss ski holiday plans or suggest meals and days out to places we know they can't afford. They will only let us take them somewhere nice and pay for them as a birthday/ Xmas / Mother's Day treat etc so do that then so not to offend.

Dhs family have a title! We kind of ignore that between us, but visiting is like a miniature version of downton Abbey.

However Dh and I both met in a place irrelevant to both areas we grew up in ( we met abroad), so we didn't really see each other's family upbringing until later on in our relationship. As a family we now live roughly in the middle of both of our upbringings which suits us both well.

shutupandshop Thu 10-Dec-15 12:57:48

I went to a private school anx didn't achieve much, academically or job wise. Dh went to the local comp, thrn to uni and now is a high flyer

Seriouslyffs Thu 10-Dec-15 12:58:56

I came on here to wax lyrical about similar DH and I are and how it smooths over bumps to be basically singing from the same hymn sheet. But now I think about it we're from quite different backgrounds- he was privately educated, I wasn't, his parents divorced, mine are still very happy, different household vibes, his were quite old fashioned in what they ate and general order etc.
What does matter is how similar you are now- we're the same politically, faith, levels of sociability etc.
Re education for example- were you privately educated because local schools weren't great or to keep you away from the riff raff wink
DH was circumstances rather than wanting to 'be posh' so where I went to school wasn't an issue. If I disdained education it would have been.

TheBunnyOfDoom Thu 10-Dec-15 13:00:36

It's not important at all.

I was an only child, got foreign holidays, went to private school and an RG university. DP went to the local comp, had siblings, didn't go to university and left school to work full-time. We had VERY different childhoods and even different teen/early adulthoods but out of everyone I've ever been with, we've had the strongest connection.

I think so long as you can understand and appreciate the differences, it shouldn't matter how you were brought up.

toffeeboffin Thu 10-Dec-15 13:01:31

Hmm, really good question.

I think it matters more if your marry someone from the UK, and are British yourself. Background / class seems a hell of a lot more pertinent in the UK.

Me and DH are from different countries (UK and Canada so not culturally far apart at all) but very similar upbringing and cultural outlook, which I think helps a lot.

Once met a lad who I quite fancied and got the impression he liked me. We got chatting, he was talking about school 'Oh, the House Master' and 'Well, my dad was only a helicopter pilot for Shell in the Middle East' etc.

Maybe it could have worked, but I just felt our backgrounds were a bit too different, even though I had a great education, red brick uni etc but just not the same outlook on life.

toffeeboffin Thu 10-Dec-15 13:05:26

I think your values are more important actually than background.

DH isn't from a wealthy family by any means but has similar values I. E. regarding bringing up our son, not religious, bit left-wing etc.

FluffyPersian Thu 10-Dec-15 13:08:24

What is important is a similar outlook, direction in life you want to go in, values, and compatibility.

I totally agree with the above opinion - I had a private education despite living in a council house and both parents earning minimum wage (got an assisted place). I have a PhD and have always been academic

My partner, on the other hand, went to a comprehensive yet his parents were rather well off, owned 2 houses, left school at 17 and has worked ever since.

He's very proud of me and vice versa - we both have a similar outlook, both work in I.T, have similar opinions on things and whilst we do have differing opinions on certain things, we discuss them in respectful ways. We both love animals, know how we'd like to parent any future children, love travelling and food (BBC Good Food Show veterans!) and classical concerts.... We're both feminists and both of us abhor racism, sexism and tend to adopt a 'live and let live' attitude...

We differ on Channel 5 documentaries and the Daily Mail as I watch / read them and he can't stand them confused grin

originalmavis Thu 10-Dec-15 13:08:57

Its more about attitudes and lifestyle.

springydaffs Thu 10-Dec-15 19:53:45

I think it's important to come from a similar background. Sorry.

When you're in the midst of the fire - small kids, no sleep, juggling money/careers, building your life together - your relationship can come under immense pressure. Imo its essential you speak the same language to get through that time in one piece eg recognise and understand micro, practically subliminal, communication. You don't have the time or emotional space to sort out misunderstandings - you may not even know you have misunderstood iyswim. So far, so usual relating - but much more complicated if you have different points of conscious and subconscious reference.

That's been my experience, anyway. Married someone from a different class AND a (vastly) different culture. Complete disaster. There are some things where love simply isn't enough.

Tottie24 Thu 10-Dec-15 21:59:46

Wow thank you all so much, it's so interesting hearing everyone else's opinions, I'm finally realising at the age of 40 how influenced I have been by my mothers views and not really able to work out my own as in her world they are 'FACT!!' Thank you again, I have enjoyed reading the responses enormously

Lilipot15 Thu 10-Dec-15 22:21:55

OP, it's good that you're taking time to reflect on this. I'm just starting to do the same at a similar age, my musings prompted by becoming a parent myself and reflecting on my parents ways of doing things.

Your mother is not necessarily being snobby about the private education. Every family has different reasons for selecting a private education and many struggle to provide what they see as best for their children which is an admirable streak. She may feel sad at your embarrassment over your private education when they made great efforts for it. Until I started looking into it myself I had no idea how expensive it was in terms of a family's income. Some folk may choose private for snobby reasons, some because they feel it opens doors (I was very surprised that this is the reason one of my leftie friends from uni admitted to this, but then her husband went to a top private school and has a position quite high up in the civil service and he is pushing for a particular school), others because there are not good state schools where they live.

As someone else said, valued are so important, and I think in the case of my "chip on the shoulder" ex, he was so angry at the world, he would have found fault with me over something else if it hadn't been my education!

sprarks Fri 11-Dec-15 00:00:52

I grew up on a council estate and had been on benefits for 10 years when I met DH, who went to private boarding school, a top international university and has a family trust fund behind him. It hasn't been a problem for us or our families. We are also from very different cultures, but our core values are the same.

I think the fact that DH is not British helps - class is definitely a bigger thing here than his home country, and I've dated lots of wealthy British men in the past who I got on well with but were much more hung up about my background.

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