Standing in his apartment kitchen and making dinner, my friend said, “I want my future wife to have at least a master’s degree.” I bristled at his comment. Who does he think he is? Is a woman without a master’s degree worth less than a woman with one? I think not!
In the moment, I held my tongue, but over the years – but, even after we started dating – his expectation of a certain level of education bothered me. I expected to pursue a master’s degree, but what if I changed my mind? I did not like the idea of my worth being determined by a flimsy piece of paper and a subjective level of prestige.
Finally, I told him how uncomfortable I was with his expectation of the woman in his life having to obtain a certain degree level. It was then that he explained the reason behind his desire. Sure, he hoped to marry someone who valued education as much as he did and wanted to spend her life pursuing greater heights; but, at the root of his desire, he wanted to be sure his future wife could financially care for herself if he died an untimely death. He believed a master’s level (or higher) education would give his wife more opportunities in life. It was not about prestige or worth (knowing Eric like I do now, prestige rarely enters his consciousness), but the practical ability to make a living.
What Does Education Mean to You?
We all come into relationships and marriage with beliefs about education. Some see higher education as a waste of time and believe the school of hard knocks holds the answers. Others see higher education as invaluable and essential to a happy and successful life. Then, there are those who view education as a hoop to jump through to get to an end goal. We all have thoughts and/or feelings on the topic. What are yours?
As you discuss your views on education, reach further back into your past to see threads running throughout your childhood. Here is why that is important: when Eric and I started dating, we were right between finishing our undergraduate psychology degrees and beginning our master’s degrees in counseling. During that portion of our lives, school was our main career. It made sense to bond over our educational pursuits because that was our whole life at that point. We got married in the throes of graduate school, seemingly on the same life track.
Going back a few years, however, we would have noticed alarming differences. For example, though I loved the idea of counseling (due to people feeling comfortable talking to me about their problems), I more loved the idea of being married with babies. That was my deepest desire in life. College was something painted in my mind as a must from a young age. Never did my mom say, “If you go to college…” it was always, “When you go to college….” My life course always included a college education; and, though I am glad she set me on that course, my attending college did not mean I placed the same level of importance on education that Eric did.
Eric attended college because Eric wanted to learn and grow and have doors opened to him. He had many interests; whereas, I had few. He even played School when he was a little boy, teaching his stuffed animals and (attempting to teach) the neighborhood kids. I loved playing sit in front of the TV. ~smile~ (I still enjoy that game a bit more than is healthy.) But, I also enjoyed playing House with friends, riding my bike, and giving my toys personalities.
Eric loved learning in his classes while growing up and he pushed himself to acquire knowledge even when it was not required of him. I learned just how to get the A. I was a master exam-crammer; and, though I know I am in good company, this is one of my greatest regrets. Education and obtaining degrees are not the same. (Side note: if you have the opportunity to go to college and learn, take it. It is worth the effort in the long run.)
Looking back over our elementary, middle, and high school careers, our views on education were clearly different. Even now, though I wish I had worked harder and learned more in my youth, I view education as secondary to relationships and experiencing life. Yes, I do believe it is important (especially as it relates to learning more about and growing closer to Christ), but I am not likely to pursue more degrees or stay up nights vigorously filling my mind with new insights. Eric, on the other hand, is currently pursuing his doctorate (I honestly am so proud of him) and giving his all to the process.
Our different educational outlooks caused us considerable conflict in our early years together and, at times, still does today. It does not matter what you say you believe or what you try to convince yourself you believe – your true self will rise to the surface when push comes to shove. When we married and life continued, Eric’s strong feelings towards education and my lack-luster feelings came clearly into light.
What season of life are you in now? Are you starting, in the middle of, or completing your education? Are you years beyond high school or college? Regardless of how far removed you are from your school days, spend some time discussing the topic of education with your partner. It may not be an issue now, but different opinions will affect your parenting decisions. If you are currently in school, spend even more time discussing your educational beliefs. As was the case with Eric and me, dating and getting married while in college can mask your true and underlying views on education.
Questions for Your Creed Notebooks
- What do I classify as ‘education?’
- What is my educational philosophy?
- How, if at all, does my educational outlook differ from the mainstream?
- On a scale from 1-10, how important is education to me (i.e., my own, my future spouse’s, and my future children’s educations)? How did I arrive at this number?
- Do I need/desire for my partner to have a specific level of education?
- Please explain for your significant other’s benefit.
- How much difference in educational levels (i.e., degrees) and philosophies am I willing to accept in a potential marital match?
- Who in my life did the most to shape my opinions about education?
- What did he or she teach me?
- What did he or she model for me?
- How am I living out what he or she taught me?
- What topics interest me most?
- What areas of study do I plan to continue pursuing throughout my adulthood?
- How do I plan to pursue them?
- Do I wish/expect my future spouse to join me in these efforts?
- What sacrifices am I willing to make to further my knowledge of these topics?
- Am I studying for my own amusement or for career purposes?
- Is my significant other on board with these plans or leery of them? (Ask him or her to thoroughly explain the answer.)
- How do your religious beliefs affect your outlook on the value of education?
- What areas of study do I plan to continue pursuing throughout my adulthood?
What Does the Bible Say?
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Proverbs 1:7, ESV)
An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge. (Proverbs 18:15, ESV)
But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. (John 14:26, ESV)
Get wisdom; get insight; do not forget, and do not turn away from the words of my mouth. Do not forsake her, and she will keep you; love her, and she will guard you. The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight. (Proverbs 4:5-7, ESV)
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15, ESV)
There is gold and abundance of costly stones, but the lips of knowledge are a precious jewel. (Proverbs 20:15, ESV)
Hear, my son, and accept my words, that the years of your life may be many. I have taught you the way of wisdom; I have led you in the paths of uprightness. When you walk, your step will not be hampered, and if you run, you will not stumble. Keep hold of instruction; do not let go; guard her, for she is your life. (Proverbs 4:10-13, ESV)
If education is something you mutually value, we would encourage you to make mention of it in your couple’s creed. What type of education do you and your partner plan to pursue during your lifetimes? How do you wish to use your love of learning for the world’s good? If you and your significant other do not share the same views on education, but you believe the differences are not insurmountable, consider adding your views on education to your personal creed. If learning is a part of who you are, you should always seek it regardless of whether your spouse does or not.
For the next couple years, Eric will continue moving towards his doctorate. For me, I will happily bring him coffee. ~smile~ In the meantime, I will learn what I want, when I want to, at my own pace, and for my own reasons. Neither of us are better than the other. We are just different. ~smile~ Don’t be afraid to expose your true personality to your significant other and be brave enough to do so before you get married. Your worth comes from who God says you are. Not a personality type or a piece of paper.
An investment in knowledge pays the best interest. – Benjamin Franklin
Education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make man a more clever devil. – C.S. Lewis
The more that you read, the more things you will know, the more that you learn, the more places you’ll go. – Dr. Seuss
Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school. – Albert Einstein
Learning is not attained by chance, it must be sought for with ardor and attended to with diligence. – Abigail Adams
You will be the same person in five years as you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read. – Charlie “Tremendous” Jones
Are we of the same opinion on the value of education?