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February 11, 2009 3:21 PM

Christine Whelan on her book 'Marry Smart - The Intelligent Woman's Guide to True Love'

Christine Whelan's new book, 'Marry Smart - The Intelligent Woman's Guide to True Love' debunks the notion that smart, successful women are less likely to marry.

Mark_Wolf(Q) You report that the "success penalty" for educated women with good jobs is becoming a thing of the past. What does that mean?
Christine_Whelan(A) The "success penalty" is the idea that women who are educated or successful in their careers are less likely to marry and less likely to have children. In the 1980s, this was true: A woman with professional or doctoral qualifications was twice as likely to have no children at home by age 40 compared with women with less education. But all this has changed. Today, educated married women are just as likely to have children -- and even more likely to get married!

Mark_Wolf(Q) Are today's high-achieving women overqualified for love?
Christine_Whelan(A) That's the conventional widsom--and it's just not true. Both opinion surveys and Census data proves time and again that men are more interested in a woman who is smart and can bring home the bacon, as well. It's time to stop perpetuating these bad-news ideas, and get some upbeat (and accurate) information out there for SWANS: Strong Women Achievers No Spouse.

Mark_Wolf(Q) Is it a relationship killer if she makes more than he does? And how should she deal with it?
Christine_Whelan(A) Not at all. In fact, in a recent survey I ran on four large college campuses, these guys said they are more interested in a woman who's a good financial prospect. Certainly you don't want to date a woman who brags about how much money she makes, but times are changing: If the woman makes a good salary, this means she can marry for love, for companionship, for emotional support--not just a paycheck.

Mark_Wolf(Q) How do women deal with generally well-meaning family members who ask if they've "found someone special" yet?
Christine_Whelan(A) Ahh... this is the big question... especially when Valentine's Day or other holidays come around. The short answer is "it depends on who's asking." If it's your grandmother, you'll want to take an understanding tone. She just wants what's best for you and times have changed. People got married a lot younger in her day. If it's your Mom or a well-meaning, but pressuring, married friend, tackle it head-on: We're getting married older, and hopefully WISER these days. You're investing in yourself and you're on the look out for someone who is the right match. Remember (and remind them) that the goal isn't getting married--it's having a happy marriage.

Mark_Wolf(Q) We're approaching Valentine's Day, which can either be the happiest or dreariest romantic day of the year depending on your circumstances. Any advice for smart successful women who'll be at home alone on Saturday night?
Christine_Whelan(A) Buy my book :-) It's full of advice and tips for smart, successful women who are looking to find the right match. It's got tips for how to deal with pesky relatives, and talks you through figuring out who you are and who the right match will be. Before you can say "I love you" you've first got to say the "I" -- you've got to know who you are, what you want, what makes you special. Don't try to conform to someone else's life -- that's a recipe for disaster. So this Valentine's Day, if you're single, own it: Do something for you. Invest in yourself -- and think of ways you can reach out and meet other likeminded folks. One good, practical idea: Host a "bring a friend" party this Saturday for all the singles you know. Invite 10 or 20 friends and tell them to bring a bottle of wine and two single friends that you've never met before. Guys or girls, it doesn't matter. Everyone will meet each other, and you'll get to meet folks outside your usual circle of friends. This is the best way to get out there and find a good match.

Mark_Wolf(Q) You have a segment about how to avoid the 30-second resume synopsis. Do you find it a little depressing that successful women seem to think they have to avoid telling guys they're a doctor/lawyer - especially when successful young guys all but have their resumes tattooed on their foreheads?
Christine_Whelan(A) Yep, I do! Remember that "Sex and the City" episode where Miranda, the lawyer, lies and tells a guy she meets speed dating that she's a flight attendant? And he lies, too... he says he's a doctor. Well, that relationship was doomed! But it wasn't a plotline on that show for nothing: It's something men and women do all the time. And it's insulting to everyone (not to mention insulting to flight attendants!) So how about this, ladies and gents: STOP!!! Just think about it: You want to be in a relationship with someone who likes you for you. Someone who you don't have to pretend around. If you lie on the first date, you're not off to a good start. But there's no need to exchange resumes and reference letters on a first date (although sometimes that would make it a tad, easier, wouldn't it? ;-) Just kidding) Going on a date is about getting to know someone, and that takes time. It happens organically. If you're a VP of your company, tell him--and then make a joke: "I'm a VP of sales, and the best part of my job is that I get to organize the company softball game..." Be lighthearted and fun. That's the most attractive feature.

Mark_Wolf(Q) Who are the SWANS and are their ranks growing?
Christine_Whelan(A) SWANS are Strong Women Achievers No Spouse. These women are smart and driven in whatever they do. There are more and more women going to college and grad school, climbing the ranks in their professions. Plus, smart doesn't necessarily mean how many degrees you have: the SWANS out there know who they are. The flock of SWANS out there is growing because women are getting more education (some 60% of college graduates are women these days) and excelling in every profession. Plus, we're marrying later, so that means we're single (and among the SWANS) for longer. SWANS need to know that it's not a curse to be single--in fact, just the opposite. And my book is full of good news and tips for SWANS nationwide.

Mark_Wolf(Q) Do a lot of women you write about worry about coming across as desperate? And how do they avoid that?
Christine_Whelan(A) I joke that men can "smell" desperation in a woman. SWANS get so much pressure to get married -- from friends, family, the media -- that it's hard not to feel a little desperate sometimes. But remember, the goal isn't to get married--it's to find a good partnership, a good relationship. And trying to move things faster or push a guy into a relationship isn't going to get you there. If a man is interested in you, he's going puruse you. One of the goals of my book is to offer good news to SWANS so they'll stop panicking a bit and enjoy their fun, fabulous single years. Being confident is very attractive!

Mark_Wolf(Q) You write that a lot of women have trouble getting past the "he's intimated by me" myth. What's that about?
Christine_Whelan(A) Many people tell women that they are intimidating to men as a way to make them feel better... but it actually makes SWANS feel worse. We are told for so many years to excel in our education and careers and then... poof! ... it's now a bad thing? Plus, the "he's intimidated by me" myth makes SWANS feel a bit superior, too. And this is NOT the way to a successful relationship. The right guy will think your smarts are sexy. The others? Well, you weren't into them anyway!

Mark_Wolf(Q) Your book often references media stories that give the impression men aren't attracted to strong, smart women. What's the effect on women when someone such as Maureen Dowd writes that women need to dumb themselves down to attract men?
Christine_Whelan(A) When you read information in The New York Times, you think it's true. That's why I worry when Maureen Dowd buys into these myths. My book is full of facts and research to prove otherwise, and a SWANS Guide to interpreting media stories about dating and relationships.

someboy(Q) I'm a young single male struggling with the pressure of getting married vs. finding a good partnership. Are there any signs I'm with a person that is more excited about being in this relationship than being with me?
Christine_Whelan(A) Good question! If she's more interested in what restaurant you take her to than conversation with you, that's a bad thing. But at a certain point you have to trust her when she says she likes/loves you. If you don't, perhaps there are some deeper issues? Also, do you know about her past? Has she been in other long-term relationships? Good luck!

Mark_Wolf(Q) Thanks very much to Christine Whelan for her time. Her new book is Marry Smart - The Intelligent Woman's Guide to True Love.
Christine_Whelan(A) Thanks for the great questions! And Happy Valentine's Day to all the SWANS -- and the men who love them. Check out my book online at http://www.readmarrysmart.com for more

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