Get married or die trying? The adventures of educated females in and out of marriage through the thorns of gender expectations

I dedicate this post to all the single ladies.

Guess what is the most popular question among my relatives and friends? If your guess is connected to something like “How is it going?”, “How is your study?”, “When do you think the following tenge’s fall will take place?” or “Are you waiting for the next Game of Thrones season?”, I have a bad news for you. They are dying to know just one thing: whether I am going to get married.

I turned 25 this January, and it feels like every year of my life inevitably increases the frequency of asking such questions. From many of my friends, I know I am not the only person experiencing an elevated interest in my personal life. So, I became interested in the issues of education, gender expectations and personal choice for marriage. The post aims to answer these key questions: Why is marriage important? What is the role of woman in education? and What is the link between education and marriage?

Every girl has at least once in her life imagined her dream wedding. This happens for a reason. From early childhood, humans are naturally programmed to strive for a peaceful coexistence with the representatives of opposite gender (Blossfeld & Huinink, 1991). Marital union is advantageous in terms of mental and physical well-being – married people live longer and better. Also, they are less likely to experience loneliness and lack of support, especially in their old age. Two common forms of marriage are traditional and egalitarian (Blossfeld, & Huinink, 1991). As can be expected, in traditional marriages the husband takes the role of the main breadwinner and his wife is responsible for household and child rearing, whereas egalitarian unions suggest equal distribution of roles and employment opportunities between the husband and wife.

Throughout the history, gender roles in marriage have shifted dramatically due to cultural, economic, political and educational changes. With these transformations, the issues of providing equal access to education irrespective of gender emerged. Phillips & Schweisfurth (2008) in their book on Comparative and International education maintain that better-educated females increase the share of educated and healthy population, reduce infant and maternal mortality rates, minimize domestic violence and change political situation through active participation. Since education has become a sign of achievement, there appeared to be a positive association between marriage and education.

“Marriage is increasingly becoming the privilege of the better-educated and better-educated marry later”(p.1499) – here is an opening proposition of Kalmijn (2013). In a study of educational gradient in marriage, he discovers that in countries with traditional marriages, the better-educated women are less likely to get married, at least at younger age. The males there prefer to get married early to more religious females, whilst women who pursue study and careers usually have less time for relationships. In contrast, the men in gender-egalitarian countries favor better-educated, more successful women with higher expectations. What is more, the findings demonstrated the wealthiest people in Europe and North America are married to the teachers!

Of course, better-educated females did not escape skeptical attention and criticism. More intelligent women are predisposed to experience more stress because of intrapersonal family-career conflict (England & Farkas, 1986). When education is an essential part of life, later it is often replaced by career. In this sense, education and career impact emotional well-being of women who face challenges in balancing personal and professional lives. Additionally, accomplished education ensures competitive salaries thus making females the main breadwinners, especially with less-educated husbands (Phillips & Schweisfurth, 2008). This scenario of shifting gender expectations with intellectual incongruence typically ends up with divorce and separation. At last, education is argued to devaluate motherhood. Better-educated women are usually accused of having fewer children and spending less time with them (Blossfeld & Huinink, 1991). The children whose mothers are more educated might have better educational opportunities and further career perspectives, yet their mothers’ education may also negatively reflect in their affiliation and relationships. In contrast, other women, who prefer not to continue their education limiting it to school certificates and undergraduate degrees, dedicate most of their free time to upbringing of their children.

Given these points it can be noted that education and pursuit of career seriously reduce marital chances in traditional countries where gender roles are segregated, while in more egalitarian countries education definitely benefits potential brides. Do not despair, though! Of course, I am not the most reliable person to refer to, as I am neither married, nor fully educated yet. Nonetheless, I took the liberty to share my humble opinion in the form of personal recommendations. Here are my propositions:

  1. Study as long as you find it necessary, but do not forget to look around otherwise you risk to miss your well-educated match.
  2. Love when you are ready, not lonely. The same is true about marriage. Look for your other half primarily relying on yourself instead of trying to correspond to social expectations and patterns.
  3. Only you yourself identify your priorities. Whatever you choose to do first, do it consistent with your interests and feelings. If the study happened to come first, do not lose your hope. Perhaps, your millionaire is waiting for you around the corner.

Married and single, males and females, I hope to read you opinions as well: What is marriage for you? How does education affect your vision of relationships? What is your attitude towards hardships of cultural and social expectations?


Blossfeld, H. P., & Huinink, J. (1991). Human capital investments or norms of role transition: How women’s schooling and career affect the process of family formation. The American Journal of Sociology, 97, 143–168.

England, P., & Farkas, G. (1986). Households, employment, and gender: A social, economic, and demographic view. New York: Aldine de Gruyter.

Kalmijn, M. (2013). The Educational Gradient in Marriage: A Comparison of 25 European Countries. Demography, 50(4), 1499-1520. doi:10.1007/s13524-013-0229-x

Phillips, D., & Schweisfurth, M. (2008). Comparative and international education: An introduction to theory, method, and practice. Continuum

Sex roles/gender roles. (2002). In The new dictionary of cultural literacy, Houghton Mifflin. Retrieved from


10 thoughts on “Get married or die trying? The adventures of educated females in and out of marriage through the thorns of gender expectations

  1. Wow, this is really a topic of the day! Taking into account that most of our groupmates are females, I predict a hot discussion here.
    Talking about the increasing number of divorces, it is worth noting that this number is also increasing in families where women are not educated, but they got married “just to be married”. Unfortunately, such situation is very common for provincial towns, where young females are forced by their parents and society to marry as soon as possible. I truly believe that this “tradition of young marriages” is out of date now and the main reason is the absence of spiritual values. Our ancestors explained their children the meaning of family, they taught them that family ties are sacred, divorce was considered as a highly shameful step. Thus, most couples never divorced – some because of the fear to be ashamed, others in respect to the family institute. Nowadays, everything has changed – people are not afraid of divorces anymore, but worse is a lack of “moral education”. Nobody teaches young generation how to build a family, what are the spiritual values that everybody should strive to gain. I believe that this kind of “education”, not the academic, is a real condition for building a strong and happy marriage. That is why such trainings and seminars as “how to build a family”, “how to be a perfect wife” are becoming so popular now.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Dear Shynar, I like your sense of humor as well as your style of writing. In the beginning of the course I really wanted to read your writings but you’d preferred not to share your works. Now my dream comes true. Your reading is so easy to follow and at the same time it is pleasant to read a piece of your masterpiece. Your recommendations are important however sometimes goes subjective. I would argue regarding choosing an education if there is an option in life between education and marriage. Why don’t to combine studying and getting marriage together as our group mates did. What I know for sure is that marriage makes a studying person to be even more responsible and just because they have a lot of duties at home their time-management skills become more effective and productive. Now I am talking on behalf of the married people, hope they keep the same opinion as I do. P.S you don’t look like you are 25 year old lady.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Dear Shynar,
    You opened very topical question for many girls!
    When I go home, my relatives make different attempts to elicit any information about my private life. To tell you the truth, the question “Do you have a boyfriend?” always puts me in a spot. It makes me feel uncomfortable, like someone is trying to penetrate into my thoughts, my life, my inner world. In such moments, I think why does this question matter for people? Perhaps, it is our mentality?
    A couple of weeks ago I stumbled across the article (in Russian) on Facebook, which covers this topic. Although it slightly deviates from your focus of education and marriage, you might find it interesting and useful. It is more about tactlessness towards such sensitive issues like marriage, religious, vegetarianism, etc.
    On your question “What is marriage for you”, let me respond in this way: no matter how well you educated, what salary you have, if you truly love someone, there will be no obstacles in your path to ‘a long and happy retirement’.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Shynarchiq, you raised a very sensitive topic and very common for many of us. I read an article about the indelicacy of society according the private life of a person and questions about the marriage is considered as the most frequently asked question ( My situation is familiar with many single women of our country. I am happy that my parents are not pushing me to get married as soon as possible, because “my time is almost over” as do my lovely relatives or little-known people. By the way, as for the little-known people – sometimes it seems that each person who you meet in your way (taxi driver, fellow passenger, friends of a second cousin once removed), think that is his/her obligation to know WHY are you single YET…
    It is impossible to dispute or explain the heartbreaking thoughts of your vulnerable soul. I suggest to close unpleasant conversation with a humor: “Oh, I have not time today for the marriage! Tomorrow… tomorrow I will…”.
    Anyway, there is no 100% warrant to do away with pestiferous fellow who looks at you as to the unhappiest person in the world 🙂
    I do support your recommendations; each person is responsible for his own life and choices in it. Personally, I do not afraid of social “labels” – I am happy now, as many single ladies of our cohort 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. No, worries ladies!
    We are on the right track, studying at GSE!
    I have a feeling that all the people asking this question already know what to expect from teachers (something to be jealous of). So keep on polishing your pedagogical skills and check the link bellow to find out the answer to a question ‘What is the number one occupation of women who marry millionaires?’!

    Shynarzhnchik, you are right, the millionaire is waiting round the corner! We just have to wrap ourselves in some animals (meaning ‘furs’) and walk to the new building for the Graduade School of Business and Public Policy!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi, Shynarchiq! Very interesting topic! To begin with, I would like to answer your first question. In my opinion, marriage is about choosing the right person to live with for the rest of the life, person who will be the father of your children and who will love you unless your secrets and quirks. From the first glance, it seems very easy to find such person which means just following your heart and marry someone you cannot live without. However, in my personal point of view, as much as ladies become more educated as much their feeling of love goes the wayside and their expectations for future husband rises. Educated women use a mature and conscious approach to marriage. Their dates mostly look like interviews, because they want to know as much as it possible about the man before getting married and this information allows them to analyse if they will or will not accept this person the way he is. I am not saying that love does not take place in relationships between educated women and man. Of course there should be love, but only if this love corresponds with partners’ personal values and believes. Eventually, educated women will choose no less educated men and i think this kind of approach is effective in terms of building close-knit family fulfilled of mutual understanding and interests for each other.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi, Shynarchiq! One of the hot topics ever in our society! Kazakh mentality is soo great that your relatives think about you and care about you, you know, even more than your parents. Had a situation with my grandmothers last year on the 8th of March. Can you imagine what they gave me as a present? Exactly that very “dowry” stuff! Then I understood this already wasn’t a hint! 🙂
    Fortunately, I could say, EDUCATION here rescued me 🙂 at least for a while.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Dear Shynar,
    I have million thoughts about this topic! It is really great and sensitive, not really because of the mentality of Kazakhstani people or number of diplomas, but because of the women’s role from the nature. Of course it is important to find yourself and be well educated. There no doubt, it is better to combine education and marriage.

    Society expect from women too much! To be educated, to be married, to be breadwinner, and to be mother! All these expectations are on our shoulders. There are so many roles!
    Married mothers seen as norm (right) of society, and it does not meter how you live. By this I mean that you can live in poor conditions, but if you are wife and mother you are good! But if you have PhD, posh car or high position in corporation and have no husband and child you are marginal woman.

    For me it is important not to have label from the society, but to be truly happy.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Dear Shynar, thank you for your interesting post. I would like to add my opinion about the importance of understanding the major purpose of marriage. For me, people marry when they want to build a family. The trouble starts if someone marries “just to get married” as Mika mentioned or for some other reason. As kazakh proverb says “It is easy to get married, but it’s much harder to become a family.” A family is a small institution with its own strategy, goals, leadership and management style like any other big organization. Therefore, the success in establishing this institution depends on many factors including ambitions, interests, needs, skills of its members, their commitment and interaction among each other. That’s why it requires a lot of hard work, patience and understanding. This is much easier to achieve when you and your partner have common values. For instance, if you both value the family ties as sacred, you would probably do all your best to save it and prosper together. And love plays a crucial role in building a family, because when you love there is less space for impatience, egoism, pride, and many other negative feelings.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. It is time for male comment on such intriguing topic. I strongly believe that everyone has a social role and should match it as good as possible. The male/female division is not the question of social choice as it is predefined by nature. I am personally not the proponent of feminist movement as I see it in the way of values deterioration and omittance of the primary aim of existence – reproduction. Education has a direct effect on personality formation, that is why the egalitarian mode is made and accepted by education. I have some tips or educational notions for girl wishing to marry. First, you are lady. The majority of guys like women in you, not man. Second, you are not interested in marriage – he is interested. He should understand that you are gift of the destiny, not him. And third, relax and go study, maybe your husband will not be educated and you will work, when he is sitting with your child.

    Liked by 3 people

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