Best spouses by discipline

In the highly educated marriage market, I have always maintained that engineers make the best partners (possible exception:  chemical engineers who tend to be a mixed batch, possibly depending on what kind of chemicals they’ve been sniffing), and male economists or physicists tend to make the worst.  There’s just something about engineers that says husband (or wife), and not just the old stereotype that they’re too unimaginative to cheat.  They’re interesting and reliable and they’re good at fixing things without blaming.  They’re incredibly patient, probably because you can’t debug without patience.  Also, many of them (the male ones) are shy and once you get past that, there’s some pretty high quality man-meat that hasn’t been snapped up simply because they haven’t had as much opportunity to find a mate .

Obviously not all engineers are perfect (the ones who smell bad… they may die alone unless they learn to make friends with soap), and not every engineer will be your perfect mate, but on average, they’re a good group to look into.

Do you think this is total unwarranted discrimination or do you think some disciplines make better spouses than others?  (If so, is it selection into degree or training from the degree?)  Who would you recommend for a mate?

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55 Responses to “Best spouses by discipline”

  1. First gen american Says:

    Of course I am biased because I am one too and so iS my husband. I think there is some truth to the theory that some professions make better spouses but I would have analyzed it from a work life balance perspective.

    Some jobs like sales and also many forms of engineering require lots of travel. If you want a spouse that’s home all the time then that’s probably not for you. If you happen to meet an executive before they are married forget about them being home ever…even on the weekends. Yeahyour or she may have dough but don’t expect them to do their fair share around the house because they won’t be home, but at least you’ll be able to afford a nanny and housekeeper If you marry an accountant you better be prepared to not see them at all for the months of December and April.

    A lot of times people go into psychology as a profession because either they or a family member suffer from mental illness. So a few guys I know are afraid of dating psychologists because they dont want kids or Inlaws who have psychological problems. I am reading hocus pokes right now and Vonnegut talks about this very issue (the stigma of mental illness and how he wouldn’t have married his wife if he knew there was a ton of it in her family).

    Anyway back to engineers. Yes we rock and contrary to popular belief, many of us use both sides of our brain. Engineers can be very creative and many of them I know are like little renaissance men who can do it all. Sports, fix things, create st.uff, cook, etc. the only interesting accountants ive met were women (jacq and kellen).. The ones at work don’t seem to have the ability to talk about anything but work or golf or the stock market.

  2. First gen american Says:

    I meant Hocus Pokus. Sorry the autocorrect got me.

  3. First gen american Says:

    More on unpredictable schedules. Morticians, certain kinds of doctors, plumbers. On some level contractors. If you have a snow plow you are going to go out and plow on the weekends.

    If you work I the service industry, you may have to work weekends. (musicians, bars, restaurants, realtors, acting). Teachers an and bankers seem to have a fairly stable 8-5 schedule. They don’t call them bankers hours for nothing.

    Lastly, it usually works well if one spouse travels a ton that the other one has a job with a flexible work schedule like their own business or something.

    And I havent even touched upon the whole personality thing at all.

  4. Alyssa Says:

    “…male economists or physicists tend to make the worst.”

    Hmph!!! My husband is a physicist and he’s awesome.

    Okay, so he designs and builds hardware for medical systems, so he’s pretty much an engineer…but his degrees are in Physics. ;) Plus, most of the other physicists I know would be awful husbands. Astronomers on the other hand are a very fun bunch!

  5. Cloud Says:

    Well, I married an engineer, and he is pretty awesome. There is a downside, though. We can’t buy ANYTHING of any size without doing exhaustive research first. But the flip side of that is we have really good things.

    Computer people tend have very portable careers, which makes the two body problem less of a problem. Biotech people (like me) aren’t as portable….

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I tend to think of the extensive research as a bonus, especially when things like consumersearch or newegg reviews cut down the time it takes to research things.

    • Dr.O Says:

      Heehee! Same here, Cloud. Hubby is a true engineer, and a natural researcher. We have good stuff, and he finds great deals on that stuff (prior life as an economist :)

  6. Kellen Says:

    Haha, my dad is an engineer (civil) and my boyfriend is getting a PhD in mechanical engineering… I agree with your personality type analysis – especially that they’re shy so they’re not snapped up so fast. (Not that my bf is shy, more just introverted and doesn’t go out and meet tons of new people.)

    I agree with cloud on the exhaustive research part – my parents are building a barn and house, and they ended up in HUGE arguments with my dad spending hours calculating how much per sq ft the builders were over charging… and my boyfriend likes to buy books on things and research them thoroughly (like reading everything he can find on cats when considering getting one). It’s cool because if I can get him interested in something, he’ll do all the research for me ;). I do make fun of him for not being a “real” engineer who can build things like my dad can though.

  7. Ianqui Says:

    Heh. My husband and father are both engineers :) (Go ahead and make a joke about that if you want.) I agree there are many, many good characteristics. They’re loyal, they’re usually thorough, if they’re technical people they don’t have to travel much. But there are also a few drawbacks–my husband has a fair amount of rigidity in his personality, and if things aren’t done his way, he gets pissy. I (a professor in a social science field that isn’t economics…) am much more laid back about changes in the plan or about considering alternative options for how something might be done. I try to ignore this part of him and just let him do it his way, but sometimes the rigidity can be a bit confining for me.

  8. Susane Says:

    Well, my husband and I are both academic economists. Not sure why you think they make bad spouses…..

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      A subset of them make excellent spouses… but….

      They’re also known for trading in their wives for a newer model on a somewhat regular basis. Some are repeat offenders (off the top of my head I can name a LOT). And there’s that increased selfishness that shows up in lab experiments, not to mention letting the spouse who cares more about say, cleanliness, do all of the cleaning… irritating little things like that on top of the larger issues. Again, not everybody, possibly not even a majority, but if one is looking for a mate, that’s not where I would start.

      There’s a saying among a set of female economists: If you start out graduate school partnered to someone who isn’t an economist, you will marry someone who isn’t an economist. If you start out graduate school unpartnered, you will either marry an economist or remain unmarried. Of the two, the latter is often preferable. So far that’s been holding up with my cohort.

      • Susane Says:

        Hahaha. Good points. I have been known to say on occasion that it is simply more efficient that he do the bulk of the cleaning because he derives more utility from having a house that is spotless.

  9. Ally Says:

    Just run far far away from boys with degrees in piano… (or maybe it’s only dating them when they are currently piano majors that is the problem?) Anyway – unless you like men who are more high maintenance than yourself. I tend to be attracted to pilots for some reason – no clue what it would mean for marrying one though. I think most of my pilot guy friends are rather much the engineering type, so I think that fits the “engineers are good” – and my dad is more or less an electrical engineer despite having no degree in it (20 years in the military = he knows his stuff despite the lack of degree)

  10. Dr. Virago Says:

    Heh, I’m always telling Bullock he *should* have been an engineer. So it’s not about the degree so much as the skills/personality. Bullock’s a political scientist (on the political theory side — so he’s wordy, which is a good match with me), BUT, he’s also, by hobby, a woodworker, a digital photographer, a damn good baker, and a modernist cuisine enthusiast. Our house is full of *machines*, and he’s good at using them to do stuff — building furniture, creating the artwork that decorates our home, and making incredible meals (he sometimes uses 19th century methods, too). We’re buying a new house in part so that he’ll have more room for all of this (and *he’s* designing the new kitchen!). And all of this — They’re interesting and reliable and they’re good at fixing things without blaming. They’re incredibly patient, probably because you can’t debug without patience. Also, many of them (the male ones) are shy and once you get past that, there’s some pretty high quality man-meat — is totally true of Bullock. And when something breaks or needs updating, he can do it himself (except for complicated electrical and plumbing stuff, which he leaves to the experts).

    So my advice — seek the guys who make stuff, especially fussy technical stuff, whether they do it professionally or for pure pleasure.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      He does sound like an engineer! Even if he’s just an amateur.

      • Dr. Virago Says:

        Oh, and also, like Cloud’s spouse, my wannabe-engineer also does exhaustive research before purchasing anything, especially anything mechanical. But right now, at this moment, he’s researching kitchen cabinet brands (and getting a little frustrated that there aren’t the kinds of consumer reports out there for them that there are for kitchen appliances). Yeah, *totally* a closet engineer!

  11. Spanish Prof Says:

    If you don’t mind a really shitty market (meaning you are not necessary counting on two full incomes), graphic designers and similar commercial artists can be a good idea, specially if they are already free-lancers. Once thy’ve built a network, they can pretty much work anywhere where there is an internet connection. The problem is that the market right now sucks, and they are getting half the amount if jobs they used to. I am married to one, I know. He relocated with me without complaining, but we also knew that for a while, I would be the only source of income (and planned accordingly. We don’t want kids either, so far, so that was an advantage).

  12. becca Says:

    Hmmm. I dated one physicist, but I turned him into a biologist. Did I make him more marriageable? (His aversion to monogamy likely renders the question moot).

    I’m a biomed type partnered with another biomed type, and it’s not necessarily a combination I would recommend. It works for us, but we have plenty of other arenas in which we are extraordinarily different people, so the similarities associated with having the same type of occupation don’t seem very major in comparison.
    That said, we’re not married. So I suppose it’s possible neither of us is marriageable.

    I’ve always thought I’d like to partner with a nurse (gender not important), but that might be a disaster. Just because you are in a care-taking occupation doesn’t mean you want to do it at home too (likewise, I suspect some engineers really wish their spouses would take care of the careful cost research for them).

    • Cloud Says:

      Well, in my husband’s case, he can’t stop himself from redoing any research I do, so I eventually told him he was on his own in that regard.

      I do a lot of project management at work, and find I do it at home, too. I suspect that when an aspect of your job is closely tied to your personality, you can’t help but bring it home. Figuring out dependencies and timelines helps me get things done at work, so why wouldn’t I use those tools at home?

      I do think it is funny that the same behaviors that I have to handle from my team at work (e.g., perfectionism- difficulty just finishing something when it is “good enough” but not perfect) are behaviors I have to handle at home. I try to emphasize the positive in that- hey! I know how to deal with this!- and not dwell on the fact that I am always arguing with perfectionist engineers, whether I’m at home or at work.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        heehee. Mine is good at satisficing. But probably because we read the paradox of choice… and we learned that satisficing is optimizing.

        I also let the partner do the purchasing research if research needs to be done.

  13. Molly (Mike and Molly's House) Says:

    My Dad is a physicist and at the age of 67 he will readily admit he’s a work in progress :)

    He was/is a great role model and when people meet my hubby they will remark how similar he is to my dad and brother (a computer programmer). I take it as a compliment because he’s awesome and I wouldn’t exchange him for anything, I <3 him!! Did my Mom just get lucky?

  14. Daycare Says:

    As an engineer, I agree completely. My Uncle was a nuclear engineer, and a really cool guy. I also couldn’t help but laugh at Cloud’s comment about shopping and researching. I wait for months sometimes until I make a big purchase. I even spend too much time looking at a menu at a restaurant.

  15. Mrs. Engineer Says:

    Ditto Cloud on the research. Anyone else have issues with perfectionism, especially in the installing, building, fixing painting, etc realm. Good thing my (wonderful, but) perfectionist engineer husband isn’t a scientist, he’d never get anything published. Alas, he is one of those ChemEs, but works as an Environmental E.

  16. Cloud Says:

    OK, this is a bit of a thread hijack, but I’ve got a question for the other folks with engineer spouses: how’s the division of labor in your household? Ours has always been very equal, and that was just a given, not a negotiation.

    I once asked my husband why that was and he said it was just obvious that it should be that way. Which is true, but somehow not obvious to a lot of men out there.

    I have struggled to explain this. Is it just him? Or maybe it is the extreme data driven personality type?

  17. Debbie M Says:

    It’s total unwarranted discrimination.

    Nevertheless, my favorites are programmers, and I’ve also greatly enjoyed the company of engineers and a carpenter. I like people with nice brains who aren’t afraid to use them and people who value logic and rationality. I also like that they tend to err in the direction of no tact rather than in the direction of lying.

    I have not enjoyed being roommates with people in plays (which, duh, I remembered the hard way, includes opera majors). They do not have time to clean up their stuff when there is a play going on! (Actually, I quite liked those roommates, just not quite as much during plays.)

    • Debbie M Says:

      What I meant to say is that bureaucrats are the best! We are responsible and get the bills paid on time. And, uh. We get pensions, so we don’t have to learn about investing or being landlords.

      And we always know the one right way to do everything so you never have to worry about creativity. And we never take risks, so we never get hurt. It’s easy to keep us happy because we’re so boring we just go to work all day and watch TV all evening. Erg. Good thing I don’t fit the stereotype.

  18. Foscavista Says:

    I am amazed at how people of the same profession (relatively speaking) become couples. My partner has a PhD in biochemistry, and mine is in literature written in a foreign language . If I were partnered with another person in my profession, I personally would go crazy.

  19. First gen american Says:

    In response to clouds comment. Mine does his fair share and doesn’t need to be asked either. Engineers are logical and a bit tightwaddy. I think it’s them doing some basic math. If I don’t help with the houswork, my spouse may not be able to do it all and then they will quit or be fired and we will lose 1/2 of our household income. It’s just logical to help because the consequences of not helping are costly….and even costlier if it leads to divorce.

  20. Z Says:

    What about architects? Wouldn’t they be part engineer, part artist, and part literary and cultural theorist?

  21. Rumpus Says:

    I think that article has the best bibliography I’ve ever seen. I need to copy that. Hm…but then I’d have to reference it and that would ruin the whole point.

    Neither of my parents are engineers, but I think that I learned many traits from them that have helped me in engineering. I think carpentry and handy-man-ism is a very similar mindset to engineering. Critical thinking, estimation, planning, and imagining the solution process.

    I tell my students that engineers are sought after by companies because engineers solve problems, and so the degree consists of both learning about some technical domain and learning problem solving skills. The good students gain an understanding of both aspects, while the poor students usually get some fraction of just the technical part. And then there’s a tiny percentage that get the problem solving but don’t get a firm grasp of the technical skills…that’s not easy because they tend to fail out. Anyway, problem-solving is a good thing to practice in all sorts of areas of life.

  22. frautech Says:

    Neither of us started as engineers when we got married but I am one now and he’ll be one soon. So obviously I’m biased. My co-blogger Chris Gammell asked a very similar question over at Engineer Blogs recently as he’s newly married: http://engineerblogs.org/2011/09/ask-the-readers-would-you-marry-an-engineer/

  23. ABDMama Says:

    My husband is an engineer and it has worked well for us. What’s funny is how much my friend’s dads like him. They are engineers/physicists who fawn over him even more than the CS spouses my friends have. I wonder if there is a hierarchy of preferable engineering matches?

    N says that he wouldn’t cheat because he’s done the work optimization exercise and it’s not worth it.

  24. Jacq Says:

    Note to self: Start hanging out at engineering functions. Errr – what are engineering functions? Is there such a thing?

    Seriously, I’ve worked with a TON of engineers and totally agree on your assessment of same. Unfortunately for them, they don’t get truly appreciated by the opposite sex until the OS is in their 40′s and been there done that with all the flakier professions – boy-men in marketing and sales haven’t been big winners for me.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      DH recommends your stereotypical nerd activities– just make sure you don’t get a physicist by accident.

      • Jacq Says:

        So I should actually go to some of these mensa events that I get invited to? Maybe I should just re-learn how to play good chess. Scrabble is just women showing up. Yeah – physicists scare me. Too intense. Isn’t the Comrade CPP a physicist – or a physiologist?
        My son says Star Trek events. Except I’ve never seen a new Star Trek episode – that might be a deal breaker. I like Captain Kirk though. Scotty’s what I should be on the hunt for though, right?

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Hm…. I’m not sure mensa is a great choice. I’ve heard things… more likely to snag a physicist there. We believe CPP is a physiologist. Star Trek events: good idea! Yes, Scotty! Man, you really do go for the bad boys, eh?

        And omg, if you’ve never seen a next generation, that is PERFECT. The assholes will be jerks about it, but it will be a fantastic ice breaker for the rest– “You’ve NEVER seen… You’re so lucky! You don’t know what you’re missing. Let me help you fix that!” I say let a roomful of guys give you a marathon of TNG.

  25. copyeditorsdesk Says:

    LOL! I have no experience with engineers, except that a best friend’s daughter, a newly minted CE, married a similarly minted CE fresh out of school. They seem happy. Each one earns more than her dad, and he was making six figures by the time she hit her junior year.

    If I were a nubile graduate student, I’d be mighty wart of scholars of 17th-century English literature. Or possibly of any phase of EngLit. ;-)

  26. copyeditorsdesk Says:

    oops. wary. not wart. {sigh} i are a editor….

  27. chacha1 Says:

    My hubs is a personal trainer/physical therapist assistant. He has the mind of an engineer, which makes him great at what he does, combined with a compassionate personality, which makes him superb. I on the other hand basically have the mind of a court reporter’s stenography machine, combined with an inquisitive personality, which makes me a human database. (Full of information, hard to search, and prone to processing glitches.)

    My recommendation for finding a mate is, find someone willing to stick with dance classes for six months, and you have found someone who knows how to collaborate.

  28. Ask the Grumpies: Should I get a PhD in Accounting? | Grumpy rumblings of the (formerly!) untenured Says:

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