I have a younger friend. I'll call her Becky. I've known her about ten years. She's from the midwest, is tall, slender, auburn haired. At the age of forty, she still looks very much like the barrel-racing rodeo princess she was as a teenager. To my annoyance, she still gets carded in clubs.
Around the time I became friends with Becky, she met "Mark." Mark is a couple of years older and also from the midwest. He's been bald and rather pudgy since he was in his twenties. As a result, he doesn't look much older now than he did when he graduated from college, but he's still rather self-conscious. Both Becky and Mark are passionate about hiking, wine-tasting, and sex (not necessarily in that order).
Mark was enamored with Becky from the get-go. In terms of appearance, she was the kind of woman he had always wanted but never thought he could win: real trophy wife material. Becky, on the other hand, never seemed quite as enthusiastic about Mark, and she definitely had zero interest in being a trophy wife (she made her own income, thank you).
Ten years ago, Mark was doing very well in commercial real estate, pulling in $200,000/year plus bonuses. That was a lot of money in our circle, and I'll admit I was a bit envious when Mark sent Becky exotic blooms for no reason at all, or swept her off for all-expense-paid vacations in Europe.
But Becky was always complaining about Mark. He drank too much. He didn't share his feelings enough. He was too conventional. He wanted to get married and she didn't. He was bossy and critical. He wanted her to play hostess at his parties. His friends and colleagues were pretentious. That sort of thing.
Yet their relationship persisted, off and on, for a decade. Finally, Becky announced she'd had it with Mark, and they broke off. Becky took off for North Dakota to take care of aging parents. We thought it was kind of a shame. We liked Mark and we missed being invited to his parties. However, it was a relief not to listen to Becky complaining about him anymore.
Then the recession hit. Overnight, Mark lost his job and his prospects of finding another one were bleak. He was so devastated he started seeing a therapist, which wasn't the sort of thing we expected Mark to do.
It took Mark a year to find another job, and that was in the non-profit sector for about $45,000/year, a fraction of what he was used to making.
And that's when Becky decided she really missed Mark after all, for all his imperfections, and they got back together, and have been together ever since in apparent harmony.
When I ask Becky what accounted for her change of heart, she shrugs. He's still bald and he still drinks too much and he still nags her about getting married. And now when they go out, it's dutch treat: no flowers or expensive restaurants.
But apparently, she likes him better now that he makes less money. She's always nattering on about how darn important his work in low-income housing is. Go figure!
So much for hypergamy.