Rav Avigdor Miller on Marrying Down



Can a bochur hope to have a successful marriage if he marries a girl who is smarter than him?


I will tell you what the gemara says in one place (Yevamos 63a). It says, נחות דרגא ונסיב איתתא – Step down the step and marry a woman; always marry somebody that is lower than you are. That’s why men are taller than women. Almost in every case the man is taller than the woman in order that the woman should be obedient to her husband. He is after all the captain of the ship – you can’t have two captains.

Now, if a man marries a woman who is superior to himself it doesn’t mean the marriage will be a failure but it won’t be the ideal match because ideally the man has the verve, the energy to be a leader; only that if he is not capable of leading because his wife is superior, so she will have to be the leader. Now, sometimes that’s not a tragedy but still the accomplishments of such a family will be limited, because a woman is not built with the energy to lead a family as much as her husband could have done.

Also, most men are not willing to have their wives as leaders and therefore there is constant friction and that causes great unhappiness. If she is from a wealthy family – and that happens many times with yeshiva people; they marry into rich families – and they themselves are poor and so their wives look down on them to some extent. Unless she is such a big idealist that she looks up to Torah with such admiration that it overshadows her father’s money. But you must take that into consideration; if you marry a poor girl you are more certain of happiness. Besides the fact that she doesn’t require too much, that she is not looking for expenditures, but also she will also look up to you. A rich girl is to a certain extent a liability.

And so when the gemara says, נחות דרגא  – Step down, ונסיב איתתא – and marry a wife, it means in every area that is possible, step down and marry somebody who is somewhat inferior to you.

Now, in most cases, the girl is inferior to the boy because he learns more Torah and usually he is older than she is, two or three years older, so in most cases he is superior, both physically and in years of experience. But suppose she has certain accomplishments that dwarf his personality, then it will require a great deal of self-restraint on his part in order to succeed. He could, but he has to make up his mind that he is going to have to bear a great deal in his life because a woman with degrees or with her special abilities to earn money far beyond what her husband can do, is bound to exert a certain authority in the family.

TAPE # 607 (August 1986)