It’s a terrible idea for a woman to marry a man for whom she believes she is settling. Conversely, it’s usually a good idea for a man to marry a woman who is below his station in life. The relative classlessness of America (on both counts) makes opaque what would be fairly transparent in a more firmly stratified culture.
In our aspirant meritocracy, various factors will be weighted differently for the respective genders. For example: Physical beauty raises a woman’s station more than it would a man’s, but a man’s intelligence–particularly if he can parlay that into more funds, or witty quips–is a bait valued more by a woman than a female’s eloquent speech is to her quarry.
There are, of course, limits to these generalities. Good-looking strippers are rarely accepted into the polite company of upper society, and men with a surfeit of brains will prefer the smart-mouth broads who can trade barbs. (Guilty.)
Are you getting the picture? This stuff is subtly complex, and complicated by subtleties. When it comes to assortive mating we (individually) barely know our asses from our elbows, as it applies to differentiating what is good for us from what we want. For this task we want the wisdom of the counsel of many; particularly from those who have been been heated in the furnace of marriage, yet have endured to be purified. Parents are a good start. Grandparents are even better because they are too old and too short for the world to give a damn about your modern conventions of emotion. At the very least, they will confirm you to the path you choose, and can provoke an “us against the world” attitude that can be useful when the world actually is against you.