Men Marry Women with the Hope They Will Never Change. Women Marry Men with the Hope They Will Change

Albert Einstein? H. M. Harwood? R. Gore-Browne? John Conwell? Estelle Getty? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Did Albert Einstein’s genius extend from physics to psychology? The following remark has been ascribed to him:

Men marry women with the hope they will never change. Women marry men with the hope they will change. Invariably they are both disappointed.

I have not found any persuasive citations. Would you please examine the provenance of this statement?

Quote Investigator: There is no substantive evidence that Einstein who died in 1955 made this statement. Indeed, it is listed in a section called “Probably Not By Einstein” within the comprehensive reference “The Ultimate Quotable Einstein” from Princeton University Press. 1

The earliest ascription to Einstein located by QI appeared in 1982 in “Forbes” magazine which reported that the line was spoken by the popular comedian Mort Sahl during a performance. Perhaps Sahl concocted the linkage to the famous scientist to heighten the humor. See the detailed citation listed further below.

The earliest solid match to the statement known to QI occurred in the play “Cynara” by H. M. Harwood and R. Gore-Browne which was performed in London in 1930. The drama moved to Broadway in 1931, and it was included in a compilation of “The Best Plays of 1931-32”. The character John Tring offered the following insight about marriage. The phrasing differed from the quotation under examination, but the underlying idea was the same. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 2

TRING—Exactly! That’s the trouble about marriage. Women always hope it’s going to change the husband. Men always hope it won’t change their wives—and both are disappointed! (He gets up.) Never if you can help it be a woman’s first lover—unless, of course, you’ve got the explorer’s temperament.

The play was adapted from the novel “An Imperfect Lover” by R. Gore-Browne, but QI’s search did not detect the quotation within the book.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.




In 1890 Oscar Wilde’s novel “The Picture of Dorian Gray” was serialized in “Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine”. The character Lord Henry Wotton offered advice to Dorian Gray that was syntactically parallel to the quotation but differed semantically: 3

“Never marry at all, Dorian. Men marry because they are tired; women, because they are curious: both are disappointed,”

In 1930 and 1931 the play “Cynara” graced the stages of London and New York. As noted previously, the script included a match.

In 1935 the Associated Press news service reported the pronouncements of the psychologist William Alanson White who warned against the belief that marriage could reform a person’s character. His statements provided a partial thematic match: 4

“Then there are the men who marry frivolous girls hoping they will change into charming matrons; sentimental girls who many drunkards to reform them; and similar variations.”

“It’s foolish to marry for the person you think you can make out of the person you know,” says Dr. White.

In 1972 the syndicated column “Mirror of Your Mind” by John Conwell entertained the question of whether marriage changes a person: 5

Only a woman apparently. At least that seems to be an inescapable fact of married life. A man marries the girl of his dreams and then wonders all his life what ever happened to that girl he knew before she became his bride. A woman marries a man who doesn’t quite fit the image of the Prince Charming she had dreamed of, and then worries all her married life why he is still the same imperfect person he was in their courting days.

In March 1982 the “Fact and Comment” section of “Forbes” magazine printed a short piece about the comic Mort Sahl. The following passage contained the earliest close match found by QI and the first ascription to Einstein: 6

The other evening he was appearing at one of Manhattan’s rarities, a supper club with good food, service and setting—Marty’s, run by the man who made Marty’s Bum Steer into one of the city’s outstanding steak houses.

Some samples from that evening’s Sahl sorties: “Einstein said that women marry men hoping they will change. Men marry women hoping they will not. So each is inevitably disappointed. The Pope has said, if you look at a woman licentiously, including your wife, it is a sin. As well as a miracle.”

In September 1982 the widely syndicated advice column “Dear Abby” printed a response by Abigail Van Buren (Abby) that included the quotation: 7

Albert Einstein reportedly said, “Women marry men hoping they will change, and men marry women hoping they will not. So each is inevitably disappointed.”

In 1988 an item in the “Cleveland Plain Dealer” reported that the actress Estelle Getty who was well known for her role in the sitcom “The Golden Girls” was planning to release a book: 8

Getty, 60, is planning to publish a book this fall titled “If I Knew Then What I Know Now, So What” on her observations and philosophy from 40 years of marriage and two sons. “Women marry men thinking they’re going to change them, and they never do,” she said. “Men marry women hoping they will never change, but they invariably do.”

In 2012 a columnist in the “Philadelphia Daily News” credited the remark to Mort Sahl: 9

Steve: People are complicated. And relationships are fluid. As the great Mort Sahl observed, “Women marry men hoping they will change, and men marry women hoping they won’t. And each is inevitably disappointed.”

In conclusion, the earliest known evidence suggests that the expression was coined by the playwright team of H. M. Harwood and R. Gore-Browne in the drama “Cynara”. There was no substantive support for assigning the remark to Albert Einstein.

Image Notes: Married couple embracing from toanmda at Pixabay. Albert and Elsa Einstein from Underwood and Underwood of New York; U.S. Library of Congress’s Prints and Photographs division; via Wikimedia Commons.

(Great thanks to Benjamin Karney and Greg Yurkovic whose inquiries led QI to formulate this question and perform this exploration. Special thanks to S. M. Colowick who located the valuable “Cynara” citation.)

Notes:

  1. 2010, The Ultimate Quotable Einstein, Edited by Alice Calaprice, Section: Probably Not By Einstein, Page 482, Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey. (Verified on paper)
  2. 1932, The Best Plays of 1931-32 and the Year Book of the Drama in America, Edited by Burns Mantle, Section: Cynara: A Drama in Prologue, Three Acts and an Epilogue by H. M. Harwood (Harold Marsh Harwood) and R. Gore-Browne, (Adapted from novel “An Imperfect Lover” by R. Gore-Browne), Start Page 335, Quote Page 358, Dodd, Mead and Company, New York. (Reprint Edition in 1975: Arno Press: A New York Times Company, New York) (Verified with hard copy)
  3. 1890 July, Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Start Page 3, Quote Page 24, Published by J. B. Lippincott Company, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Google Books Full View) link
  4. 1935 March 28, East Liverpool Review, Self-Sacrifice Imperative in Happy Marriage by Sigrid Arne (Associated Press Staff Writer), Quote Page 9, Column 2, East Liverpool, Ohio. (Newspapers_com)
  5. 1972 March 22, Kenosha News, Mirror of Your Mind by John Conwell, Quote Page 17, Column 5, Kenosha, Wisconsin. (NewspaperArchive)
  6. 1982 March 29, Forbes, Section: Fact and Comment by Malcolm S. Forbes, America’s Preeminent Satirist – Mort Sahl, Quote Page 21, Forbes Inc. New York. (Verified with hard copy)
  7. 1982 September 30, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Dear Abby: December-May marriage comes up roses by Abigail Van Buren (Pauline Phillips), (Reply to “Lucky Us” by Abigail Van Buren), Quote Page 6F, Column 3, Cleveland, Ohio. (GenealogyBank)
  8. 1988 May 17, Cleveland Plain Dealer, People, Quote Page 10B, Column 1, Cleveland, Ohio. (GenealogyBank)
  9. 2012 December 14, Philadelphia Daily News, Unlucky guy winders if he’ll ever marry by Steve & Mia, Quote Page 36, Column 1, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Newspapers_com)