Dollars and Dating: social issues with differences in incomes



Money like sex appeal isn't everything but it is part of the total package.

Money like sex appeal isn’t everything but it is part of the total package.

During a post movie watching critique session of THE NOTEBOOK (It was the first time I had seen it- I know I live in a box- whatever, it is done now.) the other night, a male friend posed this question, “Why is it in romantic movies it is the scruffy, working class male who gets involved with the high class daughter of a wealthy family?  You rarely see the revers.” We pondered this and could only name one film where the socio-economic roles of the lovers were reversed (in love stories where there is an economic disparity).

As a possible solution, I offered up the concept that when women are the party on the low end of the economic stick it is considered “gold digging” if she gets involved with a wealthy man.  That is almost like saying she is a prostitute in our culture.

Although I am a big proponent of both men and women having some source of income in order to feel independent in a relationship AND I feel that staying in a bad relationship for the sake of access to money or financial stability (an illusion) is horrific and demoralizing,it is important to remember that income is only one factor in a relationship and should be considered as such.

Money is an important subject in the dating arena but like sex, it is a taboo topic of conversation. And just like sex, money or the lack there of can be a deal breaker.

I had a few conversations with a potential date recently about money.  He is a doctor and I am a freelance writer/yoga teacher. He expressed a concern about being pursued solely for his income. Seeing as how he knew nothing about me, I forgave him for suggesting that that might be the case with me since our incomes were so utterly far apart and said something about how character is more important to me than income (leaving out the part that someone with more attractive character might be more tactful and get to know me better rather than making such a statement). But frankly I get tired of defending my choice to date men with higher incomes than mine- which would include anyone whose annual income exceeds that of an third world factory worker.

I have been accused, more than once, of being a gold digger for that very reason.  It is true, I have dated some wealthy men in my life.  But if I didn’t marry the guy with the ten million dollar trust fund, the guy who had  twenty-six million dollars in the bank from a very sweet business deal or the brain surgeon with an income of almost seven figures annually (and no kids), WHY on earth would I marry a man who was bringing in around $350,000.00 annually simply FOR HIS MONEY!?!?! Plus my track record shows that I tend to marry financially challenged men.

I get that no one wants to be pursued solely for their money just like no one wants to be pursued solely for sex. But it is a sticky situation. I am offended when men seem to focus on sex when they pursue me but conversely I want any potential long term partner to find me sexually attractive.  I want him to like that part of me as well as other attributes. How much money you have is part of the total package rather than a singular motivation for a relationship.

Marilyn Monroe had a brilliant line as  Lorelei Lee  in Gentleman Prefer Blonds regarding being accused of being a gold digger by the father of the rich man she wants to marry:


Lorelei Lee: If you had a daughter would you want her to marry someone poor?

Mr. Esmond Sr. (Father of Rich Man): Of course.

Lorelei Lee:  Then why is it bad when I want to marry someone rich? Don’t you know that a man being rich is like a girl being pretty? You wouldn’t marry a girl just because she’s pretty, but my goodness, doesn’t it help?

Mr. Esmond Sr.: Say, they told me you were stupid! You certainly don’t seem stupid to me!

Lorelei Lee: I can be smart when it’s important, but most men don’t like it.


After years of struggling as the wife of an alcoholic with an income constantly in flux and teetering on the brink of financial ruin, then scraping by as a single mom, of course financial stability is a requirement in a potential mate. But it is far from a singular motivation to be with someone.

2 responses »

  1. Unfortunately, money has to be a part of the conversation. Like it or not, equality in a relationship is important, not only as it relates to money, but to other attributes as well. Part of the struggle to find that “significant” other is a parity, not only as it relates to interests, but to who can pay the bills, and how often you might want to make love. My experience has shown me that if there is a great disparity in ANY areas, then it puts an immediate tension on the relationship, regardless of the feelings involved.

    Let me ask you…you find a guy you are attracted to, he has similar interests, floats your boat, and you his…but he’s got 50 grand in credit card bills, and tells you that he has a hard time making ends meet, even though he has a nice white collar job and seems normal in every other sense. What’s your reaction? Fact is, the radar is out on every date, not only as it relates to the Big Connection, but also on how it relates to everyday skills.

    Dating men outside your economic equity zone forces to the front the conversations you outline. I just watched “Sabrina” this afternoon (again), and if you need an example of love without concern for money, then that is the film. But it is true fantasy.

    There are a few people out there who can flaunt the conventions, disregard economic equity, relate outside the box, and maintain sanity in the process. But very, very few. Not sure you are in that category.

    • Well Mister8tch,

      Thanks for your thoughtful comment.

      There is a lot to respond to here so I will start with the question you pose about the attractive guy with 50 grand in debt. There are some factors to consider before I could have any reaction to the case presented. I would need to know how he came to be 50 grand in debt. Was it because he was paying his mother’s hospital bills for an unexpected health crisis or did he simply live outside of his means? What is his plan for getting out of debt? What is he willing to do to change his current lifestyle to make it easier to “make ends meet”?

      How this guy came into debt is important in terms of his character and how likely he is to work to re-discover financial stability. I feel that fiscal responsibility is a pretty good reflection of someone’s character. Sometimes people must go into debt for reasons out of their control like emergency health care or a financial crisis like long-term unemployment that is understandable and can most likely be worked out. Someone who is cavalier about money (or a total tihtwad) regardless of his net worth is an unsuitable mate for me just as someone who has a vastly different sex drive or shares none of my passions.

      On another note:
      I adore the original version of “Sabrina” and have seen it at least a dozen times. Please note that Lionel chases after the lovely Sabrina AFTER it is revealed that her father, the chauffeur, is also a millionaire due to his wise investment strategies. It took me many viewings to really “get” that- I was so caught up in the fairy tale aspect of the story.

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