There are three things you aren’t supposed to talk about on a first date: Money, religion and politics. As I tend to talk about everything, I usually throw those rules out the window. I adore politics, find people’s differing views of religion fascinating and while I feel it’s important that someone is financially secure, money has never been a hot button topic for me. But recently I’ve been thinking more and more about money. Everyone has heard of the Golden Rule that says do unto others as you would have them do unto you. But there’s another “Golden Rule” that proclaims “Those who have the gold rule.” I can’t help but wonder if this also applies to relationships. Does the person who makes the most money also have the most power? And if that’s the case, should we only date those who are our financial equals? I can’t help but wonder, when it comes to money and dating, is there a caste system?
I recently started seeing someone new. He’s smart, funny and a major power player in the world of techie nerd computer blah blah blah, the likes of which I know nothing about. What I do know is that he recently sold his Fortune 500 Company for more money than I’ll ever see in my lifetime. He drives not one Porsche, but two, and laughed in amazement when he found out that my rent was less than his car payment. Help me because baby, I am so out of my league. While I have always been a confident woman, I have never been as unnerved as I was last week when getting dressed for a date with this man. He wears a $15,000 dollar watch and collects Monte Blanc pens (which I pronounced wrong by the way. Of course I did.). I can’t exactly throw on a $20 dress from Old Navy and talk about my shot glass collection now can I? (Although I do have a shot glass from all 50 states. Not a small feat, my friends.) I love my job, my family, my friends…it’s a simple life, but it’s mine. But in the briefest of moments, I wondered if my life, my little world, was good enough for his. His money and the power that comes along with it suddenly dwarfed all of my accomplishments and I felt like Elly May from The Beverly Hillbillies; I might as well have been standing on my front porch barefoot in a pair of overalls surrounded by pigs and chickens. I was intimidated and that’s not a feeling that I’m used to. And I’m not entirely sure what to do about it. Is the huge difference in our bank balances really that big of an issue? Or is it not an issue at all and simply a problem that I’m creating?
We all know that most couples fight more about money than they do anything else. From buying that pair of shoes that you “just had to have”, even though you already owe thousands of dollars on your credit card bill, to stretching that minimum wage paycheck as far as you possibly can just so you can pay the electric bill this month, money issues are something every couple deals with. In most relationships, there is generally a “breadwinner” and more often than not, it’s the man. But what happens when a single woman who is used to being the financial provider for herself and her children marries a man who is also used to “bringing home the bacon”? There is a definite power shift and one that I don’t know if I’m prepared for.
After much soul searching and too many hours spent over analyzing, I realized what my issue is with this new relationship. I want to be seen as a man’s equal. I want him to respect me as his partner and, while I am decidedly putting the cart before the horse here, I questioned if this particular man could ever truly see me on an equal playing field. He is at the peak of his career and I’m at the beginning of mine. He makes well into the six figures and I wouldn’t even know what to do with that many zeros. Even typing those words I feel like some back woods Swamp People reject and know that that’s not who I am. His money is a sign of his success, success that I haven’t achieved yet. While I am incredibly happy for him and the lifestyle that he has created for himself, I don’t want his lifestyle given to me. I want to earn it myself. And my biggest fear, my glaring insecurity, is that if I don’t achieve that level of success, I would resent him for his. It’s the ugly truth and one that I feel that I should immediately apologize for but nonetheless, it’s how I feel.
I’ve been working since I was 16. While I am incredibly grateful for my parents who have helped me along the way, I’ve always liked the idea of earning my own money. I remember playing in my room when I was a little girl, imagining I was being interviewed by Oprah for being this amazingly successful business woman who had it all. I dreamt of being a part of major power couple, having a partner who was as driven and as determined as I was. In my mind, money seemed to go hand in hand with being successful. But the thing is, I’m finding the more I’m around money, the more I’m around people who it’s vitally important to, those who lust after it and yearn for it as some ill conceived notion of happiness, the less I desire it. My idea of success is changing and while I would be lying if I said money wasn’t important, it’s not a motivator for me. I view success as raising an amazing daughter, doing the best job I possibly can in my career and hopefully one day meeting a man to share it all with. And should those three things fall into place, I can only hope the only power struggle between my partner and I will be over the TV remote.