Over the decades, there’s been a noticeable shift in the economics of dating. Up until the mid-80’s, I believe it was still somewhat conventional; guy asks girl out and guy pays for the evening. It started to take a turn in the 90’s—for me at least—when women truly started to excel in the work place and sometimes pulled in more dollars than their male counterparts. I didn’t think twice about picking up a check at dinner because it was a perk of my success. Now, in today’s economy, it’s not just about paying for a date; your income, credit score, IRA and stock portfolio come into play for both parties. I know many people who do background checks on potential mates before confirming their dinner reservation for their first date. When did a bank account or earning potential begin to take precedence over our capacity to fall in love?
For me, money is not a deal breaker. I’ve always supported myself quite well and so it was never really an issue when it came to dating, serious or otherwise. Recently, I’ve seen a swing in some of the relationships of a lot of women I know. Let’s face it, we still make substantially less than men for the same position, so we’re disadvantaged from the start. With the high unemployment rate that plagues us now, more of us are without jobs despite putting forth a strong effort. And, if you are a woman of a certain age, with many years of experience in your field, you’re viewed as overqualified, a flight risk and, not to mention, a high-priced ticket item versus a graduate fresh from college who will work for a measly fraction of your worth. Sadly, some of us with over 20 years of experience can’t even get hired at Starbucks.
We all know that money means power and whomever makes the most is the one who pulls the proverbial puppet strings in a relationship, whether they are doing it consciously or not. As I see it, there are three different scenarios to consider when thinking about the financial aspect of dating.
His income is substantially higher than yours. Unfortunately, for many women, this is the case. For the most part, this fact should not have an impact on your relationship because this scenario is what men generally expect. It’s the insecure, control-mongers that will hold it over your head. It’s the I-pay-for-everything-so-you-do-what-I-say mentality. I find this especially repulsive; nevertheless, there are some women who are willing to put up with this distorted mindset. But when does being in a relationship turn into being a prostitute? That’s what it boils down to, as my mother would say; he pays and you perform, whether it’s in the bedroom or in the house, cooking, cleaning and running his errands for him. With the wrong man, this is where a woman’s dignity suffers, but with the right one, it can be a beautiful thing. The trick is to figure out what the game plan is before you step up to the plate.
You’re successful and his salary pales in comparison. This is the one place where women defnitely lose. Yes, you’ve decided to pursue your career in lieu of having a family at a young age. You have worked hard, including late nights, weekends and traveled to various destinations where it currently means that flying doesn’t include champagne and fresh baked cookies, but basically getting naked in front of a stranger in order to get through the security. Nevertheless, you’ve powered through and are proud of your achievements while being financially savvy. What does this mean? With the less accomplished man, your success is emasculating and there is no way it will work in or out of the bedroom, unless he has a strong sense of self and appreciates your success. If not and he’s not the center of attention, he’ll run the other direction and not be present when the focus is on you. The icing on the cake is that he’ll blame you for his financial shortcomings that you, most likely, didn't think were that integral to the success of your relationship.
You’re even on the income scale whether it is on the low or high end. This is the optimal scenario, although it does have its complications. If you’re both lacking money, misery loves company and if you’re on the high end, well there will always be that escapist thought in the back of your mind: if I don’t like what’s going on, I can always leave because I don't need him.
When equally low, often when one mate suddenly makes more money, instead of sharing the wealth, they think that they don’t need the person who saw them through the hard times. This happens mostly when an older man is in a relationship with someone who is close to his age, but now, since he’s rolling in the dough, he’ll be rolling in the hay with someone who is multiple decades his junior. Two high-end incomes will only result in who is going to pay for what such as, “I bought this, now you need to buy that” or “I paid for dinner last night, so it’s your turn.” It’s a tit-for-tat situation and almost always ends up in a dispute.
So, what are we women to do? I say go with the flow and try your best to contribute to the relationship whether it is monetary or otherwise. Someone who truly loves you will not care what your net income is, but encourage you to be successful in any endeavor you choose and consider the intangible values. After all, can we really put a price tag on companionship? Emotional support? The embrace after a long day or spooning as we sleep at night? No, we can’t and shouldn’t because true, unconditional and all-consuming love is priceless.