More Than Money
Issue #30

When Differences Divide

Table of Contents

“Money and Relationships”

From the Online Discussion Group

We all know that money can complicate relationships. Just how much was the topic of a recent conversation amond members of MTM's email discussion group.

I’m a fifty-something potential returnee to the dating scene, widowed after 26 years of marriage. The first time around, I avoided the subject of money because I was afraid of being married for my money. Once we were married and I had to reveal my finances (through income tax forms and the like), I grossly underestimated the degree of explanation my husband required. He had nothing financially and had no background or understanding of trust funds, investments, etcetera—so the little I told him went right over his head. I don’t think he even knew what questions to ask. The one thing I did right, financially, was that I tried not to use my money as a way of tipping in my favor the scales of power in our relationship. If I ever return to the dating scene, I hope I’ll have the courage to be more forthcoming about my financial position when a relationship becomes serious.

Mostly, I’ve had good experiences with money issues in relationships, but I have had enough bad ones to be careful. I adore my on-and-off sweetie for many reasons, one of which is because I know she does not want to pick my pocket or use me as a trophy. Ironically, she is the one I help the most. She has asked for the least and I end up doing more for her than anyone else. It is my choice. I am not pushed. She is working-class and, as I write this, I’m in the middle of making significant repairs to her house. Last year I paid off her mortgage. I love doing things for her because I know she appreciates me for me, and not for what I might do for her. She has been my best investment.

I think dating is hard for wealthy women. It must be so much easier for men. I don’t think men get in the same boat we do. I’m sorry to sound so jaded, but I do think those of us with money can’t afford to simply ride on the wind with our hearts. This is sad.

The first day I became wealthy I bought a very fast red car (as quite a few other men have probably done). I had a great time driving that car, but quickly realized that women were treating me very differently than before. I was uncomfortable with that. I actually found it much more difficult to get into relationships in spite of (and, to some degree, because of) the fact that more women were suddenly interested in me. It took me a couple years of driving that beautiful machine before I got sick of it and bought an old van for $3,000 and gave the sports car to a good charity. So I am very aware of what it feels like to be seen by women as wealthy.

I remember years ago reading a study about what women like in a man. Most respondents said they cared, first, about a nice personality; second, good looks; and third, about income and level of wealth. But the study cautioned that around 10 percent of women were pretty much solely interested in number three. That really scared me! I had problems in my relationships with women because I was afraid they were out to get my money. In retrospect, I think my fear ruined several otherwise excellent relationships. (In one, my fiancée would not sign the prenups and therefore left me.)

At a recent gathering of More Than Money members, I had a profound realization. During a discussion with another member, I realized that I didn’t get married until I had given most of my wealth away and it ceased to be much of an issue for me. I don’t think I’d be in the happy relationship I am in today, or have my beautiful little boy, were it not for the fact that I found a way to release the fear of a woman taking my money from me.

I have not moved through all my issues about money and relationships, by any means. There are still differences of class and imbalances of power as my wife works full-time raising our son and I do work that pays the bills and gives me power that I still need to learn to relinquish. However, I am grateful that I’ve found a way to have a loving relationship with someone without fearing that money is part of the attraction. That is worth far more to me than money! I hope and pray that all those who have fears or concerns about this will be able to find ways to release the fear and to have beautiful relationships. I would encourage others to think about giving the money away if that’s what it takes. It’s been a good deal for me.

I’ve stood on both sides of the money/no money division in relationships. I came from a working-class, but upwardly mobile, family when I married my first husband, who is a wealthy inheritor. The second time around, I was independently wealthy, marrying a middle-class professional man. My first marriage lasted 23 years. My ex-husband is a wonderful man and, while the divorce was painful and sad, we are on quite good terms. My second husband is daily proof that true love is possible (maybe especially so) in middle age. In neither of these unions did any of us even consider prenups, except to reject the concept if someone from the outside introduced it. While I could never bring myself to advise someone else to go without a prenup, I will hazard the following: I firmly believe that the fact that the three of us involved in these two unions would never consider a prenup directly contributed to us not needing them, even in the event of divorce.

As my relationship with my second husband became serious and I started making some financial and legal changes, my former financial advisor (whom I consider a fairly objective observer) said some interesting things: First, that while the prevailing stories are about gold diggers and fortune hunters, nine times out of 10 it is the non-monied partner who gets screwed in the separation or divorce, especially if the wealth is inherited, but not exclusively. Most of the financial arrangements we made were to protect my second husband, not me. (This has to do with how wealthy people become wealthier just sitting on trusts and property investments that grow, while their partners, trying to do their share and contribute, aren’t even able to save. It also has to do with the fact that those with wealth are able to hire much better legal counsel. So it’s very important to set up methods that allow the other person to save.) My advisor watched many matches between a person of wealth and a professional person where, after 20 to 30 years of marriage and then a divorce, the wealthy person would walk away with the compound-interest-enhanced trust, while the professional spouse, who had been pulling down a six-figure salary, would end up with nothing because that person had been contributing “their share,” which precluded saving.

But the really chilling thing she said to me was, “In 30 years of practice, I’ve helped dozens of clients through separations, divorces, and distributions of investments and wealth. Almost every person of wealth in that situation honestly, genuinely believed himself or herself to have been financially ‘taken.’ And not one single time was that true. Some may have indeed been emotionally ‘taken,’ but in every single instance, the (comparatively) non-monied partner was the one financially damaged by having been in the relationship.” It’s all a matter of perspective, I suppose.

—All excerpts printed with permission.

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