It’s generally believed that love and money are two words that should never be found in the same sentence.
We’re supposed to fall in love for more abstract reasons, like the other person’s sense of humor, taste in music, mutual hobbies and spiritual beliefs. Yet while all of those are extremely important values, there is another, more quantifiable value that’s often considered too taboo to talk about – the one with a dollar sign in front. What is it about caring about how financially successful the other person in a relationship is (or will be) that’s so frowned upon?
Take for example a lunchtime conversation I had with a good guy friend this past summer. He was having relationship issues, and was using this opportunity to verbalize his random thoughts about love, life and heartbreak.
“What about you?” he finally asked. “I mean, what do you think is important in a relationship?”
“A lot of things are important,” I said, preferring to contemplate the piece of sushi on the end of my chopsticks.
“OK, I’ll put it this way: what kind of guy would you fall in love with?” he pressed on.
“Well, there are a lot of factors. He’ll hopefully have a deep appreciation for Pink Floyd, supply-and-demand graphs, Shakespeare and traveling the world, among other things,” I mused. “Oh, and he can play guitar and has a fast car.”
He laughed and rolled his eyes. “Really. In all seriousness, what do you think is important?”
“Well, for one thing, he’ll be successful,” I said. Already knowing what I was about to say was not going to be well-received, I paused. “And by that I mean that he’ll know how to make money.”
Almost choking on his food, my companion sputtered, “What? Money? I thought we were talking about love? What does money have to do with it?”
The truth is, a lot. As I went on to explain to him, we don’t fall in love with another person out of pity, but respect and admiration. Marriage should not be a thankless charity service, but a business deal between two people who both expect to earn great, satisfying rewards from their life-long partnership. Some businesses get rich. Some barely make ends meet. The money itself doesn’t measure the success, but the daily labor put into producing something worthwhile and long-lasting does, and that’s what creates a successful partnership.
So yes, women like me do like men with money. That’s because, at least in my case, it’s not because of the money itself, but what it represents. Wealth is a product of the values of creativity, resourcefulness, ambition, intelligence and responsibility. Although money itself has a dollar sign in front, it represents much deeper values that by themselves don’t.
Unfortunately, a woman who dares to say she’s looking for a wealthy, successful man always runs the risk of being called a gold digger. Some women certainly deserve that title. But there’s a very important distinction between a gold digger and a career-driven woman who expects a financially successful partner. Whereas the former looks to a man with deep pockets to fulfill the material needs she herself can’t provide, the latter looks to find a soulmate who’s worthy of spending a lifetime with – someone she can admire and who in turn will recognize those same values in her.
It’s important to note too that although it’s a huge benefit, some of us don’t even care about the financial security blanket that a wealthy husband would obviously provide. Sure, a marriage without fights over bills and expenses and worries about making ends meet is a much happier marriage than one strained by finances (money problems are the No. 1 reason why couples argue, according to an article on the Wall Street Journal’s SmartMoney Web site). But that’s not what this is about. In fact, having a financial security blanket would take away too much of the adventure of having to earn my own keep.
Nor is this about finding someone with a bank account big enough to finance $1,000 shopping trips and nine-week vacations to the Bahamas. (I’ll blow my own money on designer shoes and margaritas, thank you.)
And I certainly do not subscribe to the old-fashioned notion that the man should be “in charge” of the household finances. Marriage is a partnership with shared duties and responsibilities, and any smart woman will always know what’s happening to her money. I’d probably even prefer separate bank accounts.
What is true is that I, and other women like me, tend to be attracted to men who are ambitious – and if everything works out, men who in turn become financially successful. In college, I have often found myself attracted to young men who shine with the promise of being successful entrepreneurs, scientists or engineers some day; men just waiting for a chance to build, create and design. They are excited about life and the opportunities they see. They expect to do something fulfilling with their careers that not only will provide a useful good or service to society, but will in turn reward them monetarily.
I dare anyone to tell me that my reasons for admiring those qualities are shallow, trivial or opportunistic.
In fact, my reasons for being attracted to wealth and success are precisely because I want someone who’ll recognize and value those same qualities in me. I hope that whoever falls for me one day will appreciate how far I’ve come in my career at that point and the ambition, perseverance and hard work that success embodies.
No, money can’t buy happiness or love, but it does matter. Ladies, I say it’s just fine to look for a man who has something tender about him. Especially legal tender.