Today, if you are willing to entertain me, I am going to teach you how to go on a date with money. This will serve nicely if you are alone in your house right now, but happen to have a twenty in your wallet. JK. It’s for everyone! The single, the betrothed, the married, the love adverse. Because even if you are living happily ever after in joint bank account bliss, someone close to you is not. And I am here for you, or your someone, to help them navigate the massively confusing conflicted area of integrating money and security into a relationship in a way that does not blow up the relationship, or strain it, or make everyone sad, or bitter, or confused, or anxious or feeling like they have jumped off a cliff without a parachute, and given up control of everything that ever mattered but shouldn’t but actually does.
I am going to start with this.
It’s okay if you care about money.
I know, I know. It’s a controversial thing to say. Next I am going to endorse sexual deviance. Of course, the movies disagree. They make you a hero for tossing the rare jewel that reminded you of HIM, for forsaking the crazy business deal that cost you gazillions because you prized the game over the dollar, for preserving the sacred historic land that could have made you a tycoon. Or how about that one night in bed with Robert Redford to save your dream house? Don’t even get me started on that mind f@$k. I flung myself into my pillow when Rose threw that shiny ticket to paradise into the SEA. You could at least give the money to charity I cried. But I didn’t mean it. I mean not all of it has to go to charity, right? Couldn’t I just pay off a few bills first, take a trip to Italy? What?! Somewhere in my unconscious I ran a quick comparison between Erin and Rose, and swallowed down some shame.
I know, money can be an asshole. JK no it can’t. But it can be implicated in assholery to be sure. It can be weaponized, dun dun.
We call it “selling your soul” for a reason. Compromising a principle for cold hard cash tends to be judged harshly, or coldly resigned to. Generally, money is guilty until proven innocent in our social conditioning, but then also, because SHIT likes to keep SHIT real, we are under a massive campaign to understand and overcome money’s mystery and elusiveness. To hang on to it if we have it. To have enough of it to give us safety. Mastering money is the basic agenda we dance with our entire lives and for most of us it has personal meaning, even if it doesn’t have inherent meaning.
Unless you have mastered the precarious balance of having lots of it, but not caring about it, and using it perfectly while making morally heroic choices all the while standing on your head, well you’re not getting an A grade or a year end bonus from The World.
I have seen and heard it all friends. Thanks to you beloveds, I have been all the way around the money merry go around. And here is the deal. Money falls under the umbrella of security. How we create it, and feel about it. There are as many approaches to it as there are bodies. I don’t want to judge you for what size your feet are, or how wide your hips, whether you have blue eyes or brown, brown skin or white, or how often you fight with some coloured strips of paper, or your investment portfolio.
We all do money.
We all gaze into the magic money mirror and say things to ourselves like:
Darling you are above this all.
You sexy bastard, look at all of those zeros.
Thank god we don’t have to worry about losing a job right now *lowers eyes and genuflects.
You finally did it kiddo.
Getting better my friend, just work a little harder. Eye on the prize.
You worked so bloody hard for this. You are so legit.
You are not legit. If only this was different.
How did we ruin this? What if this is never better?
I wish I could finally break up with you! What if you break up with me?
Are we doing enough for you, or with you?
Money does not create or solve for security, but lack of money like any other lack, is an experience of insecurity. When we feel that something outside of ourselves has the power to determine our wellness and safety, and we don’t feel we can control for that external circumstance, SHIT HAPPENS and we feel insecure.
So how does this all play into the dating and relationship business?
Well when we get into a relationship, we merge our relationship with money, with their relationship with money. That can take two messes and make them an exponentially hot mess (think Covid transmission). It can make things better and easier for both. But most often, it’s not seamless and can create a lot of painful and also unnecessary conflict.
I have seen many a date and many a relationship die on this hill.
If you’re going to get your love life off the ground, you’re going to have to have a talk with money first, figure out what you want from it, get some inner peace around what it means to you, stop measuring your worth or failure by it, and then dump all of your judgments as to what it means about someone else. BECAUSE, folks are confused my friend.
Even those ‘dates’ who have money working very well for them, are getting hella mixed messages about what you want from them and their relationship with money. Let’s take the man with a wallet full. Is he supposed to care about it or not care, or care just a socially acceptable amount? Should he woo you with his bucks, and then do you pretend to not care about them, but feel secretly appropriately woo’d? If you have more money does it still feel nice to have someone else be the suitor? Can you be a feminist and want to be woo’d, and is he insulting your equality if he sends you bouquets of flowers?
Before we start throwing around words like “entitled”, “pompous”, “materialistic”, or “cheap”; I hear it all the time, I encourage us to take a deeper look at what is going on, and remove the fear goggles. No one is going to make you hand over your life savings on the first date. It’s easy to call someone a money asshole when they may be trying to simply show up and impress, or feel treasured and coveted.
I have talked to so many of you about your money concerns and I have come up with this:
Most of us don’t want to be “used” for money. We don’t want to become part of someone else’s mental or emotional illness and to be supporting them through their shitty treatment of us. And when we have been through it, we’re sensitive to it.
We don’t want dishonesty. We don’t want to sign up for love with someone else who is only signing up for security. Seeking arrangements is fine if you are actually seeking arrangements. There are all kinds of inter dynamics between money and companionship that prioritize money overtly, and can span everything from the person who loves to be generous to the person who wants to buy the arm candy. But many of us want the real deal. We want a soul connection or a kindred spirit. Someone to ‘get’ us, support us, really like what we have to offer, enough to fall in love with it.
We don’t want to have very different expectations or misaligned spending and saving styles. This is not to say we can’t be different here, but rather that we need to build a structure for that into the relationship.
There is a demographic who want to feel romantically cared for. This is dramatically different than “gold digging”; they want love and connection and compatibility and they may be very successful in their own careers, but the wining dining wooing and cared for component of a relationship dynamic is important to them. They feel special, feminine to another’s masculine etc.
I have seen this growing tendency to want to correct for all of the confusion and judgment by dating those in the same financial bracket. But do we really want to limit ourselves to only paramours with equal financial footing so that we don’t have to experience discomfort or ask questions or take risks?
I guess I am warning against writing someone off, because their relationship with money doesn’t add up on the first date — it’s not a fixed asset. For some a prenup is the most practical necessity in the world and a no brainer, for others the very word is a crushing blow to all that they hold dear about love. It’s like “Will you marry me, BUT…” Until we peel back the judgment and the fear and the meaning that has been attached to this piece of paper, we are in trouble and we stand to feel hurt and miss out.
For most of us if we are coming from a place of earnest discovery, of caring and affection and interest and emotional investment, there is room to come together and find a way to work with money so that it serves our relationship rather than eroding it.
But to get there we have to take it a bit less personally.
We have to give it a bit less power over us. Enough that we quit sweeping it under the rug and throwing shade.
And we have to engage emotionally, WHICH IS THE RECIPE FOR CREATING A HEALTHY RELATIONSHIP ANYHOW!!!
You don’t make your zone comfortable by making it smaller, you make it comfortable by getting comfortable with it.
Money won’t buy you love, but you don’t want it to cost you love either.
— Love Erin
P.P.S. One of the kindest things you can do for me is to share my writing. If you enjoyed today’s Monday Musing and know someone else who would please forward it to a friend.