Should You Date a Broke Man?

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What’s a man without money?

That’s a good question. I’ve never been one to focus on money — my own or someone else’s — or see it as a path to happiness. Now that I’m at midlife, however, and helping to get my youngest kid through college, hoping to retire one day, and dealing with the never-ending costs of living, I think about money a wee bit more. I still don’t equate it to whether I am happy or not (and never will), although I acknowledge money certainly makes things easier.

I never made a lot of money in my career — newspaper journalism — but that didn’t stop men from dating me, or two men from marrying me. I am fortunate to have a wonderful partner, but I sometimes wonder what would happen if I lost my job and was looking for love — would I be marriage material (assuming I even wanted to marry again, that is, which I don’t), or even dateable?

Let’s forget my age for now; by virtue of my gender alone, yes — I would probably be viable relationship material. But if I were an unemployed man — regardless of age — would the same rules apply? Probably not (although I imagine a certain amount of women would eagerly entangle themselves if he was hot; yes, we gals can be incredibly shallow, too).

Unemployed, under-employed
and low-income men are just not good dating or marriage material in
the eyes of many women.

That’s why the pro-marriage people have it all wrong when they say marriage will get low-income women out of poverty. While studies have shown that low-income women value marriage and have more traditional views about marriage and divorce than others, they don’t want to get hitched to a man who is going to drag them down. A man who isn’t contributing financially is a handicap, as one young single mother says in Promises I Can Keep: Why Poor Women Put Motherhood Before Marriage: “What was his purpose? I started thinking, ‘I don’t need him.’ He was just like an extra burden. It was actually easier without him.”

I’m sure I’m not the only girl growing up whose mother told her that it’s just as easy to love a rich guy as it is to love a poor one. A few years ago, the book Smart Girls Marry Money: How Women Have Been Duped into the Romantic Dream — and How They’re Paying for It advised women to do just that.

I’m not sure many — any — boys get the same message, and even in this presumably enlightened age, I just can’t see a parent encouraging a son to “marry up.”

One study indicated financial responsibility and financial compatibility was more important or just as important as career ambition, physical attraction and sex and intimacy, especially for women.

It never even occurred to me to worry about such things (I’ve never discussed credit ratings with a partner), but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t have paid it some attention when it seemed like things were getting serious.

Another study seems to indicate that we are stuck in a time warp when it comes to gender and money — we can’t get past the idea that a husband should make more money than his wife, and that is impacting whom we marry, how much a wife works, and even if a couple stays married. Among the interesting questions posed:

“What happens when a man marries a woman who has the education and skills to earn more than him? The couple can avoid violating the “man earns more” social norm if the woman works part time or leaves the labor force altogether. The authors found evidence of both choices. But what if the woman stays in the labor force and does earn more than her spouse? How does this affect the marriage? The findings here are striking. In such couples, surveys show, both wife and husband generally report being less happy about the marriage.”

So, here’s how it appears to work:

Unemployed, under-employed and low-paid women are still datable and marriage material, while guys are not. Meanwhile, highly paid women are dateable and marriage material, as long as they don’t make more than their husbands.

If that isn’t proof about how far we haven’t come as a society, I don’t know what is.

Want to know more about money and marriage? Read The New I Do: Reshaping Marriage for Skeptics, Realists and Rebels (Seal Press). Order the book on Amazon, follow on Twitter or Facebook.

Originally published at omgchronicles.vickilarson.com.

Written by

Award-winning journalist, coauthor of “The New I Do: Reshaping Marriage for Skeptics, Realists and Rebels,” mom, changing the narrative about older women

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