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Dating Issues: Show Me the Money

How important is the “money factor” when searching for a partner?

Several years after a bitter divorce, Chrissie was finally ready to have another go at a romantic relationship. Fearful of reliving the mistakes of her painful past, she drew up her must-have list of qualities she wanted in a new partner. At the very top was a non-negotiable item that she underlined, circled, and marked with stars in the margin: Has lots of money!

Friends with whom she shared her criteria acknowledged that money issues are important in any relationship—but they questioned whether it should trump everything else. Nevertheless, Chrissie was adamant: No money, no deal.  To understand her attitude, it is necessary to know her history. Chrissie’s first husband, Pete, could have been a poster child for “financially irresponsible men.” Not long after their wedding, Pete lost his job. For a time he made a show of trying to find another one. Soon, however, he gave up all pretense and did nothing but sit at home each day watching television and playing video games—while Chrissie worked long, exhausting hours to pay the bills. As if this weren’t bad enough, Pete ran up thousands of dollars in charges on her credit cards. In the end, “getting over” Pete involved more than recovering emotionally; it meant months of financial hardship to pay off his debts and salvage her own credit rating.

Obviously, Chrissie had no intention of winding up with another deadbeat—ever. And a good thing, too. No one should put up with financial abuse or be taken advantage of by slacker. But is it possible that she risked letting the pendulum swing too far the other direction? Definitely.

When you start a new relationship, your partner’s “net worth” can’t be measured by the size of his or her bank account alone, or the kind of car in the driveway, or the neighborhood where the person lives. These may be signposts along the way, but not the destination itself.

What you really want to know is, can you trust this individual to make sound decisions? To pull his or her weight in important matters? To make sacrifices for the common good? To have goals and the motivation to pursue them?  The fact is, having money at the outset of a relationship is no guarantee that the answer to any of these questions is “yes.”

To know the truth of the matter, it is necessary to look deeper and to consider intangible worth as well. In other words, let strength of character and resolute integrity become your “bottom line,” not just monetary wealth or good job prospects.

Poet and author Oriah Mountain Dreamer put it like this in her poem, The Invitation:

It doesn’t interest me  to know where you live or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up after the night of grief and despair weary and bruised to the bone and do what needs to be done
to feed the children.

Don’t ever be victimized by someone’s financial irresponsibility and lack of motivation. But remember that some things are worth more than any amount of gold: discipline, compassion, patience, kindness, tenderness, generosity, and a sparkling sense of humor—just to name a few.

Read on for similar articles on relationships and money matters and 5 conversations every couple should have about money.

1. Oriah Mountain Dreamer, The Invitation (New York, NY: HarperCollins, 1999), p. 89.