Does Money Matter?


Does Money Matter?

Editor's Note: For those pursuing a spouse few issues can be more emotional then that of finances and physical attraction. 4marks Magazine sought to get a balanced perspective on both issues. Mary Beth Bonacci has examined what role money ought to play for a woman. In a separate article , Judson Cox has examined the role physical attraction should play for men. 4marks thanks both its columnist for helping to responsibly shed light on topics that too often result in acrimony and misunderstanding between the genders.  

 

So, if a woman is looking for a man with money, is she a practical minded mother-to-be or a gold digging shrew?

It’s a very good question. I’ve been pondering it ever since Dan here at 4marks asked me to address the issue in this month’s column. The answers, surprisingly, aren’t all that simple.

First of all, I always hesitate to speak for “women.” I can speak from my own experience, and from the experience of women I’ve known. I can speak from what I know about feminine nature. But in the end, my perspective is hardly universal. Nevertheless, I have a perspective. And here it is.

It is undeniably true that a woman who plans to stay at home with her children has a serious stake in her intended’s earning capacity. Once she has those children, her children will be very, very dependent on him. Which in turn makes her very, very dependent on him, and thus very, very vulnerable. She relies on him to take care of her material needs so that she in turn can focus all of her energy on nurturing the new lives that have been entrusted to her. If she can’t rely on that – if she has to worry about losing the roof over their heads or the food on their plates – her ability to focus on her children is going to be compromised.

In previous generations, this was a given. If a man wanted a family, he planned his life accordingly. He learned a trade, or got an education, or bought a farm, or did whatever needed to be done so that he would be prepared when Miss Right came along. (Or when he turned 25 and needed to marry Miss Almost-Right so that people wouldn’t start to question his sexual orientation. Things were a lot different in previous generations.)

I’ve got to tell you, there’s something very attractive about that. And it’s not about the money. When a man can say “Before I even knew you, I was preparing for you and working to build the life we’ll have together,” it helps a woman to feels protected and treasured before the marriage even begins.

Contrast that to the current generation, where so many men seem to approach marriage with an attitude that says “You’d better get a job and contribute your fair share to the upkeep of this family.” As if giving birth to the children, nurturing them and keeping a busy household running wasn’t a sufficient “contribution.” Let me tell you, that kind of attitude does not make a woman feel loved or protected.

Okay, so now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s be honest. Providing for a family, as important as that may be, is not the only reason women look for men of “means.” And those other reasons, surprisingly enough, don’t all boil down to simple “gold-digging” (although I’m sure there’s plenty of that to go around, too).

Most women want a man who is, for lack of a better term, somehow “bigger” than she is. We naturally gravitate to men who are at least as physically large as we are. The very tall Nicole Kidman, after her divorce from the very short Tom Cruise, said that it would be good to go back to wearing high heels. When seen in public with him, she had to appear as short as possible because it just doesn’t look “right” somehow when a wife towers over her husband. I know it’s not logical – size says nothing about character or virtue or anything else. But it’s instinctive and it’s fairly strong. Women typically don’t want to be much taller or much heavier than their partners.

But it goes beyond the physical. We gravitate to men who are at least as “big” as we are in terms of life, goals, accomplishments. Again, it’s difficult to explain because it isn’t necessarily logical. But it’s there and it’s relatively powerful. Maybe it’s about that instinctive desire to be protected, whether or not we have children. But for some reason, we want men whose lives are “bigger” than ours. We don’t want to be significantly smarter or more successful than the men we choose as partners. Not that we don’t want to be smart or successful. Just that we gravitate toward men who in some way seem to match or exceed our accomplishments.

And often money can serve as shorthand for that.
A man who has more money than we do seems somehow bigger than we are. He’s accomplished more. Or at least it seems that way. Maybe he hasn’t at all. Maybe it’s a trust fund. Maybe it’s inherited and he hasn’t done anything but play polo and ride around in his yacht. Like I said, it isn’t logical.
I think men, to a certain extent, feel this way as well. As much as they may talk about wanting a “sugar mama,” most men want to know they can provide for the woman they love. I once, back in high school, dated a man who told me that if we were ever to marry, he would divorce me the day I earned more money than he did. It struck me as a ludicrous statement at the time, and indeed it was. But it was the immature expression of a powerful human instinct – the need for a man to take care of a woman.

Notice that I never said that it’s a right or good thing for a woman to include “wealthy” in her short list of spousal criterion. A lazy woman who sees a man as simply means to her materialistic ends has no excuse in simply saying “It’s my nature to want to be taken care of.”
All of these instincts need to be guided by reason.

A woman needs to ask herself some serious questions when she’s faced with financial concerns about a prospective spouse.
First of all, is this about the ability to support a family, or the ability to support the daydream you’ve always had about how your family life would look? Sitcom characters usually live in upscale neighborhoods. “The Beautiful People” drive late model luxury cars and carry designer handbags. Spend enough time in this society and it’s easy to believe that we need all of that stuff. We don’t. It doesn’t lead to happiness, and it doesn’t lead to happy families. In fact, the pursuit of materialism can often derail a family’s happiness.

Second, is money really the best measure of whether a man’s life is “bigger” than yours? Often the men who accomplish the most are paid the least. Look at teachers. There’s a reason so few men choose to teach. It doesn’t pay. But it can represent a serious, amazing accomplishment.
A man who is following God’s will with courage and faith is a much bigger man than a trust fund baby with a Porsche.
So women, try to broaden your idea of what makes a man a man. Don’t view money as shorthand for accomplishment. And please, please purge any inclination you may have to see a man as simply a means to get the “stuff” that you want and haven’t been willing or able to earn for yourself. That’s using, and it’s very, very unattractive.

And guys, make the effort. Don’t be the guy who lives just for himself until the very moment that Ms. Right slips the ring on his finger. Be the guy who, within the context of God’s will for his life, is working to take care of the woman he loves, even if she hasn’t arrived yet.
A good woman will recognize and appreciate that. And it won’t be about the money.

 





11 Comments

  1. Diana-286996 November 9, 2007

    Thanks, Mary Beth, for this article. It makes one think (always a good hobby, uh?) of other situations, so here, some comments to share:
    Nowadays, more women are waiting longer to get married, either because of career and other personal goals, or just because they have been waiting for the right person (no need to explain this, I think. After all, that is the purpose of CM!!).
    The longer a woman has been single and in the workplace, the higher her salary will usually be. This (and according to the argument of the article) just shrinks her pool of "available" men (not only of men with the qualities she desires, but with an earning power to match hers, at least). "Good luck, Jane, uh?" Well, not necessarily.
    On one hand, these "older" women (no desire to offend here, just to point out that these are not high school girls) tend to find older men who have also achieved more (career, salaries, etc.).
    On the other hand, some of these women will not want to stop working once they have kids. They will continue working and contributing to their households (which takes some pressure off the men to be the sole provider).
    I know this is an overly-simplified example. As you point out, what about those in the non-profit sectors, teachers, etc? Well, I have just one thing to say: with maturity and time, one learns to look for timeless qualities in a future mate. And as a Catholic, hopefully, to listen to God’s will… In summary, one could think it all works out fine at the end 
    It was interesting to read about this topic from a woman's point of view. Now, I’d love to read what the guys have to say about it!
    Take care,
    Diana

  2. Gary-281548 November 11, 2007

    i liked the peace. i was wondering about the money also. MaryBeth i like to see an ariticle on how into thir christian faith they really are. it helps me belive they are more into faith than one thinks or you here or see in the news. it streanken my faith seeing their couage of masses and staints that they talk about in their postings. may be they will save all of us because of this. Gary

  3. Denis-7978 November 14, 2007

    If one marries for money they'll "pay" for it.

  4. Robert-3483 November 16, 2007

    It is important not to assume that the other spouse will be alive or have the health to provide everything needed to raise children. Each may be called to cover the role of both. Widows and orphans are mentioned in Scripture often enough. The life of a family is a gift from God.

  5. Jim-149694 November 18, 2007

    I really liked the point about guys working hard to provide for a spouse they may not have met yet. I try to make this point with my sons. If men don't do this they often seem to take an easy out later — such as opting for birth control to make ends meet.
    I do sometimes wish that our Catholic women would see that many middle age men do not have financial resources now because they have been good Catholics. My six children certainly have my Catholicism to thank for their existence! And of course they have been expensive! It too often appears to me that women do not make this connection.

  6. Ruth-238762 November 22, 2007

    I respectfully disagree on a few points; as a young woman with hopes and prayers of a family, I feel it is my responsibility to pursue a career and establish a good financial base for my future family. I have experienced the fear and instability of a home without income, and believe that it is responsibility of both parents to be employable and able to provide to the family, should something unexpected happen. I do agree on some points ,however, and would not feel safe entering a relationship with someone who was not prepared for the financial hardships of parenthood or the responsibility of sharing the economic load.

  7. Hilda-258177 November 23, 2007

    I always keep in mind "the reality" vs "the ideal". As I read this article, I felt as if I was reading a childhood fantasy story. This article is more of "the ideal" and what "the reality" is nowadays.
    I always thought I would marry by the young age of 22 and have a family. And yes, very much hoped that I would find a God fearing man who would be supportive of me and our family. But here I am, a SINGLE, professional 40 years old career woman whose perspective on the "money matters" have certainly evolved with the signs of the times.
    As our spiritual and faith journey change and grow (age plays a big role here), so do our ideals and realities about money and material. What was expected of men and women in the olden days, cannot possibly be expected of men and women in modern times.
    Money and material comes and goes. Bottomline, what is truly important that both be compatible in the responsibility involved in being faith filled individuals progressing to be the best in God's eyes and keeping in tact what is and what we dream to achieve.

  8. Tracey-14882 November 27, 2007

    I really liked MBB's idea of a man preparing for marriage by planning his life accordingly. It sounds selfish when you say you want to stay home while your husband goes out to be the breadwinner. But she is saying it is not at all and as a matter of fact it opens you up to being completely vulnerable to him. I would think there was something attractive about that to men. Maybe not today's man though who would rather buy himself the latest toy to add to his collection. I would think at some point though you would realize that you can not fill your life with stuff or maybe you do and self-medicate. Anyway I can not wait to be that vulnerable and have that kind of trust. Until them I am stuck fending for myself looking for him.

  9. John-10533 November 29, 2007

    Well written article. In my opinion for what its worth; its not how much money you have or make its what you do with the money you have. "Man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God" Mathew 4:4 More precious than diamonds is our faith and abundant life, rivers of living water are promised to those who believe. Ive witnessed large families with very modest incomes survive with faith, hope,happiness, peace and love. I come from a single parent, large family and we all survived with my fathers modest income. All things are possible with God.
    Very cute/funny statement -"Or when he turned 25 and needed to marry Miss Almost-Right so that people wouldn’t start to question his sexual orientation.", I can relate.

  10. Josh-196444 November 29, 2007

    It was well-written, although I didn't get the joke about the man at 25. Was it supposed to be sarcastic or funny? I wasn't really sure where it went. Was it a shot at the gay issue?
    She's speaking from personal experience. But what if you're a single man who chose a low-paying career with long hours like journalism? It's probably much easier to find a partner if your job doesn't force you to work off-beat hours.
    As for dating an older/richer/taller man. I know a few couples where the woman's older/taller/richer and they're fine. She has a point, unfortunately, that society would rather have it this way.
    I saw a statistic somewhere that the highest divorce rate is between moderately-educated men and their partners with master's or better-levels of education. The men feel threatened that the women are 'destroying' them on a competition-based level. They're less-off than their partners and feel compelled to end it.
    She's brought up some very interesting points.

  11. Rod-34918 January 4, 2008

    …continued grace and blessings to you MaryBeth for this insightfully candid article. And thank you for your sentiment regarding teachers. Rest assured it takes courage and faith in the urban setting….oh yeah, and creativity too! This educator appreciates you. :0)
    ______________
    Psalm 16:7, Psalm 90:17 Luke 10:7

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