Most couples bicker about money. My hubby and I were bickering about someone else’s money.
I was reading him a story about a woman who got engaged, only to discover that her fiancé has two million dollars in a trust fund, property, and various other stuff. This would make an absolutely fantastic romance novel, am I right? Or maybe a movie on Lifetime, except that the pivot in the third act would involve the guy turning out to be a sociopath or something.
This wasn’t a movie or a novel, though; it was real life.
She falls in love with a man she thinks is broke. They date for a couple of years. Then she gradually finds out the truth, that he is financially independent and only has to work doing stuff that he thinks is interesting. He works at a brewery, earning $30,000 a year to brew beer.
My hubby and I commented back and forth on the story. We’re focusing on attaining our own financial independence right now, and we’ve been reading a lot about other couples who have done it. How do they spend their time? What if one goes FI and the other has to keep working for several more years? How do they split their expenses? Do they travel? Where do they spend money that we would not, and what cost-cutting measures do they take that we wouldn’t? Details like that help to make the fantasy feel more possible, which of course it is, unless you try to live the Standard American Lifestyle of hyperconsumption and debt.
I expressed my annoyance at the story, which involved the woman earning the majority of their household income while the millionaire husband works at the brewery. Their only savings is the proceeds from his trust fund. My husband’s position was that this is fine, because they both pay their share. My position was total annoyance, for two reasons, and this is why we started bickering.
We both got more and more insistent on our positions, before suddenly realizing that what should have been idle chatter was turning into a debate with a bit of an edge.
“I wouldn’t marry that guy, even though he is a millionaire.”
“Because that’s a boring job!”
“You wouldn’t marry him unless he had an interesting job?”
“No, of course not!”
It wasn’t until I rehashed my thoughts the next day that I realized I really meant it. Not only would I not want to be married to a guy with a boring job; I also hate beer. It’s not just that I wouldn’t want to listen to endless “inside baseball” details about brewing, most of which I have probably already heard. I’d have to smell it. I grew up around Portland, a brewery town, and I find the smell of hops absolutely revolting.
We came back to the topic a day later, after we’d both thought about it some more. Wasn’t it snobby of me to look down on a guy because of his job? I didn’t think so, and I explained, after of course reminding my husband that part of why I love him is that he is so brilliant at what he does.
It’s not that his job makes him who he is. On the contrary. He has the job he does because of the types of interests that he has. I’m sure he was an interesting person before he got his first aerospace engineering job, before he built his first robot, before he went on his first international business trip. What’s so fascinating about the man I married is that he chose this career while wearing a hard hat, sitting on a stump, and taking a lunch break from his job as a logger.
It’s not about the money. If it were, I’d probably have a romantic obsession about marrying a millionaire slacker. A fiancé with two million dollars?? *gasp* *clutch the pearls* Mah MAY-UN!
I’d rather date a poor dude with a passionate interest in life than a rich guy who bored me. I’d rather go hang out at the duck pond with a broke guy than sit across a five-star restaurant table with someone who had nothing to talk about. I know, because I’ve done both.
Before my current husband, I mostly dated broke students and guys who were learning to write software at night, rejecting more “established” guys who just chugged along at their day jobs. For me, what’s compelling is when a man is in love with his vocation, when there’s something that he finds absolutely captivating. I’ve always chosen my loves based on their passions, not their incomes. I’d do it over again, too.
If I weren’t already married to the most fascinating guy I know:
I’d date a gopher on a movie set who had eight roommates, if that was his way of learning how to make a film.
I’d date a Lyft driver, if he was building a startup.
I’d date a barista, if he was designing an app.
I’d date a bookstore clerk, if he did open-mic poetry.
The guys I wouldn’t date? First off, anyone who was rude to waiters, refused to tip, wouldn’t clean up after himself, didn’t know how to cook, didn’t vote, or didn’t read books in general. I wouldn’t date a stoner, a gamer, or a social drinker. I have plenty of idiosyncratic expectations, but earned income and wealth aren’t really part of them.
The thing about financial security is that it allows you to make more of your own decisions according to your own values. I’ll never feel trapped in a relationship because I can afford to leave, if I need to, and also because I study martial arts. I’m where I am because I want to be, not because I’m afraid to do anything else. I would never feel that I should date one guy instead of another, just because of the lifestyle he could pay for. I would never date a millionaire slacker, because the very idea bores me.
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I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.