Does Money Matter?

How much does money matter in gay and lesbian relationships?

By Claudia B. Manley

espite numerous songs on the issue, there doesn’t seem to be a consensus (at least not in pop culture) on how money affects relationships. We’d like to believe in the power of love to overcome yawning financial gaps between partners, but how realistic
The best way to handle both of these is through honest and on-going communication.
is that? Many of us have had to negotiate a delicate balance of power when it comes to dating someone who makes significantly more money.

Two areas that are touched off by a monetary imbalance between partners are expectations and ego. The best way to handle both of these is through honest and on-going communication. Without it, expectations can be unrealistic and egos can be bruised.

What can either of you honestly expect? Begin by talking about what may happen when she wants to do something you can’t afford to do. If she wants to go to Europe for the weekend, but you really can’t find the cash, will she offer to take you or should you be prepared for her to go alone? If she offers to pay your way, will there be any guilt on your part or resentment on hers for the gesture? Marie and Ava dated for three months before it became clear that Marie wasn’t going to offer to take Ava to movies and plays she couldn’t afford. Ava was upset because she thought Marie didn’t care, while Marie was operating under the assumption that Ava didn’t want to be in a position Marie herself wouldn’t like. After they finally confronted the issue, they came up with a compromise—they would find more activities they could do together and Marie would occasionally treat Ava to a night out. They found a happy medium through a change in their expectations as well as their social habits.

Leslie and Keisha illustrate a different resolution. For Leslie it was a point of pride that she not participate in activities she couldn’t afford. Keisha resented what she felt was Leslie’s stubbornness and implied restraint on Keisha’s activities. They couldn’t come up with a resolution — even after they talked about it — that satisfied both of them, and they eventually broke up. Despite the fact that they had more things in common than not, their egos didn’t allow them to see beyond their financial differences.

Your girlfriend’s generosity will be oppressive to you if she wants to play Sugar Momma, and you want to go Dutch. Likewise, if she ignores the fact that you can’t afford something, you’ll feel like you’re reality is not recognized. The truth of the matter is that there needs to be sensitivity on both sides of the relationship. While the partner making more money seems to have more cards in her hand than you, this imbalance does not have to remain this way. Power can come from areas besides money. The two of you will have to find ways to negotiate the balance. Obviously something other than income statements brought you two together. This is where those common denominators will come in handy.

Claudia B. Manley is a freelance writer who frequently contributes to Happen magazine.
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