Adults are messy enough when it comes to love, sex and relationships. But for real rachetness and foolery, add money to the mix. Too many people pay dearly both emotionally and financially because they insist on treating love as a form of currency, like the yen or Euro, with an exchange rate convertible to U.S. dollars. For examples of the relationship disasters that result, just look at television court shows like Judge Judy (one of our favorites for observing adult-and-messy thinking in a controlled environment). For love, people will make totally not Grown money decisions, including:
Spending lavishly on gifts, travel and food (with money that suddenly become “loans” after the break-up).
Paying the mortgage, rent, utilities and other bills of healthy, able-bodied, yet unemployed adults (even when those paying have their own children to feed).
Co-signing on credit cards and mobile phone service for people who can’t get them because of horrible credit and/or a checkered employment history. (Meaning the payer is taking a financial risk that a major bank or national cell phone provider wouldn’t take).
Buying or giving unfettered access to cars, including paying for insurance and even gas, for another adult (who may or may not have a license) to drive.
Posting bail and paying the outstanding balance on child-support owed (for the children of another woman) to get a person out of jail.
One of our most basic human needs is to be loved and, unfortunately, some people try to buy it. There are many negative relationship consequences as a result. Besides episodes of clothes bleaching and car keying, here are just a couple:
First, using money to lure a person in hopes of getting them to love you, or otherwise change or control their behavior, sets up an unhealthy, sinister, premise: that you have “purchased” the right to own or control another human being. This is what’s at play when a man feels entitled (or a woman feels obligated) to have sex or otherwise commit to a relationship based on how much money he’s spent to be in her company. This possession consciousness is also what’s happening when a woman doggedly holds on to her man because she doesn’t want to lose years of “investing” in him. (And she’ll be damned if the next woman is going to reap rewards of her hard work.) Watch cable TV channels like Investigation Discovery—people kill over this stuff!
Second, to be Grown is to be clear on the difference between being loved for what you look like, what you can do or what you have, and being loved for who you are. When you use money or other financial incentives to drive or define a relationship, you condition others to value you for what you have, not for who you are. Once this idea takes root (even if they really don’t want you for your money), the emotional security of your relationship is compromised, usually by suspicion, jealousy and possessiveness, because of fears that any decrease in your financial capability, or chance meeting between your love interest and anyone with more money than you, can result in you losing him or her. And if he or she really is “all about the Benjamins”, you’ll be right. When your money runs low, they’re out—or you may wish they were!
A Grown person would never allow him or herself to be bought; the adult who would allow it deeply undervalues their own worth and, therefore, is ill-prepared to engage in a healthy relationship. A Grown person, without question, expects to do for him or herself. Even when Grown partners decide for whatever reason that one will be the main bread winner, the other is not at home couch-surfing with remote controls or out shopping at the mall (or entertaining outside relationships); he or she remains financially accountable to the relationship.
To graduate from exercising your adult right to engage in financial and romantic foolery, to making Grown decisions as relates to love and money, requires you to ask and honestly answer two questions, and operate accordingly: Is this person a stranger, a dependent or a partner? And would I make the same financial choices if this person were not a love interest? We explore these concepts further in Love and Money: Stop Giving Them to Strangers and Dependents, Part 2.
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