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Smart Women Marry For ______

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“I’m going to marry for love” is such a deeply held belief that’s become an invisible script. After all, who wouldn’t want to marry someone they love?

But “love marriages” are only a recent development. Throughout history, marriages were made for strategic alliances, economic gain, familial ties, and a variety of other unromantic reasons.

The push and pull of our modern love-based thinking sometimes clashes with our history.

For example, I know a lot of guys who think that once they start making “serious money,” women will be more interested in them. Inevitably, even if they do start making a lot more, they aren’t any more successful with women. What really makes a difference in their ability to attract a partner are other, ancillary factors that money enables.

I recently read this article with interest. The author, Ginger, makes the point that money is a definite factor that women should consider when they choose their long-term partners. She was very careful to present a nuanced argument and carefully include caveats.

The result? Comments like this:

“WE TRUELY LOVE EACH OTHER BUT SINCE I COULD NOT IMPROVE MY CAREER FAST ENOUGH, WITHIN IN 3 MONTHS, SHE DUMPED ME. I AM NOT A BUM BY ANY STANDARD AND WORK A GOOD JOB 40 TO 60 HOURS A WEEK. SHE HAS HER HEART SET ON RETIRING EARLY AND BEING RICH. I THINK SHE IS MAKING A BIG MISSTAKE. SHE MAY BECOME RICH, WHO KNOWS, BUT SHE WILL NOT HAVE ANYONE TO ENJOY IT WITH THAT WILL TREAT HER THE WHY I DID. MONEY IS AN ILLUSION AND WILL NOT MAKE YOU HAPPY.” – Michael

“And i would suggest that all men insist upon a pre-nup and marry based on looks and sexual vigor. And just like in the stock market, once there is a drop in “performance” I’d suggest dropping your current holdings and find new assets.” – Patrick B.

“Well, 1.2 billion People live on less than $1 dollar a day….I think you (and I) should be very thankful for what we have. It sounds like you do not love nor accept your partner for who he is….” – willdation

Notice how people bring their own opinions to the discussion — often weakly held, stereotypical beliefs — without even considering the argument.

What do you think? Vote with a tweet:

QUESTION: How important is money when you’re evaluating a potential partner? How important should money be? And is it different for men and women?

Examples (for both genders): If you find out that your girlfriend/boyfriend has $30,000 of debt, how would you react? What if you’ve been dating for 4 years?

How does your partner’s income play into your decision to be with them?

And if smart women marry for _____. What do smart men marry for? Hint: The answer cannot just be “love.”

Leave your thoughts below.

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313 Comments

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  1. Love is a response to our highest values. If the ability to earn money is something we value, once can marry for love and still marry for money, Smart men and women marry for shared values.

    • Agree 100%.

    • 100% agree with this. I think smart women never marry for just one reason. Smart women marry when they have considered compatibility and shared values on a much larger scale than bank accounts or physical attractiveness.

    • Almost exactly what I was going to say. Love vs money is something of a false dichotomy. And it goes for the romance side as well, love without shared values can fall down around your ears at a bump in the road too.

    • Amen Dorie. I was just thinking that same thing when I encountered the option to tweet a vote for one or the other. It isn’t one or the other. For a rational woman who falls in love with a wealthy man; if he is wealthy because of his own success (as opposed to inheritance or political power); it isn’t the fact that he has money but the attributes he possesses that made him able to earn it: intelligence, drive, rationality, self-assertiveness, ambition, etc. And the pride that he earned along with his fortune. That is what she falls in love with.

      Wealth is not something that exists in a vacuum. Someone acquires it for a reason, and that reason is an integral, relevant, and important part of the person’s character. Let anyone who thinks otherwise consider the difference between marrying Steve Jobs and Mohammar Ghaddafi, and that will make the distinction clear!

      Here is another brief thought experiment for those who think wealth is superficial: imagine you are an heiress to a multi-billion dollar fortune, and you are certain that you will never have to want for anything money can buy. So money is absolutely not something you need to acquire through a marriage. Now, you meet two men. One is a mediocrity with an unremarkable job, perhaps for some government bureau, who is bitter about his lack of money and blames everyone else for his failure to better his position in life. The other is a dynamic, confident and happy entrepreneur who has founded and built entire companies out of nothing. He doesn’t have as much money as you — yet — but he is wealthy. Remember that you are ridiculously wealthy and seek no material gain from a marriage. Which man would you choose? The answer is obvious.

    • Debbie, isn’t your “thought experiment” rather too blunt?

      How about a choice between a penniless artist who ebulliently loves life, art and you (not necessarily always in that order) and your dyno entrepreneur?

      Who would you choose then? Based on what criteria?

  2. Love alone can’t pay bill and put meal on the table but love can propel us to make good decisions with money. we won’t let our child starve because we don’t have money to buy food. different people equate love in different ways.

    • Agree with “love can propel us to make good decisions with money” — my husband didn’t even have a bank account when we met, let alone a retirement fund. But as we realized that we wanted to spend our lives together, he took steps to help secure our financial future.

  3. ….aaaaand unsubscribe. This gender stuff is
    either offensive or merely inane.

    • But you’re not sure which?

    • “We’ll miss you, Carl.”

      — Nobody

    • I agree.

      Inanity and offensiveness unfortunately drive pageviews. Ramit is no social scientist or psychologist.

      @Tyler: Some of the stuff is inane, and some of it is offensive. Some is both.

      @Caldwell: It’s a problem if we only look for affirmations of our beliefs.

  4. “Smart” women? Smart women like who? This seems to have less to do with smarts and more to do with forming a personal opinion on other peoples ways of thinking. The woman who marries for love is no smarter than the woman who marries for money, I just agree with one more than I agree with the other. I’d be more interested in seeing some info on actual smart, independent, successful women, and seeing how that ‘love or money’ either or thing plays out there.

    Plus, money is a HUGE sore spot in marriages, in some cases it can make or break them. Surely if you’re ‘smart’ you’re going to know before you get married if you are financially compatible (as well as all of the other kinds of compatible). And by that I don’t mean earning the same amount, I mean in your attitudes to finances. “Smart’ women are smart enough to see all the way around a relationship and make a decision on the whole. They don’t marry ‘for’ anything. All just my opinion, sorry if I’m being nit-picky on the smart thing, just one of my little bugbears.

    • Hi Susie,

      No you are not being nit-picky …you are just being sensible. And smart…

      Cheers.

    • You just wrote exactly the same argument the article Ramit linked to was about…

  5. there is two aspects to this:
    1. how you handle money/how important money is to you. That’s a value thing, I would like my partner to share my values… makes a relationship more sustainable.
    2. how naive you are. There are people out there studying exotic subjects that will never pay the rent (in german we call that “breadless art”). Sucks when you’re 35 and have two children from two different partners.

    I would not want a partner that has different values (I tried… lasted 3 years – was happy to move on) – Love goes, money stays.
    There is a >90% chance that I will have children (planned or not) – so I might as well plan for it.

  6. I think the problem is that even a lot of women who supposedly “marry for love” are still marrying for money but in a better-rationalized way. For example one woman may marry a billionaire she’s not attracted to and say she “married for money.” Another woman may say she married someone who she found funny and handsome and had chemistry with. However before she went on a date with him she screened out every person below a certain educational threshold, every person with a dead end career, every person who made below a certain annual salary, and every person who was less ambitious than she would have liked. So even though she may have made her final decision based on things other than money, it still played a major role in her screening process because she never allowed poor people to join the pool of applicants. Also, if you screen people based on probably future earning potential, they may not be making money now but there is a high likelihood they will in the future. It’s still a form of marrying for money, although if you asked the women doing it they’d say they weren’t. Many people only consider it marrying for money only if money is the ONLY reason they’re marrying someone and the person is ALREADY which.

    My point here is that we need a commonly agreed definition of what the phrase “Marrying for money” actually means before we can even start debating whether or not its good..

    That’s why I think these types of polls are flawed. People have to many ways to rationalize and deny the role money plays in their choices.

    Another example: many men may say they didn’t make a shallow decision when marrying and didn’t marry their wives based on looks because she’s smart and has a good career. However they never even gave women below a certain looks threshold a shot when considering women for marriage material. So even though for these guys looks weren’t the ONLY criteria, it still was one of the first and it informed every following step in the selection process as a result.

    • yep, yep, triple yep to all this ^

    • That’s right. I’m a woman and 100% I admit I screen in similar ways before I seriously entertain the guy as relationship material. And I continue to observe their money habits too as I’m dating them. The guy doesn’t have to be rich and he doesn’t have to be the sole breadwinner either, but anybody worth their salt knows that finances can make or break a marriage, especially where kids are involved. I can’t see myself marrying someone I don’t love, but more practical things like money, shared values, etc. make up the foundation of a stable relationship/marriage. Let’s stop fooling ourselves here.

      And yep, most men need to be attracted to the woman before he even entertains anything else with her. I’m not complaining about it, just like I wouldn’t want men to complain about women trying to secure a better future for themselves and their family. Just make it work for you.

    • What a great comment

    • I agree. Before I even started reading the comments, the first thing that came to mind was “potential”.

      I married my husband when we had just finished school, and although we had both held a few decent internships and jobs in the short term, income wasn’t totally relevant. Regardless, though, the *potential* was there. I’m certain the relationship wouldn’t have started, or continued, if we hadn’t met certain lifestyle/ambition thresholds in each other. Money certainly wasn’t the only crux – compatibility for the long haul, family values, and religious affiliations all played into our relationship. We’ve both agreed that divorce isn’t an option for us, so it is very important that we see eye to eye on all of these issues, which we openly discuss regularly.

      Also, to anyone willing to trade in their partner for a better model a few years down the road – divorce is possibly the number one inhibitor to becoming long-term wealthy. Nothing like having to pay lawyer fees and split assets every 10 years, pre-nups aside.

      Also, personal opinion, but pre-nups totally scream “non-commitment” to me. My idea of marriage is filed under the category of “lifetime” – if you know it’s not going to last, why bother going through the motions in the first place?

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  7. Smart women marry for overall compatibility — you’ve got to consider everything — love, lust, religious views, financial goals/management, etc. People are often initially attracted to each other based on mutual interests, such as a shared hobby. Why shouldn’t compatible views on finances be just as important as your shared love for a football team?

    • Second that.

      Also, I never understood why it has to be marrying for love OR marrying for money, as if those two were mutually exclusive. I’d say they are just part of a list of things you’ve got to consider (see above).

  8. I’m a guy but I’d think the really smart women don’t go after either love or money, at least not directly. How people manage their finances plays a huge part in how their life runs by, so going by compatibility, if you yourself are financially sound, you normally end up finding compatibility in someone who is also financially sound, or (and its a big or) someone who can or is becoming financially sound with the right goal.
    The biggest thing about being financially sound is having that goal. I’ve seen people squander things away until they realised what they want in life, after that they make a huge turn around becoming more financially sound than most. (FYI, by goal I don’t mean the generic “I want to be rich”, I mean the Ramit style goal of I want 1426729.49 in my retirement account. That 49c is important because I want my twinkie damn-it!)

  9. I don’t know, this whole “marry for love” vs. “marry for money” thing is a bit strange for me.

    I mean, if you marry someone who you love, but who is completely irresponsible with money and has no career ambitions whatsoever, is that smart?

    That would probably look great in a romantic comedy, but in real life, marrying someone who’s not responsible with money isn’t a very smart decision, since you will have to share a lot of financial responsibilities together, from house to kids.

    However, if you don’t love someone and marry him because he’s a billionaire, is that smart?

    Professional gold diggers will disagree with me here, but I think marrying solely for money isn’t smart either, since it’s too easy to make money nowadays to sacrifice the opportunity to have a great marriage with someone you love for financial security.

    And these are just two of loads of factors that come into play when it’s a decision time..

    I think “marrying for love” vs. “marrying for money” is a false dichotomy.

    It’s way more complicated than that.

    I think that (at least for most people) love is a must in a happy marriage, but it’s not the only factor, and marrying solely for love when there’s no real compatibility is a recipe for a divorce.

  10. To answer your questions: How important is money when you’re evaluating a potential partner? How important should money be? And is it different for men and women?

    Money should be important because money issues are one of the biggest issues married couples seem to have. Especially if the woman plans on having kids, money habits and earning potential is important. It’s not so important if she wants to keep working on her career and doesn’t really want kids. I think men weigh it a little less than women do, but they probably SHOULD weigh it more. That’s why you keep getting these men who constantly complain about wives who spend everything they make and then wring them dry. So yes, both genders should have the money talk.

    Examples (for both genders): If you find out that your girlfriend/boyfriend has $30,000 of debt, how would you react? What if you’ve been dating for 4 years?

    I would be put off by it if I had first met him, but I would be willing to hear him out. Lots of people get into that situation and learn from it, and if that’s the case, then I consider that a good thing. If I’ve been dating him 4 years, it depends. Has he always been a big spender and I’m just figuring out about the debt now? Is he still continuing to mindlessly spend? I wouldn’t like that.

    How does your partner’s income play into your decision to be with them?

    It’s not so much the income as it is his spending habits. However if he was making too little money (like say under $50,000 a year) at a job and he was content staying there and living the rat race forever, I won’t lie, I wouldn’t like that.

    And if smart women marry for _____. What do smart men marry for? Hint: The answer cannot just be “love.”

    I would say *smart* men marry for support, particularly support to their sense of significance, even if they don’t admit they need support in those areas. (So emotional, psychological, domestic, sexual, and just support in building a better life, etc.)

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