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Can he afford you?

Posted Feb 03 2009 10:53pm

While in Dubai, I befriended a 28-year-old local professional man who shared the romantic reality for many like him. His description made me think of some parallels to Western dating, although, of course, there are huge differences.

He explained that men and women are commonly match-made through their families. The women often require a groom’s dowry. For example, a woman wants her husband to provide her with the same standard of living that her father provides her, even though her father is well established financially and her intended husband is just starting out.

So she expects him to provide her the same level of designer clothing, upscale housing, exclusive club memberships, exotic vacations, and regular spa visits.

Then there’s the one-up game. If her sister’s husband bought her a Lexus then she insists on a Mercedes. If her sister got a 3-bedroom house, she wants a 4-bedroom.

So before he asks or agrees to marry her, the man decides if he can afford her. Can he keep up with her (and her parent’s) demands?

In dating, part of deciding if you are a match is not only discovering if you have similar values, interests and sensibilities, but also similar economic expectations. It is common for midlife couples to have somewhat equal incomes, or the man to make more. It has become more commonplace for the woman to earn more. But for all the advancements toward equality, there is still a prevalent expectation that the man will buy most of the dating dinners and some other expenses during the wooing process, or they will take turns treating.

If the man can’t afford to at least pay half, it can sour the relationship no matter how much a woman is into him. He can be the sweetest, kindest, most loving man and yet if he can’t afford a similar lifestyle, it is a short-lived relationship. One or both of them can’t tolerate the imbalance.

I’ve experienced this myself. While I can be drawn to a man for his great personality, economics do enter into my decision whether to continue to see him or not. I feel shallow to admit it, but it is true. I think, in part, it’s because I was married to a financially strapped man for 20 years and felt it put restraints on what we were able to do. I paid more than my share of many things and supplemented vacations and home improvements. At the time I said it didn’t really matter but the truth is it began to stick in my craw. I felt like I was carrying a man who was unwilling to step up and at least shoulder his own weight.

So while economics can seem superficial, it affects activities and lifestyle. If you want to have exotic vacations and he can’t afford to pay his way, you can foot the bill. If you enjoy 5-star restaurants and he can only spring for diners, you can treat. But for most couples, it will eventually cause a rift. Even if you have a high unending stream of income, you can begin to feel taken advantage of.

And if he feels he can’t afford you, he will lose his ardor. A man needs to believe he can make his woman happy and if he feels her needs are beyond his capabilities or interest, he’ll cut her lose. One date admitted his last relationship ended because she wanted to “live life large” with a big house, fancy car, and foreign vacations. And while she made a good income, it wasn’t enough to support that lifestyle for both of them. He said at his age — mid fifties — he really didn’t want to work that hard to make that kind of money. He wanted to spend more time with his kids and on his hobbies than at work earning money to support a lifestyle he didn’t really want. So he broke up with his girlfriend since it was clear they had different life goals and values.

Have you begun to date someone who you really liked, but you realized you had different lifestyle expectations? Did you decide to continue seeing him or pull the plug when you saw your economic dreams looked different?

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DG News:

  • I’m excited that Susan Page, author of the bestseller If I’m So Wonderful Why Am I Still Single wrote a fabulous Foreword for Date or Wait. It is in all the copies of the book starting today. See the review I wrote of her book in the “Good dating books” in the sidebar on the right.

Now that the books are  out, we’re getting some nice  media coverage:

  • Reporter Louisa Lim quotes DG on multi-dating in her article “ T he all-new dating game ” in the national Malaysian newspaper, The Star.
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