Explore Your Feelings about Money and Dating over 50 - dummies

Explore Your Feelings about Money and Dating over 50

By Pepper Schwartz

Even though men and women over 50 may have grown up with a traditional point of view, they’ve seen gender relations change, perhaps even in their own marriage or cohabiting relationships. Men and women may have different philosophies about how to handle money matters while dating, depending on their general approach to money and their financial situation.

Some women who never expected to be the sole financial support of their families or the higher earner of a couple shucked off the old expectations a long time ago.

Whatever your economic traditions are, from your marriage or from how you managed your finances over time as a single person, you may have to rearrange them when you start dating. You may need to rethink your financial philosophy and see whether a revision is necessary for dating.

Your feelings about money may come from a number of sources that no longer exist but still have some power over you if you don’t reexamine them:

  • The way your parents handled money: A lot of mature women think that because their dad was the primary wage earner and paid for stuff, they need a man to do the same thing for them. Men feel that if their dad was the head of the household and created the family economy, they too need to preserve that role.

    Even if you didn’t grow up in a home with a male wage earner who acted as the head of the household, the cultural expectation that there should be a primary wage earner may affect your vision of who you’re looking for or who you intend to be in your relationship.

    You may idealize your father’s role in the family. Many men who looked like the main wage earner were not (or were not all the time). Also, the dependence on your father’s income may have influenced other aspects of family life, like his control of decision making or family lifestyle, and as a result, it’s possible that no one had the power to resist or even question his decrees.

    If you’re looking for someone else to be the main wage earner or provider of all good things that cost money, remember that there may be a different kind of price to pay. If you’re totally dependent on someone else for your economic maintenance, then the odds of that person taking the lead as the primary decision maker are quite high.

    Some people do resist the equation of money equals power, but more often than not, they want veto power or even everyday power in exchange for their economic superiority. If you are the person who has all the economic wherewithal and responsibility, you may want to dial down your authority over decision making if you can so that the relationship stays romantic and emotionally generous.

    There is much to be said for keeping a feeling of equal influence in a partnership, and a heavy hand regarding money can make that impossible.

  • The way money was handled in your marriage: Money may have been an area of conflict in your marriage. High earners sometimes use money to control a low earner or non-earner, and money can be the source of bitter conflicts on a number of levels.

    If there was a shortage of money, you may have frequently debated spending patterns, and even if there was no shortage, you may still have had disagreements.

  • The way money was handled in your cohabitation: People who live together (including those in same-sex couples, particularly women) tend to keep everything separate. There’s something about not having an agreement for a shared future, at least not a legal future, that tends to make people want to keep their finances and financial contributions separate and equal.

    This can be very egalitarian. On the other hand, it can be really tough if a low earner has to match a high earner’s contribution. The partner with fewer resources can become anxious about living above his means. This kind of anxiety isn’t good for a relationship.

  • The way money was handled in your last dating relationship: The way money was handled in your last relationship may have set a standard for you — or it may be exactly what you want to avoid the next time around.

    If you carried someone financially who took advantage of you or if you were used to being taken care of, you may rebel at the thought of replicating a bad experience or finding yourself more responsible for the financial maintenance of the relationship.

Learn from past relationships but don’t project the last one on the next one. Don’t assume that everyone you meet is either dishonest or controlling about money just because you’ve been with someone who was one or both.