I grew up poor, and while I don’t make a ton of money now, the idea of dating guys who make a lot more than me always leaves me feeling really uncomfortable. I’ve yet to put it to the test but ultimately, I don’t think I could date someone several tax brackets above me. Here’s why:
The inequality makes me uncomfortable. There’s just something about it that rubs me the wrong way. I know money doesn’t make the person, but it’s a large part of how we move through the world now. It makes me feel weird to consider dating someone who’s got access to all the things money can buy, while I… don’t.
I’d get judgmental. Admittedly, I have a grudge against “rich people,” which is something I probably developed from growing up in a lower income home. That attitude might be slightly unfair, but it’s there and it affects how I see guys I’m potentially interested in. If I dated a guy with more money than me, I would struggle to not be judgmental about things that I saw as a waste of money and I’d struggle with letting him into my life enough to make those same judgments about me.
How do you make things fair? I’m fine with letting a guy pay for the first date, but if we’re in a relationship, I think it’s only fair to start splitting things. How do you manage that when you’ve got drastically different incomes?
I’ve always had to struggle. Statistically, someone from my background should not have graduated college or even high school. I’m proud to have made it this far in the world completely on my own, but I don’t know how to give up that hard-won independence if it came to dating someone who made a lot more money than I did.
Could we ever find equal footing? There’s more to equality than the earning potential of each partner, but it’s a big part of it initially. I would hate to feel inferior to someone just because my paycheck paled in comparison to theirs. I’m afraid of that.
Our lifestyles might not be compatible. I’m no longer at the “ramen for dinner every night” stage (thank god), but I’m not a big spender by any means. My idea of a fancy night out is capped at $30. How could I date someone who’s got a budget for a night that triples or quadruples mine?
I’m used to fighting on my own. Everything I have, I had to fight for. I haven’t been able to lean on anyone else — not family, and certainly not a trust fund. I’m so used to me-against-the-world when it comes to money and the struggle it holds. I don’t know how I’d mesh my life with someone else’s, someone who sees money as a means to an end rather than as a means to a better life.
My problems aren’t small. They may seem insignificant to someone who’s got a lot more money than me, but that doesn’t change the fact that they’re my problems, and to me, they’re big. Medical debt is a huge thing I’ve been facing in the years since leaving school — on top of student loan repayments, it’s been nearly impossible for me to pay off life-saving medical treatments. I don’t want someone to look at the amount I’ve struggled with for so long and view it as a tiny sum. That diminishes my hard work and stress that’s gone into paying it off.
I don’t trust rich people. Now, “rich” is a relative term, but coming from my background, it’s anyone who cracks a six-figure salary. (If you’re reading this and thinking “that’s not rich,” that might give you a better idea of just how poor my childhood was.) But I especially distrust the one percent. I’ve had interactions in the past that left me with that feeling. Is that fair? Probably not, but it’s how I feel.
Ultimately, I might get in my own way. Most of my friends are in the same economic tier as me, but there are a few that live in a higher tax bracket. I love them and they’ve only ever been helpful and kind to me. So the problem isn’t that I think all rich people are selfish — I have been provided concrete evidence to the contrary. But I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to put aside my past and embrace being with someone who brings a lot more cash to the table than I ever will.
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