I was born to a middle class Nigerian family, which meant (like middle class most places) that money was never a real problem. but also never really abundant. Most of us are like that. The world of the ultra wealthy, high money rollers is one we mostly aspire to, or witness from others’ either friends, telly or more recently from the one percent who reign on social media (Check out the rich kids of instagram, for instance). We love to hate these kids from afar, but it becomes a tricky thing when you are dating someone who has significantly more (or less) money than you.
Some years ago, a friend (Let’s call him Brad) was going out with a girl who was definitely a solid one percenter material. Her family was upper middle class, she went to an Ivy league and was already working at a bulge bracket investment bank at 22. By the time they met she was making over half a millie a year while he was making around $90,000 a year. While she did not have very expensive tastes, she had old world values in that, she expected the man to take care of the family financially. So while she and Brad dated, she always made slightly jokey comments about whether Brad had any solid plans of becoming rich. As they got more serious, the comments became more brazen and she would openly ask Brad if he would be able to send their kids to private schools like Hewitt or Spence when they eventually get married. It got to a point where she started comparing him to other wealthier friends she had. Eventually, he broke up with her because he realized that while marrying her would introduce him to a new social circle, it would also dramatically lower his quality of life.
I’ve had a similar but less insidious experience dating someone who was from a wealthy background. I’ve also been on the other end, someone I dated essentially saw me as an annoying rich kid. In both cases, it happens that what one person considers a completely normal and reasonable way to spend money, seems to the other person to be completely outrageous and extravagant. Believe it or not, this breeds intense feelings of resentment and envy that isn’t initially apparent early in a relationship, but gradually becomes a bigger strain as time goes on. That may be one reason why in recent times, there has been an increase in people marrying someone of relatively the same income, educational and lifestyle backgrounds (a phenomenon known as assortative mating). While assortative mating contributes to social inequality- a marriage between two doctors is way wealthier and qualitatively different from two minimum wage earners- it also alleviates a lot of the stress that comes from dating someone who is of a different financial strata than you.
Going forward, I wonder if this will lead to a situation where people will once again frown on someone marrying outside their social class. Are we seeing a return in class structures across society? And would you date someone way richer or poorer than you? Or if you have, what was your experience like?
Let me know below.