Tierra Encantada

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Money Can't buy Love, Can It? January 29, 2008

Time flies and I hope to get back to writing. So here's my latest pondering...

I'll change the names to protect the innocent, let's call them Kate and John. Kate, then 18 met John then 34, married with two small children 1 and 3. The power of attraction, whatever it was, resulted in John divorcing his wife in order to pursue Kate. Right off the bat one would say a 30 something man leaving his wife to pursue a cute 18 year old is quite easy to figure out. He certainly is more mature and has money a plenty to make the alimony and child support payments with plenty left over to woo an 18 year old with designer handbags and trips and anything else her heart desires. Three years later and Kate and John are now engaged and traveling the world.

I admit at first I was a little jealous of Kate. In theory being a kept woman sounds great and getting to travel the world without having to worry about having the means to do it or the responsibility to hold you back is a dream come true for most anyone. She's had a rough life in many ways and I certainly wish the best for her, she deserves to be treated well and to be happy. In traveling the world she has had and will have the opportunity to do and see things she may never have otherwise. She doesn't have to work or have to worry about bills or where the money is coming from get the Louis Vuitton bag she wants. Yet, after finally getting to meet John and seeing the dynamic of the relationship, any ounce of jealousy went out the window and made me think, can money really buy love or happiness? No doubt it can certainly buy experiences, adventure, and lots of stuff. Can my personal misgivings be red flags for Kate or can some women really be happy living that life?

Personally, I've always been a little suspicious of the attention of older men. Considerable age differences generally indicate that there are considerable differences in life experiences. If he's been married, has kids, went to college, runs his own business, has traveled extensively and she's just barely made it out of high school, what do you have to talk about really? Being close to John's age myself, although never having been married or given birth, I can't imagine pursuing a boy who is barely a college freshman. My uncle, ever perplexed by my singledom, did suggest his 18 year old son's friends as potential dates, but I can't imagine dating a guy who could technically be the age of my own child if I had one. Never say never, but honestly, the thought creeps me out.

I often get the feeling that many May-December romances arise out of the need to control someone, the younger person being perhaps more naive, eager to please, less worldly and less secure, the older perhaps looking to recapture youth, beauty, and calm any insecurities that may come from fear of aging. Maybe it's a relationship that plays off of both parties insecurities? That doesn't mean there aren't cases where it works and people have plenty in common to keep the relationship strong and healthy. I am just suspicious of motivations.

As far as being a kept woman goes, it sounds nice on the surface. Personally though, I have always been happy to be independent, to have my own house, my own car, my own money to spend however I see fit, my own savings and investments, my own retirement plan. I fear financial insecurity and would feel particularly vulnerable in such a relationship. Relationships are not guaranteed and although you could be sure you sign a pre-nup in the event of divorce, what about the other unforeseen circumstances such as death or serious illness or injury or prolonged unemployment? What then? Obviously, you should try to make things work in most situations, that is what commitment is about. But if you are not prepared or haven't built something up on your own, it won't be easy.

This also makes me think about how at one time women were expected to get married and men were expected to take care of their wives. When that relationship was/is gone though, many women did/do not have the skills or confidence to move on easily. How many women were and still are trapped in a relationship for financial reasons and fear of no better prospects? If the equal rights movement should have taught us anything it should be that we have the opportunity to determine our own fate regardless of gender. Women can go out and work for a living and men can chose to be stay at home dads; the point is we, women and men, can all make choices that make our lives richer and fuller. Women are perfectly free to choose to be stay at home wives and mothers their whole lives, if that is what they choose and that is what fulfills them, but certainly not if that is an expectation of them imposed by someone else. It's disappointing to think though that men could still be intimidated by women with an education and a career and her own money. Don't they bring more to the relationship financially and intellectually if they possess those things?

John gives the impression that he would prefer that Kate not pursue a college education, once the world travel is done. Knowing Kate as the high school kid with big dreams and ambitions, it sort of surprises me that she is willing to give those things up, at least for the time being, because he has the money to support him and her, the kids and the ex-wife. Although he has not forbid her from working, she had taken a part time job at a clothing boutique to get her out of the house, his preference is that she stay home and do nothing but keep him company. She's not a domestic goddess or anything close and he seems to never let her forget that she doesn't contribute much to the household in the sly backhanded complimentary way that only southerners can deliver.

My parents always instilled in me the importance of education and certainly there are more ways to learn about the world and life than college. College was the path I chose, though I love to travel and read as well. I definitely would not want anyone to limit my desires to keep learning and growing, whatever form that experience took. My own dislike of anything that smacks of an attempt to control me would be a huge red flag. Further, I could not imagine limiting someone else's desire to learn and grow out of my own selfishness or inconvenience. Does anyone really think it's healthy to be in a relationship where two people can't mutually support and encourage each others hopes, dreams, and goals? I understand sometimes there are delays in pursuing or achieving those things due to various circumstances, but when you really love someone don't you want to help keep the other person's hopes alive just as much as your own?

I'll add that I don't think I could be happy feeling like I wasn't contributing equally to the relationship and the household. Maybe it's just foolish pride. There may be times when one person may have to bare the brunt of the financial burden due to circumstances, but if those times arise, I think most people try not to hold it over the other person's head because roles could easily be reversed. Certainly if one person requests the situation, they should not ever turn it around on the person. I have to say that one friend of mine did quit her job at her husband's request because it was his dream to start a hunting and lodging business on his ranch, unfortunately, he later decided that he did not want to help her pay the mortgage and other bills she had incurred before the marriage. Needless to say, the marriage did not last. In this case, she did not have a hard time finding a new job, but had to take one making less money than the one she left. She gave up her career to help him pursue his dream and he completely turned on her. Makes you realize that you think you know someone and they will always surprise you and make you feel like you never knew them at all.

Do some people really think money can buy love? John certainly acts like money can buy anything, good, services, experiences, certainly freedom from his ex-wife. That's not to say that he does not have plenty of redeeming qualities, though I don't know him well enough to say exactly what those are. I'm assuming if Kate wants to marry him, he must have some, but maybe she is just blinded by gifts and the care and the adventure he offers. If he was willing to give up a marriage to pursue someone else without a second thought, what's to keep him from doing it again? And will Kate be prepared for it if it does happen? Is she setting herself up for some hardships? The shock of divorce seems to have left John's ex-wife reeling and she is having a hard time surviving on several thousand dollars a month and is pushing for more. Can you blame her, she was a kept woman who expected her husband to take care of her until death and now what?

On one hand I think, 'hey, Kate is young, now is the time to take advantage of the opportunity to travel while she has no real responsibilities.' Regardless of whether they make it to the altar, she has that wealth of experiences. When the knot is tied, then what? Is there enough to keep things going once they settle in to the day to day stuff of life? One could argue they'll have this whole set of shared experiences, but you can't live in the past. Will he keep looking for new adventures to keep her interested, new gifts to satisfy her every whim? Will he change? Will he find a new 18 year old to pursue? Will she change? Will sacrificing any personal goals be worth it for her? Will she be fulfilled? Will he? For Kate and John the story is still being written and I wish them the best.

From where I sit though, I'm skeptical that they will have one of those enduring marriages, but you never know. Sometimes the marriages that appear solid are the ones that fail and the couples you think should be splitting up stay together. Maybe I am too jaded and overly suspicious of motivations in relationships, explains why I am single, doesn't it? Maybe I'm kidding myself if I think that I couldn't be lured into a similar situation. For now though, I will just be happy to have my independence and freedom.


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