Debutante

Friday, April 22, 2011

Question

I have a trust fund. The total amount is pretty high, but I only get enough every month to cover reasonable living expenses. Still, this means I can live alone, and I don't have to work unless I feel like it. I am doing an unpaid internship for a newspaper, and considering a graduate degree in journalism. 

It seems like money always becomes an issue in my relationships. I just avoid the topic for as long as possible. Nothing seems to work. If I lie to people, they find out and get pissed. If I tell them the truth, they get jealous and angry. Or if they don't, I worry that they only want to be with me because they hope I will support them. (I am not interested in being anybody's sugar mama.)

I don't know if I will ever find somebody I can really love. My parents keep introducing me to their friends' grown-up kids. My mother frequently tells me it's as easy to love somebody rich as it is to love somebody who is poor. But most of my lovers have been working-class. My family used to hate this, but they've calmed down a lot, they just want to know I can trust my partner.

Is there some test I can give people to separate the users from my real soul mate? I am tired of fooling around. I want to cocoon!!

 

Answer

 I'm not sure your question belongs in this column since it has to do with power dynamics and economic secrets in a relationship rather than sexuality. But I guess I will stretch my statement of purpose a bit and see if we can figure out a better way to proceed.

People without money tend to assume that those who have it are automatically happy and trouble-free. As your letter makes clear, this is often not the case. You are unable to enjoy your free time and good standard of living because you are afraid of how other people will perceive you, or what they will want from you. You might want to spend some time thinking about what your values are regarding socioeconomic differences in Western societies, and how you fit into that picture. Do some journaling. As a person with a certain level of privilege, do you feel that you should do anything to create more equality? What does that imply about how you arrange your private life?

Seems to me that the most important quality a potential lover could possess is a steady job that he or she loves. You need a partner who feels that they have a vocation or right livelihood, and are fulfilling their own dreams via the work that they do. A person like this is probably not going to want to stop working while you support them. I would hope that somebody who has been thoughtful enough to follow their dreams and negotiate a practical way to fulfill them is also ethical and kind.

But you can't guarantee that, so check it out. When you get a crush on somebody, ask yourself if they have a sense of right and wrong. And are they compassionate? Being with somebody amoral who has a mean streak is a setup for your relationship to be full of bad drama and end in a car crash.

You don't have to answer questions about your finances until you feel ready to trust someone with what amounts to intimate and important data. Do you feel that you can trust your lover to see you or value you for your inherent qualities, rather than your income? Can you trust that person to keep your secrets? Or are they going to broadcast anything they hear that is exciting to reveal to others? Gently test your lovers with lesser revelations so you can see how he or she handles them.

Deflect questions about your rent, job, etc. by saying, “That's personal. I don't want to discuss it.” When you are ready to lay out the truth, be sure to express any conditions that you have (for example, you don't want everyone in the world to know your tax info) beforehand. Then tell all and hope for the best.

This is a pretty big piece of who you are, how you grew up, your family, etc. So you can't reasonably expect anybody to just nod and then move on to dessert, no matter how much they love you. Give him or her time to absorb the facts and be prepared to answer some questions. The fact that you like people who tend to be from a lower income bracket adds another layer of difficulty. Someone who has gone hungry or had to struggle to cover their survival needs may be jealous of your safety. It will be easier to get through this if you have educated yourself about the experiences of working-class people in your country. Cross-class relationships can work, but it takes a lot of dialogue and growth for both parties.

 

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