I Don’t Think There’s Anything Wrong With Marrying Men For Their Money

According to the Financial Women’s Association, a college-educated woman in the US can expect to lose out on up to $800,000 in wages over the span of her career due to the effects of the gender wage gap. That’s a dizzying amount of money, and the figure doesn’t even take into the account the wage gap for women of color. It also doesn’t factor in all the unnamed but expected emotional labor women are forced to perform both publicly and privately in order to be considered competent, the “second shift,” or the lifetime cost of being a female consumer.

All of that money that should be going to women who’ve earned it is instead being used to line the pockets of less-qualified men, who gleefully fail upwards and blame women’s career stagnation on a “lack of dedication” to their work rather than documented hostility towards women in the workplace. But I’ve got a practical solution: women should marry for money. Not love or passion, but access to wealth. At every stage of their careers, male-led institutions make excuses to pay women less than they are worth, if they aren’t pushing them out of high-paying jobs outright. As far as I’m concerned, that money belongs to us — women — so why not marry the men it was given to instead, and make it ours?

“But that just makes you a gold digger!” I can already hear the protestations, and to that I say, “Why is that a bad thing?” We live a world in which women’s ambition is disparaged and punished as a way to return us to second-class citizen status. It’s no longer acceptable to simply say that women are less capable in the workplace, so instead, our media perpetuates stereotypes about working women that “sell anxiety” and scare women about their ability to manage it all. Those stereotypes are internalized by men and women alike, creating both the assumption that women can never find a healthy work/life balance (and must therefore choose between the two), and a justification for the dismissal of the potential of female workers by men. For women who want to be wealthy on their own terms, the odds are abysmally stacked against them. Men just have to put in the time. It’s why I see marriage as a specific solution to the specific problem of a capitalist economy.

As I’ve learned about the historical impact of marriage, it has dawned on me that marriage is first and foremost a contract. The only thing unique about it is the sentiment we’ve attached. The only reason the current model of marriage is still positioned as the ideal is because so many governments incentivize marriage. It’s also why marriage equality is such an important issue. It’s great that same-sex couples can have their love legally recognized, but it’s more essential that they are legally entitled to things like survivor benefits, hospital stays, the power to make medical decisions, and yes, inheritances. It’s a moral failing that we ever tied those essential rights to something as fickle as romantic attraction.

People often forget that marrying for romantic love is a fairly recent development in the Western world. Marriage has traditionally been a method of consolidating wealth. Its single economic purpose was to formalize alliances and ensure political security. There’s an entire genre of period entertainment centered around the struggle between love and “duty;” specifically, the duty to perpetuate the financial security of a family line. It’s also not a coincidence that that duty traditionally fell to women.

Now obviously, that model had problems, and it’s why we’ve largely moved away from it. Marriage as a consolidation of wealth disadvantaged women because women were seen as property. Their wealth was not their own so much as their husband’s reward for promising to take care of them. But though social norms have changed, capitalism still mandates the accumulation of wealth in order to survive. It makes sense to me to return to marriage as an economic necessity rather than a romantic one, especially in a world where women continue to be undervalued and objectified, despite the cursory existence of legislation to prevent exactly that. A marriage contract is a piece of paper, and you don’t need to be in love to sign your name.

When it comes to “gold diggers,” our perception is once again necessarily skewed in men’s favor. The words conjure images of vain young women dripping in expensive labels, and taking advantage of earnest (nearly always older) men. What never gets included in that story is all the intangible things those women provide to their male partners in exchange for access to their money. Whether it’s the ego boost of having a pretty woman on their arm, the psychological benefit of a well-kept home they don’t have to tend to, raising their children, or the social advantage of being viewed as virile enough for a younger lover by their peers, so-called “gold diggers” are simply using the labor they’d otherwise perform for free as economic leverage. They are taking advantage of the objectification of women for their own gain.

Too many women spend their lives devoted to their husbands, only to find themselves hitting middle age and replaced by second wives too young to know better. As Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie famously said, “Why do we teach girls to aspire to marriage and we don’t teach boys the same?” That difference is why we shame divorced women, but celebrate thrice-married men. I say that women can’t afford not to make financial security their number one priority in all situations. Women are being paid less over our lifetimes for no reason, other than the institutional sexism we have little power to overrule. Time to get it from the source. If you have the opportunity to do so, why not hold firm to the cash that would have been coming your way in an equitable society?

As far as I’m concerned, the only potential ill in a relationship of that nature is the deception we assume is going to be involved. But even that is problematic when we are told that (straight) men’s pursuit of wealth is often driven by the desire to impress women. Men cannot both assert that they are more valuable partners because of their wealth, and also denigrate women for valuing their wealth when assessing them as a partner. You can’t have it both ways. Either your money is a measure of your worth, or it isn’t. It strikes me then that if men don’t want to be assessed by their earning potential, they should do more to ensure that marriage does not yet remain the best way that women can achieve financial parity. If men paid women adequately and fairly for their labor, we wouldn’t need their money.

Image via Unsplash

Catherine Young is a freelance writer living in Tobago. She believes cake is better than pie, leggings are pants, and Magic Mike XXL is a slept-on classic. If she ever writes her memoirs, they will be called “Sometimes I Sleep On The Floor.” Read more of her writing on her website, or say hello on Twitter.

  • Anon

    “As far as I’m concerned, the only potential ill in a relationship of that nature is the deception we assume is going to be involved.”

    Well, that and the fact that you have to brush your teeth every day for forty years next to a guy you married for money.

    Also, what’s that line about looking for women’s liberation through capitalism? “Public ‘career feminists’ have been more concerned with getting more women into ‘boardrooms’, when the problem is that there are altogether too many boardrooms, and none of them are on fire.”

    • Who says you have to brush your teeth next to them? That’s not in the contract. But in a larger sense we agree though. You’re right about the calculus involved in deciding how much it’s worth being with someone you don’t like for money, but my point is that we wouldn’t have to make that choice if we were being paid equitably. This has nothing to do with liberation. I agree that you can’t find liberation through capitalism. This is about SURVIVING capitalism. Somebody has to buy the matches to set the boardroom on fire.

      • Anon

        Well, I was using “brushing your teeth” metonymically to stand in for all of the unglamorous daily activities of married life. I guess you could imagine a marriage that is defined in such a way that there’s no expectation of living, sleeping, eating, getting sick, feeding children and running to the grocery store alongside another person. I’m not sure why men would want to get married as opposed to keep a mistress at the point at which you’ve disentangled daily intimacy from a relationship, though.

        Look, if you’re using the idea of marrying for money as a way of drawing attention to the idea that we’re always already taking men’s earning potential into account because we lack equality, fine. I’m totally onboard with the idea that there’s no equal relationship in an unequal society. If you’re proposing marrying solely for money as a solution, I think the suggestion is minimally practical at best. Most of us – myself included – couldn’t attract someone really wealthy if we wanted to because we lack the right set of traits to make us desirable to that set. And if you’re not gunning for someone fabulously wealthy, why not just take a smaller income boost that you’d get from marrying and marry someone you actually like?

        • Well at the risk of sounding like a total writer stereotype, I gotta quote Carrie Bradshaw: “Why are we willing to write our own vows but not our own rules?” It’s not about separating intimacy from marriage so much as it is being more clear-eyed about how each partner is benefiting from the arrangement. Marriage is a contract and you can set whatever terms you like. I’m not suggesting that all women start a run on all the teenaged techbros and I’m not saying you should only marry men with a certain net worth. I AM saying that for those women who have the chance, there shouldn’t be any shame is putting “high earning potential” in the pro column when you’re deciding on a second date. I’m not talking about only marrying the richest men, but rather about pragmatically considering how the wealth of the men you date/marry can add to your own.

        • Eloise

          Really good point. If we’re talking about reverting to a framework in which men are providers and women are essentially obligated to choose a husband who can provide for them financially, we must acknowledge the other side of that coin. Those men invariably receive(d) domestic support from their wives. If you look at marriage as a non-romantic, asexual contract and you don’t intend to fulfill domestic duties within the context of your marriage, what motivation would a wealthy man have for marrying you (since love has been taken out of the equation)? What does he get out of that business arrangement–since, if you’re marrying a man solely for his money, it is indeed a business arrangement?

      • Fritz Vanburgson

        “Somebody has to buy the matches to set the boardroom on fire.”

        To which one of my favourite icon’s, Audre Lorde, comes to mind:

        “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.”

        • I agree, but I also didn’t pick the metaphor *shrug*

  • Piggy

    Thank you thank you thank you for this brutally honest opinion piece. I get that you’re being intentionally provocative to get people to think, and it definitely got my wheels turning.

  • Rebecca Ann

    “It strikes me then that if men don’t want to be assessed by their earning potential, they should do more to ensure that marriage does not yet remain the best way that women can achieve financial parity. If men paid women adequately and fairly for their labor, we wouldn’t need their money.”
    Exactly this. We need more men to buy into – and speak up for – wage equality, and stop being so damn intimidated by women being as -or more- powerful than them. If that happened on a large scale, you’re right, we wouldn’t need to consider money as a factor when assessing a partner. And I don’t know a single woman who doesn’t factor it in, as current wealth, earning potential, or both. If you say you don’t, you’re lying – to yourself, and everyone else.

  • Court E. Thompson

    “It’s just as easy to marry a rich man as a poor one.” – my mother, grandmother, and countless other women across time.

  • another anon

    “Why do we teach girls to aspire to marriage and we don’t teach boys the same?”

    You bring up this quote. But isn’t this article effectively promoting girls to aspire to marriage, rather than work on their own careers?

    • kdlaf

      Thats essentially what this article is doing. I might be wrong but it seems like shes saying ‘the system is fucked up and sexist so…just marry rich and forget about it’. What kind of solution to a very real problem is that? Factoring in your partner’s earning potential/having high standards when it comes to income is totally fine in my book – to each his own. HOWEVER, when money is your sole/primary criteria you tend to attract some douchenozzles and a life of misery. Id rather be an advocate/make sure im vocalizing my worth to my employers in this fucked up system and wait out for a partner that will meet me halfway, than be legally, emotionally, and physically tied to some rich douche I dont like for the rest of my life…

  • Fritz Vanburgson

    1. Thank god for prenuptial agreements :).

    2. This take is silly because to have access to these types of men with wealth to make marrying worthwhile ,the women would have to be gorgeous. The old rich guy/hot young wife stereotype exists for a reason. Poor women/women of color will never have access to this method of striking back at capitalism/the patriarchy. So unless you’re super hot & white (or pass for white), this article doesn’t really matter and isn’t helpful to… anyone.

    3. This is the kinda trash that redpill/MRA forums use to promote their bs views on women. They’re the ones who literally say “women only want a man’s resources so fuck women but never love them or marry them cause you’ll get your shit stole”.

    Marry for money is cool. It’s as cool as marrying a hot young piece then divorcing her and leaving her with nothing when she’s served her use (~*~Sarcasm~*~)

    • Well as an actual black woman I don’t know that it’s useful to reinforce ideas about black women’s undesirability, but you’re right that black and brown women are less likely to have access to the kinds of wealth that everyone assumes I’m talking about. That said, this isn’t about only marrying financiers or tech entrepreneurs. They aren’t the only men with stable financial futures. It’s also not about becoming a housewife and withdrawing from the workforce entirely to rely on a man (???). That’s ridiculous and I would never advocate that. It’s about making sure that the man you marry can add to the wealth and financial stability you’re already building for yourself. It also isn’t about marrying the richest douchiest man you can find because they’re rich. There is an entire spectrum of men between poor romantic and rich douche. This piece is just about moving money up the list of priorities when looking for a mate, because however romantic we’d like to be, money matters. I’m advocating for a clear-eyed look at the motivations for marriage, not a total abandonment of love and affection. And the MRAs can say whatever they like because ~as I tackle in the piece~ they’re also the same guys who will hold up their incomes as a reason that the women they want should want them back. They don’t get to have it both ways.

      • Fritz Vanburgson

        Calling out society’s devaluation of black women is not reinforcing it. For me to reinforce that idea I would have to have access to influence. If anything, more men, especially black men, should call it out and denounce it whenever possible. American society doesn’t value black women. I will keep saying that until it is no longer true and I stop seeing it on the street everyday.

        Also, it’s not that the people in the comments assume anything – your article is structured to the point where anyone would take it as you talking about a certain type of wealth. It’s not just crazy commentors making it up. At no point do you offer any statistical point to what “wealth” means to you. Yet every example of the type of man you bring up, is the type to be extremely wealthy, older, and white.

        Money is already “high” on the list of women’s priorities when choosing a husband. There is nothing special about this take or your piece. Look at any relationship study and the #1 quality women look for in a partner is job/income while the #1 thing men look for is looks/age. No one has ever said otherwise.

        The problem with your take is that you try to somehow tie it back to feminism and fail. You say that this is necessary to survive capitalism but if your only goal is survival, then you’re not pushing progress or equality forward. You’re just perpetuating a shitty cycle and trying to make yourself feel better about it. I stand by my point that this article helps no one, exposes nothing worthwhile, and at most: perpetuates Western traditions. Your article does not touch on why women shouldn’t rely on men for all of their income.

        One last thing before I am done with this forever: “It’s about making sure that the man you marry can add to the wealth and financial stability you’re already building for yourself”

        You admit that only women who are building/have wealth have access to this solution you’ve proposed for survival. Poor women do not have access to this because they are already trying to survive and by marrying a man (and choosing to have kids) would likely put them in a situation where they are dependent on their wealthy partner entirely and sets them up for future abusive situations.

        I’m not saying women should marry a scrubby artist for love, but marrying for wealth is a pretty stupid fucking idea when you don’t already have wealth of your own.

  • Lauren

    Just because the gender wage gap is there does not mean we should accept it and embrace it. That sounds like what women marrying for money would be doing.

  • Violaine

    If women were marrying to get the money they don’t get by working as much as men, I would think they are doubly punished: not only they earn less, but they have to marry for money and live with someone they don’t value.

    If this was really about capitalism, why mention money so much, and why marry a rich guy to get your piece of the cake? I think it’s more anti-capitalist to not care and marry the poor but lovable man and work for cheap wages than marry the rich older guy so you can afford your Prada bag and your holidays in Greece.

  • laura

    Sooooo lesbians are SOL, then?

  • Riri Chime

    I fell in love and married an older man who happened to be very well to do. I think there seems to be a lot of unnecessary shaming about the girl-marrying-rich trope but as Court E. Thompson said, one can just as easily marry a poor man as a rich one.
    As an African living in Africa, the expectations of the rich son in law taking over the family’s problems are only too real. However, as with every situation, nuances abound that can only be seen from within. For instance, my husband hasn’t worked in about 2years for a number of reasons and with his savings exhausted, I’ve been the sole provider. So while from the outside, we still have the houses and the cars from before, I’m servicing the overhead on a daily basis.
    The feminist struggles are nothing to laugh at and the author probably just intended to provoke a new slant in the dialogue with the arguably click-baity title and article,

  • Sara

    My MIL always says, “if you marry for money, you earn every penny.”

  • Maggie

    I personally value my independence too much to legally bind myself either to a rich man I didn’t love or respect or to a man I loved who was bad with money. I don’t think it’s naive to think that you can be an equal partner in your relationship, whatever that may look like for you. I agree that marriage is first and foremost a business contract, but people form partnerships for companionship and emotional support, not simply for economic stability. Is it too much to ask for both?

  • lateshift

    This may not be for everyone, but it’s pretty logical. Many men routinely assume that they have a realistic chance at winning over someone 10, 20, even 30 years younger than themselves (women they’re pursuing for even shallower, far less practical reasons), when they would never dream of dating someone that much older than themselves. If they’re not bringing physical attractiveness to the relationship — and no, the average 50-year-old guy isn’t as good-looking as the average 30-year-old, and brings a hell of lot more emotional baggage to boot — what on earth do they think they’ve got to compensate? Life experience and maturity aren’t a big lure, or they’d be going out with women their own age.

    At least when it comes to wealth, a good chunk of the time a big bank account means the guy has a good head on his shoulders…enough to build his own fortune, or at least (if he inherited it) to avoid blowing it on bad investments. And wealth can potentially make for a very different relationship: if you’re someone who’s looking to travel with a partner, or to launch a new business, or to hold a low-paying but fulfilling job, a wealthy partner can help make that happen. Meanwhile, unless a man is desperate for children, the main benefit of dating a hot young thing is…well, you know. And that’s it. So on balance, marry-for-money shallow makes a hell of a lot more sense, and is overall a touch less offensive imho, than marry-for-their-young body/looks shallow… especially since youth eventually disappears, but well-invested money can last indefinitely.

    (caveat: I’m not endorsing it. Just noting that any man who pursues a much younger woman is implicitly acknowledging that he EXPECTS his money to be taken into consideration, and is fine with it… or at least, has no right to expect otherwise, unless he’s a Nobel Prize winner or something. And vice versa.)

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