Can he afford you?

While in Dubai, I befriended a 28-year-old local professional man who shared the romantic reality for many like him. His description made me think of some parallels to Western dating, although, of course, there are huge differences.

He explained that men and women are commonly match-made through their families. The women often require a groom’s dowry. For example, a woman wants her husband to provide her with the same standard of living that her father provides her, even though her father is well established financially and her intended husband is just starting out.

So she expects him to provide her the same level of designer clothing, upscale housing, exclusive club memberships, exotic vacations, and regular spa visits.

Then there’s the one-up game. If her sister’s husband bought her a Lexus then she insists on a Mercedes. If her sister got a 3-bedroom house, she wants a 4-bedroom.

So before he asks or agrees to marry her, the man decides if he can afford her. Can he keep up with her (and her parent’s) demands?

In dating, part of deciding if you are a match is not only discovering if you have similar values, interests and sensibilities, but also similar economic expectations. It is common for midlife couples to have somewhat equal incomes, or the man to make more. It has become more commonplace for the woman to earn more. But for all the advancements toward equality, there is still a prevalent expectation that the man will buy most of the dating dinners and some other expenses during the wooing process, or they will take turns treating.

If the man can’t afford to at least pay half, it can sour the relationship no matter how much a woman is into him. He can be the sweetest, kindest, most loving man and yet if he can’t afford a similar lifestyle, it is a short-lived relationship. One or both of them can’t tolerate the imbalance.

I’ve experienced this myself. While I can be drawn to a man for his great personality, economics do enter into my decision whether to continue to see him or not. I feel shallow to admit it, but it is true. I think, in part, it’s because I was married to a financially strapped man for 20 years and felt it put restraints on what we were able to do. I paid more than my share of many things and supplemented vacations and home improvements. At the time I said it didn’t really matter but the truth is it began to stick in my craw. I felt like I was carrying a man who was unwilling to step up and at least shoulder his own weight.

So while economics can seem superficial, it affects activities and lifestyle. If you want to have exotic vacations and he can’t afford to pay his way, you can foot the bill. If you enjoy 5-star restaurants and he can only spring for diners, you can treat. But for most couples, it will eventually cause a rift. Even if you have a high unending stream of income, you can begin to feel taken advantage of.

And if he feels he can’t afford you, he will lose his ardor. A man needs to believe he can make his woman happy and if he feels her needs are beyond his capabilities or interest, he’ll cut her lose. One date admitted his last relationship ended because she wanted to “live life large” with a big house, fancy car, and foreign vacations. And while she made a good income, it wasn’t enough to support that lifestyle for both of them. He said at his age — mid fifties — he really didn’t want to work that hard to make that kind of money. He wanted to spend more time with his kids and on his hobbies than at work earning money to support a lifestyle he didn’t really want. So he broke up with his girlfriend since it was clear they had different life goals and values.

Have you begun to date someone who you really liked, but you realized you had different lifestyle expectations? Did you decide to continue seeing him or pull the plug when you saw your economic dreams looked different?



DG News:

  • I’m excited that Susan Page, author of the bestseller If I’m So Wonderful Why Am I Still Single wrote a fabulous Foreword for Date or Wait. It is in all the copies of the book starting today. See the review I wrote of her book in the “Good dating books” in the sidebar on the right.

Now that the books are  out, we’re getting some nice  media coverage:

  • Reporter Louisa Lim quotes DG on multi-dating in her article “The all-new dating game” in the national Malaysian newspaper, The Star.
  • Read The Seductress Within’s review of Date or Wait.


7 responses to “Can he afford you?”

  1. Samantha Avatar

    I can tell right away about that kind of thing by observing his lifestyle. If we aren’t at least equals, I won’t go for it. There are things I look for that work for me as far as figuring that part out.

  2. The Seductress Within Avatar

    Yes, part of what makes a man attractive to a woman is his earning ability.
    The sense that he can provide for her and their children and the desired lifestyle.

    Just as part of what makes a woman attractive to a man is her beauty and his belief that she makes him look good and is proud to have her on his arm.

    The degree to which she defines “earning ability” and he defines “beauty” is different but I believe those attraction generalizations are alive and well.

    Like it or not, we each have a market value….

  3. Mitsy Avatar

    I was with a guy off/on for many years. He had plenty of cash but didn’t want to spend any on me. When I finally got the guts to dump him, I vowed that it could not be that bad again if I met someone else. Among the online dating disasters I encountered, one was with a guy who made more than twice the salary I did, but once he wound up with some legal issues and some medical problems, he suddenly didn’t offer to take me out for dinner anymore. It was never like I was asking for high-priced dinners. I would have been content to have eaten at Wendy’s, but he used money as the reason we didn’t go out as much. In other words, he quit trying with me once he had some stresses in his life. I refer to him as the “bullet” I dodged.
    My last boyfriend wasn’t from an online dating site. He had his issues, but once we were in an established “relationship”, he didn’t want to take me out much anymore. He also had money worries (but they were the normal things). He didn’t make a lot of money but again, I didn’t expect high priced outings. The lack of thought & effort astounds me with men. There really must be something to the “chase” because so many quit trying once they know they have you. In any event, we are no longer together.

  4. Jack Avatar

    Oh my. Yes, men look at a woman’s beauty but an awful personality or questionable values turns that beauty into ugliness pretty fast. What in the world does money have to do with shared intimacy and commitment? Y’all are passing up men who might be there when the chips are down because they don’t meet your “lifestyle expectations”? I have no idea what my “market value” is, but I sure won’t be with any woman who makes that kind of calculation.

  5. Samantha Avatar

    It’s important to me to be with someone who shares the same values as far as financial security. As long as we’re equals. Heck, I can live with it if I make more than he does. I think it’s just hard for women to feel like they have to carry the load financially. That’s what we’re saying. You totally misunderstand or you wouldn’t react the way u r.

  6. Seductress Within Avatar


    I agree with you. No matter how much money a man has, an awful personality or questionable values will make him an unattractive partner as well.

    When I say “market value” I mean the attributes and qualities both parties bring to the relationship making them an attractive candidate for a partner.

    It’s no secret or crime that a popular dynamic in the important factors of attractiveness, that women look for finacial security (which doesn’t always = rich) and a men look for a physical beauty.

    Of course it’s not the whole story, there are many other factors that determine a match or not.

  7. Mitsy Avatar

    Ok, I’ll try again to get my point across. It’s not about how much money the guy makes. In my case, it was about “lack of effort” which was blamed on money issues. I’m not an expensive eater. In fact, I’m the type who would view an expensive dinner as a waste, especially in the economic times we’ve had these last few years. But, the fact that some of these guys quit courting due to apparent “cheapness” is not the same as trying to measure up a guy on how big his bank balance is. A guy can make a great impression and make his woman feel special even on a small budget. I would have been happy with Wendy’s or Burger King. But, many times, that was never offered and I found myself suggesting things to do rather than just “hang out” at their place. My last guy was a great cook & I had some meals at his place and I also cooked, but going out (even to a cheaper restaurant) once in a while is all a part of the dating ritual. Apparently some men just don’t get it.