Marriage as a business deal?

wedding businessI received an email about a presumably true Craigslist personals ad by a 25-year-old attractive (“stunningly beautiful”) NYC woman wanting advice on how to meet and marry a man who earns over $500,000 a year. Why that amount? Because “a million a year is middle class in NYC.” And she doesn’t want to be just a girlfriend; she wants marriage.

Even if this is a joke or fiction, the response that was included was priceless and educational.

The response is supposedly from a man who claims to make at least $500K/year. He pointed out that she is essentially offering a business deal, and a bad one at that. Why?

“What you suggest is a simple trade: you bring your looks to the party and I bring my money. Fine, simple. But here’s the rub: your looks will fade and my money will likely continue into perpetuity … in fact, it is very likely that my income increases but it is an absolute certainty that you won’t be getting any more beautiful!

“So, in economic terms you are a depreciating asset and I am an earning asset. Not only are you a depreciating asset, your depreciation accelerates! You’re 25 now and will likely stay pretty hot for the next 5 years, but less so each year. Then the fade begins in earnest. By 35 stick a fork in you!

“So in Wall Street terms, we would call you a trading position, not a buy and hold…hence the rub: marriage. It doesn’t make good business sense to “buy you” (which is what you’re asking) so I’d rather lease. In case you think I’m being cruel, I would say the following. If my money were to go away, so would you, so when your beauty fades I need an out. It’s as simple as that. So a deal that makes sense is dating, not marriage.

“By the way, you could always find a way to make your own money and then we wouldn’t need to have this difficult conversation.

“If you want to enter into some sort of lease, let me know.”

Don’t focus on her shallowness or his coldness. Focus on the business logic. We know the common belief that many women want to marry a financially sound guy and guys want to marry an attractive woman. So while there are many exceptions, this is a commonly held perspective. When it is put so bluntly as the responder does, it is cold and heartless. But is it less so than the woman’s point of view? I don’t think so.

When I got divorced it was abundantly clear that I had unwittingly entered into a 20-year business deal with my ex. I knew we had different financial philosophies, but since we kept our money separate, it didn’t seem like a big deal. But of course in a divorce, there is no legal separation, at least in my state. I realized that I would never have gone into business with my ex, but I had by default when I signed the marriage license.

What do you think of putting romance and marriage in business language? While off putting to some, others will see that the logic does make sense.

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11 responses to “Marriage as a business deal?”

  1. Elena Avatar

    Seems perfectly logical to me. Marriage is and has always been a business arrangement. People who think that it’s not are only kidding themselves. It’s only in the last century that Western society has put such stock and emphasis on “soul mates” and finding (and marrying) “the love of one’s life.”

  2. bookyone Avatar

    Hi DG,

    Coldness and language brutality aside, I believe these two idiots were made for each other.

    Best wishes from bookyone 🙂

  3. seilidhe Avatar

    Just from watching people and conversations I’ve been involved in, I’ve found myself wondering at times if humans were actually made for monogamy. I know that some couples are happy together in the life they chose, but so many others choose to wander, looking for that greener grass elsewhere. I didn’t find the response cold or heartless. I thought it was amusing and a perfect response to the girl’s ad for a “business partner.” In a business, people can, and often do, change partners, often by “buying into” the established partnership. In the past, marriages were arranged to be a financial benefit to the families.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m still looking for my soul mate and the love of my life. But, after 27 years of marriage, yeah, I think that marriage is a business transaction more than a love match.

  4. Ally Avatar

    “…I would never have gone into business with my ex, but I had by default when I signed the marriage license.”
    That is a profound bit of knowledge. I’ll be chewing on that for a while.

  5. Rod Avatar

    Funny how often money comes up as a factor, even in dating. I read a online poster who said, “Im willing to date someone who has a net worth very similar to mine.” His logic was, as someone who already been through a divorce, that if it didnt work out, at least neither of them would lose financially. They came in equals, they would leave as equals. Kinda makes sense.

    Unfortunately the heart rarely has a chance to peak into someone’s pocket book before falling in love.

  6. Dating Goddess Avatar
    Dating Goddess


    I’ve often teased that before getting serious with a man, I want to see a notarized net worth statement and his last 5 tax returns. 🙂 It is so easy to appear different in this arena than the truth. I have colleagues who look like a million dollars, but their credit cards are maxed out. So someone could wine and dine you, have expensive clothes and car(s), a nice house, and be owned by the credit card companies.

    My ex was in perpetual credit card debt most of our married life. He wasn’t extravagant, but would rather read a book than look for clients. We had decided from the beginning to keep our money separately so I never felt beholden to pay his debt, and he didn’t want any advice on how to pay it down, although I did get him to transfer it to 1.9% interest cards. But it made it so if there were improvements on the house — painting, landscaping, etc. — I had to foot the bill because he never had any money. I got paid his share, with interest, upon the settlement, but I was not happy about it when the work needed to be done and I had to pony up for all of it.

  7. walt Avatar

    Marriage is an unnecessary business deal, that men especially should avoid, as they usually get the short end of the stick in divorce. Stay together as long as you love each other, keep your money separate, and make a clean break if it doesn’t work out. If you have kids together you both need to continue to support and care for them, but beyond that I can’t think of any reason why I should willingly allow myself to remain tethered to an ex lover after the relationship fails.

  8. sd Avatar

    Pragmatically, both OP and Responder are essentially correct.

    But there is a few ‘assets’ that the R has not considered:

    Married business men tend to be promoted and receive salary increases more frequently than single men.

    A consistant partner for social events and to host HIS events is a very significant business asset, and having an employee do it does not produce the same benefits in networking.

    Children for him to groom to inherit his business and contine the profit curve are an additional benefit.
    These assets are also able to create further business connections via their marriages and shared grandchildren that are invaluable in long-term business models.
    And,this asset will by law be responsible for supporting and sheltering him if his income-earning potential and reserves fail.

    Yes, he will have to invest further funds into the last asset over time, but theoretically the return and future stability of his business model is much higher.

    (I’m only slightly tongue in cheek)

  9. naturegirl Avatar

    walt – Thankfully, you said usually. In a community property state like California, men and women are treated equally under the law. When I divorced my cheating, unemployed husband, I was responsible for his (undisclosed to me) debts, and legally owed him half of the property that my wages provided. Also, I was liable for both spousal support and child support. He didn’t/couldn’t/wouldn’t work for most of our 14 year marriage. Why did we stay married? I was trying to provide a stable environment for our two kids and I was well aware that he would get half in a divorce. Keeping finances separate in California during a marriage has no bearing on what is divided during the divorce.

    Marriage is a business deal, and I intend to never become legally married again.

  10. hunter Avatar

    ….I work with herds of men, and most have wives whose income is equivalent to, or more than the mans’ income. From what I hear,,,, either,,,,, the man is behaving, or the woman is very patient and forgiving(bad boys are few in this group)……some have been through divorce, some never want to go through divorce proceedings again, some have lengthy marriages…to the same woman………

  11. greendaze44 Avatar

    And, yes as a business deal, that would sound right, it everything was in black and white. But in a marriage, lives are lived, children are born, needs are met, or not met.

    Here are some thoughts. Men usually make more money in a realtionship because they don’t give to the emotional part of the marriage. Women leave their job early when a child is sick, or don’t even go in. Woman usually have more than one job, meaning, taking care of the household, taking care of the relationship, coordinating the childrens and family life. Women put their husband, children, careers community, all before themselves. Woman give and give and give.
    Men don’t get screwed when they get a divorce. The women is getting what is rightfully half hers. I am in the process of getting a divorce and that is exactly what my husband thinks. That I want to screw him out of what is his. Funny, when we were together it was ours and now all of a sudden, it’s his. I quit my job and stayed home with our 2 girls, I cashed out my 401K to put a down payment on our house in the country, so I could stay home. I sold stocks I had, so we could pay down credit card debts, so I could stay home. He wanted me to stay home because our youngest daughter was VERY needy. Seperation anxiety, things like that.

    But I finally realized how mentally abusive he was and it took me about 3 years to decide to finally leave. He’s not getting screwed, he’s paying back what I invested in our marriage and relationship. And what he didn’t invest in our marriage and relationship. Let me put it like this. The proverbial town cobbler. Everyone in town worn shoes, but his wife and children were shoeless. In other words, everyone thought he was a great christian guy and he was awful to us at home. Since everyone else thought he was great, I thought I was the crazy one because we fought constantly. I finally realized that we brought out the worst in each other. We went to counseling a couple years ago and he had the counselor fooled too. We tried again 6 months ago and I finally just said, I can’t do it any more.

    I know that not all men are the same and not all women are the same, so never like to stereotype. This is just our relationship. But I think men in general have a harder time giving emotionally in a realtionship, so they pay in other ways.