It may feel good to be taken care of financially, just as it does to be taken care of emotionally or physically. You may feel as though your worries are over. Often, however, the cost of being taken care of financially can be very high. Being treated like a child is only one example and may be just the beginning.
From Caring to Controlling
Often people who insist on taking care of their partner financially fear losing their partner and use control of the finances as a means of control in the relationship. That fear can lead to oppressive behavior sliding down a slippery slope from being protective… to becoming paternal… to becoming patronizing and demanding.
At the beginning, those who take care of their partner in a paternalistic way may overwhelm him or her with luxurious perks. They may appear strong, generous, and confident. Yet, they often feel insecure in terms of being desirable for who they are rather than what they bring to the relationship in terms of money, for example. An unconscious need to be needed can result in a drive to have power over others.
From Secure to Stifled
When invisible strings are attached to the financial blessings bestowed on a loved one, the behavioral polarities of superior/inferior, control/rebellion, and parent/child tend to take over the relationship.
While being taken care of leaves one feeling secure at first, being parented leaves one feeling like a child, which takes away the mutual love and respect required for success in long-term romantic relationships. When a person in the child position matures, he or she will want to express independence, which can be threatening to the provider. Someone who is dependent on another person but feels stuck, soon feels stifled, resentful, and rebellious against the person in control.
Can financial disparity work in romance?
The fact that two people in love who are in vastly different financial positions does not necessarily result in problems. The key is to retain your own individuality and capability of being independent, even if the financially stronger person pays for most or all of the expenses.
Before moving in with someone who will “take care of you” it is wise to put aside enough money that you could move into your own place at any time, whether that means moving in with a close friend or renting a studio for a month or a year — whatever you are comfortable with. It is also wise to always retain your ability to get a paying job.
Being financially and psychologically able to move out and live on your own terms creates the space to be able to be yourself. If you become dependent on someone else’s money, there is an incentive to hide feelings and thoughts in order to please the person you’re dependent upon.
I’m not recommending that people live together with the constant threat of ending the relationship. Yet, when people are incapable of leaving a relationship, emotionally or financially, that’s when they start compromising their belief systems and values in order to maintain the relationship. That’s when the insidious descent into living in fear of losing what you’ve become accustomed to begins.
Throughout life, we are better off enjoying our blessings in the moment without trying to hold on to them for eternity. We can do this best when we are prepared and willing to take care of our own deepest needs. No matter who makes the money, it’s important to stay informed and involved in your joint finances, as well as to have your own independent means.
By maintaining individuality and the ability to be independent within a relationship, you maintain the wholesome tension of opposites, which allows the relationship to become greater than merely the sum of its parts.
by Alison Poulsen, PhD