You come from two different worlds. With two different bank accounts. Blue collar, white collar–lower class, upper class–whatever you want to call it. But you’re smitten with one another and want to make it work. Can you successfully date someone outside your social class? And, if so, what are some of the challenges you should expect to face?
We asked Scott Alden, dating expert from HowAboutWe.com.
“Someone from a lower class dating an upper class person might experience embarrassment, feelings of inadequacy or even anger toward their partner,” he says. “An upper class person dating someone more blue collar might experience guilt or resentment.”
You might remember the Sex and the City episode when Miranda first starting dating Steve. As a successful lawyer, she had no problem picking up the check or splurging for a new suit so Steve could better fit in at her office mixer. But while she thought she was being kind, she was actually inadvertently hurting Steve’s feelings with her generosity.
“It is harder on men than on women, because for many, there is still the expectation that men are the providers and much of our confidence is tied up in this,” says Alden.
So how does a man cope with a girlfriend who makes more money than him?
“Try and relax about the whole thing and realize that money isn’t actually, in any way, tied to your manhood,” suggests Alden. “Prove it elsewhere, if you need to prove it, but don’t make your partner feel guilty about making more money than you and wanting to spend it.”
And the woman can help out, too, by ensuring there are other areas in the relationship in which he can take charge.
“If you know there are tasks at which he excels, make sure he knows how much you appreciate it,” he says. “Don’t hire movers just because you can afford it — ask him first. Don’t call a plumber because the drain is clogged. Ask him to take a look at it first. Don’t go to super fancy restaurants that he can’t afford all the time — go somewhere that he can pick up the check once in awhile.”
But what about when it’s the other way around–and the man is the higher earner? While Alden says it’s usually not as much of an issue, there are some things to keep an eye out for.
“Women often feel ‘kept’ by a man who pays for everything,” he says, “as if there’s a debt they can never repay. Men in this situation may experience resentment if a woman is not contributing to the relationship in an some other way, to balance it out.”
So how do we keep these relationships on equal grounds–no matter who makes what? Alden has three tips:
1. Try to stick to dates that both partners can actually afford. Most of the time.
2. Don’t be embarrassed to talk about whatever feelings come up. It’s a tough situation and challenges are bound to come up.
3. Make sure that both people are contributing equally to the relationship — if not financially, then in other ways.
In the end, Alden says, as with anything in a relationship, communication is key to success…and living happily ever after.
“You just have to be aware of the challenges and open to talking them out. Differences in social backgrounds alone won’t kill a relationship. Built up resentment about it will.”