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Author Topic: Relationships and class
fiveanddime
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This has been on my mind a lot recently, so I was wondering what y'all thought about it.

Have you ever dated someone who was in a different socioeconomic class? Maybe you came from a wealthy background and your partner didn't. Or maybe money wasn't a problem for your partner, but you had to pay back student loans. How did you handle these differences on a day-to-day basis? What about when you traveled together? Did you ever live together?

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fiveanddime
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?
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Heather
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I was sitting back on this one to give some room to more same-age users first, but since that's not happening, I can certainly dive in.

I've had a lot of experiences with this, and almost always from the "side" of being the poorer person. When I started dating in earnest, I was on-street half the time, and while that passed pretty shortly, I've rarely crossed the poverty line in terms of my income, and also have lived a life with a lot of the hallmarks of having been very poor many times in my life (lack of insurance, a family member to take care of, no property, paying for my education on my own, etc.).

In fact, it's funny to hear you ask about traveling together, because really, save the token, low-rent road trip, I've rarely been of the means to do something like take a vacation jointly with a partner, especially one that lasted more than a weekend and didn't involve a tent.

Really, my tactic with this has always been to just be really real about it, make sure I hold my own limits about what I can and can't afford, and clearly voice when I've felt like the other person wants something from me I just don't have the means for.

Now and then I've erred with that, too, and once I said yes to cohabitating in an apartment where I knew I was stretching what I could pay for, and wound up beyond screwed when the other person moved out and I got stuck with a lease and a rent I just couldn't come close to paying.

Personally, this is one of those places where I find that, on the whole, I do a lot better with partners who are pretty similar to be in terms of economic class (or at least have been for some substantial part of their lives), in part because of the day-to-day stuff, but also because living the way I have is something I tend to need to feel understood with, and find this to be one of those things that's tough for someone to really grok by having it explained to them.

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September
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My experiences with class in relationship have varied over the years. When I started my first long-term relationship, I was still living with my parents, who are solidly middle class. They also continued to support me through my undergraduate studies, so while I did have jobs then, and started to really watch my money, I also always knew I could fall back on them in an emergency. Over the past couple of years, however, I have been living off my own income as a graduate assistant, which has been a bit of an adjustment for me.

During that first long-term relationship, money was definitely an issue. My partner at the time was working his way through college and trying to pay off a mortgage he really couldn't afford, and money was often very tight for him. This was difficult for both of us to navigate, as our relationship was long-distance and arranging a visits always brought with it complicated conversations about travel costs. I did my best to be mindful of his situation, but it was hard for him to accept my offers or discuss his feelings, and in the end I think his shame was more of an issue than his actual financial status. (Our break-up was messy and I never really learned why he left, but I strongly suspect this was at least part of it.)

After this I had a few shorter relationships with partners who made much more than me, but finances never really emerged as an issue. I met both of those guys on campus, and we were in groups of friends where everyone was living on student budgets (minimum wage or stipends), so I think they'd just gotten used to having a bigger wallet than anyone else in their social circles, and didn't expect me to splurge on luxury vacations or four star cuisine. It just never really came up.

My current relationship is probably the one that is most evenly matched. Interestingly, though, money does come up a lot because we budget our money differently and have different expectations of our socioeconomic situation. That is, my partner has much higher expectations of what he "should" be earning and "should" be able to afford at his age (he dropped out of college a few years ago and only recently returned to finish his degree, so he feels a bit behind his peers), and that sometimes makes it hard for him to consider the options he has and the things he can afford, as opposed to the things he can't (clothes from the supermarket vs brand names, staying at a youth hostel instead of a hotel while traveling, etc).

I think what I am trying to say is that how honest and real someone is about their financial situation, and how comfortable they themselves are with it, has a much larger impact on a relationship than how much they actually have at their disposal. At least that has been the case in my experience. Mind, we'll see how this changes once my partner and I move in together - something we're currently planning.

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Johanna
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fiveanddime
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I totally agree. It's hard to take class out of the picture. All my boyfriends have been either better off than me or more financially stable (current one gets a lot more financial aid from our school than I do, plus he has a job that pays twice as much as mine does). Sometimes it can be hard to explain that I can't afford something, though he's been very understanding. My previous boyfriend had a much more narrow-minded view, though.
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NineOneOne
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Hi,

I'm in the same boat with my new boyfriend and I'm not sure how to handle it.

I'm a small town girl who just started working part time and I earn literally about 10% of my boyfriend who's been working full time for the past decade. There's an obvious class difference, and although I don't want to sound stingy and over-thrifty, I do feel uncomfortable when he chooses to dine at expensive restaurants, for example. Or buy fancy cars and stay at fancy places.
I love him for who he is and he loves me for who I am so I don't let it get to me. But it is increasingly difficult to be an independent woman when the eyes of society are bearing down on a young lady hanging around with a flashy older guy.

I'm also scared of feeling too financially safe with him. I don't want anything to happen between us, obviously, but if something does, I do not want to be stranded.

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Nine one one, what is your emergency?

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fiveanddime
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NineOneOne, I'm sorry you're feeling uncomfortable, and I can definitely relate!

Does your boyfriend pay for you or encourage you to join him at the expensive restaurants/places to stay?

If he does, I would sit down with him and make sure he understands your circumstances and what you're comfortable with.

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Cricket
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My high school boyfriend was of a similar economic class to me, though a bit more financially stable. My first partner in college is also of my class, though her family handles money very differently than mine does - they go out to eat all the time and do a lot of casual spending sort of things that my parents are always tentative around doing because their landscaping business means they get paid from job to job and can't depend much on future funds.

I recently got involved with another partner, which was already a big deal because I've never had a polyamorous relationship before, but she is also from a very rich Texan family. She's shown me and our other partner pictures of her house - it seriously looks like a castle. She also has a huge playhouse in her backyard from when she and her brother were little kids, and it it literally built to look like a miniature castle. She lives in a castle with a bonus castle in the backyard.

I adore her and our class difference hasn't really caused any problems, but sometimes it is disorienting to realize how different all her experiences of money have been. She has fancier clothes (and more of them), a luxurious memory foam mattress that makes her college bed infinitely comfier, and owns all of the expensive luxury sex toys I've admired online but never been able to buy.

We joke about it sometimes - I occasionally feel a bit ashamed of being poorer. It makes me nervous that I won't be good enough for her somehow, even though I know that's silly because she is very clear and open about how much she likes me. It's just a slightly disorienting difference relative to my other relationships.

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