It’s not the “gold” that makes a gold digger. It’s the “digging”

It’s not the wealth gap that makes a “gold digging” marriage objectionable. It is the intention behind it. And this intention is the same for lower net worth couples, and even poor ones: aiming at a better life by means of marriage.

I knew a girl who won the lottery. Before that she was a gray, unremarkable, hard-working but characterless law student living with a similarly unremarkable guy because rent is expensive and being single is wrong because that’s what people do, right?

I wouldn’t have dated the guy. He was polite and didn’t smell but he was so bland, one couldn’t help but imagine how disappointing life must be with him. No taste, no color, no excitement. Not even the lame kind of excitement when people consider going to the movies spontaneously as little crazy. They lived like two cows grazing together, resigned to continue grazing until some outside force pushes them off that life path.

And something did push them. The jackpot.

Not immediately though. When she won, she stayed remarkably down to earth. She continued her studies, kept her job as a legal assistant, kept the same apartment (only perhaps she bought it) – and for a while she even kept Mr Bland. When they broke up, it was an amicable affair. They shook hands.

And even then, she didn’t get unhinged. She started dating – but she started dating differently. She did what every guy ever does: tried to leverage her money. Not too obviously, but you could still spot the same old fallacy of assuming that with money, she can trade up – and that will be love.

When a woman does that, it is obvious. We pity the fool and we are very wise to see that money will not buy her love from a guy who would otherwise not choose her. But when men do it, we give it a chance. We will see…

It wasn’t hard to spot the quantum leap between Mr Bland and her later suitors. Good-looking guys, full of ambition, completely unlike her. But they went out with her and she was planning a life with each of them – like she did with Mr Bland. Only she started planning much sooner in each relationship. Guys suddenly couldn’t wait long for marriage.

“I have money, so partners of higher mate value will date me – and that will be love. Eventually. Somehow. For this convoluted reason that I’m about to tell you…”

When it comes to a woman, we can see what went wrong. We pity her as obviously misguided, the poor thing. When it comes to men, however, we still believe that the guy will be loved for “securing the nest”. That the woman who is primarily seeking a better life in marriage will love him – and not just the nest he provides. Eventually. Somehow. For some convoluted reason that takes twenty minutes to explain.

And it doesn’t have to be a huge wealth gap. It can happen between financial equals. It can be someone who finances you while to try to become an artist. Or get that tenure. Or that extra degree you think you need for that better job.

Maybe we are all gold diggers

There can be only one priority – and if it was your money or status, it will never be you. 

Let me get two cliches out of the way:

1) Yes, marriage have always been about money. That is all marriage is good for.

It is a legal contract of wealth management for the rich – and a threat of poverty for the middle class in case of a divorce. And for most people, it is just one of the threats that stop them from leaving.

2) The other cliche is that by burdening marriage with the demand for love has put deadly pressure on the institution itself.

Well, good riddance. Forever for forever’s sake is evil. Togetherness for togetherness’ sake is evil. Being with someone just because you have to be paired is an insult to both you and your partner. And again, that is not about you, but getting rid of the pressure you get for being single. There can be only one priority, kids…

So maybe only arranged marriages make any sense. And what you call “gold digging” is really just a rational arrangement. It is an analytical mistake to confuse wealth gap with bad intentions and dishonesty.

You consider gold digging (aka. marrying for money) only possible with a huge wealth gap. But the evil in this is not the wealth gap. The evil of gold digging is the dishonesty. Dishonesty with your partner when you don’t make them the priority. And dishonesty with yourself when you totally feel the “love” – even if it’s just relief that “ugh, I finally found one that fits the bill”.

Gold digging can be performed for much less. For a comfortable house with a barn. For a health insurance. For a life with regular holidays that you didn’t have as a child.

The obvious wealth gap distracts the unthinking observers, but the evil is not in the wealth difference – it is in marrying for material reasons. And that applies to financial equals, too.

This is why it is naive to be surprised when couples announce their wedding when they are obviously done with each other and just coexist in boredom and mild disgust. They push on with the wedding charade and the babymaking so that they don’t have to communicate with each other anymore. No eye-to-eye honesty because that would suggest that they make an uncomfortable change. So they resort to husband-and-wife and then mommy-and-daddy role playing, discussing only logistics and the little people they create to stand between them. That marriage it is not about each other. It is about a material status that makes financial sense. It is about making singledom go away. It is about making social disapproval go away. It is about making the what-am-I-supposed-to-do-with-my-life anxiety go away. The person they marry is not even in the Top 5. And vice versa.

People are digging for their own version of gold, for material benefits. Whether it is just poor people hoping for some sense of financial stability, or pretty people marrying a billionaire – the digging and the motivation is the same. And that will cause divorce (or married misery) when the time comes.

Because whatever was your first doubt when you met – that will be the thing that ends the relationship.

Always. You bury it deep, perform mind tricks to dismiss and forget – and you get surprised when comes back and hits you in the face. The most obvious thing you knew from the beginning.

And because material status is the number one reason to marry, it will be the reason to end it. Either because it gets worse inside the marriage (either the gold or the gratitude evaporates) – or because there’s more gold to be found outside of the marriage.

So these once-loving couples marry on the 7th anniversary to divorce on the 10th – and all this because they have honestly mistaken their own desire for material stability with “love”. They even see their sex drive evaporate – and surprised why. And that is gold digging at its finest – even if it’s approved by society.

Society applauds them, naturally, because it feels so good to see that others are making the same, unpleasant compromises – and it sucks for them as well. And then you meet crowds of people trying to not think about it. Having to live the rest of their lives like this. In a life they chose to get away from something.

The rest of your life is a lot if you feel it is a price you pay… 

So they try to focus on material growth – but anxiety sets in because quantitative growth without qualitative change is not living. Change is living, but making more money is not change. It is just doing the same thing, better.

What was once a relationship of convenience based on the appeal of a better life – will always stay just that. And gratitude for the better life will fade because no one can stay grateful forever. Eventually she (or he) will feel like he owns that lifestyle just as the richer spouse does – and what will maintain the illusion of love if not the evaporating gratitude?


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