By Dominion Silas
First comes love then comes awkward mind games and hint dropping, then comes dates, then comes ruracio then comes…heartfelt earnest conversations on money? I daresay that would be a tad too late my friend. Cash and its flow has been one of the most persistent and pressing concerns of the human existence. This is magnified even more in relationships.
Full disclosure; I am a single man with no dependents and no idea how married’s handle money. My opinion should be taken with a healthy dose of skepticism and no authority whatsoever. What I do have however, is years of observation and advice from wiser, richer, sometimes broken and distraught men. What does the dating minefield look like for a young man in this Nairobi?
Rapper Akon said, “Cash rules everything around me.” Madonna said, “We are living in a material world and I am a material girl.” My personal favourite comes from Gwen Guthrie in the classic “No romance without finance, Boy nothin’ in life is free.” For something as simple and beautiful as love, there is a lot of emphasis placed on the role money plays in the arena of Love. Women who chase men for their money have been disparaged while men who have no money have been asked to stop being scrubs and bounce like a bad cheque.
It is crucial to understand that we all have different financial cultures, some we haven’t even reconciled within ourselves or are ignorant about. A good exercise I always practice with folks is to ask two questions, “If money wasn’t a factor, what would you be doing with your life?” Secondly, “If you had a million right now, what would be the first thing you do?” The range of answers reveals that we are inherently different in our approach and attitude to money. Would you gather the squad for that road trip, maybe grab that phone you’ve always wanted, some would buy a car, invest or start a business. My friend responded by asking, “A million what? Dollars or Pounds spend different you know.” Legend that one.
What is money to you? Ernest Wamboye says the following from his article The money-messy marriage, money usually boils down to four different things:
a) The Freedom to do whatever you like and gain new experiences
b) The Security of a stable protective net
c) The Power of success and control over situations and others
d) The Love/Affection from building relationships.
We may fall in one or more of these categories and that informs how we behave around money. Some of us can’t ask for a loan to save our lives and that twenty bob we owe in change will sear a hole in our souls until it’s returned. Some of us will ‘borrow’ a thousand shillings knowing full well we don’t intend to return it. Some will skip meals to buy a crush an expensive painting they will hate and then sulk on a hiking trip they take us to.
Some of us will think of how much a hundred thousand shilling investment will be in ten years, others will be eager to use the same amount to make our current circumstances better. No one approach is wrong or right honestly, but it takes an understanding of this and a willingness to discuss a common way forward for any couple planning to date. You don’t want to work two extra jobs to buy a PS5 for someone who’d rather you spent more time with them.
What are your financial goals?
Some people ask this on the very first date and it could either impress or sufficiently scare your dinner companion. Ask still, either way you will have a clearer indication of who you are dealing with. If you want to go back to school, start a business or invest, it’s important to let the other party know. That said, if your date has no clue what an investment portfolio is and thinks you are referring to a new Pokémon or Reality TV show, should you immediately discard them? If you are searching for someone who will think and act exactly like you do about money then your shortlist may never go past your mirror. Give love a chance. If your person keeps throwing away your money or getting into debt to keep up with the Jones’s however, it might be time to run and never look back. Opposites may attract, but opposite poles also never meet; quit stressing yourself trying to change someone in the North Pole, try fishing closer to the South Pole.
What’s your current debt?
How much do you owe? Are you willing to be honest about it and get advice? Would you take on your partner’s debt? Some people have spent their hard-earned money to rescue their partner from financial ruin only to be left heartbroken and feeling used. Should you be paying for your boyfriend through college or investing heavily in your girlfriend’s business? Never place permanent investments in non-permanent commitments and save yourself from premium tears.
Now that we’ve established some basic fundamentals of how we view money, the wild jungle of the dating scene awaits. We all have very different perspectives based on our past experiences and financial biases.
Can you date without money?
I genuinely don’t think you can. As a guy, I believe it’s my role to provide and protect. This means handling the business. Paying for the meal, the cab ride, the concert ticket, the movie etc. As the relationship progresses, that means organizing family visits, ruracios and the wedding itself. Yes I am aware that it’s a team effort but I don’t see any woman sticking by a man who has no clue how the caterer will be paid. I hear the loud shouts from women who have stuck by and supported men who were down on their luck and trying to figure it out. I applaud you and am happy it turned out great. I also hear a louder multitude of men who have been left by the curb because that idea never worked, that plan never materialized, that investment failed and she just couldn’t stay anymore. I have had the misfortune of meeting several older men whose marriages ended quite bitterly, usually because the money dried up. Are they all blameless? No, but the resounding conclusion I have come to is that you cannot keep a woman without money.
That said, you do not need to be a billionaire to find love my brother. There will always be a girl who will appreciate what you can offer her. If the best you can do currently is a lunch date at Central Park, there’s someone for you. If you can afford one lunch and she’s happy to enjoy that chicken as you wash down five glasses of tap water, what then? On the one hand, you might be better off seeking someone who’ll prefer to share whatever little you both have. On the other, you cannot force a BMW to park alongside Toyotas. If she’s draped in pearls and wears designer fashion, don’t disturb her peace; brands just didn’t align, move on.
Could a Princess date a Pauper? Maybe, maybe not. A man who dates a woman who is less educated, less financially stable and doesn’t drive will never turn heads, it happens. I suggest that it would be more difficult for the inverse to happen. She could be a very supportive girl but if the man is wired to lead and provide for her, it will take a toll eventually. It’s not an ego, it’s an in-built desire to give her the life she always wanted and deserves.
I once broke up with a very nice lady and when she asked why, I responded, “I honestly can’t afford you.” It may sound crass, but it was the reality.
Can you date outside your social class?
You can definitely try.
I believe that all were created equal and as taught by Martin Luther jnr, we should only judge people by the content of their character. My idealism has over the years been trimmed by a very present realism; all of us should be equal but sadly some are more equal than others. I have undertaken this experiment personally and have seen quite astonishing results. Whether up or down the social ladder, people have deep-rooted biases and self-esteem reinforced by years of their experiences, opportunities, exposure, ambition and environment.
I met Aluoch while doing some research for an NGO in Kibera in 2012. I loved her smile and her heart, pure gold. Back then Sequiera and Enos had a hit song by the name Aluoch and I would sing it to her and play it on my guitar, ah the era of romance. She broke up with me because I did not look the type to marry a girl from the ghetto. I had very little money by my standards yet, in her eyes, I was literally too rich a deal for her. When backgrounds are extremely diverse, could there be a common cause for communication, purpose, fun even culture? My heart says yes but my mind says it would be extremely difficult.
Is money a Deal Breaker? Y-E-S. In bold and red and underlined.
I stand to be corrected, and no doubt will be; but the absence of money is the presence of problems for any guy trying to date. There is only so much a guy can do with good intentions and a dream. There comes a point in time when the lady in red becomes a damsel in distress. I’ve seen it in married households as well; the mood is generally better when the man has sorted out all the financial needs of the home. Whenever there are outstanding bills and hungry kids, there is a very discernible foul mood present, the kind that forces you to excuse yourself posthaste!
Here is where I introduce the most important caveat, who has the final say? If you are singing along to that popular song, “Jehovah has the final say,” then there is a marked difference to how you should view money. The Christian ought to be content in every situation and season of life, in fact the bare minimums of contentment are food, clothing and shelter. 1st Timothy 6:6-21 gives a very poignant reminder of what really matters in the life of a believer. It’s a tight line between ambition and greed, one we must walk carefully each day with the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
If you are living a life based on the Gospel of Jesus Christ, you will find that money becomes one of many troubles of this world that pale in comparison to His glorious light. You will learn to trust Him and have contentment, faith, hope and love in seasons of excess and in great need. Money comes and goes, it definitely makes life more comfortable and we all need it, but money is not the sole purpose of our existence.
Hopefully, you find someone who agrees and together enjoy a relationship founded on God when the money is tight and when you’re both rolling in the stuff.
Photo by MugOshot – Times Tower, Nairobi
Dominion Silas is a Copywriter/Advertiser, song/script writer, Actor and Director. He is a lover of food, wildlife, nature, film, music and people. His entire life is founded on the grace shown him by Jesus Christ