THE BLOG
10/15/2014 03:14 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

What Women Want More Than Wealth

Richard Upshur via Getty Images

Reader 'No BMW' writes,

I am a nice guy, love my family, love my dog, went to college, have a career that I enjoy and have hobbies and friends. I think I have a lot to offer, but all the women my age (late 20's) seem to be focused on dating guys who make more money than I do. I'm a junior high school English teacher, so it's not like I'm destitute, but I'm not going to be rolling in to the best restaurants in DC three times a week and I don't drive a great car. A few times in a row, women have dumped me and said they just want to be friends, and then when I next run into them, they are out with some guy with a job in finance or a BMW or something. I don't want to think of women as shallow, but this is what I'm seeing. Help me understand.


hello handsome

Dear NB,

Before everyone jumps down your throat and says you're obviously an idiot and women don't care about money, I will say, you have a point. With all else being equal, if you met two potential partners, one with this money bag pictured above and one without, most people would pick the moneybagger. Why not? Money makes life easier, and even happier (at least up till $75,000/year, according to this study). A lot of this happiness is due to the flexibility that money brings you; All the Money in the World: What the Happiest People Know About Wealth discusses how money can allow you to live life the way you want.

Women are evolutionarily primed to be attracted to men who have the ability to take care of them and their potential offspring. That used to be big guys who could defend them physically, and in today's culture, it's guys with enough money to ensure that your offspring have whatever they consider important materially, whether it's a big house, preschool, summer camp or violin lessons. Yes, of course, women can and do work and make their own money. But when looking for a life partner, many women know that they want to have the option to stay home with their kids at least part-time (more and more women are actually choosing to stay home in recent years), or at the very least to take a maternity leave of whatever length they want and not have to worry about it financially.

Research bears out the idea that women value money when assessing potential partners; this excellent use of tax dollars demonstrated that women are likelier to accept a date with a man who drives up in a luxury car than in a non-luxury car. The popular media also emphasizes the importance of money in finding a mate. Women (and men, but less frequently) line up to meet millionaires on TV shows and dating sites, and I even just saw a feature about "sugar babies," or women that look for men online expressly for the purpose of financially subsidizing them. The sugar babies were pretty attractive, honestly. Sorry, didn't mean to depress you.

But, hark! Now I'm going to stop depressing you (I start again in a bit, though, sorry)! Even with the evolutionary and social pressures to find a good provider, most women really just want a guy who is compatible with them. And you actually are a good provider; you have a stable job and a lot of room for upward mobility. I also think that most women want a guy who is available, both emotionally and physically, and in this regard, your lifestyle and career are ideal. You're probably not home later than 4 or 5 p.m. and you have your summers off and lots of holidays. You sound like you would be able to hang out a lot with a girlfriend, travel and have lots of other adventures. Once you're a dad you'd have lots of time to spend with your kids. And you do have a stable job and your salary will be increasing over time, too. Women are not stupid; they know that their kids will want to spend time with their dad and they know that you'll be around a lot more than some finance working BMW driving guy.

Personally, I would prefer to marry a junior high school teacher than a guy who was spending every second at his job, even if he was pulling in a million dollars a year. In fact, ask my husband how many times I begged him to get out of investment banking in our first years of marriage and take whatever pay cut would be necessary if he would be home more (the answer is, one billion times. Then he did it and I was happy.) That's why I don't think that women are just dumping you because you're not Donald Trump.  o let's explore some other possible reasons.

Here are some reasons I can think of that your relationships haven't worked out that have nothing to do with money (here's where I depress you again). These are all hypothetical, because I don't know you, so don't take offense, but here goes. You may be unattractive, you may be annoying, you may talk about your ex-girlfriends, your mom may be over-involved, you may pressure girls for sex, you may not want to have sex, your hobbies may be things like taxidermy, your friends may suck, you may smell bad, you may not exercise, you may have a second head that you failed to mention (DON'T HATE MAIL ME IF YOU HAVE A SECOND HEAD AND YOU'RE AN AWESOME PERSON, I'M JUST SAYING IT'S NOT GOING TO WORK FOR EVERYONE), you may have a drinking problem, you may be really pretentious and only watch subtitled films, you... hey, I think I made my point. My point is, unless 10 women in a row told you explicitly that their sole reason for dumping you is your salary, you cannot conclude that this is the reason. It could be literally anything else in the world, including just a lack of chemistry. You're only 28. Maybe you just didn't meet Ms. Right yet.

So, yes, the majority of women are going to pick a rich guy over a poor guy if all else is equal. But all else is never equal. You have your own unique qualities, including summers off, which cannot be overestimated. I would murder someone for my husband to have summers off and am salivating thinking about all the home projects that we could complete. Anyway, back to you. Some woman is going to love you and your wonderful personality and the fact that you like reading To Kill a Mockingbird with 7th graders even more than she would like riding around in a luxury car. (Note: I don't get the luxury car thing myself. I didn't get my car repaired since I crashed into a snowbank two years ago since it's only cosmetic damage. And I still want to take my car everywhere instead of taking my husband's company car, which is much nicer, although it wouldn't take much to be nicer than  a damaged 2006 minivan. Actually, he had his last company car for two years and I never sat in it. Not even once. True story. Is there a psychological term for someone who pathologically dislikes luxury cars? Whatever that disorder is, I have it. BMWophobia?)

Furthermore, I think you may be hypersensitive to the wealth thing. What did your parents think about rich people? Did you grow up with less money than your peers? I'll bet you money (funny, right?) that there is some deeper issue at play here that renders you particularly sensitive to the idea that you are being perceived as poor by the women you date. So maybe you want to explore that with a therapist, or by having your junior high school students write essays on the topic of wealth that you can read and introspect about and see which ones trigger you. Or you can ask your friends, "Hey, do you think those girls all dumped me because I don't make enough money?" Guy friends are pretty honest. They might be like, "No, it's more because of that time you vomited on her mom's doorstep. Also, you need a different deodorant."

Well, that's about it for today's topic of whether women are shallow money hungry she-devils. For the record, my answer is NO, but everyone likes nice things. Except me, if the nice things are nice cars. But I do like to spend hours a week blogging instead of increasing my hours of  paid employment. And that wouldn't be possible if my husband was a derelict. But, again, reader, YOU'RE NOT A DERELICT. You could in fact probably support your very own part time working part time blogapist wife one day on a teacher's salary. Even with the 2006 Dodge Caravan. Living the dream, living the dream.

Till we meet again, I remain, The Blogapist Who Likes Evolutionary Psychology.