Young lovers use money to control one another
Sex, money and power go hand in hand for millennials.
Nearly two thirds (60%) of millennials say that a romantic partner has used money to manipulate, or gain power and control in a relationship, according to a survey of 2,000 people ages 18-34 released Tuesday by personal finance site CentSai. And that’s just the latest survey to show millennials think money equals power in a romantic relationship. Data out earlier this month by U.S. Trust found that 66% of rich millennials in a relationship agree with the statement “whoever earns the most money has the most influence in the relationship;” just 37% of Gen Xers and 29% of boomers say the same.
The need to control or manipulate a romantic partner using money — or any other means — is often born out of high levels of anxiety, says psychologist Fran Walfish, the author of “The Self-Aware Parent” and co-star of WE TV’s “Sex Box.” And millennials — many of whom struggled to establish their careers and find long-term romantic relationships for the first time in the depths of the recession — are especially prone to high anxiety, she adds. (Indeed, data show that anxiety levels for young people are at an 80-year high.)
What’s more, millennial’s potentially unhealthy relationship between money and sex doesn’t end there. The CentSai survey found that 60% of millennials say a romantic partner has lied to them about money, or hid money or debt from them. “Lying about money or hiding money is usually indicative of shame around what it was spent on – too much food, clothing, handbags, golf, drugs, etc.,” says psychologist Erika Martinez. (In millennials’ case, it could be shame about food spending, as research shows that drop more on dining out, or booze purchases, as they go to bars more frequently, than do older generations.)
And lying about debt, she says, also has to do with shame, as well as a feeling like the debt will be a hinderance to a partner. “I think this is especially true for millennials, given the burden of educational debt they face as a whole and having experienced the effects of the 2008 recession,” she says, adding that many millennials may also lie about debt “for fear of scaring off a good potential partner.”
Whatever the reasons for using money to control a lover, or lying to a lover, the consequences can be extreme. For 30-year-old financial services professional Ryan Kwiatkowski, it meant having to break up with a “fairly controlling” ex girlfriend, who used a variety of things — including, on a small handful of occasions, money — to try to control his behavior. Though she never said anything explicitly, Kwiatkowski felt she tried to get him to do tons of work around her apartment just because she earned more than him and would sometimes pay for them to do things he couldn’t then afford.
But when he’d try to talk to her about the controlling behavior, “I would never be able to explain how I was right,” he says. After a couple years, he realized “it wasn’t going anywhere” and put a stop to it. “It should not matter whether you’re a P.E. teacher or run a hedge fund, people should be treated equally [in a relationship] no matter their bank statement.”
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