Relationship For Love…And Power?

by Zettler Clay

The recent surge of women in the professional ranks has affected more than the income gap between the two sexes.

Premeditated by the initial lack of income balance, the closing chasm continues to shape a new generation of relationships formed around new rules.

One of the more ballyhooed consequences of women increasing earning power is the shift it forces on intimate relationships. If financial security is something more women are doing for themselves these days, does this change what they expect from their counterparts?

As many black women grind their way through the corporate labyrinth, they are confronted with another when stepping out the office. Enter the story of the ambitious woman who comes across the not-as-ambitious man with a heart of gold. He digs her. She digs him, yet can’t shake that nagging feeling of not only their income disparity, but their differing aspirations.

He is unnerved by their income disparity and his insecurities start to show. Before long their bond is splintered, then severed. She moves on to date more ambitious types, but realizes those types are harder to rein in. He moves on, never quite quelling his financial insecurity. He improves his situation, but becomes reliant on it to prove his value.

The cycle goes on and on. The two characters in this scenario are both searching for acceptance, love, a hug, what have you, but perceived differences in status derails many relationships before they start and shuts down many while in flight. Their love turns “political:” Classism enters into the fray.

Classism: prejudice against or in favor of people belonging to a particular social or economic class.

Many women base a man’s suitability on their socioeconomic status, while many men choose the woman with the beautiful exterior over beautiful interior. In either case, increasing in status seems indistinguishable from gaining love.

It’s an extension of nature. We are drawn to groups most likely to affirm our own deeply-held values. A hard-working entrepreneur wouldn’t be a prudent match for a slothful part-timer just like a person working the cash register at McDonald’s isn’t apt to date the VP of Marketing at General Mills.

As the current economic climate continues to bend the relationship arc, new identities are being forged. A common folly we tend to make is assuming a zero-sum game in gender dynamics. A gain to one doesn’t have to be a loss to the other. If anything, the evolving landscape indicates a jettisoning of outdated principles such as:

a) a man’s masculinity being determined by his fiscal pursuits
b) a woman’s inferiority because of her lack of fiscal pursuits
c) a man and woman being unable to co-exist as a power couple

Financial stability is essential for any human family; it’s the equivalent of bears and lions staying stocked on nourishment. For a relationship to thrive in this world, basic financial needs must be met. As that relationship grows in quality and quantity (children arrive on the scene), more needs must be met.

This involves healthy planning and alignment of financial intelligence, thus why classism in this context isn’t necessarily a death knell. Choosing an individual with like-minded ideals about socioeconomic status is essential.

“Power” couples exist primarily for this reason. By power couple, I’m simply referring to two individuals uniting with what they have in a desire to create something greater. Like many, I had an up close example of my first power couple. My grandparents were both educated, but more importantly, were in lock step with each other about the legacy they wanted to leave on the world. I imagine somewhere in that combination of power and love is something that all thriving couples possess.


  • Stanley

    If I make 100k per year, i can do fine taking care of 2 kids and a housewife.

    Most women if they make the same, this money basically represent what the minimum income should be for their man.

    Ladies this is not a men’s problem. This is a problem between you and the beautiful lady in the mirror. Ask that lady this: Hey you! Did you go to school to get a better life? or did you go to school to edge your bet in the dating pool? Or both?

  • Marketing Gimmicks

    I think for a relationship to last a woman must feel a healthy amount of respect and admiration for her man no matter how much money’s she’s pulling in for herself. Yes. Many men have good hearts, can make you laugh and are so steamy in the boudoir that they’re driving your car around during the day…but if they have lint in their pockets and prove themselves to lack ambition most women will lose the one thing a man needs to feel like a man: RESPECT.

    Without respect most women will get over the “the nice guy who lacks drive schtick” QUICK. I have been dickmatized into tomfoolery…but when I woke up…well…I woke up because I didn’t want that to be the rest of my life. Intuitively you don’t even want that for your offspring. At the end of the day there’s more POWER in respect and admiration. And most times that power comes from a man’s DRIVE. It’s what keeps women attracted to men. That’s why most women in her lifetime will be attracted to the RARE Alpha male.

    There’s nature and then there’s nurture. Yes. Many Black Women don’t need a man’s finances but nature will always overpower and if a man cannot provide or protect it will fizzle into deep resentments and overall time invested disappointment.

    *Spoken from experience*

  • Cocochanel31

    You daid that!!1 And really said it here ” Dickmatized into tomfoolery” LOL. We have all BEEN THERE!!

  • Keshia

    Great article. When I’m ready to date or marry I don’t want Mr. Perfect ( thanks god I know that doesn’t exist). I simply want my equal that’s all no Prince Charming or someone to come rescue me. Just someone I can be myself with and be happy. Women in particular need to let go of the stuff they see in movies and step into reality.

  • Plan ahead

    One of the scariest things for a woman is being married (stuck) with a loser bum man. Which is why many attractive (eduacted) black women in their 20′s want sucessful ballers. There are very few black men who are balllers in their 20′s. By the time black men become accomplished and sucessful in their 30′s or 40′s they are, in a lot of cases, not too eager to marry a middle age black woman whether she sucessful or not. That doesn’t impress him. He’s got his own car, condo ect… One of the scariest things for a 30′s/early 40 black baller is being stuck (married) in a relationship with an old (fat) woman. When dating over an over 35 year old women one day sooner or later he is going to look at her and see 50 ie what she’s is going to look like as an old woman. That scares the hell out of men in their 30′s.

    The best thing is for these young women to look for potential in these young men. If they are only willing to date men who are already sucessful, they probably should consider dating men in their 30′s or 40′s. Most of these young black men in their 20′s who are ballers are into illegal activities.

  • stef

    lol. this article is so focused on just the minority of the black community and not the majority. fact the majority of black women still do not make more than black men.Fact the majority of black men are with black women because of the interior over the exterior looks.this is an article focused on the challenges of the talented tenth.

  • The Moon in the Sky

    Hear, Hear, Black women. You need not date someone who is your match. You should settle for a man who might be something.

  • T

    One of the scariest things for a woman is being married (stuck) with a loser bum man — @Plan ahead!

    100% to this. Been there, done that (just dated, though) and it worse when you don’t see any drive within him. lol

  • Pat

    Yes to this article! Love it! I love your definition of a power couple.

    It didn’t matter how much money my husband had at first (I knew he was a hard worker) and vice versa. So we were more interested in our ability to manage (not waste), earning potential, and the knowledge to invest. It’s not healthy financial planning if a 100k bonus is received and waste it. We will go further with a 50k bonus by ensuring we are making smart financial decisions. One problem at first we had was trying to live as roommates [initially] — of course this didn’t work. Couples have to realize you go further when you’re working out a financial plan together.

    You can have both the love and the power! To be honest, I don’t see how a likeminded, smart, and working couple couldn’t. That is the key.

  • Dave

    The only important factors in terms of finances are security and independence. If both parties have that then it shouldn’t matter who earns more money, particularly if both are earning at a level that most don’t make. Money matters until it doesn’t. But I think the image of a very successful woman attempting to settle for a not so successful man, while true in many cases, is an over simplification of the story. Dating is one thing, but I personally would not want to marry a woman who wasn’t in the neighborhood of my income bracket.

  • The Moon in the Sky

    My comment was sarcasm in response to ‘Plan Ahead’s’ comment. I don’t know why it ended up separately.

  • au napptural

    I’m trying not to engage the troll, but I can’t help it. Let me counter that. If you make $100,000k as a man (which I doubt), you are getting something out of providing for a housewife and two kids. The housewife, by her value title, is doing the heavy lifting. If I as a woman make $100,000k, why the hell would I hook up with someone who has less? Even if he wanted to become a “house-husband” I’m still stuck with the heavy lifting. He can’t have the kids- I have to. He can’t breastfeed and if I’m going to pump so he can give them bottles, I might as well just feed them myself. So, I’d be paying for some man to lay up in my house and I’d still be splitting the work. Further, if I were to become a housewife (at least during pregnancy and afterwards) and he made less, I’d be lowering my standard of living. All for what? To say I did it, I got married and had kids?

    Personally, I’m balanced. I’d like a partner who brings as much or more than I do to the table. But in this day in age, I don’t see why a woman would stoop to pick up a man who isn’t equal. Back in those old days the bitter men on Clutch love to talk about, men made most of the money. Black women worked too, but they both needed to put their meager incomes together to have a shot at nuclear family life. Nowadays, educated black women don’t have to. I’m not talking bout Shakwan and those in the hood. I mean women who can and do support themselves. I’m asking an honest and snark-free question. What is the advantage of marriage to someone who has less than you? For men, it can be someone to raise the children, an attractive trophy you bought, etc. But for women? We aren’t socialize to “buy” men, the men can’t have children, and if we see someone fine and broke, we can have him for the night and be done. Why complicate your life by marrying him?

    I think since the old standards have changed (men make the money, women keep house and have the kids) then the thinking must change as well. Most men today would pitch a fit if a woman said she wasn’t going to work any more and didn’t have any children. If men expect us to work like it’s 2013, they better act like it. None of this “I need half on the bills stuff” then expect submission at home. Esp. not to someone who doesn’t even equal your earning power. What are you submitting to, a penis?

  • Kostas

    Brilliantly said.

    I’ve said to my husband more than once, “I didn’t marry you for your money, but I’m bloody well glad you have it!”.

  • Kostas

    I disagree.

    Many women (myself included) would easily date a 20-something man with tangible potential over a 30-something “baller” (and quite frankly, no one should aspire to date/marry “ballers” if you are using this term how I think you are – ugh).

    I married young. My now-husband had potential/drive/ambition. You could see it in his approach to life. And it was one of the many reasons I chose to hitch my wagon to his.

    “Ballers” come and go (usually because they are too concerned with “balling”), but potential/drive/ambition is rarely quenched, no matter the ups and downs. And that’s what every woman should seek.

  • Ads

    And that’s not to single out this writer; I’ve been meaning to ask about this for a while, but today I didn’t go in to work ;)

  • Ads

    And i say this with the humility to admit typos of my own. I just *hope* that my sloppy phone-commenting doesn’t invalidate my genuine, and hopefully not insulting, request.

  • Trent W. Nelson (@nelsonWTrent)

    First thoughts:

    I think problems arise when we are constantly profiling examples that are less-than-common.

    Generally if a woman is a part of a certain subculture, the men in that community would be the ones courting her; not the broke guy that has opposite interests, and a heart of gold.

    People will always get along better with someone that shares their outlook on life; that isnt about classism, it’s about the way in which they plan on existing in this world, and what kind of message they want to put out there.

    Thoughts after letting the ideas cook:

    I also see a trend of sexism coming into play; women feel that getting with a man making less is unacceptable, but they see no problem with serial-housewives that bring absolutely nothing to the table but a vagina.

    Coming from a genderqueer female, I have never felt like I was owed something due to having a vagina, and cannot see how women can claim that men should provide for women, but not feel that women, in some cases, should provide for men.

    Some women want an equal partner if they themselves make loads of cash, but not when they are broke, and down-on-their-luck; because there is nothing more sorry than two broke people, right?

    There is a problem with that mentality, and very few people have been able to properly assess it in an objective way.

    And about power couples…

    I’d love to create a power-triad. Two powerful males, one powerful female in the middle.

    Isn’t that sexy.

  • The Moon in the Sky

    I don’t know about other women, but I know that for me, respect that I have for another person is not based on what they can provide physically. That makes no sense to me.

    I don’t understand the correlation between womanhood and financial burden.

    Men have no special purpose in a relationship. Neither do women.

  • Hayz


    You took the words right out of my mouth. It’s unfortunate but true. Well said. Men (who read Clutch) take note.

  • Perspective

    @ Marketing – BEEN SAYING THIS – only thing she doesn’t do is TIE the RESPECT to what men are providing or establishing for women – UNFORTUNATELY – children have already been born when the women wake up! From being DICKMATIZED – lol – that was funny.

  • nataya1280

    Ummmmmm where do I start with this article and these comments? “A hard-working entrepreneur wouldn’t be a prudent match for a slothful part-timer just like a person working the cash register at McDonald’s isn’t apt to date the VP of Marketing at General Mills.” WTH are you talking about? Successful men marry strippers and waitresses everyday. I work hard to support my lifestyle everyday I want someone that has some of the same interests as I do and someone that can support himself. He doesnt need to make as much money as I do or more because his money is HIS married, dating… whatever. My financial security lies solely on ME. Now the only financial concern I have with a man is if he is responsible with the money he has. If we were to ever be married I will not be taking on anyones debt or go into debt because he cant manage his money. And that is whether he makes 100k a year or $100.

    Also it seems successful (financial successful) black men want housewives and/or dont want the susseccful black woman(or black women period). Lets talk about that!

  • Hmm..

    .good point. OJ did marry a waitress. Tiger a nanny a.k.a babysitter. And what does Michael Jordan’s second wife do?

  • Treece

    Exactly. The scenario she described (the author) sounded like something from I movie I just saw. The high earning, ambitious woman will rarely meet a slothful and low earning man in her peer circle anyway. The chances of that even happening is rare b/c most people are friends or acquaintances of people in their same income bracket. People who live similar lifestyles, and have similar life goals, likes/dislikes, and have similar ideas about what they consider “success” are more likely to have successful relationships. When there is a sharp disparity in key values (ones having to do with money/finances, sex, religion) then of course there is going to be difficulty in trying to make the relationship work.

    I don’t think that it’s so important for men to make more money. Not negating the importance of men feeling like they have to be respected, just saying that its more about drive and motivation. If a man has no goals, aspirations or drive to do anything better for himself or achieve his life/career goals then I think that’s where the problem lies. I can’t respect a man like that. Honestly, it’s a problem for anyone. Who wants a lazy, slothful PERSON?? It’s not about money. At least not for me. Its about doing better for yourself and helping to create a comfortable life for you and your family. I’m not about the whole “power couple” thing. Making shitloads of money isn’t really that important to me (not that I would turn down a wealthy man or a winning lottery ticket). I wouldn’t be studying for my Master’s in Counseling Psych right now if it was….But I do want someone who is financially and educationally my equal, or at least on the same page.

  • E!

    “dickmatized into tomfoolery”


  • Anahi

    Ambition, drive and respect should be the three main things you should look for in a male. Don’t settle for anything less.

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