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December 10, 2013

For Love or Money?

Julia Scheeres wanted a provider, but she fell in love with a man who earned way less than she hoped and drove a beat-up pickup. The sex was great, but how much was true love worth?

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The first time we slept together, it was sublime. Afterward, as we stared at the ceiling in wonderment, we both acknowledged that it was the best we'd ever had. Everything about him turned me on: his warm, broad chest; the way he called me "doll"; how he always seemed to be happy. But he was still a penniless graduate student, and I grew irritated when he complained about high menu prices or ordered the cheapest house red. Financial security became even more crucial a few weeks later, when I quit my job to work on my first book. I had no idea whether I'd be able to sell it before my meager savings evaporated. Tim's money worries only exacerbated my own.

At first Tim joked about our situation, but then he got fed up. "Look, I'm 36. My biological clock is ticking," he said as we cuddled post-sex one day. "I want a wife. I want kids." He accused me of being a "situational feminist"—only interested in gender equality when it benefited me. I knew he was right, but I turned away and refused to continue the conversation. He broke up with me the next day.

Two weeks went by and I felt like I was going through withdrawal. I didn't just miss the sex; I missed our friendship, our laughter, our discussions of politics and literature. Somehow, quietly, I'd fallen in love with him. I thought about my moneyed childhood and how unhappy and lonely I was for much of it. What I craved as a girl was love, which Tim offered in abundance.

I sent him a groveling e-mail. "Could we just meet for coffee? We don't have to talk," I said. My heart felt sore from missing him. My pulse quickened when he walked in. He told me he was dating a classmate; I was furious that he'd moved on so quickly and stormed out in a fit of jealousy. He trailed me to my car. "But you didn't want me," he said, his voice almost breaking. Then: "I couldn't stand it anymore because … I love you." Something relaxed inside me, and I buried my face in his chest. I knew he was the best man for me, no matter how little money he made.

With my commitment to Tim came a commitment to my career: I'd need to work harder to afford our dreams of buying a house in a decent neighborhood and taking vacations to Spain. Sometimes I feel a twinge of jealousy when my friends who married rich talk about second homes in Tahoe. That's the life my ex-fiancé offered me. But I also know the price many pay: Their husbands work late, so the bulk of the child care and housework falls on them. At our place, you'll find Tim cooking supper or dancing with the two little girls we now have. And while living on a shoestring budget can be stressful, we know of a fantastic tension reliever—one that deepens and renews our relationship every time we do it.





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