Ask Dr. V, Am I a Gold Digger?

Venus Nicolino holds a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology. Her column addresses Love, Life and Relationships.

Dear Dr. V,

I am a 35-year-old woman, divorced with a 4 year old son. Marrying for “love” didn’t work out so well with the exception of my beautiful son. One of my main criteria for meeting a man this time around is that he must be financially well-off. I don’t see anything wrong with this but recently my good friend called me a “gold digger!”

Why is it openly acceptable for a man to want a woman who is beautiful i.e., big breasted, skinny, clear skin, etc. … but when a woman says what she wants from a man, she’s condemned! It seems very unfair but we all see it and accept that a woman is a “gold digger” if she expresses a “want” but a man is blameless for wanting a beautiful woman. For a slightly older woman with a child it’s even worse — I’m called a “cougar” and a “gold digger” but men seem to get away shameless and nameless for dating younger beautiful women.

Should I feel bad for wanting a “good life” for my son? Should I feel bad that I want my son to have what I didn’t: a good education, nice home, etc. Why aren’t women allowed to set a “standard??”

Erinn from LA

Dear Erinn,

I feel your frustration with the double standard in play here, and I agree with you that, like in so many other areas of our culture, the deck is stacked against women. I wish I had an answer for you as to why. I have a feeling it’s tied up with the complex social and psychological reasons why women have only been allowed to vote in this country since 1920 (less than a hundred years!), why women still don’t get equal pay for equal work in the workplace and so on.

I can tell you that there is nothing wrong with wanting the best for your son. Along with the idea of this double standard you mentioned comes what could be seen as a false duality; a false choice you have to make. However, when we consider these notions of “gold-digging” objectively, it becomes quite apparent how silly they are.

According to those who would call you a “gold digger,” your only choices are to remain on your own as a single mom, or marry someone of little or no financial means; all to prove you’re not marrying for money. Yes, this makes perfect sense (I hope you’re laughing with me). It goes without saying that the judgment of others shouldn’t figure in to the decisions in our personal lives, but when the feelings and motives that come from our deepest self, from the bottom of our hearts, are called into question and ridiculed, we can become filled with self-doubt and begin to second guess that small voice inside, the one we really never need to question.

In your case, I think there is a very basic survival level to your question and your internal process on this issue, and it’s something we all share, especially as parents. To seek out the partner who can best provide and protect the family unit is a deep-rooted instinct that stretches back through the millennia to our cave dwelling ancestors. As a good mother, you are, of course, factoring the welfare of your child into this matter, and I applaud you for this. Too often single parents attempt to conduct their romantic lives in a vacuum, without considering the ripple effect it can have on their kids. So quite the opposite of what you’ve been hearing, I think you are doing right to be taking into account some of the more pragmatic aspects of any possible relationships. Absolutely you should set a standard for the kind of person you’re looking to be with. What I would be careful of is allowing the financial aspect to become the only standard for the relationship that you consider, without viewing any possible partner in their totality as an individual.

However, I also wonder if maybe you’re selling yourself a bit short in how you perceive the situation. Times have changed a great deal in the past few decades. Who’s to say that you couldn’t provide and maintain a comfortable life for you and your son on your own, independently? Think of the lions of Africa; who’s out there hustling and hunting, bringing food back to the family every day? It’s the Mama Lions! So there is a precedent, not to mention all successful, working and single human moms. I truly stand in awe of the amazing work they do just by being mothers every day.

I think it’s also worth saying that when you are coming from a place of strong independence, it yields its own gift of firm self-confidence, which is a very attractive trait. “Marrying for Money” wouldn’t even be an issue, because it would be apparent to anyone that you can take care of yourself and are not looking to open any matrimonial gold mines. Most importantly, from your letter you sound like someone with depth, and anyone in a relationship with you would know that you were not just “in it for the money,” regardless of how those on the outside might perceive it.

It is very easy for those who are not in a particular situation to pass judgment on someone who is, and to rattle on about the way things ought to be done. As a mother, I’m sure you’ve heard your share of unsolicited advice on how to raise your kid. These opinions are worth as much as they cost you, and I hope you’ll be able to dismiss them with ease, without calling your own heart into doubt. Remember, you are not only seeking a husband for yourself, but a father for your son. Strive to keep your perception of the men you will meet in balance, listen to your heart when it speaks, and I truly believe you will find yourself crossing paths with the man you’re seeking, and who in turn, is also seeking you.

Dr. V.

Note: All information in the Ask Dr. V column is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnosis and treatment, please feel free to email Dr. V, or consult your doctor.

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