Could you marry for money without love?
January 26, 2009 1:24 PM   Subscribe

I just found out a good buddy of mine's wife married him to essentially get out of poverty....but she has grown to love him. Is this ever ethical?

My wife told me that a good buddy of mine's wife was very poor and married my friend for financial security. She told her that she doesn't think he's attractive and she didn't really like him very much, but now that they're married, she's grown to love him because he's a good man.

Not infrequently, you see stories about the guy who's super persistent in courting his object of desire, finally overcoming her objections and ultimately winning her heart. From the woman's perspective, she generally tells the tale of minimal attraction to outright repulsion, but because of his repeated efforts and persistence, fell in love.

HonestyFilter: Any AskMefi-ers in the same boat? Is this a cultural thing (the couple I talk about are Filipino)? Is this a gender thing (I've rarely heard of a guy with the reverse situation)? Is this a *survival* thing (my wife's response was, "She did what she had to do")?

It's that last question, though, that is somewhat of a dilemma. I won't feel comfortable socializing with her; my wife seems to think that what she did was almost courageous and sees nothing wrong with keeping the friendship as usual.

My plan is to make myself scarcer; I have no plans on telling him.
posted by teg4rvn to Human Relations (60 answers total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: not cool dude -- jessamyn

Whut? Umm, yeah, people hook up for all kinds of reasons. Hope this helps.
posted by telstar at 1:28 PM on January 26, 2009 [13 favorites]

Relationships travel all sorts of paths. If she loves him now, I don't see why you need to treat her poorly or ignore her. At this instant, she is in a loving marriage (presumably like yours) and it shouldn't matter how she got there.
If she was mistreating him or didn't love him now, I might say agree with your avoidance, but really this was in the past and wasn't your business then or now. You're right not to tell the husband, especially because it doesn't matter anymore.
It is weird and unjust to punish someone for the way she felt years ago when she feels differently now.
posted by rmless at 1:33 PM on January 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Two consenting adults can get married for whatever reasons they want. Remember, that in the olden days (whenever those where), marriage was primarily a financial institution, and "love marriages" were rare. And this is still the case in many cultures where arranged marriages exist.

She says she loves him now, so I don't see what the problem is, so long as she's a good, committed spouse. Make yourself scarce? Why? How could this aspect of their relationship, which no longer even exists, have an impact on you at all?
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:37 PM on January 26, 2009 [5 favorites]

What? Why wouldn't you associate with her? She doesn't beat him or steal from him, does she? He loves her; she (now) loves him - how is this a problem?

Zillions of people the world over, throughout history, marry or have married for financial reasons, not emotional ones. Sometimes they marry for political reasons. Sometimes the people who marry for financial reasons come to love each other.

Men, in fact, marry for financial reasons all the time, in a lot of cultures - you've heard of the dowry system, right?
posted by rtha at 1:41 PM on January 26, 2009

Is this a cultural thing (the couple I talk about are Filipino)?

wtf does being filipino have to do with it? a little racist much?

poor people have been marrying rich people since marriage was invented—remember that the concept of marriage as we know it was created for financial, not romantic reasons. european royalty has been marrying off poor princes to the daughters of rich businessmen in order to refill their estate coffers for centuries. rich odious men in the united states have been marrying gold digger trophy wives forever. people get married for all kinds of reasons, none of which are any of your business.
posted by lia at 1:44 PM on January 26, 2009

Marriage for love is a relatively new concept. As in, the last century, and then mostly restricted to Western cultures.
posted by schroedinger at 1:44 PM on January 26, 2009

Maybe he knew she didn’t care for him as much as he cared for her at the time they married, and didn’t mind. Maybe it didn’t occur to him to ask. In any case, they’re happily married now and she loves him now. Isn’t that what matters? It doesn’t sound like she married him intent on taking his money and dumping him. Rather, from what you wrote it sounds like he wanted a wife and thought she’d be a suitable match (whether he defined that as loving her, her being a good person/potential mother, her being attractive, or some other quality), and she wanted a husband and thought he’d be a suitable match (where her definition of “suitable” was primarily measured in financial stability). Not what you (or I) would choose, perhaps, but I think your sense of moral outrage is misplaced. Plenty of people marry for odd, unwise, or even bad reasons. If your friend and his wife have managed to make it work thus far, it’s really not your concern.
posted by Meg_Murry at 1:46 PM on January 26, 2009

It's not unethical, people do this all the time. You probably don't know why your buddy asked this woman to marry him- he could have been lonely, tired of the dating scene, liked her smile and figured what the heck... frankly, as said above, it could be anything, and it's really none of your business, as long as the marriage is doing well now.
posted by oneirodynia at 1:47 PM on January 26, 2009

schroedinger is right: The modern western conception of marriage a relatively new thing and, frankly, its track record isn't stunningly good. Not to say that, as a product of the same modern western culture, I don't share that outlook on what makes a good marriage but I recognize that people have been getting married for all kinds of reasons for a very, very long time.

Do you think all those old ugly rich dudes with young attractive wives married them because they were in love? Or vice versa? And so on.
posted by Justinian at 1:47 PM on January 26, 2009

Please consider the fact that marriage has been a primarily economic institution throughout most of human history. Please don't judge your friend for making a decision that wouldn't even raise eyebrows in most societies.
posted by halogen at 1:47 PM on January 26, 2009

Is this ever ethical?

Does it matter?

Is she happy? Yes. Is he happy? Yes, presumably. Is there, therefore, a problem to be solved? No.

Re your high horse: time to disembark.
posted by ook at 1:52 PM on January 26, 2009 [5 favorites]

I think her story is beautiful. It shows bigness of heart and honesty too. Love is a very complex emotion. This woman has depth to her.

Your friend may have been aware of his wife's feelings from the start, even if her motive was unspoken. People can sense these things, and accept them.

In fact, I find this inversion much more compelling--romantic even--than the usual pattern: "fall crazy in love, get married, desperately try to keep the flame going, oops it went out, now what?"

Yes, it is a very slow making of love for these two.

I would be happy to know both these people, the good man and the loving wife.
posted by subatomiczoo at 1:52 PM on January 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

Question: Could you marry for money without love?

*wtf does being filipino have to do with it? a little racist much?*

as i am not familiar with Filipino culture, I am curious if *arranged*-type marriages are more common or is the perspective of marriage as a financial institution more common. You get the question?

* rich odious men in the united states have been marrying gold digger trophy wives*

This is my point exactly. Who is being odious? In your scenario, the man. I am not so subtly suggesting she may be odious. Can't they both be odious?
posted by teg4rvn at 1:55 PM on January 26, 2009

I don't want to sound harsh, but this really isn't an appropriate place to pass judgment. People get married for all sorts of different reasons. This woman has chosen to be brutally honest about it in a way that's pretty jarring to US/western sensibilities, but it's hard to tell much beyond that.

I mean, if you friend confessed that he had originally married her because she was hot and he was tired of being single, but now he really loves her, would you feel the same repulsion? It's also possible, even likely that he is aware to some degree of her mixed motives.

I definitely think that this is a situation where, if everyone is happy and meeting their responsibilities in the marriage, you should be happy for them and not worry about it.

RE: ethics -- I assume you're asking about ethical issues for her. For you, the only issue would possible arise if she was acting in a way would cause him material harm. Not the case here.

For her, I think there's only an ethical issue at the outset if she actively deceived him about how she felt. Now, I don't even think there's an issue with that. What good does it do him if she loves him now, but admits that she didn't before.
posted by mercredi at 1:55 PM on January 26, 2009

I won't feel comfortable socializing with her; my wife seems to think that what she did was almost courageous and sees nothing wrong with keeping the friendship as usual.

You seem to be afraid of gold diggers. It's a viable fear. For some reason, every ridiculous male in the US seems to be afraid of gold diggers because, lets face it, it's not your compassion, your love, your sexual prowess, or looks that is able to keep women interested in you. No no no. A woman who is interested in you only wants your money except for that special one that reminds you of your mother. And that's the only people who should marry right? Men and their mothers and anything outside of that is totally bizarre, unethical, and those people should be shunned from our community, right?

Do you get all your views on life from bad rap songs?

When you married your wife, I bet you never thought of her financial compatibility with you. You never wondered if she's spend all your money right? Or run huge debt? You never wondered if her moral values included having similar monetary systems as you or at least being able to discuss it? The idea of money never came up and doesn't come up, does it? It's all "love" isn't it? Love is the magic bullet that covers everything and is like a magic wand that makes relationships perfect to the point where everyone poops cookie dough. Right?

Stop holding your wife's friend to such a ridiculous and dishonest pedestal. Throughout it's history, marriage has always had a very economic component attached to it. Even today, in our modern and "progressive" society, women are still told to try and marry rich. Your wife's friend made a vow to be in a committed relationship with her husband - before God, her family, and the state. And through that committed relationship, in all its hardships and problems, the relationship has not only been materially stable but has grown emotionally as well. And the marriage is still successful and lasting and positive. Your judgmental attitude is unwarranted and shows a lack of compassion, understanding, and education about marriage, yourself, and the society around you.

Oh. And don't worry about telling the husband. He already knows why she married him. And he already knows that she loves him. And he is grateful for that.
posted by Stynxno at 1:59 PM on January 26, 2009 [12 favorites]

Doesn't matter - this story has a better ending than her loving him at first, then falling out of love and finding him repulsive, and then getting a divorce.
posted by KateHasQuestions at 2:03 PM on January 26, 2009

On preview:

Question: Could you marry for money without love?

That isn't your question and if it is, this question should be deleted as chatfilter as it has no problem to solve.

From your text, I feel that you real question is you trying to find ammunition to justify your position against your wife. You want to continue to hold your self-righteous view and be right and are looking for justification. And, on that front, you are in the wrong.
posted by Stynxno at 2:05 PM on January 26, 2009 [6 favorites]

Could you marry for money without love?

Sure. Why not?

Getting married involves signing a document and possibly participating in a ceremony. Would I be willing to do that for money (if I wasn't already married)? You bet. How much will you pay me?

In fact, if someone said to my wife, "I'll pay you ten million dollars if you divorce your husband and marry me," I'd be totally into it if she didn't really have to live with the guy. My wife and I could have a ball with ten million!

Lying is pretty much universally unethical (in all common moral systems), so if you're asking whether or not a woman (or man) can ethically deceive her spouse by telling him she loves him when she doesn't, then no, she can't. But the sin there is lying, not marriage.

If you're asking whether marriage-for-money is unethical WITHIN certain specific moral systems (e.g. a specific sect of Christianity), then you need to be more specific.

If you're asking whether many people in US culture look down on those who marry for money, then yes, they do. What does that have to do with ethics?

By the way, I didn't mean to imply that I view my marriage as a farce. I love my wife, and I meant what I said when I took my vows. The marriage was serious to me because... because it was serious to me. It was an arbitrary ritual that I chose to take seriously. That has nothing to do with what marriage means in to people in general or what it might mean to me in the future.

Is it ever ethical to sell art for money?
posted by grumblebee at 2:10 PM on January 26, 2009

Love marriages are a recent phenomenon. Love marriages are also mostly a Western phenomenon. Marriages agreed upon, arranged, or contracted for cultural, political, or financial reasons are and have been the norm for almost all of recorded history.

My foreign relatives find love marriages abnormal and believe it much more healthy for love to grow within a relationship after the commitment has already been made.

We Westerners find golddigging abhorrent, which is mostly a good thing. What you probably mean to ask is whether it's unethical for someone to agree to a marriage, ostensibly contracted for love, but for true reasons of financial security, while deceiving the richer partner about their romantic feelings. You will be reassured to hear that this type of deception is unethical. It is also common as a means of social self-enhancement or basic survival.

Now you should ask yourself what purpose you mean to serve by shunning a now-loving wife who committed an unethical deed in the past that has little bearing on her current devotion to a good man who otherwise seems happy in his marriage.

If your discomfort level with her past misdeed is such that you know you are likely to treat her or him with inexplicable (to them) coldness, then you should avoid her. There may be other pragmatic reasons that justify unexplained avoidance or shunning; I can't think of them at the moment.

I have to wonder if you might be asking this more because of your wife's reaction than because of what your friend's wife did. If that's true, I don't think you would be unjustified in talking this over further with your wife (iff you can do it without instigating a household meltdown; maybe do it in the therapist's office?). It's not wrong to feel uncomfortable with the idea of a marriage built on a past act of deception. But your job at this point is to pick a course of action that results in the best possible outcome, and I don't think that fixating on your own judgment of someone's misdeed is the wisest course to pick.

Insert obligatory line here about how we should all worry about our own misdeeds instead of others' misdeeds, which while not wrong is unlikely to help the OP with his uneasiness.
posted by jeeves at 2:11 PM on January 26, 2009 [2 favorites]

You really have no indication that he didn't know why she married him. Even if you did, someone else's marriage is none of your business. Marriages (like all long-term partnerships) are full of deals and compromises. You aren't privy to why the decisions were made or what the trade-offs were.

I support your decision to make yourself scarce. No one wants to hang out with someone who's judging them.
posted by 26.2 at 2:13 PM on January 26, 2009

Ethical? This was, essentially, the entire function of marriage since the dark ages - the woman marries a man with a good job. In exchange, the man gets a home-cooked meal and sin-free sex. Plus an heir or two.

It shows what privilege you've been raised in, that you find such a thing distasteful, when even when I was growing up in the 80's I was told by my grandmother to find a good, hardworking husband to "take care of me". I guess it just puts women between a rock and a hard place - we are taught, consciously or no to consider our futures, and yet when we do we're criticized as being gold-diggers or manipulative liars.
posted by muddgirl at 2:17 PM on January 26, 2009 [4 favorites]

…now that they're married, she's grown to love him because he's a good man.

you don't feel comfortable socializing with a woman who's emotionally mature enough to recognize a "good man" and to fall in love with that good man? and instead of looking at their marriage for what it is now: one involving a loving wife and a good husband, you want to make things weird because of how it began?

maybe it's you that she should be avoiding because of your judgment and close-mindedness.
posted by violetk at 2:17 PM on January 26, 2009

Goodness, I'd love to have your social circle, where this is shocking to you. In the social circles I'm in and grew up around, the vast majority of the marriages were for anything but love, or at very least love was only one of many more "practical" factors. Love was just what everyone said it was about in public to shut the parents and neighbors up.

Everyone seems to want the same 10%* of people as mates, 90%* aren't going to get them, so shock: a lot of folks are going to end up compromising on who they pair up with. I'm really happy that it worked out for this couple, and I'd love the idea of hanging out with them. People who can make happiness where there wasn't any before are to be treasured.

* = statistics completely made up just now, but tell me I'm wrong
posted by Pufferish at 2:30 PM on January 26, 2009

*even when I was growing up in the 80's I was told by my grandmother to find a good, hardworking husband to "take care of me". I guess it just puts women between a rock and a hard place - we are taught, consciously or no to consider our futures, and yet when we do we're criticized as being gold-diggers or manipulative liars.*

I'm getting the sneaking suspicion that if my question were, "Is it wrong to tell my daughter to marry a good man to "take care " of her, I'd be responded to with cries of "chauvinist!" but when asked from the opposite perspective, i get responses indicating close-mindedness.

I would not be proud of my daughter if she married for this reason. Yes, I am being judgemental.
posted by teg4rvn at 2:38 PM on January 26, 2009

If their marriage was arranged, would you shun her?
posted by CunningLinguist at 2:41 PM on January 26, 2009

I would not be proud of my daughter if she married for this reason.

And that's OK, because of the culture you're raised in, and presumably the one you would raise your daughter in. But it's your friend's wife, not your daughter (or your own wife, for that matter), and I think a little understanding and tolerance goes a long way in social interactions of any sort.
posted by muddgirl at 2:42 PM on January 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

The question (which you seem obviously trying to avoid, what with the whole hypothetical "could you ever marry for money" mid-thread misdirection) is simple: what's it to you?

Seriously, I think you should examine why you feel so invested in a situation that A) isn't that unusual (as others have pointed out); B) isn't hurting anyone; and therefore C) isn't any of your business. I would bet that the self-righteousness you're feeling is covering up some deeper discomfort that actually has nothing to do with your friend or his wife.

AskMe is about finding solutions to problems; your real problem is being judgmental without justification. If I may, I will recommend that you consider how to get over it. Because if you continue to hold on to the petty contempt you clearly feel for your friend's marriage and -- more particularly -- his wife, he'll eventually figure it out (if he hasn't already). And if he's a good husband, he'll choose his wife over you if it comes to that.

At the end of the day, what do you care more about -- your friendship with your buddy, or the pleasure of your judgmental self-righteousness? But remember: either way, your answer says plenty about you, and virtually nothing about your friend or his wife.
posted by scody at 2:42 PM on January 26, 2009 [12 favorites]

It's certainly unethical to misrepresent the reasons you're marrying someone. Whether she did or not is anyone's guess.

It's irrelevant how marriage worked in the past. Marrying someone *now* solely for money makes you a gold digger, by definition.
posted by electroboy at 2:47 PM on January 26, 2009

As long as no one is being coerced, I don't really give a fuck why other people get married, to be honest. Hell, I don't even think there is one definition of "love". So this idea of marrying without love just seems like something I could only define for myself.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 2:49 PM on January 26, 2009

A man who was well-off married a woman in poor financial circumstances, whom he found sexually attractive. Knowing she'd be drawn by the security he offered, he hoped she'd overlook his not-so-good-looks and marry him sexually ever after, as he'd already found that attractive women in good financial shape generally were able to get better-looking as well as financially secure men.

They're each pleased with their choice. They made a good exchange.
posted by mumstheword at 2:51 PM on January 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

Oh, and they're each in love now for reasons far beyond what originally attracted them to one another.
posted by mumstheword at 2:53 PM on January 26, 2009

I have a lot of Filipino friends and they're all middle class/upper middle class.. their parents left the Philippines for better opportunities in the US. In her situation, if she grew up in poverty, in the Philippines.. I don't expect there was much as far as opportunities, especially for a woman. So if her choices are 1) marry for financial security and grow to love the person and have a good life (and help your whole family), or 2) spend your whole life extremely poor with no chance at anything better.. Well?

Other than that, eh, if you want to believe they're odious.. it's a free country so you certainly can believe what you want, but it seems unnecessary, and you'll lose a friendship?
posted by citron at 3:03 PM on January 26, 2009

Who knows how young, immature or judgmental she was when she first thought your buddy wasn't attractive or even likeable? She has matured since then and come to love the man. You can disapprove of her initial deception, but even you have to approve of the outcome, right?

I can see why your wife's assertion that this woman was 'courageous' would bother you. I think she was pragmatic, rather than particularly brave (bravery, to me, would be trying to stand on her own two feet financially, or telling him the truth about why she married him. BTW, do you know that she didn't tell him her true motives?).

So their marriage doesn't fit into your romantic preconceptions. Why are you taking this so personally? Are your afraid that your wife's attitude implies a similarly cavalier approach to your own marriage?
posted by misha at 3:11 PM on January 26, 2009

Is it unethical to bully or push a woman into marrying you? In the (extremely uncharitably described) hypotheticals you lay out in your original question, you have a woman marrying a man she initially doesn't love. But you also have a man being "super persistent" and "overcoming her objections." I can think of some very uncharitable ways to describe that situation too. How about "using your money to buy yourself a wife," or "coercing a woman who had no other options into marrying you?"

If you want to describe staying in a relationship with a wonderful person who makes you feel materially secure as unethical gold-digging, wouldn't it be equally true that a person who finds someone in dire material straits and convinces her, over her initial objections, to marry him is taking advantage of her poverty? Pushing her to do something she wouldn't otherwise do because her choices are limited by her finances seems to me equally unethical, if not more so, if we're going down the path of judging other people's choices.

Luckily, you don't have to decide whether she's a terrible person for wanting a better life (which now includes mutual love with a wonderful man) or he's a terrible person for wanting a woman who needs him (and finding the love and devotion of a woman he cares for). You can, instead, learn that different people form different sorts of relationships and that as long as the people you care about are happy, there's no reason to be judgmental.

If my daughter lived in poverty and built a better life for herself in part by marrying a kind, decent man who wanted to help her be happy and comfortable, I'd be delighted, especially if their relationship grew from a solid partnership to include more romantic love. Would I prefer that she had not been impoverished in the first place? Of course. But not everyone has that privilege.
posted by decathecting at 3:12 PM on January 26, 2009 [7 favorites]

It would be considered unethical by some ethical theorists, but ethical by others. If you side with Kant and believe that it is always morally wrong to use a person as a means to an end, then it will certainly be wrong to marry for money, i.e., to create an intimate relationship with someone not because you care about them, but because you want a more comfortable life. Such an action would explicitly violate Kant's second formulation of the Categorical Imperative.

On the other hand, if you side with John Stuart Mill and believe that it may be morally justified to use someone under certain conditions -- specifically, whenever it maximizes the happiness and welfare of society -- then it is possible for such marriages to be justified. In particular, in your friend's case, it seems as though the arrangement has made both your friend and his wife happier than they would have been otherwise. (It sounds from your post as though they have a successful marriage, if not a passionate one.) That being the case, the Happiness Principle will justify their marriage.

I've simplified both sides, but it should be apparent that these two ways of looking at ethics are incompatible, yet both have good arguments behind them.
posted by voltairemodern at 3:14 PM on January 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

Yes, I am being judgemental.

Agreed. What - exactly - are you looking for in the answer to this question? Permission to be judgmental or to shun her? I'm can't figure out what problem you are trying to solve.
posted by 26.2 at 3:17 PM on January 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

I might add that Kant has more followers in academia, Mill has more followers outside it. Mill's views accord better both with traditional liberal ideals of tolerance and with common sense views about what makes for a good life. For instance, this line from decathecting's post:

You can, instead, learn that different people form different sorts of relationships and that as long as the people you care about are happy, there's no reason to be judgmental.

This is a great example of Mill's perspective at work.
posted by voltairemodern at 3:18 PM on January 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

Guess what? All marriages are financial arrangements. I trade with my wife every day. I provide money (and back rubs), she provides homemaking services. Other people have different agreements with each other.

When we got married she had more resources than I did, by a wide margin, so I guess I was the gold digger at the time and she is now. Maybe we'll trade places again one day?

So, you are offended because this couple have...the same deal that you do?
posted by trinity8-director at 3:26 PM on January 26, 2009

Anecdotal experience to add to the pile-on: I have an aunt-once-removed from the People's Republic of China, whose family had been sent to the countryside during the Cultural Revolution because her father had a college education. Forget being amazed by the variety in US supermarkets or the usual stories you hear about Communists being amazed by American capitalism. She came out of poverty so intense that when she came to visit my parents, she was amazed by toilet paper. Think about that. Toilet paper.

And was she in the US? Because she wanted her future children and her existing siblings to have opportunities. Because she wanted to escape that poverty. So she took a tourist visa and knew that within the ___ weeks that it provided, she would have to find a US citizen and marry him.

And you know what? My family is embarrassed about it only because the guy she ended up marrying in that whirlwind meat market happened to be married to somebody else at the time. He divorced his wife to marry her.

She isn't alone, either. The mother of a very good friend of mine married to get out of a re-education camp. I'm pretty sure my mother married, at least in part, to escape the 10 x 15 apartment she shared with seven other relatives. Seven. So your shock is definitely a cultural thing -- as a Person of Color and Child of Immigrants All That, I think I'm officially allowed to say that yeah, your shock is because you're a privileged person raised in the First World. I'm also guessing that you're not the child of immigrants because the "gee, my parents didn't marry for love, and I don't think they even like each other that much!" revelation strikes 99.999% of kids like me at about, oh, the age of twelve. If not much, much earlier.

(In fact, at a recent wedding of a mutual (white and American) friend, the Chinese friend whose mother married to get out of a re-education camp and I would watch how affectionate the bride's parents were with each other after 50 years of marriage, and we'd crack jokes that amounted to, "So that's what marrying for love looks like!")

How much do you know of the poverty that your friend's wife grew up in? How bad was it? Material deprivation? Food insecurity? Lack of educational opportunity? Because before judging your friend's wife harshly, I'd ask myself some hard questions about what I'd do to make sure that I didn't have to spend the rest of my life in particular flavor of poverty, let alone so that my kids wouldn't have to endure it. And then I'd ask myself whether, if I grew up in a situation where things with that level of misery, whether I'd still have the capacity to be emotionally generous enough to love.

On a semantic note, is it really gold digging if she married to get out of poverty? I've always understood that the term was 1) really, really odious and 2) applied more to people who were comfortable enough as it was, but wanted better. And marrying to trade a Coach handbag for a Hermes Birkin strikes me as infinitely ickier than somebody who marries so that she won't have to worry about where her next meal is coming from.
posted by joyceanmachine at 3:33 PM on January 26, 2009 [14 favorites]

I know several women that married the father of their child because they recognised that they could not afford the child on their own and they knew the father would not provide child support consistently. I know some that got married earlier than they would have like to secure their SO's immigration status, knowing they could divorce if it didn't work out. All of the modern (as in, the bride and groom got the final veto) arranged marriages I know seem to be quite happy. I know two men that are with their wives solely because their wives financially support them, so I guess it isn't always a gender thing.
posted by saucysault at 3:40 PM on January 26, 2009

I've rarely heard of a guy with the reverse situation

You've never heard of a guy getting married to a woman because she's physically attractive and/or will agree to do all the housework and childcare?
posted by transona5 at 3:49 PM on January 26, 2009 [4 favorites]

I'm getting the sneaking suspicion that if my question were, "Is it wrong to tell my daughter to marry a good man to "take care " of her, I'd be responded to with cries of "chauvinist!" but when asked from the opposite perspective, i get responses indicating close-mindedness.

Why do you have this suspicion? From everyone's responses here, I have a much different impression. Why would the same people who've given you knowledgeable responses about the history and cultural differences of marriage, suddenly forget about all that when faced with a similar situation, from a different angle?

You have confused the responses here with "close-mindedness", when what has actually happened, is people don't agree with you. I think you should consider that you're being far more close-minded here.

Also, you're insecure as hell about something. What it is, I can't say, but I bet you can.
posted by Coatlicue at 3:54 PM on January 26, 2009 [5 favorites]

I'm getting the sneaking suspicion that if my question were, "Is it wrong to tell my daughter to marry a good man to "take care " of her, I'd be responded to with cries of "chauvinist!" but when asked from the opposite perspective, i get responses indicating close-mindedness.

first of all, you are (presumably) a white male who has grown up comfortably in a first world country, so for you to pass judgments on the decisions of a woman from another life and economic situation that differs vastly from yours…there is something to the idea of walking in another person's shoes before you can start passing judgments on decisions they make to better their economic situation. the situation you describe isn't what i would consider "gold-digging." gold-digging to me is more about you already live well enough on your own but you just want more, more, more.

second, it seems your sole purpose in coming here with this question is to get some kind of validation for your judgmental stance and since that hasn't happened, you're now accusing everyone of being "closeminded."

third, just a personal antidotal datapoint. my parents emigrated here from a third world country. i am a single woman in my mid-30s, who owns a great house in a desirable neighborhood in a(n albeit) small metropolis in the NW. i have a great career (one that i decided on when i was 6) and make a good living. so far, i've managed to live quite comfortably—but just barely because i'm not the best in terms of dealing with financial matters. my mother, who grew up raising her four siblings in poverty, has told me my entire life that i need to be able to support myself and to not count on relying on finding a husband to help me out financially. have i done that? yes. do i plan on continuing to do that? yes. do i sometimes wish to god that i can find someone to marry so i can feel just a little more financially secure. yes, i do. will i marry someone purely for that reason? probably not—but fortunately, i don't have to. but every once in awhile, the idea of having someone to deal with some of the financial stuff is a bright, shiny, wonderful idea.

so don't judge.
posted by violetk at 4:25 PM on January 26, 2009 [2 favorites]

I've rarely heard of a guy with the reverse situation

Perhaps not, but "gold digging" has historically been as much a male preserve as a female one; in England until the eighteenth century it was not uncommon for aristocratic but impoverished males to abduct and forcibly marry heiresses in order to get their hands on the cash and I'm sure that similar practices exist(ed) in other cultures. Marriage as an institution existed in order to secure fortunes and strengthen ties between families/clans long before it was considered to be anything to do with true love.

I'm in agreement with all those above who point out that your perspective is skewed and that "getting out of poverty" does not necessarily equal "gold-digging". Would it be unethical to you if a man married a woman he didn't really like much but found very physically attractive? If he married someone because he had kids and needed someone to look after them (and him)? Are "mail order brides" ethical, and if not, who's the unethical partner?

In the greater scheme of things, there are many, many things one partner can do which would make another desperately unhappy, and your friend's wife is apparently not doing any of them. She's happy. He's happy. The only person who's unhappy here seems to be you, and that's something you need to work through. It's not her fault.
posted by andraste at 5:08 PM on January 26, 2009

You don't know exactly what was in the man's head, either. He "loved" her before they married...

Sorry to be coarse, but that could for a lot of men translate to "He really liked her tits and ass, and desperately wanted to fuck her."

Of course, as the relationship developed, he also came to love her as a full person, appreciate her personality, etc. But it started because his pee-pee really needed to get some of that.

Now who is in the right?
posted by Meatbomb at 5:32 PM on January 26, 2009

Yes, I am being judgemental.

You have the right to make yourself scarce, and you have the right to be judgmental. But if you are only friends with people who have always made decisions you agree with, you might end up very lonely.
posted by Houstonian at 6:04 PM on January 26, 2009 [4 favorites]

There´s a pretty vocal subset of people in the US these days who are dead set against those with certain characteristics getting married. ¨Not being in love when you get married¨ doesn´t seem to be inspiring any protests though.

Do you feel that this woman´s feelings when she entered into marriage has some bearing on the institution of marriage in general, and more specifically on your own marriage? Does this have something to do with your wife´s comments on this issue?

It´s possible that your wife has heard more of this woman´s story that she hasn´t shared with you. Perhaps that has something to do with your wife finding her actions courageous. I doubt the husband was blind to his wife´s and his own financial situation before they married.
posted by yohko at 7:22 PM on January 26, 2009

My mother always says that she married my father because he was ambitious. She grew up poor, was self-supporting at 16, and married my dad when she was 24. He was just back from the army, and she was dating a friend of his. The friend brought my dad along on a date, and my mom swears that she knew she was going to marry him by the end of the evening, because he had a plan--he intended to go to college so he wouldn't have to be a mechanic his whole life.

My parents married, put my dad through college, are still married 50 some years later. I believe their marriage is loving and supportive, though not perfect. And I've always assumed that there was some element of passion/love that got them to the justice of the peace. But the love story isn't the one my mother tells. The "shared goals" story is the one she tells. The "I knew I'd always be able to buy my children shoes if I married him" story.

You could, I suppose, see my mother as a gold digger, though she did her share to help him get through school. But you could also see her as a pragmatic, not very romantic woman who knew what she wanted--and got it. And I believe both of them have been happy in their marriage.

If your friend and his wife are happily married, I wouldn't worry about how they got that way, personally. I'd be happy for both of them.
posted by not that girl at 7:43 PM on January 26, 2009 [8 favorites]

I must be really sheltered....I can think of only one person I know who actually admitted to not being in love when she got married. Of course, I have wondered about many couples.

If marriage was really historically just a financial arrangement, why are the vows like they are? Why not just "I promise to contribute to my spouse's financial and material well-being til death do us part?" In which case, it seems that cheating should be allowed.

How about those tiresome magazine articles that assume everybody was madly in lust/love when they got married, so they talk about getting the spark "back" in your relationship. Meanwhile, according to this thread, most people never even had it in the first place!
posted by serena15221 at 8:57 PM on January 26, 2009

Even if she didn't at first, she now loves and respects your friend because he's a good man, and she probably gives him the companionship and even "mothering" that many men crave. If they're both happy, what business is it of yours or anyone elses?
posted by Oriole Adams at 9:46 PM on January 26, 2009

serena15221: marriage vows have also changed over the centuries, and cheating has been a no-no partly because marriage was historically also about securing bloodlines and keeping property in the family (rather than passing it on to some other bloke's child by your wife's adulterous affair...)

I think it's exaggerating to say it's been historically "just a financial arrangement". Marriage is not, and never has been, all about any one thing. Check out the wikipedia article, it's quite interesting.
posted by andraste at 10:23 PM on January 26, 2009

Here's something to ponder:

Maybe you're unwilling to be around your friend's wife because you're unhappy with your own marriage. Her story makes you uncomfortable because she went into marriage with motives that didn't match your romantic ideals, and not only did she escape poverty, she found love. Meanwhile your own "love" marriage isn't working out the way you wanted, and it seems unfair to you that friend's wife has everything she wants from her marriage and you don't. And for whatever reason, it's too hard to process those feelings right now, so you tell yourself it's a matter of "ethics" that makes you uncomfortable.
posted by creepygirl at 6:59 AM on January 27, 2009 [2 favorites]

"I have no plans on telling him."

I think there is a huge misunderstanding in this thread. The OP is assuming the husband thought his wife loved him when they married, implying she said as much. Everyone is assuming the husband knew his wife was marrying solely for security. The OP seems to believe otherwise. Yes, of course there's nothing unethical about marrying for security if your spouse knows about it. Why does everybody think that's the question?
posted by gratuitous1 at 9:11 AM on January 27, 2009

Travel abroad and talk to people about marriage. Western ideals on marriage aren't universal, and judging by the shit record the West has when it comes to marriage, probably aren't ideal.
posted by chunking express at 9:12 AM on January 27, 2009

Why the hell do you care? They love each other now and it worked out, and she was just being honest with her friend. ??

And the point's been hammered to the ground already, but yeah, marrying purely out of love is a new, really quite new, concept. And other motives have been at play even more recently than this concept has been around--at least up into the 1950s, you had to be able to get along but it was unspoken a man's ability to support the wife and potential kids was a given for most middle class people.
posted by ifjuly at 9:16 AM on January 27, 2009

"I have no plans on telling him."

gratuitous1: I read that to mean that the OP had no plans on telling his friend why he (the OP) was becoming scarcer -- i.e., that he was planning on just shunning them without an explanation.
posted by scody at 9:19 AM on January 27, 2009

Well it appears I accomplished exactly what I wanted when I posted (what I obviously knew to be) a contentious question. I left out some details initially..simply because I wanted to see how much people were willing the assume about my friend's relationship (and my problem with it) and because everyone hates the super-long AskMeFi question. The additional details are to follow. To those who states it's none of my business, I answer, "Of course it isn't." To those who ask if this has anything to do with my marriage, I answer, "Of course it does." Indeed, I am miffed with my wife thinking this woman's actions are *courageous* But as I often do with my family strife, I don't immediately knee-jerk get into a fight with the spouse for sport; I sometimes get some outside counsel...step in AskMeFi. As a result I will not have as hard of a line discussing these matters with my wife.

Finally, the additional details:

The conversation where this woman confided in my wife about her marriage was not the expose of a love story that so many respondents fantasized it to be. In fact, it was amongst a smattering of complaints ("There's no way I'm having another child with this man.., he's too tough on our son.") that culminated in the confession of her history with my friend. *Growing* to love him was italicized initially to denote a bit of sarcasm not emphasis. And, FWIW, he's upset about her not wanting to have more kids.

In the end, I believe many posters are correct and this probably represents chatfilter material. Perhaps the moderators should ax the thread. respectfully, teg4rvn
posted by teg4rvn at 9:23 AM on January 27, 2009

So, are you saying you left out details and deliberately misrepresented the story in order to troll AskMe? Good luck with getting good faith answers to your questions in the future. Quite a lot of people spent time posting here, and your most recent response sounds like sour grapes, to be honest. FWIW, I really enjoyed people's input. It's too bad you had to bash your own thread instead of showing some appreciation.
posted by oneirodynia at 10:24 AM on January 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

teg4rvn, your latest response smacks, like oneirodynia, of sour grapes. You say you intentionally left out information and then you seem irked by the responses to what info you did provide. And I don't understand why you're still "miffed" that your wife had a different opinion about something that ultimately has nothing to do with your marriage. I'm assuming she didn't marry you for money, so how does it matter?

But as I often do with my family strife, I don't immediately knee-jerk get into a fight with the spouse for sport; I sometimes get some outside counsel...step in AskMeFi.


This is not going to help you answer your question or stop feeling miffed. And even with your additional information, I still fail to see how the issue is anything beyond a cultural difference. Whether or not she wants children isn't your concern, either.
posted by katillathehun at 10:52 AM on January 27, 2009

posted by chunking express at 11:06 AM on January 27, 2009

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