The Truly Rich Lady's Guide: Etiquette for Marrying Someone Richer Than You
Do you want to ask our resident TRL anything? E-mail C.C. Coo at [email protected].
Let me cut to the chase: I am marrying up. But don't think that I planned this (i.e. I am not a gold digger!). I didn't even know that she was "up" and I was “down” until we returned to the Philippines.
I met Miss Up in Canada, where she was a sous chef at a neighborhood restaurant and I was a graduate student, finishing my MA degree in Economics. We fell in love over spaghetti and a common fascination for Star Wars. We are both geeks (I know, so corny)! Upon our return to Manila, I was surprised to find out that she was adjacently related to one of the Old Families. I should've known something was up when we were picked up by a souped-up SUV (the doors were bulletproofed) plus a crew of personal bodyguards.
I have come to realize that having tons of money is trouble. Her family is currently embroiled in a drawn-out battle over who owns what. I just don't know if I can be a part of this. I'm just a guy who fell in love with a girl. Help me, C.C.
Dear Mister Down:
How wonderful! An upstairs-downstairs drama is so romantic! But I am not implying you are the servant and she, Lady Mary. But you might as well be, because, when it comes to relationships, nothing makes things more apparent (as in your “down-ness” and her “up-ness”) than money.
It’s a problem when you don’t have much of it and it’s also a problem when you have way too much of it! I know very well because I was dumped because (I suspect) I did not have enough. But let’s talk about you.
Two truths: Life is seldom like the Happily Ever Afters in movies. And the chasm between distant worlds is difficult to bridge.
The princess and the pauper will not end up together. Cinderella and Prince Charming will eventually get a divorce (he gets to keep everything). These lovers will find out that, beyond the electricity of the first kiss, their beliefs, traditions, and preferences are just too different.
Here’s a true story from my wonderful days at uni. At the caf, over salads and Cokes, Ana, our friends, and I were discussing a serious problem: “Si-si!,” said Ana. “I can not find the perfect gift for my little sister!” That perfect gift was, of course, a little pony. Ana’s little sister’s previous horse, Tammy, had to be sent away because it had an unfortunate case of alopecia. Well, we all did our best to help poor Ana and suggested some of the best local breeders plus a few horse ranches in nearby countries that could ship a Black Beauty safely and speedily to her.
Meanwhile, out of the corner of my eye, I spied Jhanver, Ana’s new boyfriend—someone from outside our circle—sporting what I could only describe as a dumb look on his face. He looked lost and uncomfortable and could not contribute anything to our very important conversation about the giving of horse presents.
The unconventional pair lasted three more weeks. Ana, the secret heiress of a mining fortune, gave it a fair try, but in the end, “...We just didn’t have a lot to talk about. He’s cute though.”
You see what I mean? It is like you are a Martian and she and her family are Venusians. How are you going to talk to each other? Googly eyes won’t cut it when her Venusian mother (Mrs. V) is staring you down because you just popped a slice of brie into your mouth using your fingers.
Oh, it can be the little things that will cause heartache. You can be annoyed that she refuses to attend an open-air concert of your favorite ‘90s band, because “there are no chairs.” And she can be annoyed that you are wistfully eyeing a logo belt, thinking that it must be the height of sophistication. The seeds of resentment will grow, and you will drift ever so slowly away from each other.
But don’t listen to me and my frozen heart! I will, for a moment, suspend my bias against romance, and admit that yours must be true.
You didn’t fall for her because she is Miss Moneybags. You fell in love with her over spaghetti... in Canada. How very... Canadian. (And very Lady and the Tramp, which I have to point out is about a sheltered Cocker Spaniel and a stray mutt. I am not saying you are a mutt!) And how very normal and pure. Surely, it will work out.
Sometimes, by the grace of God and against all odds, an up-down romance does end well. Do you know of this lady called Catherine Middleton who married a prince? Or was it a duke? Anyway, I hear she is happily married with two kids and another on the way. I also hear that her grandmother-in-law, a fine but fearsome lady who loves to bet on horse races, lends this Cathy her old jewelry. How close they must be! Theirs is a story to reflect upon.
But a question nags my mind: Why did your girlfriend lie? Why didn’t she tell you that she is, in fact, loaded? Does she have a painful experience about an up-down affair in her past? Is your girlfriend Ana, lover of horses and men whose names have unneeded Hs?
As for the money, my advice is to not get involved. Let them squabble about the riches. Keep a job and be financially independent—that is, if you are allowed to work. Some Truly Rich marriage contracts forbid spouses to do so.
The best thing to do is to provide support, in the form of hugs, when and if needed. I would also advise against offering advice because Big Money is unwieldy and complicated. I, myself, wouldn’t even know how to tackle a problem such as this. (That’s why we have advisors.)
In the end, I am sorry to say that a relationship such as yours will be fraught with challenges, and they will be about, not really the money or the inequality of your purses, but all the other issues that come from it.
What I detest the most are the whispers from the rich relations and rich friends. These can pierce your heart and make you look like that guy with a dumb look on his face.
In the very rare moments when I would doubt my relationship with my super loaded ex or feel low because of a snide comment made by his mother, he used to take me in his Beyond Truly Rich arms and, with a voice so low and deeply honeyed, whisper into my heart: “Why are you worrying about them, Si-si? They are not the ones you are kissing at night.”
And then he would press his lips to mine.