The Dominion Post
THE COST OF A FINE ROMANCE
It pays to spend on roses . . . and a prenup, writes Richard Meadows.
HE’S A Kiwi finance company executive worth a few million. When he meets a new girl, he thumbs through his diary, and circles the date six months away. On reaching the fateful day, he methodically breaks up with her.
What’s he scared of? The mythical ‘‘gold-digger’’.
Her claws and fangs are hidden by a veil of glamour. She bleeds her victims dry before taking them to the cleaners for half of anything that is left.
There are legitimate ways to avoid shacking up with someone who’s only after your money.
But first, some background on the sexist stereotype.
The gold-digger label is a pejorative aimed squarely at women, says Dr Vivienne Elizabeth, senior lecturer in sociology at the University of Auckland. ‘‘The sting in that is that we as a society have blocked women from avenues to actually be as well-off as men,’’ she says.
‘‘Historically, and even arguably today, we have a family structure and economic structure that privileges men, their work and their capacity to earn money.’’
A couple of hundred years ago, it made sense for women to marry upwards, says Elizabeth.
‘‘Marriage was much more about the production of an economic institution, with a very clear division of roles. In the upper class it was also used to secure political alliances.’’
Over time, romantic love has become the basis of finding a mate in most cultures. ‘‘What we’re seeing much more is people marrying like-for-like,’’ says Elizabeth. ‘‘They’re marrying people who are very similarly positioned, economically.’’
But that doesn’t mean women are on equal footing today. Only 11 per cent of the directors of New Zealand’s listed companies are female. Not counting couples and families, only three women made the cut for last year’s Rich List.
Evolutionary psychology provides another perspective on gold-diggers. Men are supposedly hardwired to look for fertile mates, as judged by physical appearance.
Women are wired to find men capable of supporting them and their offspring, as judged by the fatness of their wallets.
While some studies into partner selection have supported the theory, men and women of modern civilisation are, of course, capable of rising above their animal instincts. And in practice, gold-diggers can be either sex.
There might not be a handy label to describe it, but Elizabeth reckons there is probably an un-recognised phenomenon of men taking financial advantage of their spouses.
‘‘Anecdotally, a large number of women who have separated from men are talking about financial abuse,’’ she says.
Either they are blocked from working, he has hidden his assets from her, or he has tried to take a cut of the assets that she had before the relationship.
There are plenty of high-profile examples of men getting payouts from their mega-rich partners. Guy Ritchie walked away with between £50 million and £60m (NZ$103m$123m) after Madonna gave him the flick.
There is no doubt that an acrimonious break-up can spell financial ruin. Protecting your fortune from a fraudulent faker – whether male or female – is a good idea, but not always easy.
Don’t be surprised if the Black Caps are given a strict dose of antibiotics ahead of the Cricket World Cup next week.
Rather fittingly facing off against Sri Lanka on Valentine’s Day, the players have all been given lectures on the dangers of ‘‘honey traps’’.
Apparently, attractive women will try and put them in compromising positions and then blackmail them on behalf of international match-fixing rings.
A recent study found men tend to co-operate with physically attractive women ‘‘without careful evaluation of their trustworthiness’’.
Almost 100 men played a trust game with eight young ladies, not knowing they had all already chosen to betray them.
However, the blokes that had taken a course of minocycline, an antibiotic, were able to keep their heads and avoid the honey trap altogether.
Short of permanently popping pills, this is not a great solution to weed out gold-diggers.
If you are buying a Valentine’s Day gift for a new lover next week, you could try putting some extra thought into it.
Another study called ‘‘Costly but worthless gifts facilitate courtship’’ used mathematical modelling to simulate the dating experience.
The best outcome was when men gave their simulated partners ‘‘extravagant gifts’’ that cost a lot of money, but had no real value. Think flowers or a flashy dinner, rather than jewellery or money.
The authors found an expensive gift acted as a credible signal of the man’s intentions.
‘‘At the same time, its lack of intrinsic value to the female serves to deter a ‘gold-digger’, who has no intention of mating with the male, from accepting the gift,’’ they wrote.
On to the most practical measures. Selina Trigg, director of Family Law Results, says people used to think you could just stick everything in a trust to protect it from a relationship bust-up.
‘‘The prevalent view these days is you need more than one moat around your castle,’’ she says. ‘‘Usually I’m advising clients to couple it with a contracting-out agreement.’’
In common parlance, that is a prenup. They are on the rise in New Zealand , and they can be specially designed to weed out moneygrubbers.
Trigg says ‘‘sunset clauses’’ come in all sorts of variations. Assets are often kept separate at first, with an agreement to pool them when the couple marries, has a child together, or stays together for a certain number of years.
Rapper Kanye West is a good example. His views on gold-diggers are well known after he released his 2005 song of the same name:
‘‘If you ain’t no punk, holla we want prenup . . . It’s something that you need to have, ’cos when she leave yo ass she gonna leave with half.’’
There was no surprise when his union with reality TV superstar Kim Kardashian reportedly came with strings attached; specifically, a clause paying her US$1 million for every year of marriage in the event of a split.
It might not be romantic, but it sure beats antibiotics, dubious giftbuying behaviour, or an endless series of relationships cut off every six months.