How much do class differences matter to you when it comes to romantic relationships?

Cross-class relationships aren't always easy.
Cross-class relationships aren't always easy.

I'd like to think they do, even though I think I personally have way too much pride to try it.

I know this for a fact because just a few weeks ago I met a snack of a man on a dating app and was instantly attracted to him - that is until I learnt that he was moneyed. 

Don't get me wrong, of course I'm looking for someone who's moneyed, but just not so moneyed that I'd feel inadequate or obligated to live up to his financial standards. 

I mean, I just cannot keep up with pricey vacations, expensive and frequent outings and not too mention, meeting the parents who would probably (this is a big assumption) look at me with disapproval because I'm simply "not good enough" for their son.

And so after a while of contemplating whether or not I should lie about my background - as in, pretend to be more well off than I actually am - I decided the relationship just would not be worth pursuing if I felt so uncomfortable about my humble upbringing that I had to lie about it.

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As a child, fairy tales such as Cinderella and Aladdin had me believing that love can exist and thrive even between the most unlikely of people, but older me just can't seem to shake a harsh feeling of inadequacy when it comes to dating guys my age who are in a better financial situation than me.

My friend *Taylor, however, is a die hard believer in "love trumps all" and had no qualms dating a guy who is a lot less fortunate than she was, solely because she believes in his future.

I think it's worth noting that perhaps being the "fortunate one" in this situation is considerably easier than being the not-so-fortunate one, but that's besides the point.

Recently, Taylor confided in a few of us with a little problem she's been having in her relationship.

Well it's not that little.

Her boyfriend *Dylan, an engineering student, who I have previously explained, hails from really humble beginnings. This means things are not exactly ideal at his house and austerity is nearly an everyday part of his life.

Anyway, Taylor explained that her bed had been affected with bed bugs that she contracted from Dylan's bed after a sleepover, and she did not know how to approach him about it out of fear that she'd offend him... naturally so.

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Except this is not the first unhygienic thing that's happened to her at his house; a few months prior, she found a fly in her meal, much to her disgust.

While we can't exactly blame being poor on the bad cases of lack of hygiene in Dylan's family household, it does play a huge role.

Taylor obviously no longer feels comfortable eating, sleeping or even visiting Dylan, but at the same time, doesn't want to hurt his feelings or come across as snobbish, since she lives in a pristine house on the opposite side of Dylan's slum.

Myself, Taylor and Dylan's situation had me thinking a lot about cross-class dating and how people find ways to make it work, and so I gathered some information from other young South Africans.

Here's what they had to say:

"I think people should stick to their own class to avoid certain complicated feelings that come with cross-class dating"

Dating across class means introducing both people in the relationship to a whole lot of new and not necessarily good experiences. From my previous relationship, I could tell my financial situation made my girlfriend uncomfortable. My family and friends spent money - in her words - "recklessly" and as a result, I felt bad every time I bought anything she thought unnecessary even though I could easily afford it. I also saw myself becoming her entire household's financial saviour and the pressure of it all resulted in the relationship collapsing
Kyle, 28

"I think it really just depends on the two people and how understanding they both are of each other's situations"

I don't think someone's financial situation should be the be-all and end-all of a relationship. Both partners must compromise and do their best to understand each other's situations without placing any judgement on each other. At the end of the day the relationship should be more about their love and not their class differences.

"Cross-class dating is a no from me"

This might be because I purposely avoid dating people from classes that are too different than mine, but I just think there's too much that goes into dating someone who might not be used to the things I'm used to and vice versa. I think to avoid uncomfortability, people should just stay in their lanes
Kiara, 25

While it seems most of these people are like me and don't think cross-class dating is for everyone, I decided to contact Johannesburg-based psychologist David Wilson, who shares his insights on cross-class relationships, and how to navigate your way through them.

David explains that people often veer away from cross-class relationships for a number of reasons; fear of judgment or not being accepted are some of these reasons.

"People are more often than not, afraid that they might be seen as less adequate of a partner because of their poor financial background. They're also worried that their significant other's immediate family members might not think they're good enough.

"This is challenging because these thoughts result in the person distancing themselves from their partner instead of speaking up about their fears, which I suggest they do," he says.

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David also suggests that couples speak about their common values with each other in order to establish an understanding of each other and what they are in the relationship for.

"Discussing core values with each other can help set the tone of the relationship from the start. Once the couple knows that they share similar or the same values, it will build a strong foundation.

"It will also allow the couple to realise that class doesn't really matter in relationships where a couple really love and understand each other."

Lastly, David says couples should ease each other into the relationship since there might be things that neither are used to.

"Couples should try to take things slowly and ease into the relationship and new experiences, teaching each other as they go.

"For instance, if a woman were to take her partner to a really expensive restaurant, something that he is clearly not used to, she should invest some time into teaching them restaurant etiquette or how to pronounce difficult words on the menu.

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"This should be done subtly and lovingly to avoid offending them," he adds. 

"Similarly, if a women were to take her well off partner to her perhaps overly crowded house for dinner, she should inform her partner of what to expect so that they're not completely overwhelmed by everything."

David ends off by reminding couples that essentially, communication is the key to any successful relationship. He also says to be mindful of exactly how a message is conveyed especially in particularly sensitive [financial] situations.

In the meantime, what are your experiences of cross-class dating? Is this something you consider to not even be a conversation or is it a no from you?

We'd love to hear from you. Send any comments or stories to us here.

*Names have been changed.

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