When Marrying For Money Is Right: How To Marry Rich

Updated November 02, 2021
Medically Reviewed By: Richard Jackson

As unique and diverse as individuals are, so too are marriages. Marriage may often be viewed as a one-size-fits-all arrangement, complete with love, romance, a shared life. However, some marriages have different dynamics. One type of conscious coupling may involve the goal to “marry rich.” However, while there is no shame in marrying someone who is financially wealthy, it’s important to know that for the most part, as The Beatles famously sang, “Money can’t buy me, love,” and, as the old saying goes, “Money can’t buy happiness.”

 An Age-Old Practice

As taboo as the idea of marrying for money may seem, unions based on financial connections have taken place throughout history. Kings and queens often united for the sole purpose of bringing their kingdoms together. A woman was often seen as “marriage-material” based on her dowry, the amount of money or property she (or her family) brought to the marriage. Even Jane Austen's character Elizabeth Bennet, from the classic Pride and Prejudice, describes the turning point of falling in love with her beau when she visited his sizeable estate. But being drawn to his fancy estate, it turns out, was symbolic of having her heart won by a person she loved, not simply an attraction to being rich and fancy. 

In Elizabeth Bennet’s 18th century, when women didn't have today’s work opportunities, “marrying well” may have given wives a sense of financial security. Fast forward to the 21st century. Now, when women and men can both be employed, they can be financially independent and might not feel compelled to depend on anyone else for economic support. But does that mean it’s wrong to want a financially beneficial marriage? Not necessarily, but while financial stability is linked to emotional wellness, marrying for wealth alone may lead to emotional bankruptcy.

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Marrying Rich: Does it Lead to Happiness?

There is no definitive answer to that question, though it is widely understood that money can’t buy happiness. There are probably two better questions to ask about marriage and money:

1) Does financial wealth make you happier personally and in marriage? It turns out that the extremely wealthy are not immune to problems. While money eases some aspects of life, it can make other areas more difficult:

  • Isolation and relationships are concerns for the wealthy: Research shows that a frequent concern that wealthy people have is uncertainty about relationships. The higher their wealth, the more isolated wealthy individuals tend to feel. Many find that people tend to think that with their financial stability or monetary fortune, problems must be few. The financially well-off may worry that their friendships and relationships aren’t genuine. The feelings of isolation and lack of support or meaningful connections can damage mental health. So, if a person “marries for money,” but they or their spouse or both feel lonely in the relationship, money may not be worth much.
  • The financially well-off have significant worries about their children and wealth: For the very wealthy, research shows that the greatest aspiration for many is not to accumulate more wealth but to be a good parent. People of higher wealth tend to worry about their children leading meaningful lives, finding motivation, feeling non-financial connections with others, and not being taken advantage of or targeted by potential spouses or friends who find money alluring. This is a consideration if a married or intending-to-marry couple of high net worth sees children in their future.
  • Different values and beliefs about money can cause stress in a marriage: This challenge can come into play for high-wealth couples. No matter how much money one or both have if they have different values about how money should be spent (regarding both themselves and any children) or saved, disagreements can harm the marriage.
  • Higher incomes may be related to increased happiness, but perhaps only to a certain point: Research shows that emotional well-being doesn’t usually increase beyond an income of $75,000 a year. However, additional research suggests that emotional wellness does not necessarily plateau at $75,000 but may continue to increase as income increases. This could be the case for several reasons. For instance, those with more money may have the resources to set and meet goals that make them feel fulfilled (like joining a gym to improve physical health or taking a long-dreamed-of trip) or may find satisfaction in being able to make charitable contributions. So, if you marry for wealth, your finances may link to your happiness, but spending in ways that you find fulfilling might be a better way to view the situation.

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  1. If money isn’t the key to a happy marriage (and to personal happiness), what is?
  • Positive interactions are important for a fulfilling marriage. Research shows that couples in lasting, satisfying marriages have far more positive than negative interactions. Negativity, such as criticizing and demanding, leads to stress and disconnection. On the other hand, positive interactions can strengthen marriage. Positive interactions include being a good listener and communicator and taking joy in others’ achievements.
  • Empathy is a characteristic of happy marriages. Empathy means being able to understand and share the feelings of another. When spouses perceive that their partner truly understands them, they are more likely to feel content.
  • Commitment to the relationship by both spouses is linked to a successful marriage. When both spouses are committed to doing the marriage work, even in the face of obstacles, they are more likely to have a lasting, more satisfying marriage. Additionally, if each partner is committed to their own needs and balances their individuality with the needs of the spouse and the couple, they’re more likely to be happier.
  • Acceptance is another key to a successful marriage. Accepting a spouse for who they are not only helping the relationship but is also linked to spouses being willing to change if the need arises.
  • Mutual love and respect are correlated to relationships being happier, stronger, and lasting longer. So, a marriage for money without love and respect may be less likely to result in a happy couple or two happy individuals.
  • Good conflict management can be important for a satisfying marriage. Conflict in marriage is virtually unavoidable. How conflict is managed is related to marital satisfaction. Interestingly—and perhaps unsurprisingly—money is often the biggest source of marital conflict, no matter how much or how little the couple has. Disagreements can range from spending habits, savings goals, control over finances, and values and beliefs about money.
  • Research shows a specific circumstance when money helps a marriage: Financial stress can prevent a successful marriage. Research shows that couples with no assets are seventy percent more likely to divorce within three years than couples with $10,000+ in assets. So, while wealth does not guarantee happiness, having some assets may help marriages. Research also shows that marriages of lower-income couples were more likely to be hurt by stressful life events and mental health concerns than marriages of the more affluent couples.

Emotions and Money

Money—whether you have a gold mine or pocket full of pennies—can elicit strong emotions. Some emotions commonly tied to money may be magnified if a spouse marries for wealth. Fear, guilt, shame, and envy are commonly linked to finances. A person with or without wealth may feel shame for spending unwisely or not managing their money more carefully. A person with wealth may feel guilty for what they have and what others don’t. For a spouse who marries for money, guilt may increase if they begin to question the authenticity of their marriage. Fear can also be a strong emotion related to money. Fear of losing money is common, as is fear of what a person’s financial future may hold. Marrying out of financial fear can lead to relationship challenges, self-doubt, doubt about the relationship, and regret. Looking closely at motivations for marriage and what it takes to form a mutually respectful, authentic relationship that is healthy for both spouses can help make the important life decision about marrying.

Is Marrying for Money a Good Idea?

Reasons for marrying are personal ones. Relationships are subjective. However, marrying just for money will likely not result in greater happiness for an individual or a couple. While financial stability can be good for mental health and, conversely, financial stress has negative impacts on well-being, there is virtually no indication that happiness and happy marriages come from financial wealth alone. If you don’t have a good connection with your spouse, you will likely feel less happy and less fulfilled, regardless of having the freedom to spend, buy, and save what you want.

Discussing finances can be important before and during the marriage. Communicating honestly with a potential spouse about financial security, values about money, budgets, and spending and saving can be healthy for marriage and its individuals. So, while money can’t buy love or happiness, healthy relationships and a sense of financial stability can help with well-being and life satisfaction.

Research shows that good relationships are the most consistent predictor of a happy life. So, investing in relationships may be key to earning strong return dividends.

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Therapy Can Help

If you or a loved one is experiencing mental health concerns or would like to work on building healthy, positive relationships, please reach out for help. Licensed mental health professionals are available to work with you and support you at BetterHelp. BetterHelp offers both individual and couples counseling with licensed, experienced therapists. You deserve to live a rich life, which is something that money can’t buy. 

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