It’s hard being friends with someone wealthy. Someone who never takes a bus or hops on the underground; never travels to locations not rated 5 stars. Jealousy lurks but that’s not the biggest issue. I’ve had close friendships with several women who have either married or been born into extreme high-income families. We couldn’t relate to each other’s problems; them panicking about outfits for their villas abroad – me trying to find clothes for my single yearly trip. Social class affects relationships greatly, even if we avoid the subject.
We love films that break barriers
Notting Hill, Dirty Dancing, Love Story, The Notebook, Pretty Woman, Titanic, Pride & Prejudice – the most beloved romance movies present two protagonists from different backgrounds. We watch in awe as they navigate etiquette, money and family ties. The endings remind us that love conquers all – who needs an educated, financially stable suitor when there’s a partner willing to write love letters daily?
Although these films base their story lines around social class, we rarely address this connection; class makes us uncomfortable. It’s awkward to discuss, difficult to acknowledge and it reminds us life is full of unfair advantage.
In dating, there’s various additional levels of disadvantage: height, intellect, appearance, talent, popularity, health. According to Quilette, studies show most women will only “communicate romantically with a small minority of men” while a large majority of men will “communicate romantically with most women”. Findings reveal women don’t believe a lot of men are attractive (a sigh of relief I’m not just picky). Maybe due to conventional, somewhat biological ideology: men want youth and beauty, women want strong providers.
Though if you ask me, women also dislike unfunny jokes in About Me descriptions and interests that include little beyond travel – but that’s a whole other post. Despite the many forms of inequality, social class is considerably hushed. We’re usually fine admitting someone isn’t physically attractive or intelligent enough; still we’ll tread across grey water suggesting a date is too poor and not from an eligible family.
How social class affects relationships
A 2018 Fast Company article says Americans are becoming less likely to build relationships outside their own class. The piece reports on couples who have dated and married people from separate backgrounds, noting the issues it’s caused. From parents wanting to pay for everything, arguments on kids going to private school, as well as disagreements on how to spend and organise money.
If you’ve grown up in a household relaxed with finances, able to splurge and afford finer things, you’re probable to want the same. A lifestyle where you don’t have to check your bank balance. This might cause friction with a partner taught to not waste cash on unnecessary items; raised to be content paying the bills and putting food on the table.
Equally, a person educated on how to invest and remain financially stable, could clash with someone happy to max out credit cards. Some financially secure individuals want the best for their children, putting aside income for private tuition and hobbies perhaps expensive for average students. In opposition, a few affluent adults may want their kids to be on equal footing and learn to achieve as they once did.
My parents worked relentlessly to move up the social ladder and afford luxury goods. We bought one-of-a-kind paintings from art galleries, enjoyed shopping trips to Selfridges and Oxford Street, and always got what we asked for at Christmas (we often asked for ridiculous, age inappropriate gifts). Me and my sister didn’t appreciate our parents’ graft – close school friends lived in grand houses with copious holidays.
That’s the thing about societal status – we can get too busy admiring neighbours. I personally want to afford lots of travel, nice shopping trips (clothes made with good quality), while not buying excessively without need. A best friend of mine has complete conflicting views – he was raised to not care about labels and dining at top restaurants. Our life goals wouldn’t bode well as a couple.
Judgement, assumption, pursuits
Picture a typical posh person – what are you imagining? A snooty, Prince Charles accent; Barbour wearing, afternoon-tea drinking, horse riding individual who wouldn’t dare put a fork on the wrong side of a plate? Has Mark-Francis or Made in Chelsea bubbled in your mind? Stereotypes on social class affects relationships and our perception of who we’re dating. Some perceive the upper class as selfish, boring snobs, while they may observe working class as ‘chavs’ and think the middle class below them without titles and ancestry reputation.
Mixing social classes can involve family objection: Remember in Friends when Phoebe met Mike’s family. You alone might lose interest in your partner if their family’s lifestyle strongly differs from yours.
Marriage combines capital and keeps couples relatively in the same social class. Friends can be trickier to balance. Besides wanting comparable interests and activities, if you’re someone who adores indulgence and saving up to buy Chanel or Prada, you could end up defending yourself against those who don’t understand your purchases.
Going above your status
In 2018, the Huffington Post published a piece on people wanting to date out of their league. Research suggests this happens more online than day-to-day, alluding to people possessing more confidence to go for what they want behind screen.
I understood the success of an ex-partner when I noticed he rode in a black cab everywhere. Never does he glance at the meter. You’d think his apartment and Savile Row suits would have made his fortune obvious. It was the little things he took for granted: leaving half a bottle of pricey champagne at the table, ordering endless cocktails, taking everything to the dry cleaners. The intricate details of his life made me insecure with mine – attempting to match his grand gestures.
Social class affects relationships, and ourselves
Arguably, class is the one thing you can change. We can’t grow taller, switch from an introvert to an extrovert, edit our families. Culturally, many of us care about ‘natural’ looks. Although Kylie Jenner transformed her appearance, we’re still aware she paid for surgery using her vast fortune.
You’re either proud of where you came from and who you are, or you’re desperate to shed your past and realign yourself with a new crowd. Everything surrounding our social class is based on assumptions we care about. When we see people who have more, we tend to compare and perceive ourselves as failures. Though they can make us feel bad, we can enjoy following extravagant lives as aspirations to behold. Judgement and desire makes us avoid addressing status – does the word truly vanish in relationships?
Do you think social class affects relationships and subsequently cause potential issues?