I dated a millionaire miser. His name was Peter, and it was one of the most toxic relationships I’d ever been in. But, it was also one of the most transformational.
I can thank Peter for teaching me a few surprising things about love and money. Maybe you’ll benefit from learning them, too.
I grew up in a household where money was hard to come by. Once I entered the working world, I became obsessed with saving money as a way to avoid poverty, as opposed to building wealth or funding professional and personal opportunities for growth. My thinking has since evolved, and I have come to view money as a tool to help me live life on my terms, which includes saving, spending, donating and investing.
In dating a miser, I witnessed how money could be used as a weapon to punish and control. Peter believed his wealth entitled him to speak poorly to waitresses, department store staff or anyone that he felt had less money than he did.
While dating Peter, I saw him read books in their entirety and return them to bookstores, haggle over the price of end-of-day pizza, skimp on tips and manipulate situations to get out of buying costly gifts. Observing these behaviors forced me to reflect on my own. While I had never done any of these things, it made me think about some of my unsavory financial actions and motivations.
Since dating Peter, I’ve adjusted some of my money behaviors: I tip at least 15 percent; I still love a discount, but don’t become despondent when I don’t receive one (specifically if I can outright afford it); I think about price as much as I do value when making a purchase.
Love should be easy in the beginning, but I soon found myself rolling my eyes at how Peter treated money, and by extension, the world around him: one-sided, self-absorbed and extremely demanding. In hindsight, I should have ended the three-month relationship sooner, but the bottom line was that it had to end and it did.
Cultivating financial intimacy, or the ability to communicate openly and honestly about money with your partner, is difficult to do with a miser. In the short time that we dated, Peter didn’t like the idea that I worked and wanted me to stop working if we were to get serious, despite my core (non-negotiable) beliefs of financial independence and career fulfillment. Even though there was never a chance that I would ever marry this man, I already thought about ways to hide my financial and career advancements and achievements while we dated, which would only deepen in a marriage to a man that wanted to dominate, if not, oppress financially.
I ended this jaunt of a relationship with Peter nearly ten years ago. It’s still one of the most memorable relationships I’ve had — not for the love, but for the lessons. If my life were a book, then Peter would have been my foil, the character that shows qualities that are in contrast with the qualities of the protagonist (me). The foil’s ultimate objective is to highlight the traits of the other character.
From Peter, I learned about how much love I had to give (and wanted to give) by how much love he withheld. From Peter, I learned that I wanted to use money as a way to express gratitude and appreciation for myself and others by experiencing how he systemically shortchanged and reduced the people in his life, including me. And for that, I will always be grateful.