“I Don’t Talk Like I’m From The Ghetto”: How Does Class Affect Relationships?

January 13, 2015  |  

Growing up and dating in New York City means I don’t usually have to explain my Judeo-Christian Caribbean heritage, which makes things easier to be with a compatible partner. Despite this, one can still find differences with a partner even if they are of the same nationality. On the issue, The Guardian reports:

“If anything, people are more likely than ever to marry into their own class, as a report from the Institute for Public Policy Research showed this year. Of people born in 1958, just over a third of women had a partner from the same class as themselves: 38% married up, while 23% married down. For those born in 1970, 45% married into the same class; of those born between 1976 and 1981, 56% married into the same class, with a far smaller proportion (16%) marrying up. Even the phrases “marrying up” and “marrying down” are sullying to use. You can’t really escape the connotation that the rich are better than the poor.”

In a recent study by The Cut, a focus group of 11 couples shared how they managed through the American class system. Whether their parents are immigrants or country club regulars, The Cut explores how race, wealth, religion and education affect these relationships. Here are a couple of highlights from their study:

She could afford all of this without me.
“When you’re black, it’s an inescapable truth, a full-body experience that’s happening all the time,” says Jack, 35. He says Jill, 35, his wife, who is white, talks about race by “trying to weave it into a higher morality.” He laughs: “I’m just trying to survive! She champions equality!”

Jill comes from a low-income family while Jack’s is middle class. Jill, like her mother, is the breadwinner. “It wasn’t weird to me that he didn’t have much money, and I was used to roles outside gender norms,” she says. “And neither of us grew up taking vacations.”

She paid the down payment on their house, which is in her name. “The house was my first choice, not his, and I’m sure some part of me was like, ‘It’s my money,’” Jill says. Jack adds, “There’s a 10 percent ping in my heart that she could afford all of this without me and I couldn’t afford any of it without her, but I pay half the mortgage.” She makes more money working via satellite from home than he makes working overnight in a warehouse. He gets frustrated when he returns to dishes in the sink. “She’s been home all day! I hate to say this, but I think she thinks earning more alleviates her of chores.”

He sees brown skin and thinks I’m a traitor.
“Some people are rough around the edges — he’s just rough,” Eva, 37, says of her boyfriend, Marcus, 36, who emigrated from Africa as a toddler and grew up in the projects and in foster care. She grew up in a middle-class family in a British colony, attending good schools and sneaking off to go swimming. When he went outside as a kid “he risked being shot,” and he doesn’t have any family. Eva and Marcus graduated from the same American college but at different times and met in a club in New York.

“I’m half-black, half-Portuguese,” Eva says. “I have a British accent. I don’t understand the way Americans view race. Some black people say I’m bougie and I’m acting white, but to me skin color doesn’t matter — I come from a beautiful island with British manners! This is just how I act. One day, Marcus said, ‘You get along so well with white people.’ I said, ‘What do you mean? I get along well with all people.’ … He feels insecure sometimes. I’m not from the ghetto, so I don’t talk like I’m from the ghetto — that doesn’t mean I think I’m better than someone else. He sees brown skin and thinks I’m a traitor.”

Talking with him about his childhood helps her understand his anger. She says, “It took breaking down the barriers. I’ve learned from him not to prejudge.” Both Marcus and Eva are in New York to launch businesses. “We share a common goal. He loves talking about the future,” she says. “His big aspiration is to raise kids the way I was raised.”

To read more on how class affects modern day love, click here.

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