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'My in-laws kept calling me a "gold digger". So I offered to show them my bank account.'

As told to Ann DeGrey

I met Ethan* during a period when my career was on the rise, and I was really enjoying my success. I’d invested several years into my education and professional development, I was really proud of myself for reaching a new level of financial independence and I’m not ashamed to say that I absolutely deserved it. 

Aside from career success, I feel like I've been blessed with a man like Ethan; his compassionate and fun-loving nature brought a balance to my life that I hadn't realised I was missing. I fell madly in love with him and, when he proposed, it was one of the happiest days of my life. 

I'd already met his parents and they seemed to like me. But I was in for a shock when we announced our engagement. To put it mildly, they seemed less than thrilled and, according to Ethan's sister, I wasn’t wrong — she said their parents didn't entirely approve of me.

What was wrong with me? I couldn't think what they had against me. Did they doubt my love for their son? Or did they see me as a career woman and not exactly the perfect fit for their idea of what the future mother of their grandkids might be?

So I was in for a rude shock when Ethan's sister told me that my future in-laws saw me as a “gold digger." I was absolutely gobsmacked — yes, he is financially very comfortable, and I understand why his parents are so proud of him. 

But Ethan's money had nothing to do with me falling in love with him. The term "gold digger" has never been directly said to my face, but it has clearly been said to others. Since we announced our engagement, I've endured all kinds of insinuations and veiled comments which make my in-laws' views painfully clear.

"You're very lucky you can rely on Ethan to support you, I hope you feel lucky," said his father.

But what Ethan's parents fail to realise is that my financial status is a hell of a lot more impressive than Ethan's. Yes, I make a lot more money than he does.

Watch: Work it: Men and women negotiating their salary. Post continues after video.

Video via Mamamia.

Not that it should have mattered. Our relationship was built on mutual respect, shared values, and, above all, love. Yet, being accused of being a "gold digger" is just so insulting, as well as being unfair.

I felt so harshly and unfairly judged, based on nothing but baseless stereotypes. It was deeply hurtful that they couldn't comprehend that a woman could be financially successful in her own right and that I'd want to marry their son without having any ulterior motives. 

Ethan told me to ignore his parents' snide comments. One night at their house for dinner, he made a few nice comments about my work as a CEO who is "very well paid". But he stopped short of really confronting them and asking them to stop referring to me as a "gold digger" behind my back. So I felt like he didn't really do anything to defend me, which is why I decided to take matters into my own hands.

The turning point came during another family dinner when Ethan's mother made a particularly pointed comment about financial dependency in marriages. Okay, if you want to declare war, I'm all in, I thought. It was time to address the elephant in the room. 

"Oh, are you referring to me, Judith?" I asked.

She shrugged and said, "Well, it must be comforting to not worry about finances, knowing Ethan is very well-off."

That was it for me; with as much grace and composure as I could muster, I explained that while I deeply respected Ethan, it was simply not true that I married him for financial security. 

"I really hope you don’t think of me as being a gold digger? I'm more than willing to show you my bank statement if that's what it takes for you to believe me."

There was a stunned silence and I pulled out my phone and told my in laws I'd happily provide them with a screenshot of my bank statement. They both looked horrified and then Ethan’s father simply said, "That won't be necessary."

I never received an apology.

I don't have any regrets about speaking up because it went a long way in mending the rift that my in-laws' assumptions had caused. I never intended to boast about my career, but I wanted to highlight the misconceptions that had unfairly defined their perception of me.

These days my in-laws are much nicer to me; they see me for who I truly am — a partner who loved their son unconditionally, who shared his dreams and supported our mutual goals with not just love but with the fruits of my own labour.

Featuer Image: Canva.

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