Is a man’s income all-important for marriage? Debate rages

By Pham Nga   June 23, 2024 | 05:31 am PT
Thu Ha broke up with her boyfriend of seven years to marry a man with a steady career and property in Hanoi who had pursued her for a year.

The decision by the 27-year-old from the central province of Nghe An surprised her friends, but she says she had "carefully considered" it.

"He has been with me throughout my youth. However, I am afraid we will face an uncertain future if we get married."

Though her ex had a regular job, he only earned enough to support himself, and Ha says if they had a child, their lives would have been financially strained.

His family had repeatedly asked her to marry him, and he had promised to strive for a higher income. She says: "But I have waited too long. A woman should get married at a certain age."

Her newlywed husband has a monthly income of over VND100 million ($3,900) and owns a house in Hanoi. "He is also sincere, pampering and loving."

On hearing the news, her ex slammed her for being "materialistic." Her parents advised her to reconsider, saying it was not worth breaking up because of his financial situation.

"Some mutual friends also stopped hanging out with me, saying I'm materialistic, chasing after someone with money and betraying my lover."

A marriage proposal. Illustration photo by Pexels/Daniel Moises Magulado

A marriage proposal. Illustration photo by Pexels/Daniel Moises Magulado

It is not just young people like Ha who consider income an important criterion for marriage.

For instance, last week Nguyen Hong Hoa, who is over 40 and owns of a garment company in a central province, posted on social media seeking a partner in the same age range, with shared interests, owning a house and car, and earning over VND70 million a month.

Predictably, the haters were out in full force saying she was "setting the criteria too high for a woman over 40" and a man with such an income would choose a "young, beautiful" woman.

But Ha and Hong Hoa are no outliers.

A 2021 survey by Tran Thi Minh Thi, director of the Institute for Family and Gender Studies, on changes in perceptions of marriage in modern society found over 68% saying finance was the crucial factor in sustaining marriages, more than others such as social, psychological, emotional, cultural, and even love.

A VnExpress survey of 500 readers found 28% saying choosing a spouse must be based on income to secure a financial future.

Vu Nguyet Anh, founder and CEO of matchmaking service Rudicaf and author of the book "Dating in picky style," believes that people should accept the reality that in today's society many people only feel happy and secure when their material needs are met. "From there, romantic feelings flourish, and their relationship can develop."

Many believe a man's income depends on his qualifications, abilities, intellect, and development potential, and so, to find men with those qualities, women look first at those with high incomes.

Anh says she also meets women clients with a monthly salary of VND300 million who want partners earning similar or higher incomes.

While her male clientele includes many candidates who meet this criterion, they not prefer not to date women with high incomes. They prefer women who have a balance between work and life, can take care of them and are family-oriented since they themselves need a lot of time for their work.

Dr Nguyen Thi Minh, lecturer at the National Academy of Public Administration’s Ho Chi Minh City campus, says income should not be the criterion for choosing a spouse because it can easily change over time.

"For example, a pilot may earn hundreds of millions of dong but also become unemployed during a pandemic. If money is the measure, you might miss out on a good person."

Marriage is a journey full of challenges, requiring both parties to endure together and have resilience, she says. The financial aspect is important, but only a part of marriage, she adds.

Anh believes compatibility between partners requires similar life perspectives in three areas: worldview, philosophy of life and perception of value (what they value and prioritize).

Other factors such as appearance, job, education, hobbies, and habits are also important, but it is unrealistic to look for someone who meets all those criteria, she warns.

*Characters' names have been changed

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