There is something particular to consecrating a union between to people who might otherwise be platonic friends. It is not an uncommon phenomena actually, for the bond between two people to be irreparably altered by a single phrase, “Can I borrow some money?” Even the strongest of marriages have fallen prey to financial issues, money is the second highest ranking reasons for divorce according to Marriage.com after an extramarital affair. What is common about both sex and money is how complex our feelings are about it, and how it things tend to make irrational shifts once one or the other are involved.
It’s generally accepted that intercourse is an intimate act. As any continuities linguist would point out we relate to our emotional connections in metaphoric terms that describe distance closeness and there can be no closer proximity than sharing unfettered space in or surrounding someone. It could be argued that basis for our language around emotional intimacy is comprehended only in relation to these embodiments. But why we code physical touch as a signal for emotional intimacy is a much longer tale that has to do with our evolutionary desire to continue our species.
The social significance of sex, is in some way tied the inherent importance of procreation. Creating offspring is among the most basic natural programming that we contend with and so much of our social order is entangled in fulfilling this task. This biological aversion to death is permeates our psyches directly and indirectly in numerous ways, but in our cells there is a nascent idea that we are entrusting our shot at immortality to whomever we have sex with. When conflated with monogamy we feel entitled to specific commitments from the person we are partnered with, whether they have explicitly consented to these commitments or not.
On the other side of the coin, (pun intended) we have the other faculty that helps us reconcile with this biological aversion to death, and that is our ability to live as long as we can for ourselves. This is only possible with the material resources to do so like food, shelter, and clothing. Of course, in the modern age, all of those needs and more are met by putting to use the technology of markets and that means money is a critical device needed to survive.
We might initially think that finance is not romantic, but when we consider what is at stake, our passions quickly arrive. For those who have reached a level of financial independence where all of their material needs are met, it may not be a precious commodity, but for many it is literally the difference between a life saving treatment, housing, or food, and death. With this level of importance, money, like, sex becomes about something more than the actions or objects that comprise it but takes on a significance based on the impact of failing to handle them appropriately. A glance at two siblings in the animal kingdom fighting over food shows how scarcity in survival resources can alter relationships in tribe, the same goes for humans, but can often be about things related, but seemingly trivial.
At the basis of intimacy is a vulnerability, either to a literal death or harm. The physical metaphor speaks to letting someone get close enough to us to hurt us, but we also find that these analogy holds true in the way that allows us to be harmed emotionally by people who we have given some personal authority to influence the choices we have made.
Both sex and money, force us to make decisions that might be counter to whatever inclinations we have to be self-interested, and when we go against these impulses we do so with some kind of return on that decision. Emotional openness is as much an investment as giving someone a loan. Letting some one borrow money, opens us up to hardship and suffering just as if we had given them our hearts. In either case we give what is has been coded as precious and is inherently significant, our bodies, and our livelihoods.
Notwithstanding, there are exceptions to every rule, which should illuminate ways that might allow us to put less weight on both actions given that these so-called inferences are not absolute. There are many that do not idolize money, and who do not sacralize sex only as a means of procreation.
Still, there is an undeniable social value placed on these two that can shift relationships that had no money or sex in them to be almost exclusively centered around them. In other cases we see some relationships are entirely held together but one or the other, and in some cases, the exchange of them is the basis of the relationship.
Giving in these areas can be the point of no return, solidifying bonds that were already strong, anchoring them in a trust and satisfaction that is unshakeable, or it can dull or weaken some connections and put pressure on our partners to make up for deficits in these areas. Each one of us is different and must orient ourselves around the importance of finances and fidelity in relationship without relying purely on social norms. Doing this, we give our relationships a chance to be valuable to us in the most important ways.