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ImageWhen asked to rank financial security, sexual satisfaction, emotional security and romance in order of importance in their relationships, more than a third of the women polled in the survey by India Today opted for financial security, followed by sexual satisfaction, romance and emotional security.

It is possible that regional differences skewed the overall figures (82 per cent of women from Hyderabad gave top billing to financial security, as opposed to only 12 per cent from Patna), but that's only to be expected from a large survey covering disparate populations. Based on this, one could be easily forgiven for concluding that urban Indian women find money cooler than sex. But, on looking closer, it seems they're not quite sure.

For, to confound things just a bit, a little under a third ranked financial security last. Clearly, there's some more digging to be done. The survey broke down financial security into three elements-financial independence, the impact of finances on the relationship and whether sex gets better if one earns more than one's partner.

In terms of the importance accorded to financial independence, it appears that more than three-quarters of those interviewed felt that it was either very important or important. So far, so good. But men did so as much (actually marginally more) as did women. Obviously, since women ranked financial security higher than men did, financial security means more than just financial independence to them. But what stares one in the face is that Indian men also value financial independence in the relationship, perhaps not as much as sex, but much more than one would have expected.

What's more, more men than women feel that finances could affect a relationship. The provider stereotype is obviously not dead yet and men would probably find it harder to deal with their relationship issues if they weren't bringing home enough. Who's going to pay those EMIs? As far as women are concerned, it appears that as long as financial independence is ensured, they can approach financial issues in the relationship with greater confidence. But what's with the respondents from Kolkata (less than half believe finances affect their relationships) and Chennai (not even two-fifths)?

Apparently, people from these two cities enjoy their sex lives regardless of the viagrational power that money is supposed to provide (as it seems to do for respondents from Delhi and Ludhiana). The good news is that only slightly more than half the respondents felt that sex and earning capacity were linked. Obviously, at least half of urban India is enjoying its sex life, regardless of its bank balance.

There are regional variations as well as inconsistent responses which suggest that the urban Indian woman has not quite made up her mind on the role that earnings play in relationships. My personal experience as a couples' therapist indicates that the biggest stress factors in urban Indian relationships are money, work and family. Examining the issue of financial security might be a good place to begin with. In the past, the term financial insecurity for woman referred to either the insufficiency of the man's income-generating capability or his financial profligacy.

Living in a joint family made things easier, for there was always somebody to pick up the slack. Today, however, when financial independence is becoming the norm for women, the term has come to reflect the lack of fiscal transparency between partners. Who pays for what? Who earns how much? Joint or separate accounts? My money, your money or our money? All these are concerns that bedevil many couples today, and more often than not, remain unresolved, owing largely to the distaste for discussing money at the dinner table.

Apparently they do, even though women give sexual satisfaction a lower ranking than men. And not just this, urban Indians want the whole shebang-initial play, climaxs, romance, fantasy, whether or not they're getting all of it. What this tells me is that whatever their differences, new Indian couples are seemingly able to engage in a much higher degree of sexual intimacy than their parents ever dreamed of. This is a good sign. For it's only through the experience of intimacy, sexual and emotional, that financial and other issues can be resolved.

What this also tells me is that while contemporary women are perfectly willing to approach sex with far more abandon than their mothers did, the more the financial security, the greater the abandon.

Probably the best way to work towards financial security is for couples to learn to talk about money. It's not a bad idea to talk about financial expectations before one makes a commitment, even if it seems tediously prosaic to do so during the wine-and-roses period. I am happy that people all over the country are paying more conscious attention to the issue of financial security in their relationships. But we still need more transparency and financial mutuality. Money may not guarantee relationship happiness. But it does buy a standard of living. And what's more, the sex could only get better.

The writer is a Chennai-based psychiatrist and author.

(Reproduced From India Today. © 2010. LMIL. All rights reserved.)
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