Don't despair. Some women pick partners for love not money

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Research suggests that financial confidence among women has reached such heights that men who use the status of a powerful job and a fat pay packet to attract the opposite sex may be wasting their time.

Almost half the women surveyed said they would be happy to be the sole bread-winner in a relationship, and nine out of 10 said they valued love and happiness over money in the dating game and relationships.

The research, which was sponsored by the bank First Direct, found that almost half the female population would be content to go out with men who earn considerably less then them.

However, the survey also showed that 13 per cent of men felt intimidated, embarrassed or insecure dating someone who earned more than them, compared with 3 per cent of women.

"It might sound fantastic to avoid the nine to five and play golf, but for a lot of men they feel they aren't contributing and don't feel 100 per cent male, particularly among friends. That can percolate into the relationship," said Denise Knowles, a Relate marriage guidance counsellor.

"There has been a profound shift in the expectation that you should want or get a boyfriend or husband who is more successful than you," said Professor Alison Wolf, a social scientist at King's College London. "Now some women are earning more, they are happy to go for a husband who earns less."

Support for the findings came from users among the 45,000 women signed up to the dating website MySingleFriend.com, which is owned by the television presenter Sarah Beeny: the administrators report that the highest demand is for tall, funny men; earnings barely figure.

"I made a conscious decision to earn enough to be able to choose my husband rather than not have a career and marry someone who would have to earn enough for us both to live on," said Ms Beeny, 34, who is married to a little-known artist. "I have seen many women who get financial security from their husbands, and I think you can do that from a job and marry a husband that makes you laugh."

Lucille, a partner earning a six-figure salary at a City law firm, said she values the independent approach taken by her husband, whose jobs have included cycle courier, copy writer and marketing manager. Since Christmas he has been a full-time house husband at the family home in Hampstead, where he also works as a freelance marketing consultant.

Lucille pays the mortgage and Chris admits he would feel awkward asking his wife for money. He hopes to keep some money coming in. "As long as she can see I am working hard at what I am doing and I am not swinging the lead, she has been very supportive," he says.

THE PAY GAP

The first time Amanda Christie met her husband James Barnes, above, was when she hired him at half her salary.

Both were 29 but Amanda was a senior executive in a London marketing agency and James was a computer programmer. They married two years later but their six-year relationship has always included a pay gap in Amanda's favour.

"I really don't think people look askance at this any more," says Amanda. "Five to 10 years ago it might have been different. Now when you are a single woman and have looked after yourself for a long time, you are looking for something more than financial stability. Every woman is looking for a guy who first and foremost makes her laugh. I think my generation is the first where many women have really had that choice."

James says that at first he didn't consider Amanda as a possible date. "It was partly because of my status, I think," says Amanda. "He was a bit of a party boy at the time and I was more of a business woman."

The pay gap between the two is now smaller than when they met, and they both work at the dating website MySingleFriend.com - Amanda is managing director and James is technical director. They live together in Gloucestershire. "Everything goes into one pot and we play with that," says Amanda.

Despite the pay gap, chores at home are divided along traditional lines with Amanda doing most of the washing and light housework, while James mows the lawn, takes out the rubbish and goes to the tip.