Money and things have never been important to me. Do you agree or disagree with this statement? (That is, assuming the statement is about you, the reader, not me, Flexo.)
If you do agree with this statement, according to a new study released by Brigham Young University and William Paterson University, you would be more likely to score highly in measurements of emotional maturity and responsiveness to partners. In other words, less materialistic people are happier in their marriages.
According to the study, researchers tend to believe that stress in relationships is a result of each partner having a different attitude toward money. Perhaps one side of the relationship is more materialistic than the other side, and this divergence of attitudes would create tension in the relationship. This study, which surveyed 1,734 married couples, shows that even when everyone within the relationship has the same attitude towards money — an attitude that emphasizes the importance of money and things — there is a correlation to a lower level of marital happiness or satisfaction.
These results can be applied to couples. For a better chance of happiness in a relationship, let go of the focus on money, particularly the idea that the purpose of money is to accumulate objects that reflect a status of some sort.
The study further concluded that even if one member of the couple lived by a philosophy not based on the accumulation of material objects, the relationship is better off from a satisfaction standpoint. Even if the philosophies differ and the couple would be expected to live in conflict over the philosophical divergence, having just one member willing to look beyond materialism correlates to more marital bliss.
Regardless of level of income, the correlation continues. Couples struggling to make ends meet and couples with financial security are both affected similarly by the state of materialistic attitudes in the relationship. The study also shows that materialistic couples tend to be better off financially. The philosophy may pay off from a strictly financial standpoint; then again, divorces can be costly and could negate any financial advantage gained by approaching life with a focus on buying more stuff.
Materialism, as measured by this survey, is linked to ineffective communication with the significant other, increased negative conflict, and decreased satisfaction and stability in the relationship. This isn’t necessarily a cause-and-effect relationship. The study doesn’t show that materialism causes problems in a relationship, but there is a correlation. There could be an outside variable that induces one to be more materialistic and induces one to tend towards negative conflict.
Is the financial advantage of being overly concerned about money and things worth the risk of being less satisfied in a marriage?
Published or updated October 21, 2011.