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Materialistic People Less Happy in Marriages But Have More Money

This article was written by in Family and Life. 18 comments.

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.

Wedding CoupleAccording 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?

Photo: seanmcgrath
Journal of Couple & Relationship Therapy via TIME

Published or updated October 21, 2011.

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About the author

Luke Landes is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about Luke Landes and follow him on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar 1 Anonymous

sorta, kinda. Okay here are some good things about money, you can buy things like food, a better education, if you buy a house in a good neighborhood there is probably a good school system to send your kids to, better healthcare, and pay for thing like tutoring for kids and camps (sports or arts) for kids.

Bad things about money–you can buy a really good lawyer to get you free if you get into a serious jam. You can buy people, it is probably more true these days than ever before. I know, I know, not everyone can be bought, but a astonishing amount would/could be bought. Money can cut people into those that have and those that don’t. This can effect you socially, morally, ethically, it can cause division in families.Money can make your life hell because you wonder do they like me or my money.

Not having money, the benefits–what you have is what you have. Don’t have to pay taxes. Maybe government programs?

Bad things about having no money, bad places to live, poor education, lack of health care, lacking of basic necessities, if you are spiraling out of control and you have nothing you have nothing to loose. No food.

I suppose for every argument there is for not having money, there is a equal more powerful argument for having the “filthy lucre.”

Me, I want enough to make me not have to sit up at night and figure out how to afford both a roof over my head, a simple retirement, and food.

The scaling back, well that is pretty much done, so many of us have scaled back, not dreamed the big dreams, let reality be our guide. Was this post suppose to further tell us that we have to scale back our expectations? Think that money doesn’t solve our problems, (or at least some of them?)? That happiness, less of everything, will cure the inequality of our lives?

I think it is suppose to make us feel guilty, and set us up for less opportunities (to make money, get an education, be healthy). It is make pretend that the “rich” don’t have it easy because they have money. Am I suppose to feel superior because I don’t have money? I have happiness instead? How does happiness pay for healthcare, basic living etc.


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avatar 2 Ceecee

The results of this study don’t seem like any kind of surprise. Lots of things get sacrificed in seeking maximum almighty dollars. This could link up to the $70,000 rule—once you make $70,000 annually, all of your possible needs are met. More is just more money, not necessarily more fun, friendships, health or quality in marriage.

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avatar 3 Luke Landes

You’re not surprised that a couple with two opposing attitudes about finance did *not* correlate to increased marital strife? I thought the general understanding is that “partners need to be on the same page about finances” to avoid relationship conflict (surrounding money).

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avatar 4 Anonymous

To answer your question; I disagree. Although “things” have never been important to me money has always been important to me. A healthy balance sheet and well managed cash flow will ensure peace-of-mind and contribute to the very elusive marital bliss you speak of. That being said, there is so much more to the marital relation then money and things that this study seems regrettably shallow or, at best, too narrowly focused.

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avatar 5 Anonymous

I do not always put my spouse first in all situations, but we are happier when the priority with each other. If you place possessions before your spouse, your spouse and relationship will suffer.

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avatar 6 Anonymous

The question is too simplistic.
– Money and things have never been important to me.
Of course not, money is very important to me. Why else would I be working? I don’t think I’m materialistic, but I value money for security and the ability it has to put a roof over my head.

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avatar 7 Anonymous

I think Flexo didn’t mean it in a very simplistic way. Of course money is important otherwise we would all live in some park on a bench and be happy. I think the point is that when money becomes more important than relationship that’s when it becomes a problem.

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avatar 8 Anonymous

My happiest moments have nothing to do with money! Success is measured by money and I am driven to succeed!

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avatar 9 Anonymous

Money and things have never been important to me. Do you agree or disagree with this statement?

Yes and no. Money is very important to me, because I live under capitalism. I like things, too, but am probably at a low percentile as far as that goes. It is more important to me to do what I want than acquire a lot of money, if there is a conflict. And there is.

Is the financial advantage of being overly concerned about money and things worth the risk of being less satisfied in a marriage?

I think one can’t control that. You are who you are and have the values that you have. The key is to be with someone with whom you are compatible. Certain things depend on context; for example, I met men before marrying who wanted a financial partner – like a business partner with whom to seek financial success, and preferably someone with “papers” (college degrees in the right things and the like), and absolutely with career goals – because that is what they had in mind for a potential marriage partner. There was a wall between me and those guys, of my own making. On the other hand, my husband and I are partners in working toward financial success, and I manage the household and finances as though it is a business. Because to me, it is. Not the marriage, but the business of money and life/household management. We’d have problems if either one of us tried to do what we are not good at. We each do what we are good at, and don’t get in the way of the other or screw things up.

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avatar 10 Anonymous

Things are not very important to me. In fact, I think we have too many things – my wife and I have had far more arguments about that than about money!

And yet, I do love to earn, save, invest, and manage our money. What can I say, I love working with numbers and seeing them go up. I wonder if I would rather optimize an above-average salary than earn a well-above-average salary but spend it suboptimally.

Perhaps the results of the study could be explained thusly: When someone is focused on a goal, they are more likely to reach it. If, for the sake of argument, you considered the only two possible goals of a married couple to be “more money” or “more happiness”: the more (0, 1, or 2) of the partners focused on that goal, the more likely that goal is to be achieved and/or achieved to a higher degree.

But it’s not a binary decision, it’s a continuum. You can like money and things and experiences without letting it consume your life. And you can like relationships and lack of stress and such without eschewing money altogether.

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avatar 11 lynn

Well said Steve. Perhaps your comment has put a balance on the subject.

Flexo, great pick for a topic.

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avatar 12 Donna Freedman

Having enough money to get by and some left over to save is important. That’s why I’m frugal: To be able to live on my own terms on the money I currently earn.
I probably won’t remarry unless it’s for something really romantic, like health insurance. But if I wind up in a long-term relationship it will be very important that we ARE on the same page when it comes to finance. We need to care for each other and be careful with our funds so that we can ensure our own future while also helping family and community.
(Gee, that sounds corny. But I mean it.)

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avatar 13 Anonymous

Theres a large difference between never thinking money is important and being overly consumed with materialism. Of course money is important. But thinking this doesn’t mean you’re consumed by a burning desire to have more money at all costs and sacrifice your marriage. I’d have to see the study.

I can however agree that people who are generally not highly driven to accumulate wealth and possessions are likely to have happier marriages. ONly if it means they are less likely to get in arguments about money.

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avatar 14 lynn

This question appears-on the surface- to be simplistic. I think the responses prove it’s a loaded one. I avert to the rule, “all things in moderation’. There needs to be a balance created in life. Money is needed, many things are not, and a strong personal relationship is (to me) an absolute. I’ve had mine and things are bit more clear now that I’m widowed. Am I content? I learned to be, but I’d trade it all in to have my DH with me. So with that thought, the moderation concept goes out the window. Life can’t always be ‘as planned’, but that doesn’t mean we can’t plan financial success. It only means we need to be flexible and creative. In the words of Bob Marley, ” Don’t worry, don’t worry about every little thing. Everything’s gonna be alright.”

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avatar 15 Cejay

I am not materialistic in the sense that I have to have the best just for the status. But I am in the sense that I want enough money that we can do the things that are important to us. Being able to go on a trip and not have to think about every penny and treat our loved ones to some treats now and then. Also, the fact that we are trying to make sure that we have enough money to retire on. But I never want to let money become what is most important to me. My integrety and my family are most important to me. So I guess, I have a healthy dose of materialism.

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avatar 16 shellye

Is the financial advantage of being overly concerned about money and things worth the risk of being less satisfied in a marriage?

I don’t think being overly concerned about money and things = financial advantage.

I know lots of people who, I think, are too focused on their LACK of money and it seeps into their relationships (even caused one divorce among my friends recently). She was too materialistic and shallow and he didn’t give a damn about ‘stuff’, as long as his truck was running and his BBQ smoker was functioning. She told him if he didn’t bring in $200 more per month in income to cover the bills, she wouldn’t have [email protected] with him anymore. So one day he left her a voice message while she was at work; he was taking his truck, his dog and his clothes and was leaving her.

All she thought about was that extra $200. And now she’s divorced with three dogs and needs help from her family to pay her own bills. I don’t think she focused on accumulating more “stuff” while she was married; rather she focused on the $200 HE needed (not ‘they’, not ‘she’) to bring in to pay bills.

Being overly concerned about money and things DOES NOT EQUAL financial advantage.

This is absolutely a true story. I kid you not.

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avatar 17 lynn
avatar 18 qixx

I value experiences over money and things. Experiences usually correlate with people at the expense (opportunity cost) of money.

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