“People are made to be loved and things are made to be used. The confusion in this world is that people are used and things are loved.” — Author Unknown.
I watched 20/20 last week with millions of others to see the aftermath of destruction that followed the scandal Bernie Madoff put in motion. The story depicted the results of greed, deception, narcissism, and destruction when you value money more than anything else. Closer to home, with the current economic situation, loss of jobs, loss of income, and loss of respect from a business you have worked for most of your life, it’s tough to find a balance.
When does stuff become too much? How much do we need to survive happily as a family?
When couples struggle financially, we also see an increase in domestic arguments, breakups, and chaos. It’s difficult to show love toward your partner if you are worried about paying your cell phone bill, car payment and house note. However, research in this area is finding that materialistic people have unhappier marriages than couples who don’t care much about possessions.
This holds true across all levels of income, according to Jason Carroll, who is a Professor of Family Life at Brigham Young University. Dr. Carroll goes on to say that if you are materialistic, you will have a happier marriage if you find someone who isn’t. Two like-minded materialistic people suffered the least satisfying of marriages.
Dr. Carroll and his colleagues have been studying materialism and marriage and have uncovered information about the effect of money on marriage: The more materialistic you are, the more you suffer anxiety, depression, and insecurity than non-materialistic types.
The more you value money, the more troubles you suffer at home, because work usually comes first, and after work is done, people have left you and moved on. Your intimate relationships many times no longer exist.
The research was done through the RELATE Institute, which is a respected national research non-profit organization. In this case, they studied 1,734 married couples and collected online questionnaires from them. Across the board, the marriages with at least one materialistic spouse were worse off on all measures than marriages where neither spouse was materialistic.
It had nothing to do with gender of the spouse; the non-materialistic couples were 10% — 15% better off in the categories studied (marital satisfaction, marriage stability, and lower levels of conflict). The study couldn’t test how materialism erodes a marriage, but Dr. Carroll and his team have a couple of theories:
- Materialism causes spouses to make bad financial decisions such as spending beyond their means, which puts them in debt and stresses the marriage.
- People who are materialistic are working more to “get things.” They forget, don’t value, or run out of time in a day to nurture their relationships.
Only married people were included in this study, but Dr. Carroll and his team believe the pattern is similar in couples who are cohabitating or long time partners. So, what do we do when we want nice things, or need to make the payments on the nice things we already have? How do we value our partner, but still work hard enough to make our payments, live in a nice neighborhood, send our kids to nice schools, and splurge on a special gift for the holidays?
Putting Your Marriage Over Money Issues
These 5 tips may help:
- No matter how hard you work, if you communicate with your spouse each day, letting them know something as simple as, “I am thinking about you,” you will be nurturing your relationship.
- Balance is everything. At times that is difficult and unattainable. When you know in advance that work will be consuming a lot of your time, tell your partner in advance so they can mentally prepare. Take them to dinner or spend extra time with them prior to the week or month that you need to focus on work. Remind them by saying something such as, “I am glad we have this time together, because next week (or next month) is going to be very demanding at work.” This tells your partner they are more important to you than money.
- Have a family day. One day a week is sacred to families. Shut all communication off on that day. Program that day into your Blackberry, iPhone or whatever device you have so you won’t schedule business.
- Husbands, wives, and children all like nice things, but they love you. Their love is a gift, not something you will get paid for. No amount of money or nice things you can ever acquire will replace this love.
- As a family, it’s nice to have a charity to which you give every year. Let the kids be part of planning which charity means the most to them. Teaching your children early to value life rather than material is very important.
Dr. Phil once said that “If you marry for money, you earn every bit of it.” What is equally true is that your family for generations to come will earn it too.
We all like nice things, but when they are valued more than our loved ones, it becomes a downhill ride, and you usually end up at the bottom alone. –Mary Jo Rapini
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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Mar 2012
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.
Experts, Y. (2011). 5 Ways To Make Your Marriage More Important Than Money. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 17, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2011/12/04/5-ways-to-make-your-marriage-more-important-than-money/