Many couples believe that if only they had more money, life would be easier and their relationship would improve. But that may not be the case.
Couples who either have or strive for more money and are more materialistic appear to actually have more problems and a poorer relationship than couples who are less materialistic, according to researchers.
Researchers, led by Jason Carroll, a Brigham Young University professor, arrived at the findings after studying 1,734 married couples from a national survey that had the couples evaluate their relationships with their spouse. Part of the evaluation was a question that asked how much the couple values “having money and lots of things.”
Couples who say money is not important to them score about 10 to 15 percent better on marriage stability and other measures of relationship quality than couples where one or both are materialistic.
“Couples where both spouses are materialistic were worse off on nearly every measure we looked at,” said Carroll.
“There is a pervasive pattern in the data of eroding communication, poor conflict resolution and low responsiveness to each other.”
Communication has long been a foundation on which good relationships are built. When communication breaks down, the quality of the relationship suffers. One or both partners feel more unhappy, and this unhappiness can quickly spiral as communication further erodes.
For one in five couples in the study, both partners admitted a strong love of money. Though these couples were better off financially, money was often a bigger source of conflict for them.
“How these couples perceive their finances seems to be more important to their marital health than their actual financial situation,” Carroll said.
Prior research has also shown that money doesn’t automatically follow happiness. The role of income is less significant toward finding happiness and well-being than most people believe.
And despite their shared materialism, materialistic couples’ relationships were in poorer shape than couples who were mismatched and had just one materialist in the marriage.
The study’s overall findings were somewhat surprising to Carroll because materialism was only measured by self-evaluations.
“Sometimes people can deceive themselves about how important their relationships are to them,” Carroll said. “It’s helpful to step back and look at where you focus your time.”
The findings are published today in the Journal of Couple & Relationship Therapy.
Source: Brigham Young University