Some, like Madonna, might say “we are living in a material world” so the one “with the cold hard cash is always” the one I love. That may be the world in which we live, but is it the world of happy marriages? Researchers at Brigham Young University decided to find out. They asked 1,300 married people a series of questions to measure their level of materialism as well as a series of questions about their marriages. They discovered at least 3 things.
- The more materialistic a person was, the more dissatisfied they were in their marriage.
- Those who reported money was not important to them scored 15% higher on measures of marital satisfaction and stability. In other words, they were happy with their marriage and their marriage was more stable than those who thought money important.
- If both partners were materialistic, their relationship quality was lower than couples who had only one materialistic spouse. So even if both partners agreed about materialistic values, they were still dissatisfied.
Makes sense when you think about it, doesn’t it? A person who excessively values materialistic things (money, possessions) expends their physical and emotional energy gaining wealth and working to appear wealthy. They expend less energy learning how to spend quality time with their spouse and family. They expend less energy on developing healthy communication skills and effective conflict resolution skills. And so, their relationship suffers.
This is not to say that money itself is bad. We all need enough money to live. But the “love of money,” prioritizing the material life above relationship, can rob your marriage of the intimacy it needs to survive. Unfortunately, many people say they value family above material goods but live a life that begs to differ. We must all honestly answer some hard questions to make sure our lived values match what we believe to be our values…after all, our actions speak louder than our words. So, ask yourself:
- Do I act as if “things” inform others of my success? Do I have a secret desire to “keep up with the Joneses”?
- Would my family say that I value work more than I value them? Do my actions suggest that work is more important than family? (You might want to ask a few people to make sure you hear the truth.)
- Do I struggle with a desire for immediate gratification?
- Do I put the desire for more possessions above emotional and relational goals of connection?
- Do I think I need more things to be happy? Or have I learned to be content with what I have?
It takes courage to answer these questions honestly. If you find yourself sounding like a “material girl (or boy)” in your answers:
- Start reevaluating what you truly value in your life.
- Practice daily gratitude.
- Intentionally practice generosity.
- Declutter and give things away.
Each of these practices can help you escape materialism…and keep materialism from robbing your marriage of intimacy and joy.