Materialism can take a toll on marriage

When both spouses focus solely on the "for richer" part of their marriage vows, there could be trouble, according to a recent study by Brigham Young University and William Paterson University.

The study used self-surveys of 1,700 married couples to gauge materialism, asking how much they agreed with statements such as "I like to own things to impress people" or "Money can buy happiness."

"Our study found that materialism was associated with spouses' having lower levels of responsiveness and less emotional maturity," said Jason Carroll, a BYU professor and the study's lead author. "Materialism was also linked to less effective communication, higher levels of negative conflict, lower relationship satisfaction and less marriage stability." One in every five couples reported a high level of importance placed on money and material things, and one in every seven reported a low level of interest in money and material things. The couples who had little interest in money scored 10 to 15 percent higher in marital satisfaction and quality. The correlation between interest in money and marital satisfaction remained the same regardless of how wealthy the couple was.

Interestingly, the study found that when only one partner had materialistic tendencies and one partner was not concerned with wealth, the marriage was reportedly satisfying and bolstered by open communication. It seems the nonmaterialistic partner offered a stabilizing aspect to the marriage, allowing the couple to balance each other out and improve their marital quality.

The authors made a point of clarifying that this study does not necessarily mean that material things alone are to blame for discord, but that materialistic tendencies in spouse personalities play a large role.

Then again, it may also mean that people who are ultra-focused on earning money may simply have less energy and time to invest in a happy marriage.

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