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Is materialism destroying your marriage?

money and marriage

New study confirms that materialism destroys marriages


The Beatles said “money can’t buy me love”; the Notorious B.I.G. said “Mo Money Mo Problems”; and every after-school special taught us that rich and greedy people are miserable in their hollow worlds of shiny trinkets. And now scientists have evidence that they may even have been right.

New research published in the Journal of Couple & Relationship Therapy has shown that the more materialistic a marriage, the less happy they’re likely to be. The study looked at more than 1700 married couples, and it found that those with a priority on money and material goods had lower levels of marital satisfaction.

This was found when one partner was more materialistic, or even when both had an equally high level of wanting shiny new things. Couples with lower materialism tended to be happier in their relationships.

What the high levels of materialism did coincide with was being financially sound, but the money was still a bigger part of the conflict.

Jason Carroll, a BYU professor of family life and lead author of the study said, “It’s probably best described as an erosion effect. What we see is across all of these areas, is a notable and significant decrease for couples where one or both of the spouses were materialistic.”

And it doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor. The study showed a steady association between materialism and marital difficulties regardless of a couple’s shared wealth.

“A relationship is attunement. It’s a clean and clear connection,” said Hawkins who also stated that if one or both partners are placing a high importance on material possessions, they are rarely on the same page, which creates an incredible concern for God’s plan for marriage which calls for oneness.

What about non-materialistic partners? One in seven couples that reported low levels of materialism scored 10 to 15 percent higher in all metrics of marital quality and satisfaction.

According to the study’s findings, gender did not play a role in evaluating materialism’s harsh affect on marriage. However, two materialistic people married to each other was where Carroll found the highest conflict level.

Hawkins calls this an emotional dance for marriage where partners pull away from one another.

If there are financial problems like debt or spending beyond one’s means, what can a couple do to improve their marriage in the midst of materialism’s wrath?

Hawkins, who founded the Marriage Recovery Center, says, talking from your feelings will kick start change. He strongly urges husbands and wives to do so without defensiveness.

He suggests saying things like, “I really miss you” or “I’m really poor” or “I’m concerned about us” or “I want to spend more time connecting with each other.”

According to Hawkins, the primacy issue is connection.

He said, “We are becoming addicted to material possessions, it just brings with it a whole array of problems since we desire connection, attunement and we want to be understood.”

He stated that in order for attunement to take place, material possessions have to take second, third or fourth place in a person’s heart.

But how can Christians achieve it in a world that honors materialism? Hawkins stated he would like people to truly decide if they want to be in relationship.

“Relating is a demanding prospect, it requires a great deal. When the initial highs wear off, we are not quite sure we want to go through with the challenges,” he said.

He said, “Criticizing your partner never works, but sharing from your feeling does.”

Dr. David Hawkins’s work can be found on The study was published Friday in the Journal of Couple and Relationship Therapy.

Photo by Eduard Stelmakh via Shutterstock

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