Love of money may spell disaster for your marriage: Study

Love of money may spell disaster for your marriage: Study

Researchers in the US found that materialists, or those who are more concerned with money and other material things, have unhappier marriages than couples who don't care much about possessions.

The effect holds true across all levels of income, said study researcher Jason Carroll, a professor of family life at Brigham Young University.

And a materialist marrying a like-minded soul may not get off the hook, as the least satisfying marriages were those in which both spouses cared strongly about material goods, said the researchers.

"We thought it would be the incongruent or unmatched pattern that would be most problematic, where one's a spender and one's a saver," Carroll told LiveScience.

"Our study found that it's the couples where both spouses have high levels of materialism that struggle the most."

For their study, published in the Journal of Couple and Relationship Therapy, Carroll and his colleagues collected online questionnaires from 1,734 married couples through a national survey.

Couples filling out the questionnaires responded to queries about their marital satisfaction, conflict patterns, marital communication, marriage stability and other factors.

They also rated their agreement with the phrase "Having money and lots of things has never been important to me." People who agreed were categorised as non-materialistic, while those who disagreed qualified as materialistic.

Of the marriages studied, 14 per cent were matches between two non-materialists. In about 11 per cent, the wife was highly materialistic while the husband was not; in another 14 per cent, that mismatched pattern was reversed.

About 20 per cent of couples were made up of two married materialists. The rest of the couples fell into the middle ground of neither materialistic nor money-eschewing.

Across the board, Carroll said, those marriages with at least one materialistic spouse were worse off on all measures than marriages where neither spouse was materialistic.

Non-materialistic couples were about 10 per cent to 15 per cent better off in categories including marital satisfaction, marriage stability and lower levels of conflict, Carroll said. 

It didn't matter whether the materialistic spouse was the man or the woman, he added.

"What we found was a general pattern that materialism seems to be harmful to marriage It's probably best described as an erosion effect... What we see is across all of these areas, a notable and significant decrease for couples where one or both of the spouses were materialistic," Carroll said.

It seems reasonable to expect that mismatched marriages would be the unhappiest, given that a marriage between a spendthrift and a saver would seem headed for conflict. But that's not what the study found, he said.

"Even when it's a shared value, [materialism] seems to have an additive effect. It seems to compound the problem," he added.

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