PROVO, Utah — Married individuals who find themselves shopping frequently or always longing for the latest gadgets and fashion trends shouldn’t be surprised if their romantic lives are hurting just as much as their bank accounts. A research team at Brigham Young University found that materialistic people are more likely to devalue the meaning of marriage, and feel less satisfied in the relationship with their spouse.
“We know that materialism can lead to poor money management and that leads to debt and strain, but financial factors may not be the only issue at play in these situations,” says James Carroll, professor of marriage and family studies, in a release. “Materialism is not an isolated life priority; as the pursuit of money and possessions are prioritized, it appears that other dimensions of life, such as relationships, are de-emphasized.”
Measuring materialism is difficult, but Carroll’s team surveyed 1,310 married individuals and tried to ascertain their materialistic drive, their marital satisfaction levels, and their overall perception of the importance of marriage. Each participant was shown statements such as, “Having nice things today is more important to me than saving for the future,” and, “Having money is very important to me.” They were asked to rank the statements by how strongly they agreed or disagreed.
The data showed that increased levels of materialism led to a decreased belief in the importance of marriage as a whole, and less satisfaction within one’s own marriage.
Carroll thinks this damaging mindset can be helped in many instances.
“Many people are not fully aware of their materialism or the degree to which the pursuit of money is becoming an unbalanced priority in their life,” he explains. “It is helpful for spouses to evaluate and openly discuss the time patterns in their lives and make sure they are devoting enough time to prioritize and strengthen their marriage relationship.”
The full study was published December 30, 2017 in the Journal of Family and Economic Issues.