Save Your Marriage by Tackling Materialism: Is Money Destroying Your Relationship?

If you love your marriage, you’ll keep your money out of it because according to new research, materialism is destroying American marriages. If one or both partners place a high importance on getting or spending money, researchers found that they were less likely to have satisfying, stable relationships.

“I absolutely think that money, spending and accumulation often becomes a barrier between couples,” said licensed clinical psychologist Dr. David Hawkins in an interview with The Christian Post.

Over 1,700 married couples participated in a survey that asked whether they agreed or disagreed with statements such as: “I like to own things to impress people” or “money can buy happiness.”

Researchers then measured materialism’s affect on marriage by having spouses fill out self-report surveys on various aspects of their personal lives.

The results? One out of five couples admitted a strong love of money.

And how about the quality of marriage in those cash-worshipping pairs? You guessed it. Those couples were worse off in terms of marriage stability, marriage satisfaction, communication skills and other common facets of healthy matrimony studied by Brigham Young University.

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 told CP 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, arguing 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 told CP, “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 told CP 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 told CP 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.

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