More love of money, more problems for materialistic couples


Couples who rank money and things as important might be worse off in their relationships than those who aren’t as materialistic, a study finds.

Researchers discovered that it may be true what they say: Money can’t buy happiness. They surveyed 1,734 married couples across the U.S. about their attitudes toward relationship values and issues such as materialism, compassion, communication and the importance of marriage. Among the participants, 58.7% had either high or low levels of materialism. In that group, 24.1% were both nonmaterialistic, 34.1% were both materialistic, and the rest had dissimilar materialism levels, with one spouse ranking high and the other low.

Couples who didn’t place high value on money and things scored moderately higher--about 10% to 15%--on almost every marriage feature on the questionnaire compared with couples who valued materialism. The scores of mismatched couples fell between those who were matched.


“Couples where both spouses are materialistic were worse off on nearly every measure we looked at,” said lead author Jason Carroll in a news release. Carroll, a professor of family life at Brigham Young University, added, “There is a pervasive pattern in the data of eroding communication, poor conflict resolution and low responsiveness to each other.”

Having more money didn’t necessarily make things better. Couples in which both spouses were materialistic tended to be wealthier than couples who didn’t place such importance on money.

This may have implications for couples’ counseling, the authors noted. “Efforts to develop new interventions aimed directly at addressing the problems associated with materialism in marriage,” they wrote, “may be particularly relevant in the current economic context where financial resources may be lower than many couples’ expectations.”

The study was released this week in the Journal of Couple & Relationship Therapy.