Mo' Money Mo' (Marriage) Problems: Materialism Bad for Relationships

ThinkstockThinkstockHow important is money to you? That answer means a lot for your relationship.

In a study of 1,734 married couples, those who (in so many words) said "I don't care too much for money" were totally right that money can't buy them love-or at least a stable, happy marriage. These non-materialistic couples scored about 10-15 percent higher on several measures of relationship quality than their materialistic counterparts.

COLUMN: The Truth About Money & Happiness

It turns out, those materialistic couples who admitted they loved money, had more fights over it-even though they were better off financially. Having two materialistic people in the relationship was significantly worse for relationship quality than having just one materialistic partner.

Money-hungry couples were more likely to have poor communication and conflict resolution, as well as low responsiveness to each other. Why? Aside from fights over money, author Jason Carroll suggests that the partners may spend more time focusing on possessions than the relationship itself.

Fortunately, there are practical ways to decrease materialism in your relationship.

Gratitude is associated with wellbeing, and some research shows a link between gratitude and less materialism.

MORE: Express Gratitude for Less Materialism, More Happiness

"Gratitude is more broadly creating a focus on your relationship to your community and the events that surround you, rather than a focus on yourself." says Psychology Advisor Art Markman, Ph.D.

People can be grateful for their financial status, recognizing that certain external circumstances and events aligned that helped them make a great deal of it. Grateful people also realize that when they do something less than great (not getting that bonus), it isn't purely because of some flaw in their character. Applying this same mentality to your partner can avoid some heated arguments.

A great first step is trying to cultivate more gratitude in your life in general.

"It's all about connecting yourself to everything else," Dr. Markman says.

Also, experiences with your partner is one way to inject energy into your relationship. Go camping or volunteer at your local shelter. And research says it's also OK to buy experiences-it leads to more happiness than buying material goods.

THIS STUDY, EXPLAINED: Experiences Can Buy Happiness

"There are all kinds of experiences you could buy," Dr. Markman says. He suggests putting together an event with your friends, like hosting a house concert.

This could be great for your relationship because a lot of couples end up slowly disconnecting themselves from their group of friends.

Valuing your time with friends and the greater community around you can bring you farther from a focus on material goods, and closer to your partner.

QUIZ: What's Your Relationship Style?

- Angelica Catalano

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