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Mo' Money, Mo' Problems: Possession-Centric Couples Have More Conflict

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You’ve heard the expression that money can’t buy you happiness and according to a recent study from Brigham Young University, it can’t buy you love either.

Research published in the Oct. 13 issue of the Journal of Couple & Relationship Therapy, found that couples who have more money also have more relationship problems.

Investigators from BYU analyzed relationship evaluations completed by more than 1,700 married couples across the U.S. and found that “couples who believe that money is not important scored up to 15 percent higher on marriage stability and other measures of relationship quality than materialistic couples,” according to a HealthDay release on the study.

Materialistic couples may have more relationship problems because they think acquiring material possessions will make them more desirable, and perhaps spend less time developing the social aspect of their relationship.

In fact, psychology Professor Leaf Van Boven from the University of Colorado at Boulder found “that people who pursue happiness through material possessions are liked less by their peers than people who pursue happiness through life experiences,” according to his study published in April 2010. If these people are liked less by their peers, it’s a good indicator their significant other may like them less, also.

"The mistake we can sometimes make is believing that pursuing material possessions will gain us status and admiration while also improving our social relationships," Van Boven said. "In fact, it seems to have exactly the opposite effect. This is really problematic because we know that having quality social relationships is one of the best predictors of happiness, health and well-being."

The BYU researchers found that money was a source of conflict for those couples who had a lot of it. And with America becoming more and more possession-driven (think laptops, iPads, flat-screen TVs, Starbucks coffee), this possession-driven unhappiness may affect you and your relationship sometime in the near future, if it hasn’t already.

"Compared with their grandparents, today's young adults have grown up with much more affluence, slightly less happiness and much greater risk of depression and assorted social pathology ... Our becoming much better off over the last four decades has not been accompanied by one iota of increased subjective well-being," according to Hope College psychologist David G. Myers, PhD, who was not involved with either of the aforementioned studies, but has done work of his own on consumerism and happiness.

The BYU researchers weren’t the first to look at material possessions and unhappiness, but their study seems to further confirm previous studies. It appears that people who value material possessions give lesser attention to people or experiences.

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

If you’ve been hitting the mall instead of spending time with your significant other lately, you may want to reconsider the things that really matter in life.


Couple Can Pay A Price For Materialism. HealthDay. Web. 13 Oct. 2011. http://consumer.healthday.com/Article.asp?AID=657800

Consumerism and its Discontents. American Psychological Association. Web. 13 Oct. 2011.

Materialistic People Liked Less By Their Peers Than ‘Experiential’ People. ScienceDaily. Web. 13 Oct. 2011. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/04/100414130832.htm

Bailey Mosier is a freelance journalist living in Orlando, Florida. She received a Masters of Journalism from Arizona State University, played D-I golf, has been editor of a Scottsdale-based golf magazine and currently contributes to GolfChannel.com. She aims to live an active, healthy lifestyle full of sunshine and smiles.

Reviewed October 13, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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