For richer or happier: Couples who marry ‘for poorer’ often more blissful, study finds

By Amber DiNenna,

A marriage is less likely to be satisfying if both spouses focus on material wealth. (Robert Kwong photo)

When both spouses focus solely on the “for richer” part of their marriage vows, there could be trouble.

According to a new 2011 research study by Brigham Young University and William Paterson University, when both partners in a marriage focus primarily on acquiring money and wealth, they are less likely to have a satisfying marriage.

The researchers of the study used self surveys of 1,700 married couples to gauge materialism, asking the participants how much they agreed with statements such as “I like to own things to impress people” or “Money can buy happiness.”

Jason Carroll, a Brigham Young professor and lead author of the study, reported, “Our study found that materialism was associated with spouses having lower levels of responsiveness and less emotional maturity. Materialism was also linked to less effective communication, higher levels of negative conflict, lower relationship satisfaction, and less marriage stability.”

The study found that one in every five couples reported a high level of importance placed on money and material things, and one in every seven couples reported a low level of interest in money and material things. The couples who placed a high importance on money and material things reported lower levels of satisfaction in communication, marital satisfaction and overall marital harmony. The couples who had little interest in money scored 10 to 15 per cent higher in marital satisfaction and quality. The correlation between interest in money and marital satisfaction remained the same regardless of how wealthy the couple was.

Interestingly, the study found that when one partner had materialistic tendencies and one partner was not concerned with wealth, the marriage was reportedly satisfying and bolstered by open communication. It seems that the non-materialistic partner was able to offer a stabilizing aspect to the marriage, allowing the couple to balance each other out and improve their marital quality.

The authors made a point of clarifying that this study does not necessarily mean that material things alone are to blame for marital discord, but that materialistic tendencies in spouse personalities play a large role. Then again, it may also mean that people who are ultra-focused on earning money may simply have less energy and time to invest in a happy marriage.

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