Married couples that care a great deal about money are much more likely to suffer from less peace and harmony in their marriage. This conclusion, from a Brigham Young University Provo, Utah, and William Patterson University, Wayne, New Jersey, study of 1,700 couples comes as no surprise to anyone who has counseled married couples for as many years as I have. A couple’s attitude toward money has always been one of the big three problems that destroys a marriage. (The other two common problems are sex and in-laws!)

Marriage images In this recent survey couples who said money was not important to them scored 10% to 15% better on measures of relationship quality, such as marriage stability, than couples in which one or both partners were materialistic. Also, couples in which both partners said they valued a lot of money—about 20% of the total in the survey—fared worse than couples who were mismatched and just had one materialist in the marriage.

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

Dr Carroll thought that the way couples viewed having money would be  significant but what was much more significant was materialism itself. Materialism often caused spouses to make poor financial decisions, such as overspending and running up debt, which strains relationships in almost every instance. Even more problematic is this—the more materialistic one or both spouses may be the less likely they are to pay close attention to their mate and their marriage.

This research confirms two things that I’ve observed from more than four decades of counsel and anecdotal research. First, materialism corrupts life in a deeply profound way, a way that is often not easily seen on the surface. Second, marriages suffer considerable harm because of materialism. And, please note, the amount of money is not the real issue. What matters is the inordinate love of money. The counsel of the apostle Paul is plain enough for all to see.

6 But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 8 But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 9 Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

The “love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” Money is important. Without it we cannot buy food, clothing and shelter. Without it we cannot have access to good reading, education, better jobs, etc. We all need some money. One critical evil is that it destroys marital harmony and creates family breakdown.

Note further that 1 Timothy 6:8, in the above text, says we should be content with food and clothing. Having riches is a challenge to deep faith but the real challenge is the temptation and trap that is set by foolish and harmful desires. These will lead you to destruction and ruin.

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