Marriage Red Flag

My nomination for a SLP personal finance journalism award—given to the author of a particularly succinct, lucid, and provocative personal finance article. From Rachel Emma Silverman in the Wall Street Journal (10/17/11):

If you care too much about money, your marriage may suffer.

A new study by scholars at Brigham Young University and Provo, Utah and William Paterson University, Wayne, N.J.. looked at more than 1,700 married couples across the U.S. to determine how their attitudes toward money affected their marriages.

Couples who said money wasn’t important to them scored about 10% to 15% better on measures of relationship quality, such as marriage stability, than couples where both or one spouse were materialistic.

Also, couples in which both partners said they valued lots of money—about 20% of the couples in the study—fared worse than couples who were mismatched and just had one materialist in the marriage.

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

In the study, published recently in the Journal of Couple & Relationship Therapy, participants completed a questionnaire which evaluated their relationship and asked, among other things, how much they value “having money and lots of things.”

Dr. Carroll says the research team had expected that disparate couples, those with different ways of viewing money, would have worse relationships. They found, though, that it was “materialism itself that’s creating much of the difficulty,” even when couples have plenty of money, he says.

Materialism might cause spouses to make poor financial decisions, such as overspending and running up debt, which can strain relationships. What’s more, materialistic spouses may pay less attention to their relationships and give their marriage lower priority than other concerns.

In other words, marry someone who values “having money and lots of things” at your own risk.

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