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Materialism not a good match for marriage: study

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - People who put a lot of weight on luxury vacations or designer decor may end up not being the perfect match in marriage, according to U.S. research.

Wives or husbands who place high value on possessions are more likely to experience financial problems, which puts a strain on the relationship, according to the first study analyzing how material satisfaction affected marriage.

The study showed that very materialistic couples had a 40 percent higher risk of having financial problems than other couples which can then impact marital happiness.

“For years there has been an emphasis on learning proper saving and budgeting techniques to avoid marital conflict over financial issues,” said the author of the study, Jason Carroll, of Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.

“But our study found that financial problems have as much to do with how we think about money as they do with how we spend money,” he added.

After studying 600 married couples who represented a varied ethnic, religious and socio-economic mix, he found about 35 percent reported high levels of materialism and more financial problems than the other couples.

Carroll discovered materialistic spouses put more emphasis on what they have and it took fewer financial problems to cause rifts.

“For a highly materialistic spouse or couple, it takes less financial disturbance to trigger a financial problem,” Carroll said in a statement.

“Some would say, ‘I’m not living a good life and I don’t have a good marriage if we can’t afford to go on that vacation or purchase designer decor for our home,’ where a less materialistic spouse would not view these limitations as a major issue.”

He added that the key to solving financial problems in marriage is to have realistic expectations and to separate needs from wants.

By lowering expectations, spouses are less likely to buy unnecessary things and can avoid argument and stress in the marriage. It could also make people more appreciative of what they have.

“We need to rethink the idea that financial problems are always money problems,” said Carroll.

“We need to start adjusting how much materialistic issues factor into our idea of what makes a good marriage and family life,” he added.