Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Lori Lowe, who blogs at MarriageGems.com and is the author of FIRST KISS TO LASTING BLISS: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage which has been released today at LoriDLowe.com.
Materialism is Inconsistent with Strong Marriages
Those of you who are choosing to live a more simple life may be heartened to know your decision bodes well for your marriage. Recent research has shown no matter what your income levels, a high level of materialism is correlated with marriages that struggle more, and that marriages with lower levels of materialism have higher levels of satisfaction. If both spouses are materialistic, the marriage has further struggles. Read more about this study on materialism and marital happiness.
Margaret and Phil are an example of a couple who choose to live in a counter-cultural way. Early in their marriage, they made a conscious decision not to accumulate too many possessions, and not to change their lifestyle as their incomes rose. Since Phil’s parents grew up in the Great Depression, he adopted some of their frugal ways, for example fixing what breaks instead of automatically buying new. They maintain an uncluttered, organized home.
I interviewed Phil and Margaret for my book, First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage, which profiles couples who overcame various challenges from drug addiction to infertility, child loss, infidelity, financial crises, military separation, depression, brain injury, stranger rape, opposing religions, disruptive families and much more. But this couple was an example for more of what they did right than for the obstacles that tripped them up. They made conscious lifestyle decisions early in their marriage that has guided them for decades.
When Phil was in medical school and Margaret was a teacher, it was easy to not accumulate too much, because they had very little money. As their incomes increased, they earmarked funds for charity, for mission trips, or long-term goals, such as the education of their two children. Their lifestyle choices allowed them to keep their priorities in check. For instance, Phil chose to provide medical care for indigent patients and doesn’t work overly long hours to advance his career. They have both been very satisfied in the ways they contribute to society and are satisfied with what they have materially.
Making mission trips with their young children also contributed to their view that they didn’t need more materialistic goods to be happy. They found many of the very poor people they met in travels were exceedingly happy despite their financial poverty. Phil and Margaret also have a strong faith that leads them to be generous with what they have.
More than 30 years into their marriage, they have no financial conflict in their marriage and are satisfied with what they have. They enjoy their four grandchildren. While Phil still works, Margaret is retired and has time for volunteer work that she finds fulfilling.
It’s so natural in our society to long for a bigger house, a nicer car, or finer clothes. This is not only because of ubiquitous advertising images, but also because we see friends and neighbors obtaining these goods regularly, whether they can afford to or not. But what do we trade those things for?
My husband and I made a conscious decision early in our marriage to not accumulate any credit card debt and to be wise with our spending. That includes the holiday season, which can be very difficult to manage without overbuying. However, I can also say that being in synch financially has allowed us to avoid virtually all financial conflict in our marriage. The freedom gained from living within our means far exceeds the joy we would obtain from accumulating more.
Experts say materialism often leads to poor financial decisions, resulting in debt and higher stress levels. They add that materialistic individuals spend less time nurturing their relationships with people and more time acquiring things, while non-materialistic people place a higher priority on relationships.
Don’t be afraid to make your own decisions about your lifestyle, even if it’s different from the culture that surrounds you. Invest in your marriage, and it will pay big dividends.
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