Material World Dr. K examines a study done by BYU that says materialistic spouses—rich and poor—are more likely to have marriage problems. Is this you? BY DR. KAREN SHERMAN
Steve Cooper, hitched
When one's pulling one way and the other's pulling in the opposite direction, something's going give.
You often hear that money is one of the most common arguments that couples have with one another. But recently, a very interesting study came out, and I wanted to share it with you because I don’t think many couples are aware of a potentially underlying dispute that might just get classified as a financial woe.
It seems when partners have different expectations about materialism—what they will spend money on—the relationship is open to strain. This is especially true if the two do not agree. What is even more interesting is this holds true even if the couple is financially well off. These findings were consistent, regardless of ethnicity or religion.
The problem seems to arise when marital satisfaction is evaluated by either the couple or one of the mates on material items: e.g., taking fancy vacations, having a pricey car or being able to make expensive purchases. What seems to matter is not the actual spending of money but rather how it is thought about that makes the difference.
Emotionally, the topic of money is a touchy one and usually not one that is addressed. When it is, generally it is money management that is likely to be discussed. But the issue of materialism is not about the skills of handling finances but, as stated above, the expectations that each person has upon entering their relationship.
Expectations are very important in many arenas—not just money. I often tell couples who are about to embark on a vacation to talk about the expectations each one has about how the vacation will be spent; when each person has a different perception of how things will be, it’s a sure plan for disaster.
There are many such areas where couples can get into trouble by not disclosing their individual expectations. For example: how to raise children, the roles each of you will play in the marriage, how you will function with the extended family or how holidays and birthdays/anniversaries are to be celebrated.
When expectations are spoken about, it allows a couple to learn about one another. Remember, you are two different people coming from two diverse backgrounds. The trick to a good relationship is bridging these differences. By staying flexible, you will be able to accommodate your partner and make adjustments to the situation so you’re both happy.
As an extra hint when it comes to marital satisfaction and money, remember to focus on what you truly need as opposed to what you merely want. And it is always important to be grateful for what you have!
Karen Sherman, Ph.D., (www.drkarensherman.com) is a practicing psychologist in relationships and lifestyle issues for over 20 years. She offers teleseminars and is co-author of Marriage Magic! Find It! Make It Last.