Happy Life: Happy Marriage Series
The more one feels loved and accepted by others, the lower the monetary value they will place on their material goods. A March 2011 study in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology revealed that heightened interpersonal security diminishes the monetary value of possessions.
Two studies involved researchers giving simple items to participants—a pen or a blanket. When participants were asked about their social support or primed with security-related words, they placed a lower monetary value on the items received than if the researchers used positive or neutral language. Placing a focus on relationships caused the material item to have less value.
For individuals who are trying to be less materialistic, get control of their finances, or who have difficulty getting rid of their stuff, this research may be a helpful way to reduce the perceived value of our “things”. Focusing more on our interpersonal relationships makes us realize the greater importance of relationships in our lives over our stuff. Think about your loved ones before you clean out those closets or go on a shopping spree.
Looking back on our lives, I know that we will evaluate the quality of our lives more by the quality of our relationships than by the quality of our shoes. Yet, many of us still fall into the trap of feeling that we need bigger and higher-end things to make us feel better. We think we should take the promotion and higher pay, even if it may cause our marriage to weaken because of the extra travel and long hours. But if we understood happiness research, we would think twice about using monetary wealth to attempt to increase our individual or family happiness.
In fact, research has demonstrated that people measure their happiness by the quality of their personal relationships. Even if other aspects of their lives, such as career and financial life, are going poorly, they will say life is going well if their personal relationships are strong. However, if relationships are weak and individuals feel unloved and unsupported, they will report being unhappy even if their job and other life factors are going well. We know this intuitively, don’t we?
The obvious conclusion is that if we want to be happier, we should look for ways to improve the relationships with the people in our lives with whom we are closest. Having a loving, supportive relationship with our spouse, children, parents and close friends will insulate us from much of the unhappiness of the world. Many people find a close relationship with their God allows them to rise above the cares of the world.
Those who have lost a special loved one will attest that they would trade everything they have for more time with that person. Yet our culture places a very high value on our external appearance, supported by material goods, i.e. clothing, cars, and homes. We all have to choose how to invest our limited time and limited funds. Each day we can make new choices.
Do you agree that having better relationships makes you happier? Do you find you struggle to dedicate time to improving your interpersonal relationships even though you understand the value proposition? Do you find that focusing on relationships causes you to value things less?
For all those dog lovers, read about how a dog helped a man save his marriage–and his life.
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