Tag Archives: financial stress in marriage

Is Your Family Choosing Money Over Time?

traffic morguefileFollowing up on the last post suggesting we “underachieve” so that we have time to achieve with our family, you might ask whether not putting most of your energies into career and financial achievement might end up reducing your happiness in the long run. In other words, won’t you be less happy with less money and/or career advancement?

It seems justifiable that we need to work enough to provide a comfortable home and to care for our family. However, many of us become competitive and want to be “the best” and to earn as much as our talent and opportunities will allow. We also decide as a family that we “need” more and more, requiring more money to satisfy these demands. Spending more time working usually means less time for your marriage and family. And if those bonds are strained, the stress will certainly mean less happiness for you.

A new study reported in CNN called “Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending” by Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton finds that we often get so much in the habit of working and earning that we don’t stop to enjoy the fruits of our labor. Even wealthy people spend too much time overworking and doing things they don’t enjoy, such as driving long commutes to work. Researchers say we should use some of that money to “buy happier time.”

While we’re at it, we should ask ourselves before spending money how the purchase will affect our time. For example, buying a nicer car may seem like a great reward, but not if you have to work more hours to pay for it. Drivers get no more pleasure from commuting in an expensive car than in a cheap one. And the average American spends two hours a day just working to afford his car.

Another bad investment is an improved home entertainment system, according to researchers, who say watching TV is a clear happiness drain. On the other hand, they say investing in a dog pays off in happiness dividends, encouraging you to take daily walks and socialize with other dog owners.

I can relate to the research. Before starting my own business in 1998, I put in long hours at work, only to feel I could never get ahead of the work load. I think many Americans feel they don’t have a choice but to participate in this rat race, particularly with the weak economy.

So a focus on smarter spending of time and money on things that will improve your happiness and your family’s happiness is key. Our family enjoys time in nature, trips to the library and cooking at home. My husband has always been one to make time to enjoy life and encourages as much time together as a family as possible. If you think about your happiest memories, they probably weren’t the most expensive days of your life.

Think about ways you can spend enjoyable time with your spouse, friends, and family without spending a lot of money. Brainstorm things you’d like to do together this summer and keep the list handy. You might also want to keep a list of books or movies you’d like to enjoy together.

Do you feel like this is a difficult tradeoff for your family? Do you and your spouse agree on how to spend time and money? Feel free to share any tips you have.

For newer readers here, I’ve written lots of research articles on happiness. If you’re interested in learning more about creating a happier life and happier marriage, search the archives.

I hope you have an enjoyable Memorial Day weekend. Take time with friends and family to enjoy life and give thanks to the service men and women who helped to make our freedoms possible.

Lori Lowe is the author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. It tells the inspiring, true stories of couples who used adversity to improve their marriages–from overcoming drug addiction to cancer, infidelity, religious differences, family interference and infertility, among many others. It’s available at Amazon.com and in various e-book formats here.

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Materialistic Marriages are Unhappier, say Researchers

No matter what your income level is, if you love money and the pursuit and accumulation of goods, your marriage will be less happy and less stable. In addition, if your spouse shares these interests, you may be doubly hit, say researchers.

They originally theorized that couples with one saver and one spender might be most at risk, because of the amount of conflict the difference in behavior can cause. However, researchers found that two spenders further dooms a relationship. When both spouses have high levels of materialism, the marriages struggle the most. (As my husband most aptly puts it, these couples argue about how broke they are.)

Researcher Jason Carroll, a professor of family life at Brigham Young University conducted online questionnaires with 1,734 married couples and used a commonly used relationship assessment tool. The couples answered questions about marital satisfaction, conflict and communication. They also rated their agreement with the sentence, “Having money and lots of things has never been important to me.” Those who agreed with the phrase were deemed non-materialistic, and those who disagreed were categorized as materialistic.

Among couples who had at least one materialistic spouse (either the husband or the wife), their marriages were worse off on all measures as compared to couples in which neither was materialistic. Couples who were deemed non-materialistic had 10 to 15 percent higher responses in terms of marital satisfaction and stability, and lower levels of conflict. On the flip side, when couples shared the value of materialism, it compounded problems.

While the study didn’t get to the bottom of why this correlation occurs, Carroll reports two theories. First, materialism leads to poor financial decisions, resulting in debt and higher stress levels. Second, 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.

I think both theories sound very reasonable. Do you agree with either of these theories, or do you think another reason could be attributed to the link?

Carroll suggests couples take an inventory of their values and determine what is really important to them, then ask if their ambitions for certain things may be getting in the way of what they say is important. While couples think they can pursue things and relationships, “they may not realize how much their ambitions are hurting their loved ones,” says Carroll.

So, are you a spender or a saver? Is your spouse a spender or a saver? If either one of you is a spender, it may be time to have a chat about your values and priorities.

For details, read Love of Money May Mess Up Your  Marriage.

LINKS:
Read Smart Ways to Keep Your Marriage Healthy, from CNN.

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