Materialism and your marriage are not compatable

Two noteworthy things happened today regarding marriage and money. One made me smile, the other made me think. The two are connected in a wonderful way.

First, today was the wedding of Bhutan’s charming young king Wangchuck to his longtime girlfriend, Jetsun Pema, a commoner. Not much was said about the bride in the SF Chronicle article, except that the king desired a queen who was “a good human being as well as unwavering in her commitment to the people and the country.” He found all that in his sweet fiance.

In addition to this being a heartwarming union, the following caught my eye:

Wangchuck’s father, the country’s revered fourth king, introduced to the world the philosophy of Gross National Happiness, the idea that spiritual and mental well-being matter as much as money, and that material gain should not come at the expense of the environment or culture.

I started thinking about how Gross National Happiness could be connected to marriage. The plot began to thicken after I read today’s Second Noteworthy Thing….

Today reported that couples who are focused on earning and spending money tend to have significantly less happy marriages. A Brigham Young University study found that “materialism was associated with spouses having lower levels of responsiveness and less emotional maturity. Materialism was also linked to less effective communication, higher levels of negative conflict, lower relationship satisfaction, and less marriage stability.”

There are several possible explanations for the findings. Firstly, materialism may be the indicator of a slew of other problems, such as childhood neglect, low self-esteem, or compulsions, that are the real root of marriage problems. Materialistic traits have also been found to go hand-in-hand with a whole host of problematic  behaviors. “People who are materialistic tend to be narcissistic and concerned with impressing people,” said Dr. Heitler, interviewed for the article.”They have a tendency to be anxious, depressed, have relatively poor relationship skills and have low self-esteem. These qualities in turn can cause marital problems.”

On the other hand, it could simply be that an individual’s obsession with keeping up with the Joneses leaves him little time to work on his marriage.

Financial stability is important in keeping a marriage strong and happy. However, studies have shown that once individuals get beyond the amount of money needed to keep them secure and free, happiness does not continue to increase with higher income or more “stuff”. In fact, more assets and belongings actually increase stress. So back to Bhutan and the idea of Gross National Happiness. I agree that happiness and wellbeing are far more important than what you spend. I challenge you to start thinking about your Gross Domestic Happiness just like any other asset. It is just as–if not more– important as your finances. Check in on the account once an a while. Do you need to invest a little more? Knowing how to communicate in a relationship is essential for this.

I wish King Wangchuck and Queen Jetsun Pema a long and happy marriage. I hope the national values instilled by Wangchuck’s father will help keep the destructiveness of materialism far from their home and the homes of Bhutan’s citizens.


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