There is a lot of discussions nowadays in the business world about work-life balance. Today I want to challenge and inspire you to think seriously about your work-marriage balance!

Materialism is the excessive desire to acquire and consume material goods. Think about the choices and values you place on material things (things you can buy) and how that affects your satisfaction with your marriage.

Not that wealth is bad, nor is it wrong to prosper. Owning and enjoying material things is not bad either. What we see from the research is that it is not so much the value OF things but the value we GIVE to things and wealth that influences our marital satisfaction.

We’re going to look at four things: how marriage makes you wealthier, how work impacts marriage, how materialism itself affects marital quality, and how starting a family sooner or later (as a financial/career decision) affects life and family satisfaction.

Marriage Makes You Wealthier

Zagorsky published his findings in the Journal of Sociology (2005) after conducting a study of individuals in their youth, then into their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s. He found:

  1. Single people slowly increase their net worth over time
  2. Married people experience a 77% increase in net worth than single people
  3. On average, their wealth increases by 16% for each year of marriage.
  4. Divorced people: wealth starts to decrease 4 years before the divorce and they end up experiencing an average wealth drop of 77%

The message is NOT: Stay wealth – don’t get divorced! The message is, you have the opportunity to get married, go for it, and take care of your marriage because one of the usual blessings is an increased likelihood of growing your net worth.

Another thing, putting the heartache and really difficult consequences aside, it’s way cheaper to do counseling or coaching or marriage enrichment work early on and even when you feel like you don’t need it, than it is to go through a divorce. Be proactive about enriching and maintaining the quality of your marriage!

Work Impacts Marriage

Maume and Sebastian surveyed 372 couples (Journal of Family Economics, 2012).

They discovered that for men, working a fixed night schedule lowered marital quality compared to men who worked fixed days. Also, marriages suffered when work schedules limited the time they could spend with their spouses. We’re not condemning you if this is what you need to do. We have good friends that have done this, but it’s hard!

For women, it was a little different. Because of the expectations to get things done at home, outside-the-home-work was a disruption to family life, time for herself and time to engage with family members. This culminated in a negative marital effect if she was working rotating schedules, in particular.

If you’re feeling really stuck and feel you have no other options for work, then your task is to figure out ways you can make the best of it and compensate for this challenge.

Infidelity is something to keep in mind when in the workplace. A separate study showed that men with higher incomes are more prone to engage in infidelity. (Interestingly, for women, it’s the opposite.) Perhaps it’s because they spend more time in the workplace to create wealth, or perhaps only due to the fact that their professional and personal lives include more opportunity to engage in these illicit relationships.

“Researchers have found that around one-half of participants who had cheated on their partner and who sought therapy (due to problems in their primary relationship) had met their extradyadic partner through their work”.

We definitely need to be cautious about the impact that work can have on our marriages! Be aware of how decisions around work and career impact our marriage for better or for worse.

Spending Affects Marital Quality

In 2011, Carroll et all looked at how aligned couples were on how their money should be spent and how that influenced their marriage. The findings were really interesting:

  1. Even when aligned, if both were pro-materialism, they had a lower quality of marriage.
  2. Mid-range quality marriages were those where one was high on materialism.
  3. The best quality of marriages occurred when the couple was both low on materialism.

Another study led by the same researcher found that materialistic attitudes led to higher perceptions of financial problems (more so than income levels), which in turn negatively affected levels of marital satisfaction.

Family Planning

One of the big decisions we make is when to start a family – that’s where emotional and relational issues meet head-on with financial and career issues. Rather than give you our opinions on this (as it can be quite a hot-topic!), we’re just going to go straight to the research.

A US national study of 3504 individuals showed that both men and women reported lower levels of life satisfaction when they had previously decided to delay family for their career. Both men and women reported more work-family stress.

Another study pointed out lower rates of having children is directly linked to materialism, and “those who do not delay relationships and family tend to experience significantly more satisfaction with life”.

In summary here, I think I have to say, “Ouch!” Just talking about this has challenged me on what I believe in life in general and how that affects my marriage. I hope it has done the same for you. Sometime to grow, we need to have the facts pointed out and be challenged!

I also think we really need to think about the value we place on material goods! The Lord Jesus taught in the book of Matthew, “Where your heart is, there will your treasure be also.” In other words, whatever you love (where your heart is) is where your value will grow the most (there will your treasure be). So, it’s what we love or what we value that matters, not if we have a lot of value.

Some food for thought, on a winter-Wednesday!