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Materialism is not a defining factor of a successful relationship. In fact, couples who care about possessions have unhappier marriages than those who are unmaterialistic, according to new research.

The problem just doesn’t affect the rich who are trying to keep up with the Joneses, or the poor who can’t afford much in the first place. The effect is seen in couples across all income levels. And when both partners are materialistic, watch out.

“We thought it would be the incongruent or unmatched pattern that would be most problematic, where one’s a spender and one’s a saver,” researcher Jason Carroll told LiveScience. “Our study found that it’s the couples where both spouses have high levels of materialism that struggle the most.”

Carroll added that perhaps these relationships struggle so much because materialism isn’t particularly great for anybody. People who love possessions are typically more anxious, depressed, and insecure than non-materialistic types. A strong love of money has also been linked to trouble at home.

Of the 1,734 married couples studied, 14 percent were matches between two non-materialists. In about 11 percent of marriages, the wife was highly materialistic and the husband was not; another 14 percent were reversed. Twenty percent of couples were made up of two materialists with the rest of the couples falling in the middle. Marriages with at least one materialistic spouse were worse off on in terms of marital satisfaction, conflict patterns, marital communication, marriage stability and other factors than marriages where neither spouse was materialistic. Non-materialistic couples were about 10 to 15 percent better off in these categories.

Carroll suggests these couples are unhappy because materialism causes spouses to make bad financial decisions and spend beyond their means which leads to debt and stress.

Materialistic people also spend less time nurturing their relationships with people because they are more concerned with things.

So what’s a materialistic couple to do? “I think it’s about people stepping back and taking an inventory of their values and what really is important to them,” Carroll said. “Are we allowing some of our materialistic ambitions to get in the way of things that really, at the core, matter a lot to us?”

Has materialism ever gotten in the way of any of your relationships? Are you the materialistic one in your relationship or is it your spouse, or are you both stuck on things?

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