We admit that this particular article topic fascinated us when we brainstormed it. We’ve talked a significant amount in the past about the role that consumerism has in relationships and how it’s perhaps not the healthiest element of relationship building. And, at base, we believe that that is true. We believe that the healthiest relationships are built on top of something much more valuable than “stuff’ and material goods. But there is also a reality about social contracts and how they play into love, relationship decisions and “stuff.” Today, we’re collecting our thoughts on all of those topics into what we hope will be a relatively realistic look at a more “normalized” discussion of “stuff,” consumerism, love and long term relationships.
It’s a Fact: Long Term Relationships (Formalized or Otherwise) Include an Element of Building Financial Security
We once spent some time talking about the history of wedding gifts and how marriages were once entirely about estates and material goods. Obviously, for the majority of the world, this type of arrangement no longer exists (though let us not forget that many women still survive in societies where marriage is precisely a bartering system and the consumerism may even apply to the woman herself). However, even in parts of the world where long term relationships have evolved beyond a social contract and a monetary exchange, there’s still a monetary element to almost all long term relationships. At a most basic level, two people are taking care of each other and that means acquiring a level of financial safety, a roof over their heads and food on their table. This means that you can’t remove the element of money and “stuff” from relationship considerations. People certainly don’t need to “gold dig,” but most individuals look at the financial future and stability of their partner as a consideration. And that’s fair. How the two of you will create a secure future depends in part on how the other person gains or loses money.
Where the Danger May Exist: More Turns Into More, More, More
While we concede that it’s natural to consider financial stability and a shared value system on “stuff” when you enter into a long term relationship, the danger often exists that the nature of addictive consumerism takes over the relationship. For example, it’s healthy to embark upon a relationship and want to become financially solvent to purchase a house in a good school district. That’s a goal that many relationships have and while its rooted in “stuff” there’s purpose beyond the “stuff.” But what happens if you find yourself falling prey to the idea of “Keeping Up with the Joneses?” What if the place that you buy suddenly can only make you happy if it is replaced with a bigger place with even more “stuff” in it? The problem here is that you then get caught in an endless loop of just wanting to acquire more and more and more “stuff.” When that happens, you lose sight of the reasons why you fell in love with the person you chose as your partner to begin with. You lose the ability to enjoy each other and life because you are simply in pursuit of the next “thing” to purchase. And there will always be something bigger and better to purchase, the system is dependent on that fact. Your relationship changes, and not for the better. And the goal of financial security is replaced by an ever elusive goal of more and more and more. The social contract essentially gets an extension and is never fulfilled. And, likely, you will never be fulfilled either.
So What Role Should Consumerism and Finance Play In Picking a Partner?
Love purists of the world will of course scream that consumerism and finance should play no role in picking a long term partner! We understand and appreciate their romanticism, but we’d probably argue that even with them finance and materialism is playing a role. At base, they are likely searching for a partner who also believes that finance and consumerism are bad things to incorporate into a relationship, and that’s a choice about money as much as choosing to prioritize it is! Because marriage and long term relationships operate as a building block of a social structure, we think that using the following guidelines about money and “stuff” are healthy and can lead to great partnerships down the road.
- Do you share the same philosophy on money and stuff? How important is financial security to you? Money is, in fact, the number one thing that couples fight about. So for a successful long term relationship, you have to at least be on the same page about what you want to achieve materialistically and financially.
- Does the person with whom you’re falling in love and considering for a long term partnership have a history that supports what he or she is saying about their philosophy on consumerism, money, “stuff” and financial security?
- Do the two of you have a plan for how you will achieve your financial and material goals?
But the Most Important Thing is That The Two Of You Find Satisfaction Together
We’re pretty sure we found a way to anger or annoy just about everybody with this article! Some people will be saying it’s none of our business whether they care about money in a relationship or not (and they’re right). Others will say we’re caving to the consumer machine by suggesting that it’s ok. We think that there’s a reality to finance and materialism that doesn’t have to be driven by our country’s addictive consumerism. But we also think that where everybody lands on that scale is an entirely individual choice. We just want you to go into that choice armed with thoughtfulness and awareness of how the process works. And we want, above all else, for you to find love!
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Photo Credit: Merlijn Hoek via Flickr