Do you love shopping? Do your shopping habits create conflict in your relationships? If you answered yes to both these questions, you might be prioritising material possessions and their acquisition over your relationships.
And while deep and meaningful relationships have the potential to nourish and nurture you, materialism will only ever lead you into endless unfulfilling shopping debt. What’s more, research suggests that materialism and shopping addiction are not only bad for the person spending the money, but they are bad for our relationships too.
MATERIALISM AND SHOPPING ADDICTION
Materialism is the prioritization of material objects as sources of happiness, meaning, and well-being. It is characterized by a preoccupation with consumer culture and wealth. You can check your social media feed to see if you're guilty. If you're over materialistic, your feed will be full of influencers and your favorite shops and brands. Having a few favourite brands in your feed is normal, but they should be balanced with posts from your friends and other interests as well.
Materialistic people tend to buy things to bolster their self-esteem and identity. But building an identity with possessions like cars, clothes, and accessories results in an unstable identity. And we end up having to constantly bolster our identity and self-esteem with new purchases: spending way too much time and money shopping.
Unfortunately, research suggests that people with materialistic values are more likely to make impulsive purchases that inevitably lead to overconsumption. Two markers for shopping addiction. Materialism and shopping addiction can screw up our relationships in many ways, and they are not all obvious.
HEALTHY MINDS CREATE HEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS
Part of the problem is that shopping addiction and overconsumption negatively affect mental health. Studies by Dittmar et al. and Kasser et al. show that materialism is negatively associated with subjective well-being and life satisfaction. That means that the more materialistic we are, the lower our well-being levels are. Basically, the more we focus on material possessions and acquiring them, the less satisfied we are with life.
Researchers also found that the more materialistic we are, the worse our psychological health is. When we rely on material possessions for our self-worth, self-esteem, and identity, our well-being is not rooted in anything but our latest purchases. And in the fast fashion and fast-tech world, when our latest outfit or mobile phone is out of style within weeks, we start to suffer from feelings of inadequacy, anxiety, and low self-worth. Our psychological well-being depends on a shopping addiction and its rollercoaster ups and downs.
This isn't the only problem. People who prioritize materialistic values spend time shopping instead of finding alternative ways to use their spare time and enjoy life. While shopping will always leave you feeling empty after a few hours, other activities can nourish you, build genuine and resilient self-esteem, and help you develop an empowered identity.
These qualities are essential for a healthy balanced relationship. Strong relationships result from both partners having a strong sense of identity and self-worth.
MATERIALISM CRUSHES INTIMATE RELATIONSHIPS
We know that our levels of well-being and especially our levels of self-worth can impact our relationships, but a focus on materialism crushes intimate relationships in other ways too.
Materialism is all about having and possessing. It's about what I have and what I have accumulated. This preoccupation with me and mine leads to a self-centered focus and sense of entitlement. It might even influence the kind of people you are attracted to, undermining the chance of a deep and meaningful relationship from the start.
This is evident in the research that suggests that materialism is associated with lower levels of relationship satisfaction. When we're preoccupied with possessions, consumer culture, and wealth creation, it's unlikely that we'll value or prioritize intimacy and friendships. Instead, we tend to spend our energy not on building healthy relationships but on building wealth and status.
Long-lasting relationships and eternal intimacy don't just happen. They take effort on both sides. Once the honeymoon phase is over, maintaining an emotional connection involves committing to grow and learn together. Successful relationships are based on quality time together and healthy interaction and engagement.
MATERIALISM IS SHALLOW BUT RELATIONSHIPS ARE DEEP
Materialism, overconsumption, and shopping addiction directly conflict with our deeper selves, crushing healthy values and behaviors such as empathy and compassion, creativity, spiritual growth, gratitude, connection, trust, and communication. All these values and behaviors are linked with emotional intelligence and healthy relationships. They are essential for taking your relationship to the next level and standing the test of time.
Shopping addictions and materialism might win you a relationship, but they won't serve you in the long run. Research by Greenpeace suggests that shopping addiction causes addictive behaviors like lying, hiding purchases, and guilt and shame. These sorts of behaviors are really damaging to relationships; they undermine the foundations of a healthy relationship, like trust and honesty.
MATERIALISM CAUSES FINANCIAL PROBLEMS
As we've seen, materialistic values can lead to relationship conflicts in many ways. But one of the biggest problems is the financial problems that develop from a materialist view and shopping addiction. With access to credit cards and a buy-now-pay-later culture, debts can mount up rapidly.
The easier it is to spend money, the more impulsive our purchases get. For example, research has shown that when we use 'one-click' and contactless cards, we spend more and make more impulsive purchases. On the other hand, when we use cash, we tend to think about our purchases more and spend less.
Having a degree of self-control over our spending habits is a crucial part of being a responsible partner. But this is hard when we have a materialistic view. Conflict is inevitable if one partner spends a lot more on material possessions than the other. If both partners are materialistic, it's likely you'll always struggle with debts. And financial debt is one of the biggest stressors in relationships, causes countless arguments, and often leads to separation.
If some of this resonates, it's not too late to turn things around and steer your relationship towards a more meaningful, loving, debt-free, and intimate relationship.
5 TIPS FOR BUILDING A HEALTHY RELATIONSHIP
1. RECOGNIZE MATERIALISM AND OVERCONSUMPTION
2. REDUCE AND REPLACE SHOPPING WITH MEANINGFUL ACTIVITIES
3. WORK ON YOUR COMMUNICATION SKILLS
4. WORK ON YOURSELF AND BUILD HEALTHY SELF-ESTEEM
5. SETTING BOUNDARIES AROUND MONEY
In a consumer culture, it can be easy to get swept away with consumer culture and over-prioritize materialistic behaviors. But the research is in. Materialism, overconsumption, and shopping addiction not only ruin us, they ruin our relationships. Swapping out consumer behavior for healthy behaviors that nourish and build self-esteem is key to building deep, meaningful, and long-lasting personal relationships.
Written by Kirsti Formoso - Wellness Writer for Koraru
Kirsti Formoso is a wellness writer and researcher. She is passionate about holistic health and wellbeing. She has over 30 years of experiential knowledge in personal and spiritual development, and a Masters of Science in Consciousness, Spirituality and Transpersonal Psychology. She is also a peer reviewer for two scientific journals specialising in Transpersonal Psychology. When she’s not writing she can be found working on her vegetable plot, hiking in the mountains and breathing in all the wonders nature has to offer.