No doubt about it: money makes the world go round.
As one expert puts it: “It’s the currency we all live by. It pays for the houses we live in, the food we eat, and the clothes on our back.”
Madonna sang it best when she crooned:
“‘Cause we are living in a material world
And I am a material girl
You know that we are living in a material world
And I am a material girl”
The truth is, our relationship with stuff starts almost as early as it does with our relationship with our caregivers.
“The idea that we can own something, possess it as part of ourselves, is one that children grasp by the age of two.” says therapist Christian Jarrett.
“And by [age] six, they exhibit the ‘endowment effect’, placing extra value on an object simply by virtue of it being, or having been, theirs.”
It shouldn’t be a shock, then, that whether we should prioritize our relationships or our bank accounts is still quite the contested question in our times.
Of course, we’ve all heard the old adage: Money—and material goods—cannot buy love and happiness.
So how do you know what holds more value for you, really?
People who truly value relationships over materialism stick to these seven sentiments.
1) They know that they can’t have a relationship with their stuff
People who value relationships over materialism know that their Mercedes or their Maserati is nice to have—and show off—but that it just speaks to the ego part of themselves.
But you can’t build a relationship with the things you own—no matter how shiny and interactive they seem to be.
The thing is, those things will never love you back.
It’s the people who love and care for your happiness (and vice versa) who will make you feel truly fulfilled and happy in the long haul. Inanimate objects are just that—they’re objects.
As one relationship expert puts it: “What kind of memories can you make with your car?”
It’s about the people who you have laughed and cried with, those that have traveled with you, and those who would be there for you in a heartbeat.
2) They know that any happiness they do get from material possessions won’t last very long
Even if you are enamored with your prized possessions, the truth is that no material object is going to make you feel happy over a sustainable period of time.
Says the same writer: “Whatever you buy—no matter how big—[it will] only make you happy for a certain time, at most a month and then life [will] take over.”
If you’re prioritizing your material possessions over your relationships, have you considered getting to the root of the issue?
You see, most of our shortcomings in love stem from our own complicated inner relationship with ourselves—how can you fix the external without seeing the internal first?
It could be worthwhile to watch world-renowned shaman Rudá Iandê, in his incredible free video on Love and Intimacy.
So, if you want to improve the relationships you have with others and solve [insert problem/article topic/reader issue here], start with yourself.
You’ll find practical solutions and much more in Rudá’s powerful video, solutions that’ll stay with you for life.
Material possessions are akin to a shiny new toy you give to your toddler. They’re over the moon with it at first, and it becomes the center of their world.
But before long—maybe even after just a day or two—the novelty wears off and boredom and indifference sets in. The toddler’s attention turns to something else or on wanting the next “big thing”.
Dr. Thomas Gilovich, a psychology professor at Cornell University, has studied the connection between money and happiness for the past 20 years.
“We buy things to make us happy, and we succeed,” he says. “But only for a while. New things are exciting to us at first, but then we adapt to them.”
3) Experiences with people excite them more than any material possession ever could
Gilovich says that we’re much better off spending money on new experiences with people we love, rather than on material things.
As one money blogger puts it: “Chances are we won’t even remember most of the things we bought over the years, but we will remember the places we’ve been and the people we met along the way!”
It’s the relationships coupled with life experiences that will create lasting memories—ones that you will look back on time and again. Investing in these will make for a much more exciting and satisfying life.
4) They know that they can always buy more things, but once a relationship is gone, it’s gone for good
At the end of the day, money is simply a means to an end. Money will buy us a house—it can be modest or it can be grand—but the main thing is it’s about having adequate shelter.
Same with a car: it can be a Lincoln or a Lamborghini—it really doesn’t matter. The point is they both have the same function—to get you from Point A to Point B.
Even if you lose your house or car, it can be difficult for sure—but you can always live in a new home and get a new car.
“Let’s say that the car you love gets hit in a bad accident. You and your family survive. Don’t mourn the damaged car,” says one writer. “Celebrate that you and your loved ones survived.”
You can always buy another car, even if it takes some time. “People once lost, don’t come back.”
“The painful thing is that people don’t realize how much damage they do to their loved ones when they make them feel that they value an inanimate thing over a living, breathing creature,” says one writer.
“Take care of your people. That’s where love and happiness lies.”
5) They know that people grow and evolve, but possessions never will
The wonderful thing about us as human beings is that we are always changing and evolving.
You might get a high from landing a big account at the office, but before long you’ll be pressured to land something bigger and better. You’ll work into the wee hours of the morning—the chase will always be on.
Just like we talked about above, any emotional satisfaction you get will be temporary.
A relationship—whether between partners, siblings, parents, or friends—can have the potential to get better and surprise and uplift us in so many ways.
Relationships can also give us a sense of belonging—something we can’t get from things.
6) They know that having a plethora of possessions means there must be a void inside
Since human beings are social animals, they need to feel emotionally secure. This requires confidence in their relationships with other people, says Francine Russo from Scientific American.
“When we lack secure attachment to our loved ones, we might imbue our inanimate possessions with deep meaning or human qualities that fill that void,” she says.
When you become overly attached to your things, you might subconsciously believe that your possessions are infused with your essence.
Russo says that anthropomorphizing—when you tribute human characteristics to (in this case) an object—is normal to an an extent. “But for some vulnerable people, it can contribute to the pathological condition of hoarding.”
7) They know that on their deathbed, they won’t want things by their side
We’ve all heard the saying: You can’t take your possessions with you when you die.
Hadley Vlahos takes care of patients when they’re nearing the end of their lives. The New Orleans-based at-home, end-of-life-carer says that the biggest things people close to death disclose to her about their regrets are:
- putting things off in life (dreams and goals)
- trying to impress others
- working too hard
- not telling loved ones how they much care
- focusing too much on material objects
When you’re on your deathbed, the last thing you’re going to want by your side are the possessions you accumulated during the course of your life.
It’s the people you most care about in the world that you’ll want to have by your side to say goodbye to.
Let’s be clear: Caring about material things does not mean you have a moral failing
If you are attached to certain possessions, this might seem like you have morally failed, but nothing could be further from the truth, says Julie Beck, a writer for The Atlantic.
“Loving objects doesn’t necessarily make someone greedy or materialistic,” she says.
It’s important to note that there are two kinds of materialism, says Dr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a professor of psychology at Claremont Graduate University.
“Terminal materialism is the kind typically derided as shallow and empty—wanting things for their own sake, or to impress others.”
Then there’s something called instrumental materialism.
Instrumental materialism is what inspires someone to save something from a burning house, says Csikszentmihalyi.
“This is when the object is simply a bridge to another person or to another feeling.”
These could be things like family photos, a sentimental gift from a spouse, and religious objects such as a rosary or a cross.
It is these kinds of material objects we should hold close to our hearts, rather than the ones that ultimately could be replaced.