THE BLOG

The One-Minute Therapist

07/20/2007 06:06 pm ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

There's a famous expression: "It's as easy to love a rich man as it is to love a poor man."

There's also a not-so-famous expression (because I'm making it up!): "It's as easy to complain about a rich man as it is to complain about a poor man."

Although the total absence of an income might bring its share of stress into a relationship, adamantly seeking a marital partner who's a millionaire won't necessarily guarantee you a lifetime of bliss.

Consistently, studies show that individuals who prioritize wealth over close human connection tend to be less happy -- and this is consistent in every culture.

Sociological researcher H. W. Perkins surveyed 800 college alumni, and discovered that those who reported "yuppie values" (preferring high income, job success, and status over enjoying truly close friendships and highly-connected love relationships) were twice as likely to describe themselves as "fairly" or "very" unhappy

Interestingly, a similar correlation appeared among 7,167 college students surveyed in 41 countries. Those who prioritized love over money reported higher life satisfaction than their money-obsessed pals.

And what about that rumor: money problems are a top cause of divorce? Mere hearsay -- according to Jan Andersen, associate professor at CSU Sacramento, who did extensive sociological research and wrote a doctoral dissertation on this very subject.

"As a predictor of divorce, money problems are ... so minor," Andersen says. "If we look at all the causes of divorce, financial problems can only account for 5 percent of the effect."

On an interesting note, when Anderson first embarked on his research, his goal was to prove a cause/affect link between money/divorce. Andersen was both a child of divorce and a teacher of personal finance and so he liked the concept that improving money managing skills might improve marriage success rates.

However to Andersen's surprise, the only research he found showing an actual link between money and divorce was one mere survey from 1948 -- of postwar divorced women asked what ended their marriages. Their leading response: "nonsupport." Translation: Hubby wasn't providing enough money.

But Andersen clarified that "nonsupport" was one of the only grounds you could use to get a divorce back then. Plus, this survey focused only on wives' opinions -- not husbands.

Recent research, however, consistently showed money playing a far lesser role in divorce -- usually ranking about fifth in the blame line-up -- behind incompatibility, lack of emotional support, abuse and sexual problems.

Andersen hypothesis: Money is a more socially acceptable reason for divorce than confessing to abuse or sexual problems, so people claim it out loud more often.

Another essential point to keep in mind: Even when couples fight about money, they're often really fighting about more important underlying problems -- reminds Olivia Mellan, a Washington D.C. therapist and author of Money Harmony: Resolving Money Conflicts in Your Life and Relationships.

"It's always what the money represents: dependency, control, freedom, security, pleasure, self-worth," explains Mellan.

The lesson to be learned from all this: All the money in the world won't make you happy. But a loving highly-connected relationship just might.

With this in mind, here's some priceless money/love advice:

1. When in the courting phase, make sure you and your paramour do a range of activities having nada to do with moola. Go for a picnic in the park. Eat in a greasy spoon diner. Cook at home and watch an old movie. Suss out how much you enjoy each other's company while merely putting cheese-whiz on a Ritz -- and not putting on the Ritz!

2. Talk directly about money with your paramour. How much do you need to be happy - -and why? What do you prioritize spending money on? Trips. Clothes. A fabulous home. Charity events. College education. Plastic surgery. Saving rainforests. Do you share the same monetary priorities? Are you both compatible when it comes to being high vs. low spenders?

3. Discuss with your partner how each of you relates money to self-worth, pleasure, freedom, security, dependency, control. Do you both share compatible attitudes about the underlying "value" and "role" of money?

4. Buy a bunch of gossip magazines, and read all about the troubled relationships of the rich and famous. Obviously money is not buying guaranteed happiness amongst the jet set.

5. If you insist on marring rich, make sure your partner has a diversified "good character values" portfolio -- with the full gamut of valuing communication, loyalty, warmth, friendship, family, trust, and compassion.

No doubt about it. A night spent with the right intimate partner eating tuna fish sandwiches is far more enjoyable than a night spent with the wrong partner eating lobster and caviar.