Better relationships make us less prone to materialism
Texting isn’t enough, in case you’re wondering
Studies show that the anxiety from loneliness and unreliable relationships leads to emotional attachment to material possessions. That’s something I learned when doing research to the Letting Go of Unneeded Stuff mini course I launched last year with The Minimalist Wardrobe. I’ve been more intentional with my close relationships ever since.
In one study, participants primed with close others' unreliability reported increased attachment to belongings, increased separation anxiety, and motivation to reunite with the belonging—regardless of whether or not the object had anything to do with the relationship. So essentially, we cling on to our stuff when we feel insecure.
Another study suggested that the feeling of loneliness could be both a cause and consequence of object attachment, meaning that a vicious loop is easy to get sucked into. We feel lonely and start focusing on our stuff—filling up our wardrobe, working toward other material goals, taking attention away from whatever relationships we have—which leads to even more loneliness. We’re digging a hole for ourselves by turning to materialism, and then we try to fill the hole with more digging.
Working on your close relationships will reduce your desire for unnecessary stuff. It's a great bonus for the other obvious benefits of having deeper connections in your life.
I'm no relationship expert, but one thing is clear: We're more connected than ever, but never before have the connections been so shallow. Texting someone or liking and commenting on their social posts isn't enough to cultivate meaningful relationships.