Typically, the personal and lifestyle advantages of great affluence are conspicuously evident. What often flies beneath the radar is how uber-wealth may negatively impact relationship prosperity.

Unintended Consequences…

The unintended consequences of great wealth often distract individuals, couples and families from the deeper and more authentic gratification derived from emotional, verbal, and physical intimacy. This runs the gamut from the profound sharing of one’s deeper feelings that enable relationships to thrive, as well as enjoying romantic and sexual intimacy.

What informs my claim? Insights gleaned from working with a great many very high net worth families. Here’s what I often find.

For Families…

Wealth affords enormous homes. The larger the home, the greater the distance between the family members. Everyone certainly has their own bedroom, if not their own wing. Unlike yesteryear, when the family convened in the family room to watch television together– in my youth it was called the TV room–it’s more likely now that everyone is in their own room attached to their own devices. When houses range up to and beyond 10,000 square feet, you might no longer call out to each other, but resort to intercoms.

This great distancing, made even worse by our addiction to the cell phone, can desecrate familiarity, the essence of intimate familial bonding. Physical distancing often results in emotional distancing.

For Children…

The unscripted adventures of two children sharing a bedroom often leads to a bond of incalculable value. With wealth, and even with middle income families this opportunity vanishes with each child having their own room. Privacy often precludes bonding. This prompts the question as to which room must the parent visit first for the proverbial tucking in or bedtime story?

As well, it can be an all-consuming, full-time job trying to assure the very best education for your children. With wealth, expectations for your children’s achievement may increase proportionally, and sadly, most parents struggle to maintain balance. Your aspirations and goals, although sensible at first, may remove you from being truly present in the moment. As John Lennon sang, paraphrasing writer Alan Sanders, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

For Couples…

Let’s turn our attention to the couple. As with most marriages, what begins initially as a romantic connection tends to devolve into a utilitarian, pragmatic relationship. We turn our attention to life’s demands, as we must. But wealth can exacerbate this loss of passion. Attention is likely no longer on just one home and decorating it, but the enormous endeavor of purchasing, decorating, landscaping, and staffing multiple homes. Another reward for financial abundance is travel, as it should be. But be wary of how much time is spent in the planning of these getaways. The strategizing and planning around financial matters can often take center stage, also ignoring the heart of the relationship.

Excessively busy and demanding lives tend to go hand in hand with affluence, often distracting from the core relationship. As a psychotherapist and marriage counselor I’ve often seen how the gift of wealth may unsuspectingly lead to such great distraction that neither person is tending to the energy of the relationship. Just as you must stoke the logs in the fireplace to keep the fire going, when emotional and sexual intimacy become an afterthought, the flame of the relationship withers.

The Real Foundation

Emotional intimacy is the bedrock of thriving relationships. Wealth doesn’t bring happiness, resilient relationships do. The goal is to see wealth as the icing on the cake, but not the cake itself. I counsel my clients to navigate a balance from which their relationship remains their priority, lest they get swept away in the torrent of wealth-distracting matters. Attaining great wealth is a gift, but it can become a Trojan horse when we lose sight of what brought the couple together and how to secure the immense rewards of wonderful coupling and familial bonds.

Check out the original version of this article, along with a podcast edition you can listen to, on my website.

Want more from me? Check out The Possibility Podcast with Mel Schwartz anywhere you get your podcasts, and be sure to read the book that started it all, The Possibility Principle: How Quantum Physics Can Improve the Way You Think, Live and Love.