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“One Bed, One Bank Account” is a Fun Read on a Serious Subject That Deserves Attention
Who likes to have “the talks” with their significant other, especially “the money talks”? If I were asking this question in a room full of people, how many hands would go up? Many of us would rather go for a root canal!
There’s strong evidence that communication deteriorates over the duration of a relationship, and that this deterioration is fueled by this nasty little thing called assumptions – we think we know what our spouse thinks, likes, wants and we don’t bother to check if it’s still true. That’s why books such as “One Bed, One Bank Account” are so important in reminding us of the benefits of having these conversations, not just once but as an ongoing endeavor.
[I]f the fuel level in your car is low, it’s okay. We can fix that. But if your gauge is broken (no communication), there could be big, bad surprises ahead.
(Derek, pg. 13-14)
Derek and Carrie focus not only on some of the benefits we can derive from making the effort of having these conversations (developing a shared understanding, having common goals, etc.) but they help us understand how we can successfully have them and what we should do with the output.
Here are some of their key takeaways:
- The approach we take when we have money and other challenging conversations matters
- Rules make the process more effective
- The debrief and taking care of the output (including setting boundaries and restrictions) makes the desired changes stick
#1. The Approach
The authors suggest that there are key ingredients to setting the stage for a good conversation, let’s call this pre-meeting preparation. Before sitting down with your other half, it’s important to decide on the setting, date and time that will be conducive to a good conversation, including ensuring there will be enough time to do it properly. It’s also important to start the first conversation on the right foot if there are to be others, and that means coming to it with a positive attitude, including the belief that you will make progress. Finally, mutual respect is table stakes, meaning that both parties should be on their best behavior, including keeping the conversation polite and free of blame.
#2. The Rules
The approach mentioned above already includes some “setting the stage” rules (setting the where, when and how). On Game Day, it gets more specific… and it involves a coffee cup:
- First, topics should be prioritized from most to least important, and there should only be one topic discussed at a time to ensure each one is addressed as much as each party expects.
- Then, Derek and Carrie suggest the coffee cup method. It’s their version of a talking stick. Whoever holds the cup gets to talk. No interruptions, including body language. Only the holder of the coffee cup can pass it on to the other party, ensuring no one dominates the conversation. When the coffee cup is passed on, the first order of business of the other person is to reiterate what their partner shared and get confirmation before getting into their thoughts on the matter, which effectively is when the roles become reversed. This method is used for every topic to be discussed. No exceptions.
The other person is the listener and is not allowed to respond or say a word, yet. Nothing. Silence. No wrinkly faces or head-shaking. (Carrie, pg. 25)
#3. The Debrief and the Output
Finally, there’s the debrief and processing the output. The debrief is the gut check conversation that has you checking in on how you both feel after the conversation. There should be a sense of relief, connection, and a desire for follow up and further discussion.
Dealing with the output means doing what was agreed upon during the conversation. It could include a change in behavior, setting additional meetings to take some agreed-upon action (listing debts to set up a debt repayment schedule for example) or other follow up you’ve both agreed to. It could also include setting agreed upon boundaries and limitations to ensure future financial and relationship success. Setting these can be the ultimate show of respect to both you and your partner. After all, actions speak louder than words.
Meaningful conversations (having them and acting on them) help build a strong foundation for a successful relationship, and that includes having the all-important money and planning-for-the-future conversations. “One Bed, One Bank Account” can help you get started.
Other suggested readings along the lines of various topics Derek and Carrie explore in “One Bed, One Bank Account” include: “Money Talks” by Gail Vaz-Oxlade, “Mating in Captivity” by Esther Perel, “You Can Buy Happiness (and It’s Cheap)“, “The Total Money Makeover” by Dave Ramsey, “The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman and, for some cautionary tales, and Valerie Rind’s “Gold Diggers and Deadbeat Dads” is a worthwhile read.
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