Chapter 3 - Situations Subchapter: Relationships

Money commentary

Rachel holding papers in the kitchen talking to Ruben but he has his back to her while cooking.



  • This scene is challenging because both characters are angry at each other, they want opposite things, and neither will budge.
  • Ruben has moved the line by withdrawing from a shared account without agreement, but he doesn’t see it as a genuine agreement because he’s essentially been pushed into going on a holiday he doesn’t want to go on.
  • Rachel decides that Ruben’s unwillingness to commit to shared goals means the relationship is over.
  • Ruben doesn’t want to lose Rachel, but he doesn’t see the damage he’s done.


What are the main decisions?

  • Go on a holiday together?
  • Save for our holiday?
  • Buy a gaming laptop?
  • Get a credit card?


The Field Model diagram for the decision 'Go on a holiday together?'; Rachel is a Yes, Ruben is an I Don't Know.


The Field Model diagram for the decision 'Save for our holiday?'; Rachel is a Yes, Ruben is an I Don't Know.


The Field Model diagram for the decision 'Buy a gaming laptop?'; Rachel is a No, Ruben is a Yes


The Field Model diagram for the decision 'Get a credit card?'; Rachel is a No, Ruben is a Yes.


 How do they do with Stop Ask Listen?

  • Depends on how you look at it.
  • In one sense, they do well because they do both know what the other wants.
  • Ruben knows she’s upset as soon as she mentions the holiday account because he knows what she would have wanted. And Rachel does ask Ruben what he’s done.
  • But they also don’t listen deeply enough.
  • Ruben knows how upset Rachel is, but at the end of the argument he thinks he’s won: he hasn’t absorbed just how big a deal this is to Rachel, even though he can sense it in the back of his mind. He doesn’t even realise that Rachel’s just quit the relationship.
  • In a way, Rachel does a better job of listening because she realises that Ruben is telling her that his toys are more important to him than her, and she faces up to what that means. She doesn’t take it out on him, or try to punish him. She faces up to the fact that this isn’t the right relationship for her, and she sets the wheels in motion to leave.


Split-frame shot of Rachel holding papers, and Ruben cooking with his head down.


How do they do with Yes No I Don’t Know?

  • When you’re in a relationship it can become hard to work out which decisions are individual and which are shared. That’s the big problem for Rachel and Ruben: they can’t agree on what decisions they are making together.
  • Rachel is upset because she feels like Ruben broke an agreement: he agreed to save for the holiday, then he changed his mind and spent his part of the money on a laptop.
  • But did he move the line? It depends on how you frame the decision.
  • Rachel sees the decision as shared: “Can I spend our holiday savings on a laptop?” So Rachel is a no, and Ruben is moving the line.
  • But Ruben sees the decision as individual: “Can I spend my money on a laptop?” In which case Ruben doesn’t need Rachel’s consent, so there’s no line move.
  • Same with the credit card: “Can we put the holiday on credit?” vs “Can I put my part of the holiday on credit?”


Split-frame shot of Rachel close-up, and Ruben looking directly at her. Both are speaking.


  • This is the heart of the problem: are these shared decisions, or individual decisions?
  • Rachel would say these are shared decisions, but Ruben doesn’t think so. As far as he’s concerned, the holiday is something she wants, and she’s kind of forcing him into it—which means he never really freely agreed to the shared account in the first place. He’s also comfortable with getting a credit card, and he thinks she’s being unreasonable about debt (thought you’d have to ask why he didn’t get the laptop on the credit card if that’s all it’s about).
  • This is where it gets tricky.
  • What kind of decision is it? One way to look at this is, it’s a shared account. Once money goes into that account, it’s a joint decision on how to withdraw it. So Ruben moved the line.
  • But if you think that Ruben never really freely entered into the joint account in the first place, then it’s not a legitimately shared decision and he’s right to pull out of it.
  • But underneath all this is a bigger issue: the deeper reason why Rachel is upset is because Ruben has said no on something really important to her—and not just this time, he’s spent savings several times before.
  • She can see this isn’t an abusive no; Ruben is not trying to punish or control her by saying no. He just wants different things. And even though she is deeply upset, Rachel doesn’t take it out on him. Instead she weighs up the relationship, and decides that it’s not meeting her emotional needs and she—at least emotionally, for now—checks out.


What do they do well?

  • These guys don’t do a great job altogether. At best we can say they don’t make a bad situation worse.
  • Rachel confronts Ruben quickly and cleanly. She doesn’t muck around.
  • Ruben explains what he did, so he doesn’t muck around either.
  • They are both clear about what they want, so there is no confusion.
  • When it’s clear that Rachel isn’t going to get what she wants, she doesn’t punish or hurt Ruben, or try to control him. Instead she makes an End Zone decision: whether to drop this decision and carry on with other shared decisions, or to end the relationship.


Rachel in her inner world, about to turn a light-switch off.


What could they have done better?

  • They could both have Stop Ask Listened about deep needs and feelings, not just what’s happening right now. This might have helped Rachel be okay with going on the holiday alone or letting Ruben use a credit card, or helped Ruben be okay with putting his savings into the holiday.
  • They could have talked about whether these were personal or shared decisions.
  • Ruben shouldn’t have blindsided Rachel withdrawing his money without telling her. By not wanting to have a confrontation, he left her feeling like he either just didn’t care or was trying to hide things from her.
  • If Ruben cared about the relationship more than the decisions, he could have sold the laptop and saved up the shortfall.