Don’t Buy The Teapot: A Lesson in Communication

Tevana teapot

Sit on back, grab a cup of your favorite tea, and join me on this little trip down memory lane to see how an unnecessary and expensive teapot helped me and my hubby learn to communicate better.

First, a bit of background information. In 2012, Jacob and I decided to move from Virginia, where we were both finishing school, to Texas, so Jacob could get to know my family better. We did a little cost/benefit analysis for several situations and decided our best bet was to sell everything, save as much money as possible, and take the leap of faith that we’d have jobs soon after our move.

By the way, when I say sell ALL of our stuff, I really mean it. We even sold our cars. We took with us only what fit in a couple of carry-on bags, a couple of checked bags, and a few boxes of books and pictures that we mailed to my parent’s home before moving and hopped on a plane.

Remember the goal here – get rid of unnecessary stuff and save a lot of money to prepare for a big move.

Be careful of communicating with one another when you’re tired, moody, or sick.

As you can imagine, taking on a task like selling all of your belongings and preparing for a move 1300+ miles away is a bit stressful, so after selling everything we needed a little date night. Even though I was tired and Jacob was sick, being newlyweds (just 3 years in) and excited about this new adventure, we were still in a good mood as we headed out for the night. Unfortunately, me being tired, him being sick, and the both of us stressed primed us for making a pretty poor decision.

Date night landed us at a Teavana store. By the way, if you’ve never been to one, I suggest you go. Read this article first so you’ll be prepared, but go. It just might change your life forever.

Teavana is little taste of heaven. I’m a sucker for a freebie and I swear they had at least a dozen stations set up for free samples of tea. Some hot, some cold, some fruity, some with a smell so beautiful I could practically see flowers and hear birds chirping as I sipped away.

We’re totally loving the peaceful, yet energizing atmosphere as we work our way around the stations when all of a sudden a sales lady walks up. She chats with us for a while, convinces us of our need for a teapot, and then of our need for multiple cups, saucers, a serving tray and some tea. This lady basically had us eating out of her hands as she upsold us over and over again. She “accidentally” dropped the teapot several times letting us know that it would never break and told us that the teapot of our choosing would be in our family for generations to come. I could already picture my great grandchildren helping me make tea as we sat around old photo albums and sang songs together. She told us that the symbols on the teapot meant wealth and that the wealth was not merely financial but also spoke of family togetherness and comfort. We. Were. Sold.

Somehow, fifteen minutes and a thousand dollars later, we walked out of the store as quite possibly the only non-habitually tea-drinking introverted couple in the world with a 40-pound tea set that serves ten people. Thanks to free shipping, it would be almost three months before we even opened the box on that tea set.

We only used that tea set once…
We moved it at least four times…
But, we learned a valuable lesson.

Our past experiences can greatly affect our communication.

Growing up, I had come to learn that the man is the decision-maker. If he wants to buy something, by golly you let him do so. If you don’t have the money, just put it on the ol’ faithful credit card. Don’t worry about the consequences today…you’ve got tomorrow for that.

Jacob, on the other hand, was more than happy to admit that he’s not great with money and kind-of counted on me to help with that part. He expected that I’d be more vocal if there was something going on that I wasn’t okay with. That’s what he saw growing up. His mom (and the only example of a female in his home since he had brothers) was more than happy to say no when she needed to.

What a recipe for disaster. I expected that I had to say yes where money was involved and he expected that since I’m better with money, I would say no to unreasonable purchases.

It helps to understand your spouse’s weaknesses.

Since then, we’ve learned that we can use our separate strengths to help with one another’s weaknesses. Typically, couples find that the husband has strengths that the wife does not and vice versa. In fact, those differences are part of what attracts us to one another. We even each other out.

Now that I’m better about saying no to unnecessary expenses, I have to rely more heavily on Jacob telling me when I’m being too tight-fisted with our income. In fact, just the other day we had a silly conversation about apples. I told him that honeycrisp were much more expensive than fuji (and honestly, they should be because they’re amazing) and he had to remind me that we have enough money to spend the extra five bucks on the more satisfying apple. Yes, we balance each other.

I would expect that you and your spouse have some of the same strength/weakness pairs in your relationship and these differences just may impact your communication from time to time. I encourage you to both take an accurate assessment of the strengths and weaknesses you each have and how you can balance one another out. Perhaps some of your differences have been playing a role in some communication mishaps that you’ve had.

You can use your mistakes to grow wiser.

I have a hard time getting rid of things that I feel have some type of value to them, and this was especially true of that thousand dollar tea set we never used. My poor husband wanted to get rid of it for at least a few years before we actually did. I can’t blame him. It’s not much fun to carefully pack up and move 40 pounds of cast iron that you’ll never use again.

Even so, we found that the teapot became an analogy for us for other purchases. After we were able to admit to one another that we actually thought it was a stupid purchase when we bought it, we could then use it as a reminder that we should be better about communicating with one another. This was especially true with big purchases since the two of us have to balance each other out in that regard. Luckily, while we only used that teapot once, we made numerous jokes about it and were able to laugh it off over time.

Discuss:

Do you have a teapot in your history? Is there something in your life that taught you a lesson about communicating in marriage? If so, I’d love to hear about it.

From a completely symbolic sense, how can you work on issues from your own past so you don’t buy the teapot?

Be blessed, friend! May your marriage be an example of Christ’s love.

Dr. Jessica McCleese is a wife, a licensed psychologist, and a sexual educator with specialized training in sex therapy who works with Christian couples looking to improve their marriages and their sex lives using biblically-based principles. Jessica serves on the advisory board for Millennials for Marriage, is an educator through the Christian Association of Sexual Educators, and a licensed psychologist at her private practice in Norfolk, VA. She has a unique ability to connect with others and lead them through practical steps they can take to see improvements in their marriage and currently serves people internationally through her work at BeFullyWell.com.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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8 thoughts on “Don’t Buy The Teapot: A Lesson in Communication

  1. Your post is insightful. It’s so interesting how we all come into marriage with our own histories and unsaid expectations. I know I don’t usually recognize the expectations I have until they aren’t fulfilled. Thanks for teaching us all the lesson of the teapot!

    • Thanks for the kind words, Beka. It’s definitely hard to see how our histories impact us. It took us about a year before it started making sense with the teapot and at least an additional year to start really making changes in regards to money.

  2. Dr. Jessica,
    My first thought when seeing the title was, “Okay, product review of a tea set. Time to move on.”

    Glad I read further. I can see you sharing this in your counseling sessions, helping couples with these issues you and Jacob discussed. The part about you each deferring to the other financially is perfect. Shows the need for communication and “division of labor.” For us, I think we’d be overdrawn in a week if Katie was in charge of the finances, but our kids would probably have broken bones every week if I made all the parenting decisions.

    • Yes, pulling on those strengths is so important. Once we have kids, I’m sure we’ll have to do a brand new assessment of our strengths.

      By the way, I’m glad you said that about the product review. I might need to work on that somehow. But, we literally tell couples, “don’t buy the teapot” pretty constantly.

  3. We had t learn a similar lesson early on in our relationship as well, except ours had to do with $3,000 dishes and 24% interest lol! Of course that got us started down the road to financial health. Since then, we now talk more, live debt free (other than our home) and keep a good chunk in savings and are working together!

    • Awesome job getting to debt-free living!!! We’re working on that as well. Slowly but surely we’re chipping away at our debts.

      $3,000 in dishes would blow my mind if I didn’t just talk about my own teapot experience. 😉