Are You Investing In Your Spouses Emotional Bank Account? You Making The Right Deposits?
The idea of emotional bank accounts has been around for a long time. It’s a way of viewing relationships that stresses the need to bring value to other people instead of extracting from them.
Michelle and I recently watched ‘Marriage Story’ staring Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver. It’s more a story of divorce.
Spoiler Alert: Adam Drivers’ character is a successful playwright. Through his success, he loses touch with what his wife wants and needs. He becomes too self-involved to pay attention to how this affects her. They eventually devolve into a shell of a marriage. The story is about their arguments, struggles, and eventual divorce.
It’s a classic example of what it means to ignore your spouse’s needs and fail to deposit love into their emotional bank account.
What is an Emotional Bank Account?
I first heard the concept through Stephen Covey’s ‘Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.’ (Affiliate Link)
An emotional bank account is like a financial bank account. To make a deposit to your bank account you take money to the bank (or do it online), and put it into your personal account.
When money is in your account, you can spend it on things that matter to you.
If there is no money in the account, you run a deficit. You are spending money you do not have. This incurs debt.
Some people refer to this as a love tank. Much like the fuel tank on our automobile. When the tank is full, you can drive anywhere. When it’s empty, you can’t drive.
Both concepts express the same idea. You can only get out of a relationship what you put in to it. Make a deposit so you have love in the tank. That’s the love you will get back from the relationship.
It is the same with marriage.
In video below, Dr. Gary Chapman talks about filling our spouses love tank.
If the tank is full and we genuinely feel love, life is beautiful. If the love tank is empty and we don’t feel love, life begins to look pretty dark. Then the differences get bigger.
Lets dig in to this issue deeper and answer a few questions:
What Does Emotional Bank Account Mean?
Imagine your relationship like a bank. You can make deposits and withdrawals. Instead of depositing money, you are putting positive things in the account that adds up over time.
We will talk about those deposits later. I want you to shift your thinking about your marriage and consider it like an emotional bank. A place where you are either putting good stuff in or taking stuff out.
If you put the right stuff in, you have the ability to draw on that account in the future.
However, if you put the wrong stuff in, you have nothing of value to draw upon.
And it’s possible to put very little in, then want to draw out more than you’ve deposited.
It is a system of emotional deposits and withdrawals that helps build relationships. You have an emotional bank account in every relationship that’s unique. And by making deposits, or acts of kindness and love, you strengthen it. Acts of cruelty or betrayal are withdrawals that weaken the relationship. You want to ensure you have a positive balance in these emotional bank accounts. (shortform.com)
In other words, when you see your marriage in these terms it becomes evident how you are giving to the relationship.
Examples of Emotional Bank Account
Again, we have another concept that’s easy to remember: the magic relationship ratio of 5:1. This is one relatilonship researcher John Gottman came up with.
Here it is in a nutshell: For every negative interaction you have with your spouse during a conflict, you should respond with five positive remarks. Five positive comments for every one negative.
Five-to-one of what? Well, an act of turning towards, no matter how small or subtle, is a positive interaction. An act of turning away is a negative interaction. There are three key takeaways to help you manage your Emotional Bank Account:
To be satisfied in a relationship, couples must focus on increasing deposits (positive interactions) and minimizing withdrawals (negative interactions)
During conflict: 5 positive interactions to every 1 negative interaction
During everyday life: 20 positive interactions to every 1 negative interaction
How To Fill The Emotional Bank Account?
In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), Jesus taught what scholars call ‘the beatitudes.’ Beatitude is a Latin word meaning happy or blessed.
They are often referred to as ‘Be Attitudes’ because they are attitudes that should be in our lives.
Here are a few ‘be attitudes’ required if you want to fill your spouse’s bank account. We will discuss a few practical things you should do later.
1. Be Kind
You cannot underestimate the power of simple kindness.
Quint Studer from the Pensacola News Journal writes about pausing before we act. It allows us the opportunity to think about what we are about to say or do.
It’s amazing how this changes our perspective and helps us avoid negativity.
If there is the smallest doubt about sending a text or email or saying something, give it a few minutes. My friend Marv Wopat once said we have many opportunities to keep our mouths shut. Take advantage of them all.Source
2. Be Affectionate
I realize everyone has different needs when it comes to affection. Some people love to hold hands, cuddle, and touch frequently. Others, not so much.
The key is to operate on your spouses needs (love language), not your own.
We tend to respond to people the way we think, feel, and desire. To fill your spouses account with love requires you to think, feel and desire.
Filling the bank account is about what your spouse wants, not what you want.
A related that will help you understand this concept more can be read here.
I realize there is give and take in marriage. This article focuses on the giving aspect of the relationship.
70,000 couples were studied in 24 countries to determine what makes a great sex life. They discovered that regardless of the country you live in, satisfied couples had many things in common. (Source)
Physical affection was one of those characteristics.
John Gottman sums up the study identifying these 13 common characteristics: (Source)
3. Unconditional Love
One of the greatest needs we have is the desire to be loved without conditions. This is not meant to give us a license to act badly. On the contrary, people who experience love without constraint are generally happier and well behaved.
4. Be Empathetic
Understanding the perspective of the other person is the heart of empathy.
When we make an effort to understand our spouse we enter their world and see life from their perspective.
Empathy is more of an attitude and perspective on life than mere actions we take. It is the attitude that says, ‘I want to know how my spouse feels about this so I can understand their viewpoint.’
It is an ultimate act of selflessness.
5. Be Proactive
Don’t let negative things build up over time.
We all have tough days. Days where we are off our game. Healthy couples talk it in a positive, affirming way. They don’t hold grudges or retaliate when their partner is out of sync.
They proactively talk about things that bother them. They don’t allow their hurts to get momentum.
6. Be Trustworthy
Keeping our promises and commitments is the foundation of trust. Without it we cannot have strong relationships.
When we fail to keep our word, we create distrust. It’s human nature to think, ‘If they were untruthful about that, what else are they lying about.’
7. Think Small
It’s not the big things that make or break a marriage. It’s the little things.
Small acts of kindness and caring can speak volumes and make large deposits into your Emotional Bank Account — for example, bringing your spouse flowers for no reason, or remembering your friend’s favorite meal and showing up with it for dinner. (Source)
Train yourself to think of the little things that will build trust and create deposits in your spouses account.
Emotional Bank Account Deposits and Withdrawals
This is the ‘rubber meets the road’ part of an emotional bank account. What you put in, and what you pull out.
No deposits, no ability to draw on the relationship when you need it.
Similar to the love tank mentioned by Gary Chapman. If the tank has fuel, you can go places. If it doesn’t, the car is just an icon. But you can’t benefit from it.
Relationships work the same way. You generally get out of them what you put in them.
That’s a life principle that applies to many areas of life. Specifically marriage.
How do you make deposits that put love into your account?
4 Emotional Bank Account Deposits You Need To Make
There are many ways to make deposits into your marriage. Here are four ‘required’ to your relationship rich.
Quality time is another factor that creates a healthy marriage. It is impossible to be close without investing time in each other’s life.
Be your spouses biggest cheerleader. Encourage them. Don’t be the one that takes the wind out of their sails. Fill their life with positive affirmation.
3. Make an Offer
Building a strong marriage is about connecting. One of the ways we can connect is by making an offer to do something with your spouse. Even if you don’t have much in common.
Ask your spouse what they want to do, then do it.
It’s a simple concept that is often overlooked. We find that most couples (men especially) think too big. If they have marriage issues, they assume a big event, or extravagant display of good will, is needed to turn things around. This is rarely the case.
Most often little things bring the disconnect, so little things are needed to reconnect. Don’t complicate it.
Reverse what brought the breakdown in the relationship.
For example, if lack of communication produced problems. Start communicating. A vacation in the Cayman Islands won’t help (although it might be fun, it will not replace a lack of communication and connection).
Remember the point above. Think small.
Why? It’s the little things that drive a wedge, so it’s the little things that bridge the gap.\
ALSO READ: 8 Marriage Myths That Are Wildly Untrue
4. Owning Your Junk
Apologizing and owning your mistakes creates a deposit in your spouses emotional account. It assures them you will maintain integrity and act in their best interest.
Emotional Bank Account Withdrawals
Withdrawals are anything that pulls out of the relationship. There are two basic types of withdrawals: legitimate and illegitimate.
We all have times when we need our spouse to lift us up. We need to spend our relationship capital and ask for help.
It could be emotional support, stress relief, or physical help.
Our work load recently has been taxing. Deadlines and other demands made us feel stressed.
One day Michelle walked into my office and said, ‘I don’t know about you, but I need to get out of town for a day and detox.’
I agreed. Even though it wasn’t a perfect time to get away, I knew we needed it. Especially since she was verbalizing her need.
I canceled a few things on my calendar for the next day, and we had a day date. We went to Chattanooga and spent the day downtown. We shopped. Explored. Even took a walk along the Riverwalk.
We ended the day by going to an Italian restaurant a friend told us about. We had great food, then an relaxed drive home.
It was stress free. By work time the next day, we felt recharged.
I didn’t tell you this so you would know about my day. I know you probably don’t care. It was an emotional bank withdrawal from our relationship.
Our account wasn’t overdrawn because we both contribute to the account daily. When we needed to withdraw (in this case it was a time withdrawal) we had the ‘funds’ to do it.
That is a legitimate withdrawal.
There are withdrawals that are not legitimate. These put the relationship in debt.
These are negative in nature. They include things like (Source):
- Checking your phone when your spouse is speaking to you
- Yelling or screaming at your spouse
- Criticizing them
- Being sarcastic
- Talking about them negatively to others
- Interrupting when they are speaking to you
The list could go on but I think you get the point.
We all need to make withdrawals at time. Just make sure you are not putting the account ‘in the hole’ and overdrawing through negative behaviors like those mentioned above.
Building an Emotional Bank Account?
Lisa Gabardi (PhD, LLC) has good advice on how to build a relationship bank account.
Consider creating a ledger of deposits and withdrawals for your relationship bank account. Keep track only of the deposits and withdrawals that YOU are making (this is not a competition, so don’t keep score with your partner!). For your own information and growth, how many positive versus negative comments, gestures, or interactions are you contributing to the relationship on any given day? (gabardi.com)(gabardi.com)
Every relationship has a bank account. Not a financial one, but an emotional account where positive and negative is stored.
Our actions and attitudes determine what we put into our relationship account. If we daily make positive deposits by doing the things mentioned in this article, we will build up an abundance of love, respect and acceptance.
If, however, we put in negative things, and make illegitimate withdrawals, we will deplete our relationship. This puts our marriage in crisis mode.
It is not complicated to build up our emotional bank account. It takes time, energy, and commitment. Once we have the account full, our love level spills over into every aspect of our marriage.
Here is a recap of what we covered:
- What is an Emotional Bank Account?
- Examples of Emotional Bank Account
- How To Fill the Emotional Bank Account?
- Emotional Bank Account Deposits and Withdrawals
- Building an Emotional Bank Account?
To get more help creating the marriage you desire and deserve, check out these resources:
The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey
The Healthy Marriage Quiz
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If you are having serious marriage struggles, we recommend starting with ‘Save the Marriage System‘ by Lee Baucom.
Magic Relationship Words by Susie and Otto Collins
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