Regular deposits in your partner’s ‘emotional bank account’ is the key to a sound relationship

By Liz Paul, Psychotherapist & Counsellor

I like to talk to my couples about their emotional bank account*.  It’s a way of explaining how happiness ebbs and flows in a relationship.

When your partner’s emotional bank account is full, they are usually very happy in your relationship and with you.

But when their emotional bank account is getting close to empty, they probably aren’t all that happy in your relationship or with you.

That’s because the balance of your partner’s emotional bank account usually goes up and down depending on your actions.

For example if you forget your partner’s birthday, the balance of their emotional bank account will fall. As it will if you are inconsiderate or insulting.  And so on. Too many falls in their balance, and you’ll be in your partner’s long term bad books pretty quickly.

If you don’t build their balance back up your relationship could be in trouble.

The key, of course, is to not allow your partner’s emotional bank account balance to get low.

To do that, you need to make regular ‘deposits’.  For example:

  • Compliment your partner regularly
  • Be appreciative of them
  • Tell them you love them
  • Tell them how much they mean to you
  • Truly listen to them when they are talking
  • Ask them about their day
  • Be supportive when they are worried
  • Spend time together at a place they enjoy, or doing something they like
  • Do some of their household chores for them or with them
  • Do more than your fair share of parenting
  • Remember important dates
  • Keep your partner in the loop – they shouldn’t be made to feel bad asking questions about your plans for your day, week etc
  • Be your partner’s cheer squad, not their detractor
  • Make time in your day to talk to each other, not just ‘at’ each other. And not while multitasking.
  • Learn to fight fairly. Be respectful and take turns to really hear what each other’s perspective is.
  • Stop keeping a tally of what each other isn’t doing and try to be appreciative of what they are doing.

If you think your emotional bank account is getting dangerously low, then try asking your partner how they feel their emotional bank account is going. This will help you gauge the strength of your relationship.

If you both feel that your accounts are close to zero than it’s time to build them up.

You can start this process by asking your partner to write down three things they would like to see you do more with them. You do the same.  Then see if you can each guess your partner’s three things at a time specifically allocated to sit and listen to each other.

*Liz has completed training by American professors Dr. John and Dr. Julie Gottman whose research revolutionised couples therapy. The Gottman’s research brought about the concept of the emotional bank account.

What are the issues for which most people seek assistance?

  • Relationship break-ups
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  • Loss of intimacy with your partner
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  • Difficulty parenting toddlers or teens
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