Have you ever been overdrawn at your bank? Even if you diligently track each deposit and withdrawal, it is possible to make a mistake and find yourself in the “red”. You usually know fairly quickly when this happens because your bank stops covering your checks and they contact you immediately by email, phone calls and notices mailed to your address. They also hit you with fees and it becomes an expensive problem to fix. The best way to avoid the issue altogether, is to make sure you have a reserve…more money tucked away than you will spend in any given month.
Relationships have a similar accounting system. Each of you carries inside your own emotional bank account that determines your overall feelings about the relationship. Deposits and withdrawals are made daily by those around you. Deposits are words, actions or feelings that make you feel loved and safe. Withdrawals, on the other hand, happen when you feel unappreciated, unloved, fearful or stressed. Unfortunately, unlike your bank, you don’t get phone calls and emails letting you know when your emotional bank account is overdrawn. It would probably save you a lot of heartache if you were alerted by an outside observer. But there are signs to watch for that will help you know when you’ve had more withdrawals than deposits.
When your emotional bank account is in the black (has reserves), you have a general feeling of well-being. You are more patient and forgiving of other people’s flaws. If your emotional bank account is in the red, you feel overwhelmed, irritable and drained. Your stress levels are high and you often react negatively to situations that might not otherwise bother you.
During the holiday season, it is easy to allow yourselves to be overdrawn because the traditions you engage in to celebrate also cause you stress. You are typically surrounded by family members (some you would rather not see), off your usual routines and diets and spending more money than you are comfortable with. Just when you need to be your most patient selves, you can find yourselves prickly and overly sensitive. A simple request from your spouse can spark an inappropriate emotional response. Once spouses start draining each others’ accounts, it is easy to get in a negative spiral that can be difficult to climb out of. Your reaction has a lot to do with the balance in your emotional bank account. A high balance? You can weather your spouse’s bad day and sharp quip. A low balance? More angry words and hard feelings.
Just as you are wise to watch the balance in your bank account when holiday shopping, you also need to keep an eye on your emotional bank account as well. Marriage researcher, Dr. John Gottman, determined that a long-term satisfying relationship will have at least 5 more positive interactions (deposits) to every negative interaction (withdrawal). When good will is built up through kind words, caring actions, and quality time spent together the connection is stable and can weather a disagreement or argument without World War III erupting. Conversely, when the account is low or overdrawn, the relationship can be in danger.
Suggestions to fill your spouse’s emotional bank account:
✦ Express appreciation often
✦ Listen attentively
✦ Learn your spouse: discover his/her likes and dislikes
✦ Keep your commitments
✦ Be affectionate – greet spouse with a kiss, write encouraging notes or texts
✦ Be generous with your time, attention, and kind words
✦ Pitch in to lighten the load
✦ Bond through fun, shared experiences
✦ Share inside jokes, phrases, and stories
✦ Learn to hold your tongue and to not react to every mood or irritation.
If you notice your partner is more irritable this holiday season, it might be time to start making deposits into their emotional bank account. If things don’t start improving, your relationship may need some help to get back in the “black”. Don’t wait! Give us a call at PO2 and let us help you revive your relationship.