Love is a Bank — Make Deposits!

An analogy to help you build great relationships with overflowing emotional reserves

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How can you build and sustain a strong, secure relationship where you and your partner feel that your needs are met? One tip is to think of your relationship as a love bank.

The theory of love banks stems from the basic concepts of ordinary bank accounts. Essentially, a bank account grants its user a platform for making deposits and withdrawals. When we transfer funds to our bank accounts, we are making deposits. Deposits create positive balances. On the other hand, when funds are taken out, we are making withdrawals. Withdrawals sequel a reduction in savings and may ultimately result to zero balances if they do not coincide with deposits.

Similar to bank accounts, deposits and withdrawals are the key components of an emotional love bank. Love banks are internal emotional reserves we create to keep track of our emotions. We are constantly making deposits and withdrawals in each other’s lives. Whatever we do or however we act will be interpreted as either deposits or drawings by the people we associate with. It is because of this that we need to be intentional on the type of impact we wish to leave in each other’s lives.

So how do we make deposits?

We subconsciously open love banks every time we meet new people. In fact, each of us has an emotional account for every relationship we have. When we make positive interactions with people, we are creating deposits. Deposits are created when we associate people with good feelings.

Whether you are in search of a partner or you are in a relationship, it is essential to note that both of you have emotional reserves. Let’s take a stroll down memory lane and recall our experiences of first dates for a minute.

When you meet someone new you open a love bank for them. Everything they do afterwards will go into or out of this bank. Say you are on a date, and they ask how your day was — deposit. They notice how beautiful or handsome you look — deposit. They share similar interests — major deposit.

Deposits range from romantic gestures to the genuine concern for your well — being that people express. The little things people do for us — like making breakfast, buying flowers, walking us home etc. are a major contribution to their love banks.

Therefore, the more we associate people with good feelings the more love units are deposited. Making consistent deposits is essential in order to ensure your love banks are overflowing. This will come in handy during a rainy day. The healthiest relationships are those with profuse reserves that pour into the banks of some of our poor relationships.

How do we make withdrawals?

Negative interactions with people draw from their reserves. The more we associate people with negative emotions the more units they draw out of their emotional love accounts. These acts include unkind gestures, when people neglect our interests or hurt our feelings. The downside to withdrawals is that we often lose love units faster than we can gain them. Some withdrawals may be too extreme such that large deposits may be required to reciprocate for the loss.

The key to a healthy relationship is to maintain a positive love balance. This is created and maintained through making deposits that exceed or make up for our withdrawals. When we do this, the deposits become so great that the withdrawals are brushed off as minor setbacks.

How do we design overflowing emotional reserves:

Creating emotional reserves with positive balances is a labour of love. There must be a mutual effort among the people involved. People often give up on friendships, relationships or marriages thinking there is nothing else they could possibly do. Fortunately, this is not the case. The emotional reserves we open for people stay open which grants us countless opportunities to make deposits. Once you start feeling that your emotional reserves are running low, the following ways can help you get back on track:

1. Invest in your relationships

Relationships that are emotionally fulfilling are the ones where partners take time to learn each other’s needs. Understanding what makes your partner happy is the first step towards creating a healthy relationship where everyone’s needs are met. I have shared some of my favourite ways to do this below:

Individual hobbies — Take time to learn their hobbies and take part in them as often as you can. Be spontaneous, do something out of the ordinary to show them you value their personal interests.

Quality time — Spending quality time is essential in a relationship. Make time for your partner. Be creative and think of fun activities to do during the time you spend together. This will rekindle the sparks in your relationships. Try going on date nights, vacations, evening walks, fun games or picnics. Give your partner moments of full attention and presence.

Expressions of gratitude: Appreciate the things your partner does for you. When we feel cherished and appreciated, we are likely going to put in more effort in making each other happy. So, write a thank you note and leave it somewhere they can find or text “thank you, that was very thoughtful”. These might seem like trivial acts, but they go a long way.

2. Acknowledge and accept your partner’s bids for connection

Dr John Gottman is an American psychological researcher who spent four decades studying couples to identify what separates healthy relationships from unhealthy ones. Basically, this dude knows relationships. In his research he discovered that healthy relationships were the ones where couples went towards each other’s bids for connection.

What are bids for connection?

Bids for connection are how people request or express their desire for connections. We rarely say, “Hi, would you like to create a connection?” Instead we express this intention through indirect means — like asking someone to watch a show you like, or listen to a podcast you love etc. A bid for connection is any attempt someone makes for attention, affirmation, affection, or any other positive connection.

When we accept other people’s bids for connection, we are turning towards their bids. In doing so, we show them that the desire for a connection is mutual. On the other hand, turning down bids implies that we are not interested in establishing a connection.

We often miss other people’s requests for connection because of our varying interests. The trick is taking time to know each other well enough to recognize when people are expressing their desire for connections. Next time your partner asks you to do something with them, ask yourself could this be his/her way of establishing a connection?

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Gottman’s list of how we express our desire for connections

So how full is your love bank? Take a moment to think about the state of your reserve in your partner’s life. If you feel like your reserves are running low, start making deposits. It is never too late to invest in your relationships with people provided both of you are willing to put in the effort. Invest in each other as though you were handing each other gold coins — because you are! The more we make positive impacts, the more our reserves overflow.

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