Successful Marriage

How to create an emotional bank account

You have seen it a million times on the big screen; elaborate romantic gestures meant to woo a new mate, expensive gifts dangled as peace offerings after a big fight, or surprise vacations to get away and reconnect after years of distance.  Do these grand gestures really work at building and maintaining a solid relationship?  As a relationship expert, I can confirm without a doubt that your time and money can be better spent on wooing your mate.  Real life romance is fueled by the ways in which you interact with each other in the little moments that make up your day.  Romance and passion are stoked with each moment you intentionally choose to connect with your partner, even in the mundane and ordinary kisses goodbye, text messages ‘I love you’, and offerings to pick up dinner on your way home from work.

If you think about your relationship as an emotional bank account, a term adopted by Stephan Covey and Dr. John Gottman, the goal is to maintain a healthy positive balance.  This balance will keep you afloat through unpredictable rough times, like the loss of a job, a sick parent or bratty teens.  Most couples come to me with an emotional bank account that is overdrawn.  My job is to help them recognize the ways they are making withdrawals from their emotional bank account so that they can STOP IT and recognize all the ways they can make deposits, regularly.

Bid for Connection

A bid for connection is any cue that your partner is bidding for your attention, affection, or appreciation.  These cues can be obvious and verbal, ‘Honey, can you come sit by me and rub my back?’  Most of the time though, these bids for connection are subtle and nonverbal.  Imagine driving down the road and your partner reaches over and puts their hand on your thigh.  This is a bid for connection.  This is where you have the opportunity to put a deposit in the emotional bank account.  Reach down and hold their hand.  Boom!  Deposit made!

Missed Bids for Connection = Withdrawal

What happens when your partner’s subtle bids are missed?  Whose fault is it?  It’s both of your fault.  The person who is seeking attention, affection and appreciation may need to make their non-verbal cues a bit more obvious.  ‘I see you are busy playing video games.  I’m feeling a bit lonely and left out.  Do you mind if we turn off the game tonight and go for a walk instead?’  (and yes, adults STILL play video games).

The partner who is missing the bid for connection may have a few errors at play.  First, human beings are not great multi-tasker.   Myth busted.  If you are attempting to play a board game with your partner, text your mother about plans for Sunday, and empathetically listen to your partner talk about their demanding boss, I can already see the opportunities to miss your partner`s bid for connection.

Another way you may be missing a bid for connection is that you are waiting for the frying pan to hit you upside the head to respond.  Remember, these are tiny moments that are happening all day long.  I listened to a couple in line at the airport the other day and I noted six separate times he responded to her bids with kindness and care.  She says, ‘This is a long line.  We should have gotten here an hour ago.’  He says, ‘Yes, it is taking a while, isn’t it?  If need be, I will ask folks to let us through so we don`t miss the flight.’  She says, ‘I hate flying.’  He says, ‘It has become such a pain to get anywhere these days.’

Do you notice how he responded to even her simplest complaint of ‘I hate flying’.  A simple statement like this can be ignored in everyday conversation.  Instead, he responded by validating her distaste for flying.  Boom!  Deposit!

Making Deposits

Let`s get back to the basics now that you recognize what a bid for connection is and how you can use these moments to STOP making withdrawals and start making deposits.

To gain some extra deposits in the emotional bank account, I recommend doing small things every day that demonstrate your love, affection, adoration and gratitude for your partner.  One man recently said that the secret to a happy relationship is unloading the dishwasher every day.  Sure…that will work.  That`s one of many secrets but the sentiment is good.  It takes less than 10 minutes to unload a dishwasher and it`s free.  No diamond ring, no expensive vacation.

A fun exercise to practice is to make a list of ten items you can do today that is fast (less than 10 minutes) to put deposits in your emotional bank account.  Don`t stop at making the list…actually DO IT.

Peyton Dailey. fox13now.com

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