Steve and Jenny are at the breakfast table. He’s reading the paper; she’s doing the crossword. He says, “That movie we saw got nominated for five Golden Globes.” She doesn’t look up. She hears him, but she’s focused. He thinks she thinks he’s being a nuisance. She couldn’t be bothered to answer him. After all, he didn’t actually ask a question, so there’s nothing to answer.

The fact is, Jenny missed an opportunity to make a deposit in their joint emotional bank account. Acknowledging her partner would have taken very little. Even a grunt as a response is a small deposit. And each of these moments helps build up a savings so there’s plenty of positive interactions as cushion for when times get hard.

When there’s plenty in your joint emotional account, couples are more apt to give each other the benefit of the doubt during conflict. When your account is empty, you’re more likely to ascribe negative motives to each other. And, in fact, you’re more likely to think your partner is simply not with you. Not on your side.

How’s Your Emotional Bank Account? Nancy'S Counseling Corner

So what can you do?

Make more deposits than withdrawals. Pay attention to your partner. Respond when he talks to you. Make opportunities to build up your account. Be mindful of being more positive. Have many more positive interactions than negative ones.

Never take your partner for granted. Just realizing that your everyday interactions are important to your marriage can be a help. When she tries to make a connection, verbally or physically, engage with her. Look at her. Listen to her and make her feel valued.

Express your gratitude. When your partner cleans the microwave before you have a chance to do it yourself, notice it. Comment on it. Thank him. Make a conscious effort to check in with him during the day if you know it’s going to be a rough one for him. Even a simple touch as you pass him in the hall is a way to connect and build up your account.

Decide how to reduce stress. Talk to your partner about how you can both relieve the stressful lives you live so you can have the time and energy to appreciate each other more fully. Make a date to take a moonlit walk. Carve out time to sit by the fire at the end of a busy day. Meditate together. Reducing stress as a team is another way to add to your account.

Cuddle up. Affection is a great way to have a positive interaction that will enrich your relationship. It doesn’t have to be much—holding hands, rubbing his back, a kiss on the forehead. And, of course, great sex. When you show passion for each other physically, it enhances the other areas of your life together.

Pretty soon you’ll be wealthy, with love and respect to spare.


Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional. If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch. You can reach her here:

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