Fay Ferris

The Love Bank – Simple Concept to Improve Relationships

Posted on: April 14, 2011

The Love Bank – A simple concept to revolutionize your relationships

I do a lot of marriage counselling and one of the first concepts  that I want my clients to understand is the Love Bank because of its usefulness and immediate applicability.  It’s a very simple concept quite widely used (I first learned about it in a book by Dr. Harley).

The Love Bank idea is that when you meet someone and you’re interested in them you open a love bank account with them and they hopefully open one with you.  Then, you proceed to make deposits.  For example, you laugh at their jokes, you smile, tilt your head and listen, ask questions, go for coffee, buy coffee for them, buy them flowers, go out for dinner and a movie, etc.  After a certain number of deposits have been made and the bank account is sufficiently rich, you “fall in love”.

Of course, if we can make deposits, then we can also make withdrawals.  For example, you show up late, or not at all, you talk about yourself and never ask a question, or  you do not listen, you don’t do something you said you would, you don’t offer to help, you insult, you start a fight, you raise your voice, etc.

You make deposits to your partner’s account and hopefully, they make deposits to your account.  I say this because just because you’re making plenty of deposits does not mean you are feeling the love.  Your partner may not be making many deposits or may be making a lot of withdrawals.

We don’t have to try very hard to make withdrawals: they often seem to just happen by accident or are influenced by conditions out of our control.  Deposits, on the other hand need intentionality.  In other words, you must try to make a deposit.  One afternoon I tried to make as many deposits as I could to my husband and discovered that this requires a lot of work, planning, and not missing an opportunity.

John Gottman, world expert on what makes marriages work, has discovered in his research that to make a healthy love bank account you need to make a ratio of 20 deposits: 1withdrawal while just hanging out together.  That is so that you can maintain a ratio of 5:1 deposits to withdrawals when you are having a disagreement or things are tense.  This will ensure that you are not doing damage during an argument.

Most couples that are having trouble, have a ratio of at least 1:5 of deposits to withdrawals.  Imagine the different conversations:   a couple with nice high rich love bank accounts having a 5:1 conversation (mostly deposits) versus a couple with low love bank accounts having a 1:5 conversation (mostly withdrawals).

How can this information be utilized?  Easy!  If you care about your relationship, then you can make the decision to make as many deposits as you can to your partner/spouse.  Unfortunately, you cannot control other people and so you do not have direct control over whether you partner will make deposits in your account.  However, if you make lots of deposits you partner will notice and may well reciprocate.  That’s good for you, your partner, and your relationship.

It’s also important that you make deposits in your partner’s favourite currency!  Not your favourite currency.  Usually couples offer each other a deposit in their own favourite currency.  For example, a woman who likes gifts may give her partner gifts.  He may prefer to buy his own stuff.  He may offer her sex, but she’d prefer conversation.  Ask your partner what their favourite currencies are.  The book the Five Love Languages addresses some of the most common ones.

Using the Love Bank Concept to improve your relationship, you also need to stop making withdrawals.  So this means that you should not get angry and try to control your partner with your anger.  You should not be silent and ignore your partner. Ask your partner what your withdrawals are and vow to yourself to stop doing them.

This can be harder especially if it involves stopping something you are fond of (but your partner is not) such as drinking, gambling, smoking, playing online games, watching a sports team excessively, doing drugs, porn, compulsive eating, etc.  The problem with these “addiction-like” activities is that you are prioritizing them over the relationship by spending time or money on them.  And no amount of reassuring your partner that he/she is  more important will work if you continue to engage in the addiction/activity.

You can start using the Love Bank to improve your relationship right now by deciding that you will make regular, abundant, and meaningful love deposits.  Share this blog with your partner and talk about it.  What withdrawals could you do without? Which deposits would you love to receive?  Do your best to accommodate your partner’s needs in terms of deposits and withdrawals and watch your relationship start to improve.

By Fay Ferris, Counsellor

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  • GG: Very empowering insights. Thank you for affirming the power that we have to move beyond negative judgements.
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