What’s Your Love Bank Balance?

I must be on a spelling kick of some sort. Last week I wrote that for many of us love is spelled TIME. I saw an e-mail that listed some amazing anagrams. Anagrams, as you may know, are the rearranging of letters to spell different words. For example, if you take the word “dormitory” and rearrange the letters you get “dirty room.” Sounds about right to me.  Or how about “slot machines” which can be rearranged to spell “cash lost in ‘em.” Then there is “mother-in-law” which I may or may not explain later.

I find these anagrams interesting and amusing. It’s incredible how meanings can change with slight alterations in spelling. The same can be said for a marriage. It’s incredible how a marriage can be improved with a few targeted and purposeful changes.

I’ve learned to think of a marriage relationship as being a love bank. This concept comes from DR Willard Harley, author of His Needs, Her Needs; Love Busters and several other books. When a couple first meets they are attracted to each other and begin the process of getting better acquainted. They soon find themselves looking for ways to please the other. Little cards, silly pranks, surprises of various sorts show the other that you are interested and that you care about him or her. These may be thought of as deposits in the other’s love bank.

When the couple’s love bank balance becomes sufficiently high, they typically decide to make the relationship permanent and they get married.  Over the ensuing months and years, they continue to make deposits into their account. But over time, with the pressures and demands of life, they also begin to make withdrawals. Harley would call these “love busters.” So long as these love busters are not too severe, and they are offset by continuing deposits, their damage need not be too destructive. If the withdrawals routinely outweigh the deposits, however, the bank balance can get dangerously low. Unless this situation is addressed productively divorce is typically right around the corner.

So there are two ways to improve a marriage or increase the value in the love bank. One is to make more deposits, and the other is to avoid making withdrawals. Here’s a hint for you if you choose to make more deposits they must be deposits according to the receiver’s definition -not the givers. If I were to give my wife two season passes to my favorite sports team, I should not be surprised at her less than thrilled reaction. Unless of course, it was also truly something she would value. To better understand this concept you might want to get a copy of DR Gary Chapman’s bestselling book “The Five Love Languages.” This book will give you excellent direction and help to identify what your spouse would consider to be a genuine deposit. You can also take a short online survey at www.fivelovelanguages.com to gain insight into yours, and your mate’s love language.

To help identify withdrawals, you might want to read Love Busters by DR Harley. It will give you some ideas of specific things you are doing, or perhaps not doing that you should, which are draining the love and joy from your marriage. It will also help to open the dialogue with your spouse to get his/her input into what he or she considers to be love busters from you. As in deposits, withdrawals are to be defined by the receiver, not the giver.

Now here’s a trick question for you. If you wanted to improve your marriage and you could either make more deposits of fewer withdrawals which would you do? Congratulations to those of you who answered more deposits. You gave the most popular answer. There’s just one thing wrong with it – it’s not correct. It is far better to identify and reduce/eliminate the withdrawals than it is to increase the deposits. Here’s why. According to DR John Gottman and others, it takes between 5-15 deposits to offset the damage done by one withdrawal. In other words, if you commit a withdrawal you cannot undo the damage you caused with just one deposit. The damage is too great for that kind of one-for-one equalization. It takes multiple deposits just to get back to where you were before you made the withdrawal. That’s why it’s best to minimize the withdrawals and have all your deposits automatically go into positive territory.

So let me suggest you schedule some time this week to discuss with your spouse deposits and withdrawals you are each making that you want to increase or eliminate. Please make sure the timing is right for this conversation. The middle of a heated argument would likely not be the best choice. If you both approach the conversation with an openness and desire to have a great marriage, I think you’ll be happy with the outcome. Also, don’t try to make major changes all at once. Just choose one or two items to focus on and save the others for later.

My hope and prayer for you is that your love bank balance will rise and stay in positive territory through the coming years. Oh, by the way, the anagram for mother-in-law is “woman hitler.” I’m so glad that’s not at all true in my case. And if you’ll permit me one last word of caution: letting your spouse or his or her mother know that anagram could be a serious withdrawal.

If you have a marriage question or comment please send it to me at ronp@FCCMF.org. FCCMF stands for Four Corners Coalition for Marriage & Family, a 501-c-3 organization I co-founded in 2003 and which I presently serve as executive director. You can also call me at 505 327-7870.