Love Bank

Did you ever notice that you tend to enjoy those activities at which you excel? For instance, I enjoy playing tennis. Now I know I’m nowhere near good enough for the professional circuit, but I am good enough to often beat my long-time friend Kemp Lewis. This is especially true on the days he lets me win, which are getting fewer and further between.

I have been playing tennis for several years, decades in fact. It seems my enjoyment of the game has increased in recent years largely due to lessons and tips I’ve gotten from local pros Richard Yancy and Pat McGrath, along with others I have encountered on the courts.

Pointers such as knowing how to grip the racket better, how to prepare for a backhand or forehand shot, how to toss the ball for a more accurate serve, etc. have helped to make me feel more comfortable in my role as a tennis player.

So let me ask you a question. What do you enjoy and in what areas of life do you feel competent? Have you always been competent and well equipped or trained for those pursuits? Could I join you tomorrow and be just as competent as you?

I’ll answer that last one so you won’t have to. The answer is likely no simply because I have not spent the time learning how to do whatever it is you do.

So what’s my point? Just that marriage is one of those life experiences that is far more enjoyable if you know what you’re doing. And the sad reality is that most of us don’t. We’re not necessarily stupid (or is that intellectually challenged?), we just have never been taught how to do marriage.

Most of us likely have the opinion that we don’t need to be taught how to succeed in marriage. So long as you love each other that should be all it takes, shouldn’t it? (If I knew how to spell facetious I would tell you that’s what I’m being.)

Think back to weddings you’ve attended in recent years where the couple seemed so much in love. The odds are that if the wedding was more than seven years ago, they are quite possibly more in hate with each other now than in love.

The divorce rate in our society is abysmal, and it doesn’t seem to be getting better. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be that way. Marriage really can be an experience that you enjoy and at which you feel successful and competent.

It just won’t come naturally, however. Most marriages can be dramatically improved if the people in them will learn to stop doing a few negative things and begin doing a few positive things.  Willard Harley calls those negatives “love busters” and his book by that name helps couples discover exactly what is causing their love and enjoyment to wane.

Harley, a Psychologist and prolific author from Minnesota, describes a concept of the “Love Bank.” Whether you know it or not you have a love bank balance with your mate. In fact, it was opened when you first met and began to get acquainted. You began to do little “niceties” for each other. Silly cards, giving spontaneous backrubs expecting nothing in return, small gifts, offering to run errands, etc. All of these sent messages to the other that you cared, that he or she mattered to you.

The net result was that your Love Bank balance rose. It likely rose so high that you decided you wanted the relationship to continue forever, so you got married. And then what happened? Well, you continued to make deposits – at least in the early days. But over time you began to make withdrawals as well.

Over time you began to take each other for granted. You got too busy with “life” to focus as much on your spouse. More deposits were countered by more withdrawals, and now your Love Bank balance may have grown dangerously low.

If you’re not careful, you can then begin to think you married the wrong person and that you would be happier with someone else. While that may be true in some cases, for couples with children, divorce will likely produce far more problems and challenges for you than it will fix. I firmly believe that parents who divorce are usually just trading one set of problems for a different set of problems, and not necessarily bettering their situation.

So here’s a better option to consider – learn how to be a better spouse. Research abounds that a marriage can dramatically improve when just one partner makes an effort to change. When both partners put forth the effort, the results can be remarkable and relatively quick.

And help is readily available in our area. I offer private marriage coaching, and there are several local marriage counselors who can help you get from where you are to where you want to be. I know of several marriage intensives for deeply troubled marriages that have a great success rate for turning even the most damaged marriages into thriving ones.

Add in all the books and online resources available to help marriages, there is little excuse to put up with a less-than-satisfactory marriage or to end one in hopes of finding a better one.

I often say there is nothing better in life than a good marriage and nothing worse in life than a bad marriage. Whatever the current state of your marriage, please consider what you might do to keep it healthy or get it to that state.