The Emotional Bank Account: Keeping your Emotional Fuel Tank Full

Emotional Bank Account

My in-laws have a lake house that our family visits and our kids are fortunate to enjoy. They especially love their pontoon boat to go tubing behind with their cousins. Last weekend, something had broken on the boat’s gas tank. I learned that there are two tanks. When one is empty, you can switch to the other tank for gas. The piece that broke is what allowed for this to happen.

The part would not be available for a few days, and with ten kids rearing to boat, something needed to be done! A mechanic came out and rigged the device so that the gasoline would pull from both tanks. This meant that the fuel gage may not work, so we would not know the time we would need to fill the tank again. Therefore, we had to be conscientious of our time on the boat and be proactive in filling the tank.

What is the Emotional Bank Account?

In relationships, we have an Emotional Bank Account. Think of this account as the combined tanks mentioned in the story above.  The Emotional Bank Account in a relationship is much like the rigged tank.  Each partner has their own tank. Both tanks contribute to the outcome of the relationship, or as in the case above, a boat that runs.

You and your partner do not have a fuel gage to let one another know when your tank is low.  Each partner must be proactive to keep the tank – Emotional Bank Account – full.  As a couple, you need to be conscientious of when you may be depleting the gasoline in your partner’s tank. Therefore, it is important to proactively fill the tank. This will ensure the relationship will function effectively in the same way a boat will continue to run longer with a full tank of gas.

Bids for Connection: Deposits and Withdrawals

Dr. Gottman refers to bids as “the fundamental unit of emotional communication.” It is human nature to make bids to connect with others. Therefore, it is crucial you identify these bids in your intimate relationship. Bids can be big or small, verbal or nonverbal. They may come across as an expression, physical touch, a question, or a statement. Think of bids as invitations or requests to connect.

When your partner bids for connection, you respond in one of three ways.

Turn Towards

You identify and accept the invitation

Turn Away

The invitation is ignored or missed.

Turn Against

You reject the invitation

Turning toward will fill your partners tank while turning away will deplete it. To turn against is like poking a hole in the gas tank of the boat. In this way, the boat will lose fuel faster and it will have a hole that needs to be repaired.  Let’s take a look at how you fill and deplete the tank in your Emotional Bank Account.

Depleting the Account: Draining the Fuel in your Partners Tank

A withdrawal made from the Emotional Bank Account is like using up gasoline that keeps a boat running.  A boat needs the gas tank filled to run, and so does each partner’s tank need to be filled for a relationship to thrive.  Below are ways you may be depleting your partner’s tank.

  • Ignoring your partner’s requests – big or small
  • Defensive or negative responses to bids
  • Missing your partner’s bid
  • Rolling your eyes
  • Name calling
  • Responding with sarcasm
  • Displaying passive aggressive behaviors
  • Invalidating feelings
  • Putting your partner down
  • Yelling
  • Isolating your partner

Making Deposits: Filling your Partner’s Tank

Making a deposit in the Emotional Bank Account is like filling your partner’s tank full of gas. Below are the ways that you can nurture and promote positivity in your relationship.

  • Identifying and accepting bids to connect – responding positively to your partner
  • Being mindful of your partners feelings
  • Complimenting
  • Sharing a hug or kiss
  • Holding your partner’s hand
  • Saying “Thank you.”
  • Repairing when necessary – “I’m sorry”
  • Spending quality time with your partner
  • Allowing your partner to have influence in decisions
  • Giving attention to your partner – show interest in their life
  • A wink from across the room
  • Showing appreciation
  • Gift giving
  • Validating their feelings or thoughts
  • Empathizing with their emotions
  • Being vulnerable with your partner
  • Laughing with them
  • Verbalizing your positive feelings toward them

The Magic Ratio – 5:1

The magic ratio is what the Emotional Bank Account relies on to function effectively. In his research, successful couples engage in a 5:1 ratio. This ratio represents the positive to negative interactions within the relationship. Therefore, this means that for every 1 negative interactions, there are 5 positive interactions. It is important to experience more positives than negatives in a relationship.  Negative interactions are more powerful and we tend to dwell on them.  That’s why you need more positive interactions to provide a healthy balance.

Focus today on the ways you can make deposits to the Emotional Bank Account and keep your partner’s tank full. For more information on strategies to strengthen your relationship, visit our website or Facebook page.