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Tips for Managing the Emotional Bank Account

Psychological and Counseling Services Last updated

So if you have a bank account you know that the more money you deposit into it, the more money you can withdrawal from in emergencies. This is similar to being content in your relationships; when there are more positive experiences with a partner, there are more experiences that can be looked back on during the hard times.

Notice I said “being content”; sometimes the media stereotypes “healthy/good” relationships as partners who are happy with the relationship and the other person 24/7, but this isn’t sustainable. Learning to be content with the relationship and compromise with your partner is key. Here are a few ways you can deposit more in your emotional bank account:

1. Increase the positivity in the interactions.

Whether you’re having a grand time or fighting; when you’re keeping a positive emotional tone you’re depositing into you emotional bank account. Some experts say cracking a joke during an argument will lighten the tension, but that is definitely personal preference. Know who your partner is.

2. “Turning towards” instead of “turning away”.

This just means, when your partner is talking to you, acknowledge them. For example, your partner comments on a cute little cat walking down the street and by you just acknowledging they said something, “oh yeah, cute” a deposit is being made by both partners. Similarly, when one partner is crying/yelling and the other acknowledges the emotion, a deposit is made.

3. Acknowledge the repair attempts.

A repair attempt is the attempt of one partner to diffuse the emotional escalation of a conflict. An example a repair attempt is when a partner takes a neutral position (neither is right or wrong in the situation), offers a solution for both parties to partake in, or even offers a loving touch. Sometimes in the heat of the moment we forget about the other person because we are so wrapped up in our emotions so something as seemingly simple as placing your hand on your partner’s hand can be a repair attempt. Again, know your partner, if they don’t like being touched don’t use that as a repair attempt. When a repair attempt is acknowledged and accepted a deposit is made.

4. Engage, engage, engage!

Stonewalling is one of the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” for relationships. I’m sure you can guess by that name, these horsemen are not going to help you make a deposit. Stonewalling happens when one partner physically, emotionally, or mentally “checks out” of the interaction. This can look like a partner walking away or just giving a blank stare while the other talks. This disengagement happens because a person’s emotional arousal or agitation is so high they need to exit to protect themselves. Exiting an argument is okay, but the plan is for it to be mutually agreed upon and to eventually come back to the conversation once both parties have deescalated. When two partners are engaged, even to mutually decide to exit and come back, they make a deposit.


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