The Emotional Bank Account

When I was growing up, I always thought relationships had to be 50/50. Give and take needed to be equal or the relationship would not succeed. 

In reality, what I discovered was that relationships almost always consist of an unequal number of contributions. If one person is having a great day, they might contribute 80%. If the other person was having a bad day or a troublesome day, their contribution might only be 20% or less. The goal was to have the total equal to 100%. Unfortunately, that didn’t always happen. 

One example of how this works would be to liken our emotional contributions to an emotional bank account.  We have the opportunity to make deposits and withdrawals from this account much like our financial bank account. 

The goal would always be to have a positive balance and not to be overdrawn.  If the overdraft did occur, one or the other in the relationship would have to suck it up, be big, and put the other person’s emotional needs first.

On the other hand, the needy person might have to be the one to be big and withdraw less of the emotional resources in order to keep the account in balance. The most difficult times come when both of the parties have very little to give. At these times, each party would need to support the other and work together to maintain their relationship.  This sounds simple and in reality, a great deal of caring and flexibility are needed.  Commitment to maintaining a positive balance to avoid trauma and disputes (also known as fees and fines) goes a long way toward sustaining a positive relationship.


For example, this is Diane and John.  They have been married for 45 years. The secret to their success is their emotional bank account.  Today they are laughing and happy. This is not always the case. Sometimes they get on each other’s nerves. 

Maybe John spent all day Sunday watching football when Diane had planned a day shopping together for a new kitchen backdrop.  In Diane’s eyes, this is a withdrawal from their emotional bank account.  In John’s eyes, Diane is not understanding about his love of football and he is also making a withdrawal from the emotional bank account.  At this point, the account is overdrawn. 

In order to make up for this negative balance, John and Diane have some options. 

Deposits can be made to the account by: 

  1. Random acts of kindness
  2. Taking time to apologize to each other and to discuss what happened and make a plan to meet both people’s needs. 
  3. Using words of affirmation to show each other their feelings
  4. Going out of their ways to show appreciation for one other. 

Withdrawals can happen in the opposite ways:

  1. Being inconsiderate of each other
  2. Arguing in a non-productive way
  3. Being selfish in a way that hurts the other 
  4. Forgetting important dates like birthdays or anniversaries

These are just a few examples.  The important feature of the EBA (emotional bank account) is that the same person should not always have to make the deposits. This needs to be equally shared. 

In my opinion, any relationship can benefit from using this process in a positive way. We all have the right to be valued and to be treated respectfully and with love.  May you all acquire millions in your EBA!

Who is Judy

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