I met with a longtime client this week, and he was excited to share with me that his marriage relationship had experienced a significant positive transformation over the course of the last few months (after years of being stuck).  I was naturally thrilled for him and inquired what had made the difference.  He shared that it was actually a simple analogy that I had presented in one of our previous sessions.  When I inquired further, I was surprised to find that it was actually a very simple (and often recycled) idea that borrowed from the concept of managing a bank account for aiding in the managing of a satisfying relationship.
THE SIMPLE TAKE AWAY OF THE “BANK ACCOUNT” APPROACH…  Much like a bank account, we can choose to make “deposits” and take “withdrawals” from our “relationship accounts.”  Also, much like a bank account, we reap the most benefits and avoid the most penalties when we ensure that our accounts are balanced.  This means that we purposefully make positive investments, and when we choose to take withdrawals, we are mindful of the impact (to avoid overdrawing our accounts).
TO FURTHER CLARIFY THE PROCESS…  We make “deposits” in our relationship accounts when we contribute positively to our relationships.  When we affirm our significant others.  When we make time to do things together (even when our schedules are crazy).  When we offer help.  When we plan a surprise.  When we call or text to check-in.  When we communicate our love and appreciation.  When we offer an embrace after a particularly tough day.  You get the idea.  And you probably know your significant others well enough to know what will make the most significant deposits, so you can simply choose any of those things… and then do them.
ALTERNATIVELY… We make “withdrawals” from our relationship accounts when we choose attitudes or behaviors that can detract from our relationship.  When we say harsh words in a moment of frustration.  When we choose to spend extra time at the office over the weekend (after promising quality relationship time).  When we don’t participate in important activities.  When we ignore calls for help.  When we forget special occasions.  When we choose to focus on finding fault. When we withhold affection.  Or even when we initiate a difficult (though sometimes necessary) conversation.  Again, you get the idea.  You know what things you do in your relationship that withdraw the most from your account, so you can start being more aware of those things (and perhaps even consider avoiding them)… especially when you are low on account funds.
AN ADDITIONAL THOUGHT TO CONSIDER…  In my ongoing conversation with my client this week, we were dissecting this “bank account” analogy a little further and looking for additional take aways.  We realized that there were some nuances that would be specific to each unique relationship.  For instance, we were discussing his upcoming anniversary, and I recommended that he send flowers to his wife at work.  He shared that his wife hated flowers, and that she would hate the attention of her coworkers at the receiving of flowers even more.  I was so glad that he knew this about her, and that he could formulate a celebration plan that his wife would actually enjoy.  Because in doing so, he would ultimately deposit much more significantly in his relationship account.  By choosing a thoughtful card (and gift certificate) over flowers, he could be banking $100 of relationship cash versus a mere $5.  We realized that this same concept could be applied to withdrawals, as well.  And we jokingly agreed that this might be the key to being a savvy relationship “investor.”
A FINAL THOUGHT…  Many times when clients make their way to my office, they come because their relationship accounts are already in the “red.”  And more times than not, their accounts have been overdrawn for many years.  When this is the case, its important that we focus a significant amount of energy and attention early in the process on creating a habit of regular and substantial deposits.  So, if you know that your relationship is currently overdrawn, I would simply recommend that you commit the next 30 days to making deposits.  Many, many, many deposits.  And hopefully, this will begin a whole new season of relationship health and satisfaction (with many positive returns).