Relationship researcher John Gottman has said that relationships work best when your emotional bank account is in good shape.
The emotional bank account is where you note your deposits and withdrawals when it comes to appreciations and complaints.
- Deposits are made when you appreciate your life partner, offer loving support, etc.
- Withdrawals are the negative comments
Other researchers in the field of relationships have documented that a 7:1 ratio of positives to negatives is the best approach when sitting down to talk about a problem.
If your bank account is in bankruptcy there is only one direction that conversation will head and it is not the direction that any sane person would chose willingly.
You can take your emotional bank account from the red (overdrawn) to the black (money to spend). Here are 3 tools.
Tool #1: Appreciate the good parts of your relationship out loud (even if there are parts you don’t like)
Singing the praises of the lighter side is a great way to start making deposits in your emotional bank account. When it feels right in your relationship notice it loudly, this positive feeling will be shared eventually. Pass on that good feeling and make it contagious.
This is where you say you are happy about the smallest things.
- You could be walking around town together and you could think “I am glad I have someone to share this experience with” and then you say it out loud.
- You could notice that you spent a calm day together and you would say you appreciate the day you just spent together and you could describe what you liked about it.
Read this blog post to learn more about how to love your partner out loud.
Tool #2: Practice positive reinforcement (and overlook the mistakes)
Maybe you’ve asked your partner not to leave empty coffee cups in the car because you like to keep the car neat and tidy. Yet somehow your partner always forgets to get rid of them.
I want to ask you to stop noticing when your partner leaves the coffee cups in the car, either to yourself or out loud. Instead, when you find the car sans cups, observe and comment on this behavior you like.
Make positive note even if the behavior is only a close proximity. Maybe your partner stuffed all the empty cups into a small trash bag, but didn’t take it out of the car. No matter how small the behavior, notice it in a positive way.
It’s important to be sincere and leave the humor out. Any humor at this time could be viewed as sarcasm or negativity! As your emotional bank account fills up, you can let humor come back in.
Behavioral psychology tells us the more you notice and appreciate behaviors you like, the more of a chance those behaviors will increase. You shape the behavior you desire. You make a difference.
Tool #3: Fake it until you make it (yes, you will make it!)
When you can actually “act as if” things are going well, your behaviors will start to shift and they will add positive relief to what could be a heavy sad situation. This can help begin to turn the negative around to more positives.
Take good care of yourself in doing this so that you don’t overdo it and suddenly you find yourself bitter and angry because your partner is still the same. Remind yourself: “I am doing this for myself, so I feel better. I am not trying to change my partner but I am trying to change how I feel.”
Read more about “fake it until you make it” here.
If your relationship is in need of a bail out, I can help
If you feel like these tips would be too little, too late, don’t give up. First, listen to my podcast on how to answer that difficult question “should I stay or should I go?” And if you find yourself needing more help, get in touch via my contact form. I can meet with you no matter where you are in the world as long as you have an internet connection.
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“At the Mirth” by Flickr user Patrick Emerson is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.
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