8 ‘Love Bank’ Principles:
what you should know.
Part 1 of Love Bank Series
Knowing these 8 Love Bank principles could be very important for the health and love in your marriage.
Too many withdrawals could even make you (or your spouse) vulnerable to an affair;
especially in certain seasons of life (I list what those are).
But the good news is, following these Love Bank principles will also help you in reconnecting with your spouse after an affair.
Although these ‘marriage principles’ have been around for awhile, it was finally put into words that most of us could understand.
So, have you heard of the Love Bank accounts analogy?
In case you don’t know, here’s the meaning of Love Bank Accounts.
The term was first coined by marriage expert/counselor Dr. William Harley. It’s the first of his ’10 basic concepts for marriage’.
(It’s important to note that the ideas in this post originated with him, not me. Seriously, I’m not this smart, but I can attest to the validity of the love bank
deposits and withdrawals idea. We’ve followed this principle for years, and have taught our married son the concept as well.)
If you didn’t yet, check out Part 2 of this post the top 10 emotional needs in marriage, where I describe them.
I also describe in this post, the policy of Undivided Attention in a set aside block of time, and how important this was in our healing.
Here’s a link to one of his books that explain in more details the Love Bank and Love Busters in marriage.
So, Dr. Harley struggled to help save marriages in his counseling sessions. He grew discouraged by the amount of marriages still ending in divorce after he, and other counselors,
were focusing primarily on the couples communication skills. After all, isn’t that what always we’ve been told was the main problem?
Through trial and error, he eventually developed a way to teach couples how to stay in love. It actually had much less to do with “communication skills” and more to do
with the positive associations and love they felt when with each other, or didn’t feel.
1. Brief description of the Love Bank Concept.
This is what Dr. Harley says on his marriage builders website:
“This concept, perhaps more than any other that I created, helped couples realize that almost everything they
did affected their love for each other either positively or negatively.
And that awareness set most of them on a course of action that preserved their love and saved their marriages.”
He goes on to explain that everyone we know has a bank account with us, and it keeps track of the way they treat us.
When you’re with someone who makes you feel good, those good associations put ‘deposits’ into that persons Love Bank.
When their Love Bank deposits surpasses as certain level, the feelings of romantic love, or limerence, is triggered. I list 16 symptoms of limerence in this post.
We stay in love with those whose love bank accounts exceed the love threshold.
You’ll continue feeling love for them as long as the Love Bank balance remains high. But when it falls below that love level, you start losing that feeling.
Dr. Harley explains you’ll like anyone, as long as the balance is above zero. But you’ll be in LOVE with someone whose balance is above that love threshold.
2. When we make more withdrawals then deposits, our accounts will be zero.
However, this also applies to discouraging you from being with those who you associate consistent negative feelings with.
Those who make you unhappy, or who you associate with bad feelings, withdrawals are made in your Love Bank.
Just like in a real bank account, if you withdraw more than you deposit, your account goes negative.
This is also the way a Love Bank works when a persons balance with us falls below zero.
Then it turns into the Hate Bank, Dr. Harley explains.
You’ll dislike those low or moderately negative balances, but if the balance falls below the “hate threshold”, you’ll hate that person.
Definitely not the kind of marriages we want to have. Yet, how many of us consistently make withdrawals in the bank account with our spouse?
Anyone who’s been married for any length of time knows how easy it is to do this.
3. We’re more vulnerable to empty “love bank” accounts at certain seasons in our marriages.
I’ve read, experienced it firsthand, and witnessed it in others, and have seen it firsthand- marriages often run on empty in certain seasons of their lives.
Examples of these most vulnerable times could be:
- A new baby.
- The demand on our time with small kids at home.
- Caring for an elderly parent.
- More than ordinary, high levels of stress.
- health issues.
- More sudden changes or disappointments.
- Moving a lot.
- Family issues, or stressful drama.
- Being away from home more often than home.
You can see, these are all normal life experiences. Eventually we’ll all face one or more of these changes or problems.
But don’t despair, it doesn’t have to mean you’re ripe for an affair.
Learning how to keep the love bank deposits high is vital for the ongoing connection and affair proofing of our marriage.
Many of you reading this might have already felt the devastation of infidelity in your marriage, and you might be able to
recognize some of the signs of your empty ‘love bank accounts’ that you experienced, before the affair happened.
This isn’t to blame anyone, but to recognize it.
As the saying goes, “what we don’t acknowledge, we repeat.”
We might look at this list and get discouraged, thinking of all the ways we’ve made withdrawals in our spouses account. But we can’t change what we don’t know.
So instead of despairing, use this information to light a fire under you to change. Begin loving your spouse the way they feel and need love.
What is love? We’d all likely agree love is the cornerstone of any growing and successful marriage. But why do so many couples seem to lose that loving feeling they once had
on their wedding day? What goes wrong?
4. First, let me define our most important needs/love which make up “The Love Bank”
1. Romantic Love.
Romantic love is that feeling of being in love- finding someone irresistible, or that limerence feeling I referenced above. It’s not some mystical thing. Your brain creates this emotion
whenever certain conditions are met. Likewise, your brain can often eliminate this emotion if those original conditions aren’t met. Dr. Harley explains it can be turned on and turned off.
This explains more of why some people say they’ve “fallen out of love” with their spouse, and “fallen in love” with this new person (their affair partner). It’s actually much less about THAT
other person, and more about ‘how that person made them feel. The love deposits and good associations they developed when with them.
2. Caring Love.
This is the second kind of important love in marriage, called Caring Love. It represents a decision to care for your spouse-to do those things that will make your spouse happy.
People have caring love for lots of different people in their lives, but the caring love in marriage goes deeper because when your acts of love meet (deposits into) your spouse’s most important emotional needs,
then romantic love is triggered.
As Harley explains in his book “Fall in Love, Stay in Love”,
“if your care makes your spouse happy, he or she will be in love with you. If your spouse is no longer in love with you, you might care for your spouse,
but your acts of care are inffective in making him or her happy.”
5. Knowing our spouses most important emotional needs is crucial.
We all might agree that men and women have differing emotional needs. Some couples don’t fit the ‘generalizations’ so I don’t want to presume it’s what YOU
both feel. You can read more details in the above book of his but here’s my summary.
According to Dr. Harley, these are MEN’S most important emotional needs:
These are often given the highest priority by the average man, if you’re a wife meeting these needs, it’s likely your husband would find you irresistible.
A. Sexual Fulfillment.
B. Recreational Companionship.
C. Physical Attractiveness.
E. Domestic Support.
These are WOMEN’S most important emotional needs:
These were said to be the things the average woman said were most important, and would make her husband more irresistible to her.
C. Honesty and Openness.
D. Financial Support.
E. Family Commitment.
So, the Love Bank is simply a (subconscious) way our emotions
keep track of how people treat us.
Good experiences=deposit love units, leading us to like, or love, a person.
Bad experiences=withdrawal of love units, leading us to like, or even hate, a person.
Most married couples would probably agree that “romantic love” is much more fragile than they imagined it could be, in the beginning.
When those love bank accounts fall below the romantic love threshold, a couple loses their passionate feelings for each other, and the instinct to make
each other happy. That’s frustrating for both spouses.
6. Here’s a few sample questions Dr. Harley gives in his books,
that he often asks couples that meet with him.
It’s a litmus test to measure whether or not they were really in love with each other.
1. Do you usually have a good feeling whenever you think about__(their spouse’s name).?
2. Would you rather be with _______ than anyone else?
3. Does________ bring out the best in you?
4. Do you enjoy telling_________ your deepest feelings and most private experiences?
He says in his books, he actually doesn’t do any marital therapy unless they’ve answered the questionnaire first.
7. How our habits multiply Love Bank Deposits and Withdrawals with our spouse.
It’s easy to fall into ruts and bad habits with our spouse, especially the longer we’re married. It’s wonderful to be
ourselves with our spouse, and the feeling of comfort that our spouse knows so much about us but still loves us.
But that wonderful comfortable feeling of being with someone who really knows us, can also work against us.
We often get complacent, and start to lack the motivation to do those things we did in the beginning to woo our spouse.
Over time, we develop habits in our marriage.
Some habits, like communicating effectively, small acts of kindness to our mate etc… make Love Bank deposits.
And others, like angry outburst, impatient or judgmental attitudes, etc.. make large Love Bank withdrawals.
In his study, Dr. Harley learned that “habits are more important than isolated instances of behavior that haven’t yet become habits….
good habits repeated over and over make deposits almost effortlessly.
Isolated behavior though, may deposit some love units,
but usually doesn’t affect the Love Bank much.
Isolated, good or bad, behaviors don’t affect the love bank a lot because they’re not often repeated.
In the same way, habits that withdraw love units tend to destroy Love Bank balance because they’re repeated almost effortlessly.”
Crazy huh? What this translated to me is- you can’t have angry outburst to your wife, or neglect her needs, and then buy some flowers and think you’re good to have sex that night.
Or, you can’t nag and complain to your husband about all his faults and then expect he’s going to want to make the effort to be romantic. Works both ways right?
But, I do believe we can form new habits.
We can get into the habit of meeting each others most important emotional needs and stop doing those habits that make withdrawals.
A good start is making the commitment to meet each other’s needs (deposits) and avoid hurting each other (withdrawals).
BUT, that commitment has to lead to a change in behavior consistently to be effective.
8. Finally, let me wrap this up with how all of this relates to a couple
who’ve gone through infidelity in their marriage.
- We all start out wanting to meet each other’s needs. If we didn’t, we likely wouldn’t have married, unless you felt outside pressure to do so.
But neither one of you married to hurt each other.
- Those needs are ‘romantic and caring love’, and they can be neglected, making us more vulnerable to affairs, in certain seasons of life.
If we’re not careful, we can become our spouse’s greatest source of unhappiness.
- We can form negative associations for our spouse, which essentially means the love bank account has had so many withdrawals, it’s bouncing checks.
- The emotional needs list for the average man and woman are very different. It doesn’t make one right or wrong, but understanding our spouse’s needs
helps us make deposits more consistently, while avoiding the withdrawals.
- If we’re not making deposits into our marriage, one or both of you, are especially vulnerable to an affair. If another person swoops in and makes those
important deposits for you, or our spouse, when you’ve been running on empty, you’re more likely to be tempted into an affair. Emotional or Physical.
- This other person (an affair partner) likely wasn’t any ‘better’ than your spouse (or you if you’re the betrayed spouse);
they just met those fundamental emotional needs at just the (wrong) vulnerable time.
- Following these 8 love bank principles, though, will greatly help with mending a marriage after infidelity.
Don’t forget to read Part 2 of this post, where I list the 10 top emotional needs in marriage, and (in that post) I give you a link to
Dr. Harley’s emotional needs questionnaire, so check that out.
I’d love to hear from you! What parts of these 8 principles do you relate to the most?
What, if any, have you and your spouse struggled with in your marriage?
Leave your comments below! I’d love to hear your input.