Your Bank Account


What is in your bank account? And when I say bank account, I am referring to the emotional bank account of your relationship. Researchers from the marriage laboratory at the University of Washington suggest that the concept of an emotional bank account incorporates the idea of turning-toward or turning-away from your partner when he or she elicits your attention. Turning-toward your partner could be as simple as giving a nod when he/she comments about weather or it could include providing your undivided attention when he or she is in need of your emotional support. When you turn-toward your partner, you add to your emotional bank account by increasing the levels of emotional commitment and intimacy. However, when you continuously turn-away from your partner by ignoring his/her bids for attention, you deplete your emotional bank account.

It is so funny how even our relationships operate on economic terms. I thought about the sheer joy that stems from being truly heard and understood by my significant other. But what is even more humbling and empowering is understanding that I have an important role to play in bolstering the emotional bank account of our relationship. In being a busy graduate student, it is easy to get inundated with all of the demands that school provides. And when you are busy or overwhelmed it is so easy to overlook your partner’s bids for emotional support. Sometimes bids can be very subtle—usually a very slight alteration in one’s normal speaking voice that exudes vulnerability and support seeking. I have come to realize that there is truly an art form involved in quieting the noise of your own social/work pressures in order to hear the more vulnerable bids for emotional support from your partner. But the level of intimacy that results from this art form is totally worth the effort. And surprisingly enough, you also feel comforted and supported by simply turning-toward your partner and providing the invaluable assets of an open heart and a listening ear.

For more information about the concept of an emotional bank account and building a sound marital house, you can refer to the chapter written by Ryan, Carrere, and Gottman in the book entitled Marriage in America by Martin King Whyte.

Cassandra Kirkland, M.S.


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