Having been a therapist for over thirty years, I am always pleased to find new ways of helping couples. A few years ago, I discovered a treatment approach by Willard Harley that’s short term and practical. Combined with other techniques that I use, this approach has proven effective. Furthermore, it offers hope to relationships that seem hopeless. I’ve had several successful cases where one member had fallen out of love, ready to leave the relationship. If you’re interested, read on.
We really do keep score: the Love Bank
In relationships, we really do keep score. The way that we “keep score” is not necessarily a conscious one. Our mind automatically keeps an account of how well our partner is meeting our emotional needs. Our partner has a Love Bank of us too. The way it works is simple.
- When we act in a way to please our spouse, we gain points in their Love Bank. When we act in a way to displease them, we lose points.
- Most of us are not aware of our partners needs let alone our own. We frequently give to our mate what we need but often miss the mark in meeting their needs by not giving them what they want.
- There are two ways to increase Love Bank scores:
- Increase behaviors which meet our spouses important emotional needs.
- Stop behaviors that make our partner unhappy.
- The latter is called Love Busters.
- When we have accumulated a plethora of points, we fall in love.
- When there are less points coming in than are going out; when we are bankrupt or overdrawn, then we fall out of love.
Love Busters are the things that we do to negatively affect our partner. We lose points in their Love Bank when we exhibit these behaviors. The most common Love Busters include the following:
- Angry outbursts
- Annoying Behavior
- Selfish Demands
- Other “bad behaviour”
I have often found that stopping bad behavior (Love Busters) is often as important as starting good behavior (meeting our spouses Emotional Needs).
We all have emotional needs. Furthermore, we have expectations from our partner to meet these needs. Men and Women generally have different emotional needs. Duh! The most common emotional needs for men are:
- Sexual Fulfillment
- Attractive Spouse
- Domestic Support
- Recreational Companionship
The most common emotional needs for women are:
- Openness and Honesty
- Family Commitment
- Financial Support
How We Fall In and Out of Love. When we meet someone who makes a favorable impression on us, they will earn points in our Love Bank. For example: Bob is attracted to Jan. She gets 200 points in his love bank just for being pretty. He asks her out. She says yes. She gains another 100 points. They have a good date. She gains another 100 points. After the date she kisses him. It is a very passionate kiss. She gains another 150 points. You get the idea.
Now, what goes up can also go down. Let’s assume that they have been dating for a month and Jan cancels a date with Bob at the last moment. She loses 50 points but already has a score of 1000 so the reserves cover the loss and the relationship is good. If she was to continue to meet Bob’s emotional needs in a meaningful way, then she will have earned a high Love Bank score with Bob and he will fall in love if the score is high enough.
Now, let’s assume that Jan and Bob keep doing a wonderful job in meeting each others needs. They have romantic candle light dinners, great sex and good conversations. Basically, they don’t want to be out of sight of each other. They are crazy about each other. Their Love Bank scores are high and they get married.
Now, let’s suppose that they have been married for several years and have three children. Bob has a new job that requires him to work late so he is not as physically and emotionally available. The children are demanding more of Jan’s attention. She is frequently too tired to have sex and is not as emotionally available to Bob’s needs. Over a period of time, the couple’s emotional needs may not be getting met.
Furthermore, there may be bad habits that may be stealing points from their Love Banks. If their scores drop too low score (in the red, over drawn) they will fall out of love. Bob may all of her emotional needs into her children. These patterns may lead to an affair or a divorce.
So, How Do We Get Back in Love?
First off, many romantics do not think that it is possible to recapture love. Love is like an illusive butterfly. Once it is gone, it is gone and you can’t get it back. Of course, I do not agree with them. If you think of the Love Bank Concept, Just as it is possible to fall out of love, it is possible to fall back in love. Falling in love is achieved by getting a high enough Love Bank Score so that your partner falls in love with you. Gaining points by meeting the partner’s emotional needs can do this. Stop losing points by changing the Love Buster behavior (angry outbursts, dishonesty, etc.)
Couple’s are made aware of their partners emotional needs. After learning about each other’s needs in detail, they discuss ways to meet these needs. With the help of the therapist, strategies are developed for each partner to meet the other’s needs. Progress is discussed weekly in treatment and revisions are made as needed. This approach used with communication skill building has proven effective.