Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Love Bank

I'm getting married this month. As The Fiance and I contemplate this, we can't help but discuss what kind of marriage we hope to have. We both feel strongly that we have a pretty damn good shot at it. We were both fortunate enough to go through some pretty traumatic relationships and their consequential breakups/divorces. Fortunately for us, we didn't come through them unscathed and we didn't come through them with any illusions about ourselves. 

We came out of these experiences with a strong desire, if not zeal, to never let it happen again. I think what we both learned is that yes, we probably chose the wrong people the last time around. But I think we also learned that neither one of us is perfect, and if we're going to make a relationship work, we're going to have to actually do some work.

The Fiance reminded me of a great site he'd told me about not long after we first met. It's called Marriage Builders and it's based on the work of Dr. Harley. One of the concepts that made a lasting impression on me is the idea of The Love Bank.

Dr. Harley's idea is that we all have a love bank, a reservoir of needs, that must be filled in order for us to feel happy and loved. Having our needs met not only makes us personally happy, it makes us generous with others. If your love bank is full, you're more likely to want to fill your significant other's love bank too. It creates a culture of giving, where the giving is free and easy because it's so abundant. It's how you usually feel in a new relationship.

Now if someone grows unhappy, feels neglected or simply starts to grow apart as is often the case in long-term relationships, that person is not so likely to fill the significant other's love bank. It becomes a, "Screw you. Why should I do something for you, when you're not doing anything for me" culture.

That's bad news, and I suspect we've all been there. I know I have.

So sometimes we've got to take one for the team. I know, I know, it sounds crazy, but I think sometimes, especially early on in relationships (or before things have gone way, way south) we've got to do the nice things for our significant other, even if we don't necessarily feel like it. You've got to keep doing it, just like you've got to keep exercising, or picking up your house or paying your bills. It's maintenance, baby.

I know maintenance doesn't sound particularly romantic, but I think it's necessary. It's not unlike making your bed. Sure, your bed doesn't really have to be made every day. You're just going to get back into anyway. I was a serial non-bedmaker for decades. I was a bedmaking rebel and I held its flag high. 

It wasn't until the past couple of years that I realized it's not about making the bed. It's not about the bed at all. It's about Right Effort. The Buddha said that without effort, nothing can be accomplished. If you don't make your bed in the morning, you leave your bedroom in disharmony. You sense that disharmony when you come home at night. Not making the bed can be like leaving dishes in the sink. It's a pattern of behavior and that behavior is neglect. Neglect begets more neglect. Soon your house is a mess, all the time.

Making regular, consistent, reliable deposits in your significant other's love bank is simply a matter of putting right effort into the relationship. For instance, whenever The Fiance is at my house, I get up first, go downstairs and make a pot of coffee. I bring him a cup of hot coffee when it's done. I never make a pot of coffee during the week when I'm home alone, I do it for him because it makes him feel loved. And guess what? When I'm at his house, he does the same for me.

Sure, it's a small gesture, but it's like making the bed. Bringing each other a cup of coffee is making a deposit in our love banks (yes, I realize this sounds dirty, you pervs). Dr. Harley covers all manner of ways you can make deposits in each other's love banks (stop it), and he also recognizes that all of our love banks are not the same (really now, you should be ashamed of yourselves).

Some of us don't like coffee.

Some of us like back rubs, or going mountain biking together, or receiving presents, or hugs, or sex (happy now?), conversation and attending one another's events. All manner of things. That's why it's important to find out what's important to your significant other, and vice versa.

You've got to get used to making the bed every day and making it the way your significant other likes it. It's got to become habit. Habits are hard to break. But they can be broken, of course. I'm under no illusions that this is easy. Even someone with OCD-lite can stop making the bed if their psyche changes. Depression can lead to neglect, and neglect can lead to disarray.

It's all connected.

Right Effort permeates all facets of our lives, from our romantic relationships to our friendships, to our parenting and our careers. You've got to make the bed every day. You've got to make deposits.

Otherwise you've got nothing. You're broke and your house is trashed.


  1. Hi Mandy
    Wow, congratulations
    love this post.

  2. My husband and I have been working on a similar system of fulfilling each other's individualized needs . . . I am that person that wants the bed made, and he isn't, but he'll make the effort to do it because he knows I prefer it . . . he gets up with our daughter when he is off, because he knows I need the break . . . he probably does a lot more for me than I do for him, actually . . .

    Thanks for making me think about my own miserliness when it comes to his bank.

  3. What a great post and reminder that we all need to *give* to *receive*. It's a good thing the *love* bank has no correlation to my *actual* bank account..otherwise it would be empty all the time :)

  4. probably why i love that old song 'you get what you give'

  5. Great post, sweetie. Such a terrific mindset, I really do believe you and The Fiance will make this a "death do us part" relationship. I think sometimes, that second marriages WILL last, if we understand what WE did wrong in our first marriages (in addition to not seeking out those people who are wrong for us.) My mother just had her 28 year wedding anniversary with her second husband. Hasn't always been a bed of roses, but they both realize that marriage is work at times.

    I also believe in doing something nice, even when you don't "feel" like it, just because it's a nice thing to do. And I believe that when we do those things, we reap what we sow.

    So blessings to you both, for a long and healthy marriage. Blessings to you ALL, for a wonderful, love filled family!

  6. My ex raided my marriage bank, shook out all the loose change, smashed what was left and still he was shocked when I wanted out.

    I'm still overdrawn, but The Date is going a long way to filling the hole.

  7. Do you know about the Spank Bank? Kimmie and Deb told me about that one. It is the list of people you have in your mind when you are, uh, by yourself and uh, well, you know. You think of them. :)

  8. What a great and simple way to explain things.

    I'm a compulsive bed maker and dish washer. I thought it was ocd.... I like the zen concept better.

    "Air Hugs" to you.

  9. @Raao: Thank you.

    @Caroline: I'm pleased to help. Lord knows I need some.

    @David Grassi McDaniels: Yeah, we usually want to receive first then give. Like using a love credit card.

    @Eva Gallant: Thank you.

    @Char: I don't know if I know that song. Artist?

    @Soobs: That's what I figure, if you create a habit and culture of giving even when you don't feel like it, it becomes normal to the relationship. And that way you know your partner is doing the same thing, even on days that they don't particularly feel like it either.

    @Me: I don't mean to laugh, but your metaphor is awesome. I'm glad The Date is working to replenish that debt.

    @Wow: I think Dirty Dirty Jesus would quote Jesus here and say something about committing a sin in your thoughts is the same as committing the action. Though my Buddha says thoughts are only thoughts, and it's really actions that count. I think. Then again Freud said that fantasies are the products of an unhappy mind.

    I'm so confused, now I don't know who to follow.


    @LaFang: Yes. You're not OCD, you're just practicing Right Effort. Namaste.

  10. You are so right. It's really important to make little deposits into the bank...and also to recognize and appreciate the contributions of your partner. Sounds like you have what it takes. Here's wishing you all the best.

  11. When my love bank is full, I'm not as inclined to make the bed; I'm usually still in it. Is that wrong?

  12. Isn't it true that DDJ's regular deposits into your "Love Bank" is the reason you got preggers?

    I know, I know. It's a bad joke, but somebody had to make it.

    Great post, Mandy. I hope you and The Dirty One have a lifetime of loving partnership.

  13. What an excellent piece. I would expect nothing less.

    Congrats on your upcoming nupitals. And thank you for writing this. I learned a thing or two today.

  14. It's such a peculiar lesson- obvious, difficult to internalize, possibly The Meaning of it All.

    (And ya, I was totally picturing semen everytime you wrote "deposit")

  15. Give a little, get a little. Congrats on the news! You and the man deserve happiness and everlasting love.

    Keep those deposits up to date!

  16. I really believe you and He have something special. I know it will endure. He is lucky and you are worthy.

    Thank you for the pointer to "The Noble Eightfold Path." I like it very much.

  17. It warms my heart to read your blogs. I can see you up there, farther along the path than I am, and it gives me hope that one day I'll get there too.

    My bed is unmade. I am overallocated. I would dearly love to run away from my chaos but I know it would follow me. So the question is: do I have chaos because I have disorder in my life, or do I have disorder in my life because I have chaos in my head?


  18. You caught me, I am a perv. *hangs head in shame* I started making rude comments about deposits long before you got there.

    Congrats on your impending marriage!! ;) I kid, big congrats to you both, you are wonderful people and a lot wiser this time around.

  19. :)

    The eightfold path.

    Right Effort indeed.
    A pair of nicely scrubbed, soap scented balls is nice.

  20. ...and I'm not even joking.

    Quite nice indeed.

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  22. This is advice that everyone needs to hear!! Great post and wishing you all the happiness you strive to attain.

  23. awesome. just awesome. you two are the real deal. so happy for you all!

  24. @Blissed-Out: Thank you.

    @Fragrant Liar: I don't know. According to your name, you may be lying about that, though you smell good.

    @richard: *Cue rimshot*

    @Joseph Simmons: My pleasure Joe. Thanks for stopping by!

    @JustKate: Yes, exactly!

    @Denise: I'll try.

    @Mike129: Thank you. And you're welcome!

    @Betty/Slinky: I have no idea where I am on the path. I think I'm wondering around with no clear end in sight. ;-)

    @Fiona: Believe me, it's been nothing but "love bank" and "deposit" jokes at my house for 48 hours or so.

    @Sweet Herald: *Snort*

    @Lindsay: Thanks. :-)

  25. Hi
    New reader overhere


  26. Mandy Congratulations. Maybe just this once I'll forego the silly and the ridiculous and just wish you both the very best. You deserve it.

  27. I need to read that. Seriously.


  28. Great blog Mama. I don't have enough words in my fingers to tell you how much you have made me think today. Right Effort... Going to go ponder that now.

  29. just as i was making a "screw you" withdrawl.... thanks. I'll opt for a desposit as soon as my inner pride melts a bit.

    Congrats and great post.

    We teach what we need to learn.

  30. Have you ever heard of Tsem Tulku? He's been really awesome for me.

    Love bank. Great concept.

  31. Great post. I have a feeling I'll be looking back at this one at some point.

  32. I am with Rachel. My house should be torched.