Questions to Sophie: ‘Invest in positive emotional banking for rich relational living'

Suzanne Kline
Suzanne Kline

Imagine within your heart there exists an active emotional bank account. It registers deposits and withdrawals with an ever changing balance. For every kind connection you make with your partner, a deposit is recorded into their account and you earn an interest deposit into yours. For every unpleasant interaction you initiate with your partner, you make a withdrawal from their account and a service fee is charged to yours.

Our relationships are made up of a series of continuous connections that register either positively or negatively. These connections are the day to day interactions we have with one another. Here is an example of one of those interactions and how this principle works.

If in the morning, your loved one says, “Did you see how nice it is outside?” and your reply is an unintelligible grunt, you may just have incurred a service charge in your account and made a small withdrawal from theirs. There are many of these attempts to make connections throughout the day. The way you respond to them affects both of your accounts - by getting richer or going into overdraft.

Knowing what your loved one wants from you, and telling them in specific words what you want to receive from them positions you to make and receive the largest deposits. For example, if you like to receive a phone call in the middle of the day and your partner does that for you, then you both just got wealthier. If you get an e-mail instead, well, you get a deposit, but not as hefty a sum.


Withdrawals are made when we don’t respond, reply sarcastically, give the silent treatment, call names, plan without talking to your partner first, etc. The bigger the infraction, the larger the withdrawal you take from their account and the higher the service charge to yours.

So to keep your accounts full:

•Ask your partner what specific things, behaviors you can do daily to please him/her.

•Tell your partner what pleases you, in concrete words that can easily be done. It is clearer to say, “I’d like you to wash the dishes after I make dinner” rather than, “I’d like you to help me more around here.”

•Look for opportunities to make deposits and register interest.

•Make frequent small deposits which add up quickly.

•Acknowledge the little things your partner does for you by saying: “I appreciate that you did that, thank you.”

Remember, it’s the 100 small interactions that build the relationship connection for rich relational living.

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Disclaimer: Responses to questions are not to be construed as receiving, and are not a substitute for, psychological services, or treatment.

Questions to Sophie is a new question and answer column addressing reflections on work, family, friendship and personal issues. Send your questions to or mail them to The Hamburg Area Item office. Please submit by the editorial deadline.

The column is by Suzanne Kline a practicing psychologist born and raised in the Hamburg area.