As a culture, we clearly value expressing our love for each other this time of year. This includes the expression of all kinds of love, not just romantic love. Valentine’s Day is also an opportunity to tell friends, relatives, colleagues, and classmates (Remember exchanging cards with everyone in your classroom when you were a child?) how much they mean to us.
Two of the most fundamental needs we all have in life are to love and to be loved. In our Living Compass class on healthy relationships we talk about the concept of “emotional bank accounts.” So today, I want you to consider:
1. How can I make a “deposit” in someone’s emotional bank account with simple acts of kindness?
Giving a compliment, saying a kind word, expressing gratitude, making a phone call, sending a text message or a hand written note can make a big difference in a relationship. Just letting someone know that we care about them will not cost us anything at all, and yet will do a lot to build up that person’s emotional bank account and at the same time strengthen our relationship with that person.
2. How can reconcile a recent “withdrawal” ?
Withdrawals can come when we are irritable or overly critical, when we forget to acknowledge an important event or day (like Valentine’s Day!), or even when we are distracted or simply not paying attention to a relationship. Withdrawals are a natural part of life, but something we want to be aware of because too many of them can significantly hurt a relationship.
3. How can I make sure that I don’t overextend myself to avoid “insufficient funds or overdraft fees”?
Research has shown that healthy relationships have a ratio of deposits to withdrawals of at least 5:1. This means that in healthy and happy relationships there are at least 5 times as many expressions of kindness, gratitude, and appreciation as there are expressions of criticism or lack of attention.
To paraphrase a MasterCard commercial that has been popular recently: What is the cost of Valentine’s Day related expenses for Americans? $17.3 billion. What is the cost of regular, ongoing expressions of kindness, gratitude, and appreciation? That, my friends, is priceless.