Emotional Capital

Most people understand the concept of “emotional bank accounts” where we all have a limited amount of energy or emotion to give out interacting with other people during any period of time. A person who continuously “spends” can run out of “emotional capital” and have nothing left to give. Attached to this is the idea of making “emotional deposits”. We need to fill up the account in order to be able to spend and give out again. You can make your own deposits by recuperating and doing things that emotionally energize you, or others around you can make deposits by spending time emotionally engaging and giving to you.  You may have also heard of this in terms of a “love tank” that needs to be filled in order to give to others. It is an old and very familiar notion that most people are generally aware of.

Just like our checking accounts can become drained of money, our emotional accounts can be drained of emotional currency–especially when there is more going out than is coming in. You can start to run into a shortage that creates a supply and demand issue and just like with cash, it becomes a problem when you try to spend what is simply not there. We become irritated and upset especially when those emotional expenditures are not the kind we want to make.

We don’t like it when we have to “spend” our capital on things that are not essential. Put it in terms of money and it’s easy to understand. Most of us are usually not thrilled if we have to spend money on things we don’t think are necessary.  Typically we like to hang onto our hard earned cash and use it for what we want. The same can be said about emotions—we don’t like it when we have to spend our “emotional capital” on people and situations that we believe are nonessential. We will all fork over the emotions for the things we think are worthy, but will resent it when someone is taking our energy if we don’t think we should have to give it….sort of like having to pay taxes, bills or extra charges when we really don’t need or want to.

All of that to explain what I believe is a major issue for a lot of people—especially for women when it comes to dealing with their husbands.

Because women generally tend to be more emotional beings by nature, they are constantly pouring themselves out into other people and situations. All relationships, including marriage require that you spend emotional capital. It’s very normal, yet people don’t realize it. Somehow they think that marriage is supposed to be the “spend free zone”. A wife may give emotionally to her job, her kids, and her church, but operate under the assumption that she shouldn’t have to expend any more to get what she wants from her husband. Most women think that their man should just do the things she asks first time, every time and not wait until she gets frustrated and angry. When she does have to invest emotion interacting with him in order to get what she wants, a wife can resent it and become very upset.  Yet it is a false, romantic fantasy and totally unrealistic to think that you can “get” without “spending”. We understand and accept it in every other part of life—but not when it comes to marriage.

Here is how I have seen this played out over and over again when I talk to couples:  A husband and wife come to see me and she says, “He doesn’t listen to me!  It seems like I have to get upset, nag, complain and yell for him to do what I ask!  I hate being like this but I just can’t get through to him in any other way.  Why won’t he just do what I ask without me raising my voice?!”  Often when I look at the husband and ask the guy if it bothers him when she yells, he says, “Nope.” See, it doesn’t bug the man at all, but it makes the woman crazy and she is the one who is upset by it.  His wife gets mad because to her it is an unnecessary and bogus expenditure of her limited “emotional capital” and she is now irritated because this jerk just made a withdrawal on her already dwindling account. She had to hand over the currency of escalating emotions just to get him to take out the trash when she already asked three times!  Doesn’t he get it? She doesn’t want to give it away on things that she deems unnecessary!  And to add insult to injury the dude hasn’t made any deposits recently either!   (That issue we will address shortly.)

There are two things that couples must understand here. First, it is normal to have to spend your emotion on a guy in order to get what you want. Don’t get mad just because he doesn’t jump at your beck and call to do everything you ask the very second you ask it. The problem is that many women live under the delusion that either (a) she shouldn’t have to ask because the guy should just magically and automatically know what she needs and wants, or (b) if she has to ask, he darn well better get right to it and do it the first time!  I hate to break it to you ladies, but you are not the Queen of the Universe and this man is not one of your subjects who will scurry around to fulfill every wish, whim and desire Johnny-on-the-spot!

There is a five-step explanation of How to Get a Man to Do What You Want on my DVD and in my book Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage. Check it out if you haven’t read or heard this information. It will help decrease the tension considerably in your home if you learn this stuff.  I won’t detail the whole thing, but here is the short version:

To get a man to do what you want you need to:

1)      Ask for what you want

2)      Ask more than once

3)      Ask the right way

4)      Use positive reinforcement

5)    Barter for what you want

That being said…and even if you are doing all you can with your man, you may have to raise your tone and say something like, “Honey, I asked you twice already today to take out the trash.  Do you like the angry wife, or the happy wife? Please, for the love of Pete, will you take it out?” So what? Who cares if you have to use some of your energy and emotion in the situation? Just don’t “overspend” by getting so upset, screaming, cursing and going off because you had to give him the emotional currency in the first place.

Don’t be mad that you have to “pay out” for something.  Think it through, if you went to Best Buy and wanted a big screen TV, you wouldn’t fly off the handle, get frustrated and angry because they wouldn’t give it to you for free! Same holds true in a marriage—you can’t get upset because you think everything should be free and not cost you. Guys, listen up because it’s the same for you when it comes to sex….you don’t get it for “free”!  You need to pay attention to your wife, expend your “emotional capital” by listening, engaging, taking her to dinner or shopping, etc.  In no other area of life do people expect the “free lunch” except for marriage.  It’s the craziest thing! We all understand the “spend to receive” principle in our jobs, the bank, bills, and even other relationships, but with our spouse we think it doesn’t apply!

The second important thing is for husbands to remember to make the deposits. Think of it in terms of your bank account. If your wife expected you to deposit your paycheck each week but you neglected to do so, pretty soon there would be nothing left to spend. Most likely, she would get pretty upset with you. Same holds true for the emotional bank account….if you don’t put anything in, there won’t be anything to take out and you will have a problem on your hands. Most guys are really good at constantly making the deposits during the dating process so there is never a deficit when the couple is first together, but once they’re married, many men forget to put anything in. The fact of the matter is that she’s an emotional spender and needs to have something to draw from. You will have a problem if you continue to drain her account and drive her crazy making her spend what’s not there.

So ladies, remember that marriage requires you to “spend”. Don’t get upset when you have to dole out some of your valuable emotional capital. It’s just the way it works. Guys, you need to remember to keep making the deposits….think of it more like a retirement account that you continually add to in order to get the payout. If you will pay attention, give to your wife and be intentional, I promise you will get a really great return on your investment today and into the future.

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33 Responses to “Emotional Capital”

  1. Rhonda says:

    I bet these men did what their parents told him to do the first time he was told to something or he got in big trouble for disobeying. Unfortunately, some women do expect men to be mind readers-I am a woman & (hope this doesn’t come across as bragadocious) am not like that, because I had a family member who expected me to be a mind reader & it frustrated me, so I never wanted to put someone else in that position. But, wives are entitled to the same respect their husbands gave to his parents. I’m pretty sure parents didn’t have to keep repeating themselves, so why do men do this to wives? It’s not right.

    • B says:

      My parents had to repeat themselves. Like, a lot. It’s not that men are hearing all that their wife says and purposefully not doing it with malicious intent in their head. The way our ‘one take mode’ mentality usually works is a lot of times we don’t even hear the first few times. Argue as much as you want, but it’s true – and no it’s not just an excuse. The whole point of this is to bring understanding of the differences between men and women, and when you understand there is no malicious purposefully disobeying intent, it takes the hostility out of the situation.

      • Rhonda says:

        You say you don’t hear the first few times. If that’s true, then how do you know you didn’t hear it? What’s to say you wouldn’t say “I haven’t heard you say anything-is this the first time you said it”?

        • B says:

          I do say that to my wife Lol. The only reason I know she asked earlier is because she’ll tell me, “I asked you 3 times already!” and I’ll be like “What? No you didn’t when did you ask” and she’ll roll her eyes but then I do it when I actually hear.

          But if you think there is some hidden malicious intent behind it all then go ahead and get mad at your husband and see if yelling and belittling him gets him to do what you want.

          • Rhonda says:

            I don’t yell or belittle, because I was in an environment where that happened & I’ve never wanted to do that to anyone. My husband always says he’s blessed because of the way I deal w/things. And, I wasn’t referring to my husband, just males in general, because I’ve heard plenty of women complain about that. Don’t go making assumptions about my life.

          • B says:

            Hey Rhonda, sorry for the offense my intent was not to mean “you personally”. It was more for the sake of somebody reading the blog, because most women out there who don’t agree with this idea are the ones getting mad, yelling, etc. So by ‘you’ I didn’t mean Rhonda I meant “you who think this idea is an untrue lame male excuse for being jerks on purpose”

    • David says:

      Yes, I often had to be told multiple times both at home and at school. However, I don’t think that my mother would have described that particular habit as disobedient — that would have involved doing the opposite of what I had been told to do.

      The chief cause of this behavior, I think, is a man’s ability and tendency to focus very intensely on the activity or thought at hand. All other things exist in shadow at the periphery — we’re aware that they’re there, but they do not have or get our focus. By the time we complete what we were doing and can redirect our focus elsewhere, the other person’s request has often faded from our memory.

      It’s become a common generalization — which Mark uses in “The Tale of Two Brains — that women have many things in mind at once, while men have only one thing at a time on their minds. That’s not to say that we each can’t do the other — or that either behavior is intrinsically better than the other — but that’s the way we generally work. For example, in my work domain, I can multi-task with ease — but not so with expressing my thoughts in writing.

      The moral of the story is: Make sure you have the man’s FULL attention. Eye contact is important, as is asking him to completely stop whatever he’s doing at the time. My wife is still learning …

  2. Sam says:

    This is a good article about the fact that wives and husbands need to make emotional deposits. You go into detail about what women need to do — even listing things.
    My husband has asked what he can do to make emotional deposits in my account. We’ve talked about one: listen. But the others, things like taking me out on dates are a mystery to him. He asks how to do that. He’s not being thick-headed. He has Asperger’s and needs a step-by-step instruction book, and I don’t know how to explain it in a way that he would understand.

  3. Alaa Alazem says:

    I really loved “Emotional Capital” article. It gave me a lot of aha moments… and I can’t wait till my husband is back to read it together.

    Would you allow me to translate it into Arabic to spread the benefits???

    Many thanks for sharing your knowledge with the world…

  4. Vicki says:

    I think you are right on and wonder why we haven’t thought to teach RELATIONSHIP skills to our children as a required subject in school…. I think men need to hear these ideas in an easy- for-them-to-understand way; and women need to realize that it would be so much more productive to have our husbands hear this stuff from another MAN. Give your guy the DVD or books as gifts!

  5. JWill says:

    I get that a mans mind operates different from a womans, so I’m not debating that. My husband and I (attempt) to teach first time obedience in our home with our children. How can I expect my children to hold to this standard if my husband is not expected to do the same. And is it not Gods standard for us to respond the first time He asks us to do something? Just trying to wrap my female brain around this thought:)
    I appreciate the article and enjoy the fresh insight into marriage.

  6. chuck says:

    hey,thankyou for coming to our church…
    have been seperated from wife long time
    need help !much help
    any chance you can help me?
    yours sincerly

  7. Chad D says:

    I very much enjoy Mark’s teaching and wisdom. The Laugh Your Way, changed alot in my marriage as far as understanding…
    On that note I have expressed to my Wife, even when dealing with my son to get him to look at her. I tell her if he does not see you, he probably did not hear you. Same goes for Dad!!!

  8. Tom says:

    I uderstand that many men are like this, but please don’t discount the possibility that women can be guilty of the same thing.
    My wife pours her emotional capital into her job and into our grandkids and has little or none left for anything else. I usually need to ask her more than once to do something. It’s not because she doesn’t hear but rather because she’s busy doing what she thinks is more important. If it’s her idea it gets done, if it’s for me or someone other than the grandkids or work it can wait (and that includes our friends too).
    I do as much as I can for her (at least half the cooking and kitchen chores, laundry and house cleaning, i take her shopping often, out for dinner 3-4 times a month, almost nightly foot massages……..the list goes on) because i love her and she works a stressful job outside the home. Her love language is “acts of service and gifts” so i pay attention to her needs and try to meet them. Unfortunately I get very little response when i ask for something (and i’m not talking about sex either).
    I may be a bit off topic with my comments but the article struck a nerve and i felt the need to respond. Men are not the only ones who can be oblivious or inconsiderate.

    • JeWeLev says:

      Hey, Tom.

      I don’t know that anyone has suggested that men are, as a rule, inconsiderate … as for being oblivious …
      ask any mother if the constant “Mom! … Mom! … Mom!’s” ever get tuned out or ignored … sometimes I think we feel that we have to force our way into a moment of peace – however brief it may be! It has gotten to the point that sometimes I genuinely do not hear my son or daughter calling for me – fortunately (when my husband is not deployed) he gently lets me know that my attention is required somewhere other than my superficial happy place wherein I fit into my pre-pregnancy bikinis and Christian Louboutins are free.

      According to Mark Gungor’s video series, my husband and I “swap roles” in several areas of our marriage. I don’t think that makes us bad spouses since we are apparently gender confused – we just have to apply Mark’s great advice accordingly. He states more than once that his commentary applies to *most* men or *most* women and that there are always exceptions, so you are definitely in good company with people who understand your situation!



  9. Barbara says:

    The premise of having to ask more than once can sometimes be a cop-out. I’m sure at work the man doesn’t have to be asked continually to do what is expected of him. Yes, the woman should ask at an appropriate time…not in the middle of a football game…and yes, she should ask nicely, but sometime the man should just listen.

  10. Jenica Moultrup says:

    What if both husband and wife feel they’re spending and not receiving? Both feel they’re giving their all to the relationship, but neither are feeling like the other is filling their emotional needs.

    • Julie says:

      I would say they are not talking the same love language. Worth reading up on “the five love languages”. That way you can speak their language and they can learn yours. Its helped mend our marriage, and the relationship with our kids has improved also.

  11. Maria Danilaki says:

    Dear Mark,

    I find your advice and comments to be completely true and accurate.

    Your ‘Laugh your way to a better marriage’ has helped my marriage. My husband came to understand me more and also to understand the invisible limits within a relationship.

    Regarding ‘asking your husband more than once’ – this does not work with all men. When you ask more than once you nag and when you ask a man something he does not really want to do, then there is no ‘nice way of saying it’ simply because what you are asking him to do is something that he does not want to do. PERIOD.

    The way I deal with things is the following. I ask, if it does not get done, I do it myself. Simple. Is this a way out for him to ignore my requests? Yes it is. However, it is not worth my emotional distress to keep on asking him to do something and get into an argument about it.

    In a marriage, mostly women are the ones who work harder to maintain the relationship. Therefore, once we come to terms with that, then it is easier for us to deal with the whole issue.

    By the way I am a mother of three boys (men) too. Oldest is 25, second is 22 and youngest 13.

    I am full of testosterone in my house.

    Keep up the good work.

    Kind Regards,

  12. Gifted says:

    Hi yha this emotional capital topic is true, But at the moment I feel like I have come to an overdraft I am so tired and discouraged about being married I feel like I’m pulling this side & my hsband is pulling the other . I have spoken to him about this but he does not want to sit and talk about what the real issue is. He does not want us to talk about our problems he becomes really really defensive when I bring up important issue its never a good time. its either he is watching an important game or he is so tired .When we go out for supper he watches the matches on the TV at the restaurant or he picks up his fown & chats with his friends ,its as if he has nothing to say to me & everything to say to everyone else but me. I think he is having an affair. I am so frustrated I think I will pack my bags & leave him with his children in peace . I am depressed by all of this . I have no one to talk to. what am I going to do, I am just so so tired.

  13. Joan says:

    I really enjoy your “package” and the way you present it, except for one very glaring issue. You continue to operate under the misconception that it’s the husband who always wants sex and the wife has to learn to understand that and give in sometimes and she’ll learn to enjoy it too. Even in your workshop, you made a joke about it, saying “if you’re one of those men whose wife is the instigator, let me say the rest of us hate you,” Not only is that way off the mark (many women complain that their husbands don’t want sex and they have to always initiate it and face rejection) but I’mm sure my husband, and any others who hear that, feel that they are the only one in the audience who lacks a sex drive. It makes the problem even worse! Now they surely don’t want to talk to their doctor. They are the odd-ball! Please correct this tactic. Do more research, face the issue head on. Don’t make it worse than it already is.

  14. ESTELLA ALI says:

    Dear Pastor Gungor,

    I have enjoyed various lessons which I have purchased. Unfortunately I was not aware of the ministry before our marriage problems got out of control. We were not educated in the differences of men and women, specially how we think and how demeaning words from a husband can cut a woman’s soul like a two-edged sword. Our culture played a crucial part in it, he is Pakistani(fresh out of the boat) and I am an American of Mexican decent. After enduring and hanging on to make it work, I finally got to the point that I do not care and filed for a devorice after 12 yrs out of 29 years of marriage. How I wished men new the deep wounds dehumanizing words can cause, and also emotional abandonment. This is just some problems in a nut shell. Thank You for establishing this type of ministry and I have been glad to share with others. Estella

  15. Kamunyo Kibe says:

    My wife and I absolutely love the weekly emails you send out and the content is very rich. Your thoughts are wise and we appreciate you and what you are doing to enrich marriages.

    The advert/pop up at the bottom of this site is, however, very annoying. It wont close even when I click on it and at time pops up just before I click something else so I end up clicking it by mistake. If you could find a better way to place it or make the ‘Close’ button work, that’d be fantastic. God bless.

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