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.