Thursday, September 5, 2013

Balancing the Give and Take in Your Relationship

by Tiffany Kingsfield, M.A., LAPC

Tiffany Kingsfield
Tiffany Kingsfield, M.A., LAPC
     Romantic relationships:  What else in life provide so much joy, but can also cause such profound pain?

     In “Love Busters: Protecting your Relationship from Habits that Destroy Romantic Love,” Willard F. Harley, Jr. explains the six primary “Love Busters” that damage relationships. Couples are introduced to the concepts of the internal “Giver” and “Taker,” which affect each partner’s “Love Bank.”
      According to Harley, the Love Bank is where we accrue “love units” when someone makes us feel good. When our partner shows us love, appreciation and affection, our Love Bank balance goes up. When our partner criticizes, betrays or ignores us, our Love Bank balance goes down. Harley states that we each have within us a “Giver” and a “Taker.”

     Our Giver is caring, compassionate and concerned for the welfare of others. The Giver says,    “Do whatever you can to make others happy and avoid anything that makes others unhappy, even if it makes you unhappy.” This half of us is more likely to make deposits into our partner’s Love Bank. The other half is our Taker. The Taker says, “Do whatever you can to make yourself happy and avoid anything that makes you unhappy, even if it makes others unhappy.” This half is more likely to deplete our partner’s Love Bank.  

     The first Love Buster is making "Selfish Demands" or commanding your partner to do things that would benefit you at your partner’s expense. We all have needs and at times need to make requests of our partner that will benefit us.  However, when the Taker shows little compassion for how the request will affect their partner the Love Bank balance is in jeopardy. In order to combat Selfish Demands Harley recommends what he calls the Policy of Joint Agreement in which you never do anything without an enthusiastic agreement between you and your partner.  

     The purpose of this is to remind you that (1) everything you do affects the other, either positively or negatively, and (2) if you want to deposit love units instead of withdrawing them you MUST consider how every choice will affect both of you.  "Thoughtful Requests" ask your partner for what you want but show you are willing to modify or withdraw the request if necessary.  Thoughtful Requests sound safe and show concern for others.  For example, one partner might ask, “How would you feel if I spent part of this weekend golfing with my friends?”

     This Thoughtful Request shows that the asker is interested and thinking about how the time away will affect his/her partner. If the partner has a problem with the request, then both parties can brainstorm mutually acceptable alternatives until they reach Joint Agreement.  In the example above if the partner felt this particular weekend would not work the couple might agree on next weekend as an alternative; both partners can walk away feeling good about the decision.

     The next Love Buster is "Disrespectful Judgments." These are defined as attempts to change your partner’s attitudes, beliefs or behavior by imposing your way of thinking through lecture, ridicule, threats or forceful means.  Harley proposes using "Respectful Persuasion" where beliefs and opinions change in ways that result in enthusiastic agreement.  If a partner tries to get the other to stop watching too much TV by insulting, ridiculing or lecturing, the Love Bank is depleted.  Using Respectful Persuasion one might say, “Having time with you without watching TV is important to me. I would really love it if we could turn the TV off for a few hours a week and engage together in other ways.”

     "Angry Outbursts" are another Love Buster. Angry people tend to operate in Taker mode because they believe that they aren’t being treated fairly and are owed something.   The Giver in the other partner ends up giving in too frequently due to fear of the anger. The plan to overcome angry outbursts is for the angry partner to acknowledge that no one “makes” you angry. You and you alone determine your responses, and you are 100% accountable for your anger.   If persistent anger is a problem, you may want to seek professional help, because you are depleting your partner’s Love Bank with each angry episode.

     "Dishonesty" is the fourth Love Buster that depletes from our partners Love Bank. Harley points to several types of lies to avoid, including “Protector Lies” which are lies of omission.  By engaging in protector lies, we think we shield our partner from hurt, but in reality deny them crucial information that prevents them from connecting authentically with us.  The solution to dishonesty is Radical Honesty – revealing to your partner as much information as you know, your thoughts, feelings, past history, daily activities and future plans.  A relationship built on honesty is the only one that will stand the test of time. 

    "Annoying Habits " are behaviors repeated without much thought as to how they affect our partner.  Yes, the messiness, perpetual lateness, lack of hygiene, and forgetting to take the trash out, whether intentional or not, deplete the Love Bank.  (I can hear nodding of heads!) Use the policy of Radical Honesty to reveal to your partner where the annoying habits rank in order of intensity for you and use the Policy of Joint Agreement to decide which ones you can modify or eliminate. 

     The final Love Buster is "Independent Behavior" or activities that are executed as if the other partner did not exist. When you act as if you can just do as you please, you are allowing your Taker to deplete your partner’s Love Bank.  Relationships should instead work on the principle of interdependency where activities consider the interests of both partners. This does not mean you never get to do things independently from your partner.You instead reflect that you are mindful of the effect on your partner in taking the time, money, and energy to do what you are doing.

     It is impossible to avoid making any withdrawals from your partner’s Love Bank and a quick apology can help reestablish units to his or her balance. Try examining yourself to see whether you are currently operating too much in either the Giver or Taker mode. Observe whether any of these Love Busters are happening frequently in your relationship. 

     If you feel you would like to discuss relationship issues with a professional, please feel free to call Fountain Gate Counseling Center at 770-218-9005 to set an appointment.

Harley, Jr., W. (2008). Love Busters: Protecting Your Marriage From Habits that Destroy Romantic Love. Grand Rapids, MI: Revell.