How to be an Emotional Millionaire

building emotional bank account tampa florida

Dr. John Gottman has received much attention for being known to be able to predict divorce with over 90% accuracy. He, along with his wife, have written many books about their years of research and train therapists on working with couples. According to Drs. John and Julie Gottman, the basis of a healthy marriage is a strong friendship.

couple doing small things often thrive therapy tampa floridaThis is developed by doing small things often versus making grand gestures every once in a while.


Drs. John and Julie Gottman speak about it in terms of an emotional bank account. In the emotional bank account you are either making withdrawals or deposits. Dr. Gottman found that couples in satisfied relationships have positive interactions to negative interactions in a ratio of 20:1 in day to day life and 5:1 during conflict.

Often times people think the weight of their gesture has different values…like if I were to wash my husband’s car I feel I should get 100 points versus giving him a kiss where maybe that should equal about 5 points. I would encourage you to think of it in different way. Consider each good deed…no matter how big…equals ONE. Always.

If you tell your partner you are so appreciative of the effort they made in making dinner – that is one point. If you take your partner on a cruise or buy them an expensive gadget. That also equals one point. Gottman notes small things often are the keys to a satisfied relationship.

Big gestures are great, but still equal one.

Just like once you get on that cruise your partner surprised you with, you wouldn’t enjoy it unless they continued to build your account with kind words such as “ I did this because I love you” or “I’m so happy to be going on vacation with you.” If they bought you a surprise cruise then told you to go away, your bank account would likely remain in the negative. All gestures equal one so that you are continually building that emotional bank account for when conflict arises, as it will, whatever withdrawal occurs will not put the relationship in jeopardy.

One way to ensure you are consistently making deposits into your emotional bank account is by paying attention to your partners bids for connection and turning towards those bids.

Bids are when you or your partner reach out to connect. Bids are sometimes something obvious like your partner reaching out to hold your hand, or asking “do you love me?” but sometimes they are more subtle and hard for the partner to detect.

When a bid is received, the partner then will either turn towards, turn away or turn against.

Imagine you are in the kitchen cooking dinner while your partner is watching TV in the living room. A commercial comes on for a trip to Greece and your partner yells out “Oh honey, I would love to go to Greece one day. Come look!”

Turning towards may mean simply acknowledging the commercial and saying something like “I would love to travel there someday too!” or walk over to the TV to check out what they are seeing.

Turning away might look like ignoring the comment or acting as though they never heard it.

Turning against might look like the partner yelling back “Can’t you see I’m busy?! We could never afford something like that.”

The tendency to turn towards, even in the small moments, assists in building depth to your relationship over time. While occasional romantic dinners or weekend getaways are nice, turning towards in small and mundane ways are actually the keys to deepening your friendship, and are the foundation for passion and intimacy.

couple is an emotional millionaire at thrive therapy florida in tampaWhen these connections are regularly made, even if they seem minor at the time, it lays the foundation for those weekend trips to be even more meaningful.

According to Gottman in his book the Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, turning towards is the basis for a satisfying sex life.

Awareness of the these critical moments when your partner bids for connection is the start of becoming an emotional millionaire.

• Ask your partner ways in which they reach out where you tend to miss it.
• Tell your partner ways you tend to “bid” for connection and how they can respond that makes you feel fulfilled
• Look for ways in which your partner bids for connection and make conscious efforts to turn towards
• Help each other with the daily tasks. Ever consider that doing the dishes, vacuuming, or doing the laundry could be the foundation for sex, romance and passion?

It can be easy to miss bids when a partner makes a bid through anger or negative emotion. An example may be if your partner says something like “Would it kill you to do the dishes at least once in a while?” It can be easy to feel criticized in that moment, and remark back in a snarky way.

What your partner really means is “when there is a sink full of dishes, I can’t relax. So if you could make sure and load your dishes into the dishwasher we could enjoy some time together.”

The most difficult part is to pause and breathe before responding, check your initial comebacks, hold your tongue, and try to understand the bid beneath the harsh tone.

Focus on the bid, not the delivery.

This may require intentional effort to calm yourself down. Try then to respond to the underlying need, and if you are unsure, you can ask politely what that is.

Using your own words, say something like “I want to make you happy. What makes having the dishes done right now so important? I want to better understand your need.”

Being distracted by the digital world also impacts a partner’s ability to recognize and receive bids.

SO many of us today are constantly on our phones checking emails, browsing the web, updating Facebook that it can become an addiction and impairs our attentiveness to our spouse. This is not supportive to developing intimate relationships with those around you so make sure to disconnect and use this as an opportunity to turn towards and make positive deposits in your emotional bank account.

Invest in your relationship.

Become an emotional millionaire.

Feel as though your relationship needs to work on building that emotional bank account? Couples Therapy or Workshops at Thrive Therapy can be a great place to do that.

Want more tips and techniques for a healthy and satisfying relationship? Subscribe to the Thrive Therapy newsletter.

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