Willard Harley studies how people stay in love through a long marriage. His wonderful metaphor is that when we meet someone, we start a "Love Bank" account for them. The more we associate good feelings with them, the more their account grows; the more we associate bad feelings with them, the more it shrinks. When a couple discovers how to make each other happy, they build up their respective Love Bank accounts until the become so irresistable that they have to marry.
Long happy marriages keep filling that account, and minimizing the withdrawals. Marriages start to fail when one persons makes more withdrawals than deposits, which leads to a negative spiral.
What Harley teaches the couples he counsels is how to do the basic things that meet their spouse's emotional needs, and builds up their Love Bank account. And what are those basic needs for most couples? Regular readers of this blog will not be surprised at what Harley found in his three decades of research. In most couples, he wants fulfilling sex and recreational companionship; she wants affection and intimate conversation. Harley found that in declining marriages, not only were the couple not meeting these basic desires, they often thought what their spouse wanted was silly.
Marriage is mutual, which means that you have to give what the other wants, even if that is not the same as what you want. And that way you can each fill the Love Bank.
Willard Harley was given an award for his long-term impact at the Smartmarriages conference last week.