How do we go about having a great romantic relationship?


The purpose of this article is to provide some guidance and insight into having a great romantic relationship and not going through the pain of rejection and infidelity. 50% of marriages in Australia end in divorce. What can you do to give yourself the best chance of being in the 50% that goes the distance?

I am a great fan of the work of Dr Willard Harley who is a clinical psychologist and accomplished author now in his 80’s. Dr Harley founded Marriage Builders and has a popular website here.

The basis for everything here in this article is a concept Dr Harley calls the Love Bank. It’s not a unique concept and many others have used similar terms such as Gary Chapman’s love tank. It does not really matter what you call it but understanding this vital concept is the first step in making sure you have a great romantic relationship and are on guard to make sure you don’t end up in bed one day with someone you are not married to!

The most basic concept of all – the Love Bank

So this is the most basic concept of all. It is a recognition that every interaction you have with someone has an effect on how you feel about that person. If the interaction is positive, the effect will be a positive one. If the interaction is negative, then the effect will be negative.

The first time you meet someone, the ‘ledger’ is set at zero. As a result of that meeting, lets say for the sake of the argument, that the interaction was positive – well then the ‘balance’ that person has in your love bank might be 1. The next time you meet them may also be a good experience and positive and one (or more) more unit(s) may be deposited, say that persons balance in their account in your love bank might now be 3. The next time, it might be a slightly negative experience and as a result of that experience, the account balance might move back to say 2. So on and so forth.

Of course the opposite experience is also possible. Negative experiences can build up just as easily as positive ones and someone may end up with a large negative balance in their account in your love bank.

The amount a particular action moves the balance is not a constant. Some things done will have a greater or lesser effect on the balance than other things.

At some point, after many interactions, the balance either positive or negative will reach a certain threshold. Beyond that threshold we can be either in love with someone or hate them. You may have never thought about this before but you intuitively know it is true.

So what actions have the most effect on the Love Bank?

It stands to reason that different things will have a different effect on how we feel about someone that we are interacting with. Every interaction provokes some kind of emotional effect reflected in that person’s balance in their account in our love bank. The question is, what things have the most effect on us in romantic relationships.


Dr Harley explains this in terms of emotional needs. All of us have emotional needs that when fulfilled have the greatest effect on the love bank balance of that person. They give the greatest bang-for-your-buck so to speak. When these needs are met they result in large deposits in that persons account and make us feel even better about that person and deepen our love for them.

See it’s actually a misnomer to say you can’t help someone falling in love with you. Actually, you have almost total control over who falls in love with you. If you meet someone’s most important emotional needs eventually they will fall in love with you. So if you are interested in marital fidelity, one of your boundaries should be to be careful about who you allow to meet your emotional needs and who’s emotional needs you meet.

Dr Harley also lists some ‘basic compatibility‘ requirements that need to be satisfied in order to be able to maintain a long term relationship with someone. These are:

  • Intelligence
    Partners should be within about 15 IQ points of each other. Otherwise you will find yourselves bored with conversation. If you enjoy talking to each other for hours at a time you probably pass the test.
  • Energy
    Do you both have similar energy levels and enjoy similar levels of activity?
  • Social Interest
    One of the basics of meeting emotional needs is not going your separate ways with different activities so do you both enjoy similar things?
  • Cultural Background
    Are your backgrounds similar? This could also be religious differences. Example – Christmas – if you celebrate this but your partner does not how is that to be resolved?
  • Values
    Do you share similar values to each other?

These are probably a bit airy fairy and it comes down to a basic concept Dr Harley calls the ‘policy of joint agreement’ whereby you never do anything without the enthusiastic agreement of your spouse. Incompatibility in these areas will result in a difficulty in following that policy. More on this later when we look at Love Busters.

The most important Emotional Needs

Dr Harley refers to the things that have the most effect on a persons account in our love bank as being our most important emotional needs.

When our most important needs are met, they make us fall in love with the person who is making them. Guess what? You can make someone fall in love with you by meeting their most important needs and avoiding things that make them unhappy (Love Busters). This is somewhat controversial and perhaps you don’t like it and might even like the list below even less, however think about it – it really does make a lot of sense. When our needs are met we feel happy and content, when our needs are not met we become unhappy and frustrated.

After many years of research and asking couples who come to him for marriage help, Dr Harley had compiled a list of the 10 most common, most important emotional needs. He lists these as follows:

  • Affection
  • Sexual Fulfillment
  • Intimate Conversation
  • Recreational Companionship
  • Honesty and Openness
  • Physical Attractiveness
  • Financial Support
  • Domestic Support
  • Family Commitment
  • Admiration

We expand upon these needs here….

Originally posted 2018-02-15 21:27:36.