This is the third post in our Thanksgiving Family Survival Guide series.
by Seth Eisenberg
As families prepare for Thanksgiving, much of the focus is on food as menu choices, recipes, timing, and cooking responsibilities take center stage. Making sure your loved ones enjoy a Thanksgiving they’ll long remember goes beyond serving up a new rendition of grandma’s mouth watering au-gratin potatoes and Terry’s savory turkey giblet stuffing.
Before your guests gather around the Thanksgiving table, investing time to learn more about how to make deposits into each others’ “Love Banks” will go a long way to making this year’s holiday extra special. As you make menu and activity preparations, it’s easy to assume that what’s important to you is also what others value. The idea of the Love Bank is to make a habit of finding out what makes the people who are most important in your life feel cared about, to share what’s meaningful to you as well, and to create an environment in which caring behaviors are a natural part of your regular family interactions.
In his book, The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate, Dr. Gary Chapman reveals five basic areas of caring behaviors, noting that each of us have our own preferences that he calls “love language.” It’s helpful to also recognize that our preferences are often different in different relationships. For example, what says, “I love you,” to a spouse may be very different than how we make deposits into the Love Bank of a teenager or parent.
Relationship and marriage education classes teach couples to actively build the balance of their marriage and family Love Banks. Preparing for Thanksgiving is a wonderful opportunity to learn more about your favorite friends and family members by asking, “What makes you feel cared about?” while also letting them know what’s important to you. In Helping Couples Change, Richard Stuart advises couples to create a list of at least 18 small, positive behaviors the partner can do that demonstrate caring and to intentionally do at least five caring behaviors each day.
Dr. Chapman’s five categories are a good place to start. Consider which of these areas is most and least important to you and what are specific actions others can do to make deposits in your own Love Bank. Once you know what builds your own positive balance, ask others how you can make deposits in their Love Banks.
- Words of Affirmation: Sincere appreciations and acknowledgments.
- Quality Time: A walk, movie, meal or chance to watch a show together.
- Receiving Gifts: A card, present or anything else tangible that says you matter.
- Acts of Service: Tidying up, setting the table, shopping, helping with a chore.
- Physical Touch: Warm embrace, a kiss, snuggling together.
The false belief that if someone loves you, they should know what you want and automatically do it is a recipe for disappointment and missed opportunities. It’s important to let others know and ask them to share with you as well. Also, the idea that what’s important to you is the same for others can lead once close relationships to a place of distance and division. Many couples, families and friends lose the joy of their connection with each other by assuming that what made someone feel cared about in the past is the same in the present. As you grow and circumstances change, the actions that make you feel cared about by others likely changes too.
The Love Bank comes with a Five-to-One rule. That means that for every withdrawal – such as a sarcastic remark, criticism, broken promise, or other disappointment – it takes at least five deposits to maintain a healthy balance. Strong, resilient families and marriages, as well actively involved parents, regularly invest the time and effort to grow the Love Bank balance in the relationships they most cherish.
As you prepare for Thanksgiving, taking time to learn how to make deposits in each others’ Love Banks, actively doing the things that let others know they’re important and special, and thanking people for their caring behaviors will help extend the joy of Thanksgiving from your meal through many months and years to come.
Seth Eisenberg is President of the nonprofit PAIRS Foundation, an industry leader in relationship and marriage education.
Thanksgiving Family Survival Guide, Part One
Thanksgiving Family Survival Guide, Part Two
National Healthy Marriage Resource Center