The Love Tank Theory: A couple’s Love Tank is filled by the frequency of emotional connections and is drained by the ways a couple disconnects.
- “Our relationship is emotionally dead.”
- “We never talk anymore.”
- “My partner is distant, and we never have any fun.”
My inbox is full of emails like this.
These couples often ask, “How did we get here?”
Have you ever had that thought about your relationship?
Lasting love is like taking a lifelong road trip. Many of us get lost during our journey. Maybe we take a wrong turn by saying something mean, and in our own hurt, we avoid making an attempt to turn back around to get on the correct road. Eventually, our relationship runs out of gas and we become stranded.
The absence of loving moments of connection may lead you to check into what Dr. Gottman calls the Roach Motel for Lovers. It’s a nasty place where conflict goes unrepaired, you feel emotionally abandoned, and you consistently become so emotionally flooded that it becomes impossible to resolve your issues.
The Empty Love Tank
The heart of practically all relationship distress is not conflict, but rather a lack of connection.
Dr. Sue Johnson argues that hostility, criticism, and demands are really cries for emotional connection.
Dr. Gottman’s research highlights how couples with lasting and happy relationships have a strong friendship, intimately know each other, and have more positive moments of connection than negative.
- 20 positive moments to every negative moment outside of conflict
- 5 positive moments to every negative moment during a conflict
Attachment research advocates for a secure emotional connection as vital to our happiness, self-esteem, and personal development. This is true in our childhood as well as in our adulthood.
To check this, ask yourself: What is the cruelest punishment in the world?
The answer is solitary confinement; complete disconnection from other humans.
As humans, we are wired to connect with other people and when we are disconnected, we suffer immensely. We feel empty, lonely, and broken.
This is why we must learn how to get the love we need and how to give the love our partner needs.
Your Relationships Love Tank
In Dr. Gary Chapman’s popular book, The Five Love Languages, he writes that every person has a Love Tank. I would like to propose that every relationship has its own Love Tank.
A couple’s Love Tank is filled by the frequency of emotional connections and is drained by the ways a couple disconnects.
In your daily life, there are events that fill up your Love Tank. These include emotional and physical affection, your partner asking about your day, helping out with laundry, and weekly dates. Your partner’s Love Tank also gets filled up in ways that are sometimes similar, sometimes different.
According to love tank theory, there are also events that empty your Love Tank such as work stress, an unresponsive partner, conflict that doesn’t get resolved, broken trust, a lack of affection, and other forms of disconnection that drain your energy. Some incidents drain your Love Tank faster than others.
Some events that empty our Love Tank may be negative at first, but can actually improve a relationship over time. Conflict is a great example. You may have a difficult argument that is stressful and tense, but the end result is a greater amount in the Love Tank than the initial amount drained.
You actually learned how to love your partner better and they learned how to love you better—that produces connection to refill your Love Tank.
During this conflict, you may have resolved an important issue which will bring you closer and create a deeper sense of we-ness. These events may have a positive result in the end, but are still outputs that require inputs, such as a repair, to deepen a romantic bond and fill up a relationship’s Love Tank.