Funding Your Relationship “Piggy Bank”

I’m probably dating myself by even using the term “piggy bank,” but it’s a great analogy to use in relation to enhancing cooperation, mutual trust and respect, and reciprocity within relationships of all kinds.  One can hardly expect “favors” or inexhaustible support from others if we’re willing to invest in like behaviors.  Funding your relationship “piggy bank” is essential if you want to make future withdrawals.  Even people who love you unconditionally will eventually let you know that your account is seriously overdrawn!

When I was a kid I received a blue ceramic pig with an small slot opening in the middle of it’s back and a cork plug for a snout.  I felt honored to have gotten a “breakable” gift at my young age.  It signaled that my mother believed I was ready for the responsibility of taking care of something more fragile than a plastic toy.  Then she explained what it was for…and my feeling of being “responsible” soared even more.  This was one of the childhood events that laid the foundation for my core belief in my own efficacy and it enhanced the bond I felt with my mother.  Wanting to make her proud, I saved every bit of change that came my way, every $5 bill I got for my birthday and any money I made doing extra chores.  Over time, the amount in my “piggy bank” grew to the point that when I really wanted or needed something, I had the funds to purchase it.

I learned the power of investing.  Now, I’m not just talking about money.  I’m also talking about investing in yourself and in your relationships.  By investing in yourself, you become a better relationship partner.  The more self awareness and skills that you have, the more you’re able to positively contribute physically, emotionally, cognitively, and financially to that relationship.  By investing in your relationships, you’re building stronger connections that are based on mutual contributions.

healthy relationships require balance

Granted, not all partners in relationships are willing to return your investment in kind.  Ultimately, that’s their loss. If you’re investing in both yourself and the relationship, you’ll be strong enough and empowered enough to set personal boundaries or walk away from the relationship if need be, knowing that you have done everything you could to make it work.  Healthy relationships operate on a “give and take” basis.  Continuing with the “piggy bank” analogy, sometimes you make a “deposit” (give) and other times you make a “withdrawal” (take) from the relationship account.

Here’s a co-parenting example with the divorced parents functioning as business partners in their revised relationship:

Mother’s Investments:  She regularly communicates how the children are doing, when important school and sports events are occurring, and gets extra copies of school photos for her children’s father.  She agrees to give up part of her scheduled holiday with the kids so that they could spend time with his parents.

Father’s Investments:  He treats his children’s mother with respect even though he’s unhappy with certain aspects of the divorce.  He thanks her for the timely communications and offers to pay for athletic equipment even though it wasn’t part of the divorce agreement.  He agrees to exchange weekends with the children so they can attend their mother’s family reunion.

In this example, both parents have made deposits and both have made withdrawals, neither abusing the relationship or using it to punish the other for the past.  Their current co-parenting relationship is working effectively because both are staying focused on investing in their children.  This makes the “piggy bank” a healthy mutual fund for the benefit of the kids and for themselves, as it makes this unavoidable relationship less conflicted and stressful, more efficient and productive, and they’re able to see and appreciate the positive qualities in the other person.

Here’s a dating relationship “piggy bank” example:

Girlfriend:  She compliments him when he does well, makes him home-cooked meals at least 3-4 times a week, cleans his apartment and washes his clothes.  She doesn’t want to ask him to take her to a concert even though she really wants to go because she doesn’t want to feel rejected if he says “no.”  Past experience has taught her that he will choose to spend the time drinking with his buddies.

Boyfriend:  He neglects to thank his girlfriend for everything she does for him.  In fact, he gets upset with her when he wants to wear something that hasn’t been washed yet.  He often complains about her cooking and sits on the couch while she does the dishes and cleans up after him.  He unfailingly puts his “buddy” relationships before the relationship with his girlfriend.

In this example, the girlfriend consistently makes “deposits” to the relationship “piggy bank” and hesitates to make any “withdrawals,” while the boyfriend regularly makes “withdrawals,” but refuses to put his needs on the back burner and make any “deposits.”  The relationship “piggy bank” fund is not functioning in a mutually beneficial or healthy way. Only one person in the relationship is making deposits while the other person is only making withdrawals.  How long do you suppose this relationship will last?

relationship "piggy bank"

Without you doing a thing, every relationship you have has an invisible “piggy bank.” It’s your choice whether or not you invest in it.  It’s also your choice whether or not to attempt making withdrawals.  But, I can tell you from personal and professional experience, if both relationship partners aren’t invested in funding the account and willing to make withdrawals when they need to, the account WILL NOT BALANCE!

How healthy are your relationship “piggy banks?”


Stephanie Eissinger is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor, Certified Professional Coach, Certified Embody Love Movement Facilitator, HOPE Community Coach Consultant, and Self Help Book Author who’s dedicated her life to empowering individuals to overcome life’s obstacles to live happier, healthier lives.  Her self help books include:  Journey to Self Empowerment: Increase Self Esteem & Self Confidence; How to Get an “Emotional Divorce” & Speed Up Relationship Recovery; The Stress Management 2.0 series; Divorce Recovery: How to Clean Out Your “Inner Closet;” and more.  Look for her upcoming book on Divorce Conversations.

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