by Kalpana Murthy, LPC
How To Be An Adult in Relationships – Give The Five A’s of Love
One way to improve your relationship with your significant other is to set an intention to give each other on a consistent basis “The Five A’s of Love: Attention, Acceptance, Appreciation, Affection, and Allowing.” The Five A’s concept is from the book How To Be An Adult in Relationships – Five Keys to Mindful Loving by psychotherapist, David Richo, PhD.
These five aspects of love represent qualities that it is essential for a child to receive from a parent or other nurturing figure in order to feel secure. An absence of these five qualities of love and nurturing is considered a form of childhood emotional neglect and relationship trauma. If we don’t receive a consistent, sufficient amount of the five A’s as children, we can experience anxiety, depression, shame, or go through life feeling not good enough in certain situations or relationships.
It’s important to know that we never out grow the need to receive attention, acceptance, appreciation, affection, and allowing. Giving and receiving the Five A’s of love in your relationship with your significant other can not only bring you closer, but can reduce stress, anxiety, depression, and help fill the void created by childhood relationship trauma.
Set an intention to give and receive these dimensions of love in your partnership, marriage or next dating relationship and see how this approach may help improve your relationship and how you feel.
Notice, listen, focus and really engage with the other person. Notice and hear words, feelings, experiences. Think about how your words and actions affect the other person.
When we give someone this type of attention, they feel respected, understood and that they really matter to you.
Demonstrate in your words and actions that you approve of who the person is, their unique personality traits, their values, their choices, their lifestyle. Acceptance means appreciating differences without judgment.
Acceptance creates deeper intimacy because it demonstrates that each person can be themselves and share their thoughts, feelings and wishes without fear of rejection, ridicule or abandonment. Acceptance leads to self-confidence and a sense of security within the relationship.
Express gratitude on a daily basis for who the person is and things they do. Say thank you for the individual qualities that you cherish, admire, or that make a difference in your daily interactions.
For example: positive attitude, a calm demeanor, taking an interest in the stories of your day, their talents. Notice and say thank you for daily actions like making dinner, doing household chores, helping you with something, and for daily expressions of affection.
According to decades of research by couples psychologist John M. Gottman, PhD, couples who stay together versus split up, give each other five statements of appreciation for every one complaint.
Affection refers not just to physical closeness, but also feeling close to someone through conversation, gestures, and presence.
Affection can be expressed through playfulness, romantic gestures, kind words, and thoughtful actions.
Daily hugs, kisses, cuddling and words of affection show that we are really committed to each other and available for each other.
Allowing means letting someone be themselves. It means giving them the freedom to do things in their own way. It means we don’t try to control or manipulate the person to make them what we want them to be or to do things the way we want them done.
Of course, allowing doesn’t mean we accept behaviors that hurt us emotionally, physically or financially.
If you struggle with giving or receiving the Five A’s, your past may be coming into play. When we are children we need to receive this type of love from our parents in order to feel secure and to have the freedom to develop an identity separate from our parents.
Many people did not receive “good enough” parenting. As a result, they may keep their significant other at a distance to avoid the childhood pain of not being accepted or not having anyone there for them emotionally.
They may sabotage their relationships by becoming jealous, demanding or controlling. Or they may unconsciously select a relationship that recreates the childhood dynamic of working so hard to receive attention, acceptance, appreciation, affection and allowing.
We never outgrow the healthy need to receive the Five A’s. Even if you didn’t receive enough of this type of love in the past, you can still have the healthy, loving, secure relationship you desire.