The 5 As of a Loving Relationship

Ask anyone to describe a loving relationship, and the answers you get will vary enormously. But some things pop up again and again.

For David Richo  in his bookHow to be an Adult in Relationships’, there are five key elements that all healthy relationships need - attention, acceptance, appreciation, affection and allowing. I love discussing these with clients and exploring how each are showing up in their relationship.

The 5 As of a loving relationship

Here’s a description of what each means and why it’s such an important element for a healthy, loving relationship.

  1. Attention
    Attention is all about being aware of yourself and others. We need to be able to listen to our partner's feelings and needs, validate their efforts and understand their intentions. But we must also minimise distractions we you can listen fully because focused attention helps your partner feel like they’re your priority. So many relationships are gradually eroded because phones are prioritised over conversations. When you give someone your full attention, they feel valued, seen and loved.

  2. Acceptance
    Acceptance is being unconditionally loved for who you are, flaws and all. It’s about accepting your partner for with all their feelings, quirks and personality traits, without judgement. It's about respecting the person as a whole. This enables them to feel safe enough to be who they are, without any fears around feeling judged or falling short of your expectations.

  3.  Appreciation 
    Feeling appreciated and respected in a relationship is vital. It's a practice we work on throughout couples therapy. This includes acknowledging what you love about partner, especially their gifts, talents and skills, and voicing appreciation for acts of kindness and general thoughtfulness. If you want to deepen intimacy in your relationship, you both need to feel safe, accepted and worthy - and appreciating each other is a fundamental, non-negotiable. Don't take your partner for granted and expect to have deep intimacy!

  4. Affection
    We all need emotional and physical affection. This includes words and actions that express affection and build closeness at a physical and emotional level. Although unexpected gifts are always a nice way to show appreciation and affection, it’s also about expressing how you feel, with hugs and kisses, holding hands, and having a partner who speaks up for you when you’re not able to. It’s about being kind, considerate, thoughtful and playful! Ask your partner what their favourite form of affection from you is.

  5. Allowing
    Allowing is the fifth of the five As. This is all about letting your partner be themselves and to live life in the way they want, without trying to change, control or manipulate them. By giving each other the space and time away to explore interests and friendships, you build appreciation for each other and your relationship. You’re building trust and giving each other the support needed to be the best version of yourselves.

The 5 As and your personal development towards a loving relationship

These key elements were what helped you to develop a healthy ego and self-esteem as a child. They helped you to build your own identity and personality. And as an adult, you need these same key elements in order to keep growing and developing as an adult in a relationship.

If you grew up in a situation where you didn’t receive these key elements, it doesn’t just affect your level of self-esteem as a child, you also bring that deficit into your adult relationships and can find yourself looking for a partner to fill that gap.

Why it’s important to build a more loving relationship with yourself too

Although your partner and others can offer support, if you lean too heavily on others to provide you with those missing elements, you’ll end up building unbalanced and unhealthy relationships. According to Richo we need to be in a position where we can provide those needs for ourselves, at least 75% of the time - especially if we want a healthy relationship with ourselves and others.

So how can you provide them for yourself? By creating self-care rituals that honour you, reading and learning self-development books, talking kindly and treating yourself well. It will also help if you build a supportive network of trusted friends around you and a therapist. A supportive group or community can also assist.

Looking for help and support?

If you’re looking to build a functional, loving adult relationship, you need the five As at its core. They help you create a reciprocal, balanced relationship with your partner. If you’re struggling to find that balance, or need help creating these elements in your life, get in touch. As a Relationship and Intimacy Therapist and Coach, I can help you create a more loving, healthy and sexy relationship with your partner. You can find out more about my services here.

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