How to Be an Adult in Relationships: The Five Keys to Mindful Lovingby David Richo
How to be an Adult in Relationships will teach you how to build healthy relationships as you navigate life. It explores the effectiveness of the five A’s, Attention, Acceptance, Appreciation, Affection, and Allowing, in building relationship essentials including love, respect, security, and support. The book will help you understand how the widening ripple of love can flow more freely within yourself and between you and others.
The impact of the early years of life
“Our early experience forms or deforms our adult relationships.”
The quality of childhood you experienced has an influence on your adult life. If you receive good-enough parenting with a reasonable fulfillment of your emotional needs, you will easily relate to others in healthy ways as an adult. You will be able to relate mindfully, without either blind possessiveness or a crippling fear of closeness.
On the flip side, you will be needing years of work and practice to build good relationships if your childhood was characterized by abuse, inhibition, or negligence. You might even have been so abused that as an adult, you feel compelled to abuse others in revenge.
Your childhood forces have an influence on your present choices. It is therefore of the utmost importance for you to reconcile with your past and be lovingly present in a bid to build healthy relationships with yourself and with others.
That said, you need the five essential ingredients (the five A’s) of healthy relationships:
Attention: How sensitive are you to your needs and feelings?
Acceptance: Are you received and supported respectfully, irrespective of your feelings, personal traits, and choices?
Appreciation: Do you recognize yourself and how much you extend yourself to others?
Affection: Do you give and receive love?
Allowing: Are you being yourself while knowing and showing your deepest needs and wishes?
Actions to take
The struggles in building healthy relationships as an adult
“We simply live in accord with our deepest needs and wishes and notice people we meet.”
It is natural for you to desire an intimate partner who is open, caring, daring and in tune with their feelings. As exciting as this may sound, relating with another person on an intimate level can be complex and challenging. It is not enough to find a partner - you need to also take care of your own heart while giving out love. You will have to retain your boundaries so that you do not end up in self-depreciation or self-abandonment.
You may have hidden your deepest self in your early years to maintain the bond with your parents, but that should change when you become an adult. There is no need to tolerate a relationship where your needs are not fully met. Relationships are meant to add value to our lives - not reduce our self-esteem.
However, you can’t be overcautious in a relationship either, as this will defeat the whole essence of it. After all, you are supposed to feel free with your partner and enjoy the good and bad moments, without placing unnecessary boundaries. Conflicts may be inevitable in relationships, but you need to learn the right approach to handle them. You can always manage your anger and cooperate with your partner in solving a particular issue instead of quitting or resorting to revenge.
Also, realize that not all relationships were meant to last. Some relationships will come to an end at some point. Therefore, you need to let go once you are sure that the relationship has gotten to an irredeemable stage. When you end a relationship and move on with grace, you protect your energy and also position yourself to heal fast.
Every relationship will go through these stages:
Romance: This is the first and most flourishing stage of a relationship. It’s characterized by attention, appreciation, affection, and attachment which can drive you to an illusion of immutability.
Conflict: It’s the second and longest phase of a relationship. It’s the point when we start noticing all the things in our partners that we cannot abide by or hide.
Fear: At this stage, we start being afraid of the consequences of showing our partners the five A’s and not getting them in return.
Letting go of ego: This is the point where we decide to make the relationship work by willingly letting go of unnecessary pride and arrogance.
The end: This phase typically occurs to couples who refuse to let go of their ego or make compromises with their partners.
Actions to take
Understanding personalities in relationships
“Understanding a prospective or present partner may mean reckoning with the differences between introvert and extrovert.”
Knowing your personality and that of your partner is crucial in every relationship. When you take out time to understand your personality, you will be able to give the 5As effortlessly, without displeasing yourself. Likewise, understanding your partner’s personality traits will put you in a position of giving and receiving the 5A’s in the best possible ways. After all, relationships are meant to bring happiness, so you should be intentional about making yourself and your partner happy.
Of course, it’s not all about giving and receiving the 5As, but understanding your personality and that of your partner can also go a long way to prevent conflicts. For example, an introvert may not find it easy to display affection publicly and if you as an extrovert don’t understand her traits, you may receive the wrong signal that she is not proud of the relationship which isn't the case. In the same vein, your introverted partner may see you as overbearing if you are big on displaying attention in public. However, the moment you both strike a balance by understanding and accepting each other’s personalities, you will be able to prevent conflicts.
It is also of the utmost importance for you to note that there is nothing wrong with being an introvert or extrovert. Both traits are actually healthy. As a matter of fact, the world needs both to function creatively, but you need to take out time to figure out your personality and that of your partner to prevent unnecessary conflicts.
You need totally different approaches when it comes to loving an introvert and an extrovert. For example, you may need to be frequently demonstrative of your love as an extrovert, while an introvert may just be fine with receiving compliments during your private moments.
Actions to take
Returning love and blessings
“We can attain universal compassion through the experience of loving one person”
You may have gotten into your relationship to enjoy all the fulfillments that come in sharing and receiving love from that special person, but do you know love is not limited to one person alone? You can actually attain universal compassion through the experience of loving one person.
Success in your relationship can influence you to start believing that it’s possible to succeed everywhere. In a committed relationship, you easily let go of your ego’s formidable insistence on being right for the common good of you and your partner. Now, when you practice these same aspects towards everyone who crosses your path, you will be making positive impacts in their lives. You will also relate with people easily and in healthy ways.
You must therefore cultivate the right values in your intimate relationships, so you can in turn build healthy relationships with the people around you, including friends, colleagues, neighbours and acquaintances.
Of course, it’s also impossible for you to return love to others while still grieving traumatic incidents that happened to you. The logical thing is to take out time to heal first. Remember that you can’t give what you don’t have, and you can only give out love after healing from grief. So, let love triumph in your personal life, before returning it to others.