David Richo’s book, How to be An Adult in Relationships, discusses the five key elements of healthy relationships.
Attention: This is about giving your focused attention to your partner and others. It gives them a sense that they are important and in those moments, they are your highest priority. You are not allowing anything to distract you from listening fully to their thoughts, wants and feelings. You can know what a person values by looking at what they pay attention to. Knowing we are valued comes from having our loved ones & friends give us their full, respectful attention, especially when we most need it: At the end of a difficult day, when we have had an “aha” moment or we feel good about an accomplishment or feel bad about a struggle.
Acceptance: This is about being fully accepted. Being accepted for all our feelings, personality traits and quirks. Acceptance is an experience of being loved, at least in that moment, unconditionally. That's different from “I’ll love you when you stop being so angry, sad, anxious, childish ...” This is about getting to a place where we let go of needing others to be a certain way and really accept them, flaws and all, in the moment. This acceptance creates a sense of safety for them. They are Safe to be who they are now and be free from experiencing judgement or shame from us. They are free to choose again and grow in acceptance.
Appreciation: It is essential for our wellbeing. In fact, it is one of the key elements that sustains a relationship. For every complaint or criticism that occurs we can find 10 appreciations to balance it out. When we are feeling upset or angry it is often tied to feeling unappreciated. Appreciations can take many forms including acknowledgement of talents, skills and noticing when others are thoughtful and even vulnerable.
Affection: Affection can be expressed in words, a gaze or a gift and it can be expressed with hugs, kisses or holding hands. It is expressed with actions like bringing home flowers, completing a home project or waiting for the other to speak when they need to gather their thoughts. Maybe even give a 60 Second hug and see how that boosts feelings of wellbeing. People always feel warmed by shared affection.
Allowing: When we allow the other person to express themselves, and allow them to live their lives without a desire to control or manipulate them, our relationships prosper. Sometimes allowing is giving others the space they need and be away from us. Giving them the space to explore other interests or friendships without us feeling threatened. Allowing is a gift so that they return with more to share. When we allow, we are trusting the other and giving them our support to be their best selves.
We create healthy relationships when we give others the Five A's.
Attention, Acceptance, Appreciation, Affection and Allowing.