Written by Jiovann Carrasco, LPC
“We are born with the capacity to dance together but not with the necessary training . . . It is exactly the same in relationships.” -David Richo In David Richo’s How To Be An Adult in Relationships, he outlines five keys to mindful loving. These five keys are not just “nice to haves,” but are essential components of a healthy, individuated ego. When we do not receive these gifts, it feels as though something is missing, that we are incomplete, unlovable. But practicing these five keys, is what it takes to love and is what makes us lovable. Attention “My father turned to me as if he’d been waiting all his life to hear my question.” –J.D. Salinger What a beautiful expression of what it feels like to be truly heard and valued. There is no judgment in your listening because feelings are neither good or bad, right or wrong. The projections of ego can blur our focus on the other. Openly attending to what is being shared requires neutrality toward our own fearful or reactive states. When we attend in this way, we elicit a sense of safety and trust in the other. This kind of attention cannot be falsified and must come from a genuine interest and curiosity. As Richo beautifully states, “The real you is an abundant potential, not a list of traits, and intimacy can only happen when you are always expanding in others’ hearts, not pigeonholed in their minds.”
Acceptance Acceptance is being received respectfully with all our flaws and idiosyncrasies and supported through them, which makes us feel safe. Acceptance is unconditional and extends to choices or lifestyles we do not personally approve of. It is not moralizing. If attending is noticing and listening, acceptance is embracing, trusting, and encouraging the other to be exactly as they are without reservation or critique. Appreciation Appreciation builds upon acceptance and engenders encouragement in the other. We need to feel appreciated for what we do and for who we are in relationships. Appreciation also implies gratitude. Expressing this regularly is an essential component in healthy adult relationships. According to John Gottman, Ph.D., the ratio of appreciation to complaint in couples that stay together is five to one. Affection Affection can take many forms, but they all produce the feeling of being loved. This can be achieved physically through cuddling, hand holding, or sex as well as emotionally through playfulness, kindness, or thoughtfulness. Affection includes proximity, presence, and reliable availability. Compassion is a form of affection and is a salve for emotional and physical pain. Affection is healing as much as it is reassuring. Allowing Allowing is the opposite of control. A healthy adult relationship provides an environment of freedom and trust, not rules and obligations. In an allowing relationship you feel free to be who you are and are inclined to express yourself openly and without fear of punishment or retribution. We must allow our partners to develop as a unique individual, separate from ourselves, without reacting to fears of losing them. The need to control for many people is not a conscious decision, but has become an automatic strategy for maintaining fears and insecurities. Ultimately, allowing is letting go, even if that means honoring their choice to leave us. The aim of love has nothing to do with “keeping” the other person, as if we have some possession over them. To love is simply to let be.