This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "How to Be an Adult in Relationships" by David Richo. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.
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What are David Richo’s 5 A’s of a loving relationship? How should you apply these five elements to your relationship?
Richo says that mindful love has five key aspects that can be applied in all kinds of relationships: attention, acceptance, appreciation, allowing, and affection. His book, How to Be an Adult in Relationships, explains each of these practices in detail.
Let’s look at the 5 A’s and how you can apply them to build a loving bond between you and your partner.
The first of David Richo’s 5 A’s is attention. When you show attention to your loved one, you make them feel that they’re valuable, you like them, and you’re glad they exist. For example, if you appreciate that your child is kind, you might tell them that you feel lucky to know such a kind person. Richo says that gratitude is an important aspect of loving relationships because it helps the recipient feel worthy of being loved.
(Shortform note: Some experts say that it’s best to express gratitude by acknowledging your partner’s traits, not just their actions, and verbalizing how much they’ve helped you. For example, if your partner makes dinner for you when you’re sick, you might say, “Thank you for cooking—you’re so caring! It allowed me to rest, which I really need right now.”)
When you show acceptance for someone, you support their intrinsic right to live freely rather than trying to exert control over them. For example, if your partner adheres to a different faith than you do, you respect their religious practice, even if you disagree with the principles of their religion. Richo argues that respect is important because it encourages your loved one to show up in the relationship as their true self.
(Shortform note: According to experts, some concrete ways to show acceptance for a loved one include being honest with them, taking care not to cross their boundaries, taking responsibility for your actions when you make mistakes in your relationship, and respecting their right to privacy—for example, by not going through their text messages.)
When you pay attention to someone, you show sincere interest in them. For example, you might engage with your friend by listening to them talk about something they’re excited about. Richo says that engagement is important because it helps your loved one feel like they matter to you.
(Shortform note: According to some researchers, healthy engagement is one of the best predictors of romantic relationship success. Partners make simple, regular “bids” for engagement with one another—for example, you might tell your partner, “Look at that pretty tree!” These bids are requests that your partner pay attention to you and what matters to you at the moment. If you and your partner freely fulfill these requests, you’ll have greater emotional intimacy—and, studies suggest your relationship could last longer.)
When you allow someone to be themself, you let them know that you welcome their true nature: their strengths, weaknesses, flaws, and talents. For example, you might affirm your partner by telling them they’re a great cook if they make you a delicious dinner. According to Richo, one reason affirmation is important is that it makes your loved one feel that you understand who they really are.
(Shortform note: In The 5 Love Languages, Gary Chapman explains that some people feel most loved when they hear words of affirmation—compliments, encouragement, and other kind remarks. Even if affirmation isn’t your partner’s strongest love language, you can still make sure it has the desired effect by following Chapman’s advice to give affirmation that’s sincere and said in a kind tone of voice.)
When you show someone affection, you display feelings of devotion and care for them. For example, you might show your partner tenderness by making a point to tell them you love them every day. Richo explains that tenderness supports healthy relationships by making both physical and emotional intimacy possible.
(Shortform note: In The 5 Love Languages, Chapman explains why affection increases intimacy: It makes your partner feel physically safe, relaxed, and connected with you. He goes on to suggest that one way romantic partners can express affection is through physical touch, for example in the form of hugging, holding hands, kissing, massaging, or having sex.)
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Here's what you'll find in our full How to Be an Adult in Relationships summary:
- The secret to a long-lasting, loving relationship
- How to overcome emotional wounds that hold you back from loving
- How the Buddhist concept of mindful loving can create a better world