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How to Be an Adult in Relationships: The Five Keys to Mindful Loving

David Richo

Personal Thoughts

Summary Notes

In healthy intimate relationships, we do not seek more than 25 percent of our nurturance from a partner; we learn to find the rest within ourselves.

The 5 A’s of Love:

1. Attention - Notice, listen, focus, and really engage with the other person. Notice and hear words, feelings, and experiences. Think about how your words and actions affect the other person.

2. Acceptance - Demonstrate in your words and actions that you approve of who the person is, their unique personality traits, their values, their choices, and their lifestyle. Acceptance means appreciating differences without judgment.

3. Appreciation - Express gratitude on a daily basis for who the person is and the things they do. Say thank you for the individual qualities that you cherish, admire, or that make a difference in your daily interactions.

4. Affection - Affection refers not just to physical closeness, but also to feel close to someone through conversation, gestures, and presence. Affection can be expressed through playfulness, romantic gestures, kind words, and thoughtful actions.

5. Allowing - Allowing means letting someone be themselves. It means giving them the freedom to do things in their own way. It means we don’t try to control or manipulate the person to make them what we want them to be or to do things the way we want them done.

The Five A’s and Their Opposites

  • Being attentive —> Ignoring, refusing to listen, being unavailable, fearing the truth 
  • Being accepting —> Trying to make someone fit our specifications, desires, or fantasies 
  • Being appreciative —> Criticizing 
  • Being affectionate —> Acting selfishly  
  • Being allowing —> Demanding, or manipulative.

Here are the five fundamental mindsets of ego that interrupt our ability to be here now and that distort reality: 

  • Fear of or worry about a situation or of this person: “I perceive a threat in you or am afraid you may not like me so I am on the defensive.” 
  • Desire that this moment or person will meet our demands or expectations, grant us our needed emotional supplies, or fulfill our wishes: “I am trying to get something from this or you.” 
  • Judgment can take the form of admiration, criticism, humor, moralism, positive or negative bias, censure, labeling, praise, or blame: “I am caught up in my own opinion about you or this.” 
  • Control happens when we force our own view or plan on someone else: “I am attached to a particular outcome and am caught in the need to fix, persuade, advise, or change you.” 
  •  Illusion overrides reality and may occur as denial, projection, fantasy, hope, idealization, depreciation, or wish: “I have a mental picture of or belief about you or this and it obscures what you are really like.” (The central illusion in life is that of separateness.)


  • Some people confuse attachment with love. We may feel attached to someone and imagine we love him; someone may be attached to us, and we imagine he loves us. But mindful love is bonding by commitment, not attachment by clinging.
  • There is no shame in not wanting a relationship. A healthy person is not one in a relationship but one in his own skin.
  • A primary goal in a relationship is to make sure it has the best chance of surviving—and that may not happen under one roof.
  • A relationship based solely on sex, rather than on a fulfilling friendship that includes sex, can turn to ashes in the years to come. Such relationships can endure thirty years of marriage, but they will be stale, non-nurturant, and sorely regretted.

How to Be an Adult in Relationships: The Five Keys to Mindful Loving

David Richo

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