By Addie Liechty, LCSW

David Richo writes in his book, How to Be an Adult in Love, “It is always up to us to expend energy it takes, to act with love in accordance with the grace we are given. Thus, love is a practice.” The word “practice” does not have the sexiest of connotations. It may conjure up old feelings of music lessons and a parental figure stating, “You need to rehearse for your lesson!” The initial passion that drew you to the guitar or keyboard soon fades when you figure out that it will require practice. The journey to have a long-lasting relationship often takes the same detour as those forgotten music lessons until we are truly ready to “expend the energy it takes, to act with love…”

Relationship therapy helps people understand that love is not a fixed event…it is a daily practice. To expend energy towards acts of love requires an incredible amount of mindfulness, particularly if we come to relationships with baggage from betrayal and abuse. These experiences often cause us to link love with fear and anxiety. One must learn to identify when they are speaking and acting from a place of fear or a place of healing. David Richo outlines “The five A’s,” as a concept to consider when becoming mindful of speaking from love vs. speaking from fear or wounds. The five A’s are:

Attention: What is the quality of the attention I give to others? Can I be free from distraction?

Accept: Am I practicing acceptance that is free of judgement and criticism?

Appreciate: Do I practice affirmations and gratitude towards myself and others?

Affection: Do I feel free to be physically affectionate with those I love?

Allowing: Do I allow others to be who they are, without the desire or need to change them? Do I support and respect their wishes, even if my opinion is different?

Often, I hear clients talk about the pain that has been associated with relationships and the patterns that continue to play out. What I find is that people and couples are likely practicing fear in these moments of pain, rather than love. They are slipping into judgement of self and others, forgetting about gratitude, withholding affection, finding distractions, and trying to force others into their point of view. When ready, we can begin to create new habits, using the five A’s. It may be difficult, or even feel incongruent at first, but these practices become habits which become second nature. Use the A’s, not just with romantic relationships, but with family, children, co-workers, strangers and friends. After all, practice makes permanent…and so does love.

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