The past two weeks, we’ve been looking specifically at one of the 5 basic human needs as defined by Psychologist Abraham Maslow: Love and Belonging. And we’ve been identifying how to satisfy that need through healthy connections with others, ourselves, and with God.
David Richo, author of How to be an Adult in Relationships, identifies what he calls “The Five Keys To Mindful Loving.” These are the 5 A’s that you will find in healthy and intimate relationships. In episode 155, I covered Attention. Last week, episode 156, I covered Acceptance and Appreciation.
This week, we’re finishing it out with the final two: Affection and Allowing.
Speaking of Allowing, and before we dive in, I wanted to give you a heads-up that I’m allowing myself to take a brief break from this podcast after this episode. I’ve been recording every week for exactly three years. My very first episode came out the first week of November 2020. One hundred and fifty-seven episodes, plus a handful of bonus episodes. One hundred and sixty-two all together. Someone asked me, “Wow, how do you have so much to say?” Apparently, I have a lot to say. So, I’m going to take a refresher break, but I’ll be back with more to say, God willing.
So, let’s dive in. Affection and Allowing.
Affection seems to me to be the most straight forward of them all. It’s showing emotional closeness with physical actions - maybe a hug, or holding hands on a walk, wrapping your arm around someone, or a peck on the cheek just because. But it also includes other expressions of love, like telling someone how you feel or what you like about them, doing something for someone, giving a meaningful gift, or simply just being together.
Notice that we’ve just described the 5 Love Languages as according to Gary Chapman and his book titled the same. Those are Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service, Physical Touch. If you’ve been listening to this podcast a while, you might remember that I talked about the 5 love languages way back in episode 27 – What’s Love Got To Do With It? I’m just pretty much going to tell you what I said then. In his book, Chapman explains that each one of us experiences love differently. As in we feel love in different ways. That’s important to understand because the way we show love can actually miss the mark if the other person doesn’t experience love in the way we’re expressing it. Sound like such a mess, right?
Let me give you an example from my 30-year marriage to Brian. My love language is split pretty evenly between spending quality time with someone and receiving words of affirmation. So, I would want Brian to sit next to me and just chat about things – to tell me how amazing I was, what a great wife and mother I was. And honestly it didn’t even have to be a deep conversation. I felt easily loved just by a passing compliment. But one day, I said, “Brian, I’m not really happy. I don’t feel like you show me that you love me the way you used to.” His response was, “I don’t know what you’re talking about. I just unloaded the dishwasher. Earlier I took your car to get the oil changed.” See, Brian’s love language was Acts of Service - meaning that the way he received or experienced love was when someone did something for him. And typically, when we’re not aware, we tend to show love or give love to others based on how we experience or receive love. That’s what Chapman was warning us about. What we need to do is learn what the other person’s love language is, whether that’s a romantic relationship or a friendship, so that you can be purposeful to show love to the other in the way that they experience and receive love.
Now, to show affection to someone the way they experience it you may need to do something that you don’t really like to do or want to do. Or something that doesn’t come naturally to you. That’s what I did every time I straightened out Brian’s closet. That’s called sacrificial love. And that’s what healthy relationships are all about. Laying down your own preferences to love another well. The way they feel loved.
What would it look like in your relationships if you both were trying to out “love language” one another? How do you think that might change things? I would guess that it might make it healthier simply because you weren’t trying to get your needs met. But instead, were focusing on meeting the needs of another. Just a thought.
By the way, if you’re not sure about your own Love Language and you’d like to take the quiz, I’m put a link in the show notes and you can take it online.
The last “A” that’s needed for a healthy relationship is Allowing. This one might not be so straight forward as Affection. But if you’re familiar with my lingo, you’ll recognize Allowing as respecting Agency. I’ve talked about Agency throughout this podcast, so it’s likely you’ve heard that word many times. Let me give you the definition again.
‘Agency’ is defined as the capacity of individuals to act independently and to make their own free choices. It’s where you decide who you are and who you are not. It is your ability to separate your own thoughts and feelings from those of others and to take responsibility for what you think, feel, and do. It refers to the thoughts and actions taken by people that express their individual power - their independence. ‘Agency’ is taking responsibility for your life through self-regulatory skills. In short, you get to decide how you want to feel at any time, and you alone are responsible for how you feel.
So, this final “A” is Allowing someone else to have Agency; to be who they are, to live life the way they want to, and to make their own choices. Allowing means that you will not try to control, change, manipulate, or limit them. Most of the time, I cannot talk about Agency without also talking about Manuals, which I also mentioned last week. But bottom line, Manuals are just pages and pages of expectations that we have for other people, for our life, and for ourselves. Allowing means that you are putting down the Manuals, letting go of expectations, and letting yourself and the other person be who you are. This cultivates authentic relationships with people living authentic lives. No people pleasing, no hoops to jump through, no walking on eggshells. And, again, no efforts to control, change, manipulate, or limit them. In fact, no desire to control, change, manipulate, or limit them. And vice versa. It’s you allowing yourself to be you without permitting others to control you or tell you who you should or shouldn’t be. Allowing might sound a lot like Acceptance. But the nuanced difference is that it is Acceptance, coupled with Appreciation, that makes provisions for Allowing. Acceptance and Appreciation lay the groundwork for Allowing by removing judgment or criticism of others.
Allowing is also about giving people the space they need to grow, change, and just be themselves. Allowing means supporting their individual journey. And I might add, at God’s pace, not ours. God has each one of us on our own individual journey in life. That’s not just limited to our spiritual journey. It also encompasses our mental and emotional health journey. We need to trust that God has a plan for each individual person, and He knows best how to direct them. I hear people talk about how they wish their spouse would hurry up and get the emotional and mental healing they need. Yes, it’s true that they probably do want to see their spouse healed. But many times, we want someone else to be better, feel better, do better, just so that we ourselves can feel better. So that we can quit worrying. Or so that we can get comfortable again. Allowing means that you respect their journey and their pace as their own without trying to change it. Without trying to play “God” or “Holy Spirit” in their lives. Allowing is understanding that you're two separate beings, with individualism, Agency, but that your paths can be beautifully intertwined.
Friend, the 5 A’s can be your guide to healthy relationships. If you were to evaluate your relationships right now, how would you be doing? Would you say they were healthy relationships based on these 5 A’s – Attention, Acceptance, Appreciation, Affection, and Allowing? Use these as a guideline to help you assess if your relationships are functioning in a loving and adult way. And if they’re not, use these 5 A’s to change that. You have the choice and the ability to cultivate and create healthy relationships.
If you need help cultivating and creating healthy relationships, I can help you. I’ve put a link in the show notes to book a free 30-minute call at your convenience if you’d like to chat about it.
Also, get the free, downloadable listener’s guide with prompt questions to help you work through this topic.
Thank you for listening, friend. See you again, here on Another Beautiful Life.
According to David Richo, author of How to be an Adult in Relationships, there are the 5 A’s that you will find in healthy and intimate relationships. They are: Attention, Acceptance, Appreciation, Affection, and Allowing.
In this third part of this series, we’re talking about the final two, Affection and Allowing. Join me as we discover how each of these build upon one another and can be used as a guideline to help you assess if your relationships are functioning in a loving and adult way.
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Take the 5 Love Languages Quiz here: https://5lovelanguages.com/quizzes/love-language