6. The 4 A's of Healthy Mature Relationship

There are four different practices that I regarded as being essential to healthy mature relationships, empathy and intimacy. They are attention, acceptance, appreciation and affection. As water is to life, these four are to healthy relationships. If you haven’t already read through the list of toxic and nourishing behaviours at the beginning of this module please do so now, as the 4 A’s are the antidote to relationship toxicity. 
 

Attention

 
What is it like when someone provides you with their whole undivided attention? It might be un-nerving if you have rarely experienced it before, however for most women being with someone who is truly present, available and focused on them to the exclusion of all other distractions is a gift come true, particularly if that person is also embodying the other A’s! Paying attention to another person with the intention of truly listening to and hearing what they have to say provides the foundations for intimacy and connection. Here are some suggestions as to how you can cultivate attention
 
  • Try an experiment for the next 24 hours. Whenever your partner speaks to you, give them your full undivided attention. Make sure your body is turned towards them. Breathe deeply and relax any tension in your body, allow it to be as natural as possible.
  • If you notice a desire to interrupt them, allow that desire to pass and speak when they are finished
  • Incorporate the remaining A’s when you do this
 

Acceptance

 
In module seven I talked about compassionate self-acceptance, a way of responding to yourself that is both loving and accepting. This is not only essential in order to reduce the power that negative thoughts and self-criticism can have over us, but also essential in order thrive and flourish as a human being. Applying the same principles to other people, especially our partners and friends is one of the keys to cultivating intimacy and understanding. Have you ever had the experience of being truly accepted by another person? Can you recall how felt in response to that experience? Being allowed to be who we are – with all of our feelings, opinions, insecurities, fears and choices – allows us to feel safe and that safety is the key essential ingredient in healthy, loving relationships. By accepting someone as they are, you are honouring their right to their reality. As long as they are not being abusive to you or crossing certain boundaries, giving someone the space to be themselves to be themselves in their entirety is not only an enlightening experience for them, but and empowering and healing experience for us. When you accept someone you are sending a message to them, at a deep level that they are ok as they are.
 
  • Next time you are with your partner notice any urge to control them. Many people use neurotic control as a way of attempting to make themselves t0 feel safe – although it rarely works. Neurotic control is the tension filled use of control to make someone or something fit in with your desires to the exclusion of an appreciation of their needs or desires. When you notice the urge to control arising, notice where you feel it in your body and breathe into it. You could use EmoTrance to process what you are feeling
  • For a day drop all expectations of your partner, and notice that when you have no expectations how this changes the way you relate to them and how your stress levels reduce considerably
  • When you are speaking with your partner next time, and whilst giving them your full attention, focus on your breathing and allow them to be as they are (unless they are being abusive towards you). If it helps imagine them in a bubble within which is contained all of their emotions, fears, beliefs and opinions. This will help you to be less affected by the way you are. As you get better at this you can drop the bubble
 

Appreciation

 
Once attention is in place, sharing genuine and sincere appreciation with the person you are with is one of the quickest and most effective ways to open the flood gates of connection. The studies consistently show that if the ratio of positive feelings and interactions to negative ones is above 5:1, then the likelihood of creating and sustaining a healthy intimate relationship is increased considerably. Here are a couple of suggestions
 
  • Write down a list of all the things that you appreciate about your partner. If you get stuck, a fair number of my clients do, recall what it was about them that first drew you to them. Having written the list, share one of those bits of appreciation with your partner each day for the next seven days. You will probably feel awkward when doing this and it might feel false, but most people relax into it very quickly.  The key when sharing appreciations is to be as sincere as possible. If you feel tense about this, remember to breath deeply
  • As you get better at delivering appreciations, start noticing spontaneous moments and opportunities to share an appreciation. Don’t go over board, it is a balance here, but as you go throughout your day, offer random acts or remarks of appreciation to people you meet. Keep them short, to the point, relevant and most importantly of all genuine.
 
 

Affection

 

Affectionate behaviour is any behaviour that is genuinely intended to convey care, respect, appreciation and love. It can be verbal for example ‘I love You’, non-verbal - kisses, hugs and holding hands or it could be expressed through providing support or taking actions in order to help another person. At the heart of the affection is the absence of a self-motive and self-interest. It is simply an expression of love and care. Like attention, acceptance and appreciation, regular experiences of affection help considerably to develop the depth of your emotional bond. Here are some suggestions to increase the amount of affection in your relationship
 
  • How much affectionate behaviour is their between you and your partner, score yourself between 0 – none what so ever and 10 = very affectionate. If you score yourself less than 8 read on
  • Ask your partner whether he /she would be willing to do this exercise. Each of you write down what you consider affectionate behaviours to be and ways in which the other person could be more affectionate.
  • Talk openly with your partner about affection, what it means to you and decide how you can increase your levels of affection, for example holding hands more, hugging a couple of times a day, massage in the evening, more affectionate love making
  • If you and/or or your partner are fearful of affection you should explore the reasons why this is so. Doing this work with a therapist might help
  • Sexual intimacy is built on the foundations for emotional and physical intimacy.

This module is now complete

 


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