A relationship that doesn’t meet your basic needs isn’t going to work over the long term (though it may be fun in the short-term!).
But that begs the question…
What ARE your basic needs?
Do you know?
A popular exercise involves making a list of your basic needs. The things you can’t or won’t compromise on.
Having those requirements written down in black-and-white helps you make objective decisions about the men you meet.
But these lists normally just scratch the surface. They cover the things we think we need but miss the things we don’t realize we need.
Do you have needs you’re not aware of?
Psychotherapist David Richo thinks you do.
He thinks every human being needs what he calls the five A’s:
We begin life getting these needs met by our parents. As adults, we seek relationships that meet these needs. Once we mature, Richo says, we look beyond ourselves to give these gifts to the world.
So what are the 5 A’s all about?
- Attention: “I see you.”
There’s a reason James Cameron chose, “I see you,” as the greeting for his fictional tribe in in the movie, Avatar. He took his cue from a real tribe here on planet Earth. “I see you” is the meaning of sawubona, a traditional Zulu greeting. It’s one of the most powerful things you can say to another person.
We want our partners to pay attention to us. To see us for who we really are. To notice when we’re wearing something new. To be present with us rather than distracted on their phone or hiding behind a newspaper.
We also want our partners to see us when we’re feeling invisible or unheard. We want them to notice when we’re upset. To sit with our difficult feelings and honor the pain rather than trying to make it go away.
- Acceptance: “I accept you.”
We want our partners to love us for who we are. To not want to change us. To overlook our idiosyncrasies. To not criticize us for our mistakes or imperfections.
It’s challenging to accept another person despite the fact they’re not quite what we’d imagined. How can we accept someone we may have to live with for the rest of our lives? Especially if that person has irritating qualities or lets us down in important ways?
Luckily, accepting someone doesn’t require liking everything about them. It simply requires approving of them as a human being. It’s about letting your partner know, “You’re important to me, just as you are.”
- Appreciation: “I value you.”
We want our partners to see the best in us. To hold the space for who we might become. To appreciate what we bring to their lives. To value us above all the others they might have chosen.
But many relationships go down a different path. Partners take each other for granted. They keep expecting more from each other. They fantasize about the grass being greener elsewhere.
Appreciation is hard work. It goes against the grain. But partners who make it a practice keep the love alive.
- Affection: “I love you.”
We want our partners to communicate their love for us. To hold us, to touch us, to make us feel safe and warm.
Affection can be expressed in many ways. Everyone has a unique love language. The partner who makes an effort to learn yours is a keeper.
- Allowing: “I trust you.”
We want our partners to respect our freedom. To not try to control or manipulate us. To respect our decisions.
But many relationships paint a different picture. She thinks he can’t look after himself. He thinks her gut leads her astray. Both parties think the relationship would run more smoothly if they were in charge.
Trusting someone else is even harder than loving them. None of us like to relinquish control. But you can’t control another person. When you’re in a relationship, you have to learn how to make decisions as a team.
And then you have to let it be.
David Richo calls this “mindful loving.”
He believes this learning process for intertwining our lives is a part of something important. He says it puts us on the path to enlightenment.
As we learn to love another person in ways that demonstrate attention, acceptance, appreciation, affection, and allowing, we begin to relate to the world in a more loving way.
Our intimate relationships become a training ground for global healing.
That’s a pretty powerful promise, for something as simple as getting your needs met.