A number of weeks ago I started talking about some of the concepts in David Richo’s book “How to Be an Adult in Relationships”.
Richo states there are five A’s of relationship:
Today, I wanted to write about two of them that seem to go together in my mind – Affection and Appreciation. Of course, each of these are somewhat idiosyncratic to both the people we are and the people we are in relationship with, whether that’s our sweetheart, spouse, or best bud. However, since we’re primarily talking about our most intimate relationships (those that are romantic in nature as well as possibly spousal in form), I think we can all agree that both appreciating our sweethearts and showing affection to them is not only a nice thing, it’s pretty essential for the health of our relationships. Plus, let’s face it, a good hug just feels good to us, too.
As I’m sure the entire universe knows, LA’s been having a heat wave for the past week with temps as high as 108 and 113 in the valley and in the 90’s along the coast. Frankly, I don’t do all that well in the heat. Plus, although this has not been talked about much on the local media, the air quality has seemed fairly lousy – since I drive into downtown LA regularly, it’s been hazy which can only mean one thing – smog. Double ugh – heat and smog. When I feel all nasty I just don’t want to be that close to anybody, let alone my husband. Especially my husband.
Add to this, our master bedroom is weirdly constructed with working windows only on the East facing wall (where we get morning sun) and decorative, non-functioning windows on the North and South facing walls. So we don’t get a cross breeze and we have no air conditioning where we live, ostensibly because we don’t need it (yeah, right). So I stay in the front room until I’m more than half asleep, before retiring to my sweltering bedroom to sleep on top of the sheets, while the ‘Publican sleeps blissfully unawares.
As you can tell, the phrase “bitch in heat” has true meaning at Casa Zental Floss.
So it is a mark of my unconditional love for my husband that I allow him to hold my hand and touch toes on the ottoman while TV watching, and even do some snuggling in the morning before the heat sets in. He knows I’d prefer it to be 70 degrees everywhere and always, so he doesn’t get all weird about my anemic displays of affection, and I don’t start screeching at him when he wants a hug. We’re pretty affectionate with each other in general and I’m not sure if that is because we haven’t been married forever or it’s because we both have been with partners in the past who weren’t very affectionate or used it and its withholding as a measure of manipulation and control. This was the case with my ex-husband who would only show affection when he wanted sex, which meant I had to be careful around him unless I wanted sex, too. In case you were wondering, we’re not married anymore (d’oh!)
I think the reason why this works between us is that the ‘Publican has a real sense of himself as full and complete with or without me as a partner. I’ve noticed that he’s not overly sensitive when I’m in a bad mood – he doesn’t take it personally. I probably feel more anxious when he’s in a bad mood as if the reason he was in the bad mood was because of something I said or did. As if.
So he’s not taking it personally that I’m not as physically close as I usually am right now – and he knows and trusts that I’ll be in the near future, or when we’re in air conditioned environments (which would not be our house right now).
“Love in adulthood is a re-experience of the love our every cell remembers. The way we were loved in early life is the way we want to be loved all our lives.” – David Richo
The good news is that even if you didn’t have the happiest childhood (I didn’t), you can be greatly assisted by a loving partner in adulthood. I think the five A’s indicate the primary needs in all of us, so if, for example, your parents weren’t the most touchy-feeling types ever, you probably felt at least some love in the way they listened to you or played ball or fixed you your favorite foods, all of which is imprinted on your soul. If there are some gaps in your love “language”, these can be filled by your partner as long as you’re willing to stretch a bit. Not too far, just enough. What you might find is that you just might like this touching business, even if sex isn’t always the pot at the end of every hug, kiss or toe touch.
Richo speaks of affection as being a form of unconditional love for ourselves and our bodies, even if we’re middle aged, with too much belly and not enough hair, and no fashion sense at all. Not that I’m talking about anybody I know or anything. But it is true that showing true affection for the other is not dependent on what we or they look like, which is one of the ego’s way of keeping deep love and intimacy at bay.
Think about every person you know who’s been perpetually seeking a partner only to find this, that and the third thing “wrong” with them, everything from their politics/religion to the shape of their nose. Some of these things are significant and some not so much – but for the person who really just wants to complain that there are no good men or women in LA (a familiar refrain), they all become equally huge. With predictable results.
I mentioned above that I think one of the reasons we as a couple “work” is because the ‘Publican doesn’t take my lousy moods personally and I think one of the other reasons we work is that I don’t criticize him very much, if at all. He’s mentioned how appreciated he feels by me, and I’m glad for that. I think by the time I met him, I had long stopped criticizing men in general for just being men, and really found much to like and appreciate about them. Men’s protective and generous nature is what I’ve tended to pick up on the most and maybe because I appreciate it, I tend to see it in the good men I know, including my husband. But this is extended to other men, too – my bosses and co-workers as well as the guy opening the door for me and letting me pass in front of him at the bank.
I, too feel appreciated by my husband, not just for my ability to make money and work hard at home, but for other qualities, too – my sweetness, my great sense of humor (which, translated, means that I laugh at HIS jokes and stories), my values and what I think he’d call being a good sport, and I might say is a joie de vivre.
Appreciation really is a form of interpersonal gratitude. It gives “depth to acceptance” as Richo puts it and it’s a way of saying you not only admire or respect the other person, you delight in them, too.
In fact, even though some families and couples seem to get by with, at most “Hey, you . . . “ in their verbal communication, I think “please” and “thank you” very important, almost as important as saying “I love you.” They aren’t just for Emily Post – they’re for you and me, too. “Please” says I know you are a thinking and feeling being, apart from myself and my demands, and “thank you” acknowledges the kindness or gift (either of love, time, attention, affection, a great dinner or space to think) you’ve bestowed on me. They are the full circle of gratitude and appreciation.
Today as loving partners take some time to show affection and appreciation for each other – delight in each other as you each deserve to be delighted in, too. And even if your partner tells a stupid joke, ladies… laugh at it – would it kill ‘ya?