How to Be an Adult in Relationships Using the 5 A’s?

How to be an Adult

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Morning all,

Here’s the time:

Wed 17 March

I want to talk today about how to be an adult in relationships using the 5 A’s.

Now I’ve not actually read David Richo’s book ‘How to be an adult in relationships’ (but I intend to now).

I really wanted to talk about my challenges in my own relationship where at times I act like a juvenile – and perhaps what I can do to raise the maturity with which I approach Strawberry.

Let’s begin with my own understanding of this first of all –

One of the biggest challenges I think that come out revolve around times of conflict or when your emotions rise.

Certainly, this is when your behaviour can quickly devolve into pettiness – which serves no-one.

Outside of this element – when the emotional brain is suspended and it’s the logical brain that’s present -, there are strategies and tactics you can employ to ensure your relationship success.

Being an adult – is about having a mature approach – and when it comes to the everyday minutiae – for many this is easy enough to execute.

For Strawberry and Me – the core challenges are when we get angry and fight.

You can end up saying something silly such as –

‘Stop being so sensitive’ or ‘you’re talking rubbish’ or ‘what do you know’ (I’m sure it can be much much worse than this).

I find, in moments of raised emotional temperature – it’s here that I’m liable to break down and say something silly such as above – where it turns into a personal attack and moves away from the argument.

In these moments – certainly with a fiery Strawberry – it’s difficult to retain control over your emotions – and saying something such as above can totally undo the relationship and cause further problems for you both.

Now, I’ve tried many strategies such as –

  • Controlling my breathing
  • Controlling the level of my voice
  • Making sure I’m not being threatening with my behaviour or tone of voice
  • Doing my best not to screw my face up

And so on and so forth.

However, once I get angry…

All of this goes out of the window because I lose control over my temperament.

If you’re anything like me – you’ll find that none of the above really works when you’ve lost control and all you’re feeling is rage.

If you’re ever in this predicament – then this is the space that I certainly need to work through still.

However, there are a couple of things I have found that work well –

Walk Away When You’re Having A Fight

Walk Away

I still don’t do this enough – but it’s taken me almost a decade of us being together to figure out that in such situations the best thing to do is just walk away when we’re having a fight.

What I mean by this is to take some time out – just to calm yourself down.

When you’re in a situation that is continually escalating and doesn’t look like the argument is going anywhere positive…

Based upon my personal experience (and it’s just that – personal experience) – nothing gets resolved when both people are angry.

So taking a minute, or a moment where you physically step outside of the room, or the zone of conflict (if that’s the whole house) – and take time to compose yourself – is very powerful.

Staying Angry Takes Energy

Staying Angry

The reason I think this is so effective is that it takes energy to remain angry. The quickest way to keep the fire burning – is to be around the person who is making you angry – going over the same points continuously.

So saying – ‘look I’m so sorry {{firstName}}, but I can feel my temper rising and I need to take some time to process/think about this – I’m going to step away from this conversation now for a time out – I’m sorry if that upsets you – I just need to do this’.

Something to that effect – even if you’re met with frustration from your partner – is powerful.

And then doing something else that takes your mind off the argument is critical – or even just going for a walk and listening to some music.

Being angry takes mental energy to have and even more to hold onto it.

Even with the passing of 15 minutes – tempers can calm down significantly – and you may realise the argument is insignificant or perhaps it revolves around a deeper problem you may have and requires further investigation.

In any event, removing your emotional brain from the situation with allowing you to turn your higher brain functions back on and think about the argument more logically and work towards finding a resolution.

Prime Yourself To Cope With His/Her Anger

Prime Yourself

This is the other side of it I still get wrong sometimes.

After your time-out – you may want to go back and continue your conversation – and find your partner quickly works up his/her temper again.

So priming yourself to manage your partner’s anger is probably one of the most sensible things you can learn.

I.e – how is it you can stay calm when your partner is angry and shouting/screaming/giving you the silent treatment?

Roleplay can be effective – although you might need to do this by yourself if your partner is not interested in doing this (which is perfectly normal).

Visualisations is another approach – playing it out in your mind and using that as a reference for when you next get into that situation.

Reading up on techniques about how to not get angry even when provoked and ultimately practising them is also powerful.

And this is the crux of many relationship problems – dealing with an angry partner.

This – in my view is THE most challenging area when it comes to ‘being an adult in relationships’ – as for me, it’s in times of anger – no matter who is the instigator – that it all falls apart.

Now let’s move to David Richo’s book ‘How to be An Adult in Relationships’ – and this discussed the five key elements of a healthy relationship.

He has coined them:

The Five A’s

The Five A's

These are the core 5 things that are surprisingly straightforward (but of course in truth challenging) that couples need to be mindful of when it comes to having a successful relationship.

David Richo (quickly) PhD, MFT (don’t even know what this one stands for) himself is a workshop leader and writer who combined Jungian, poetic and mythic perspectives in his work with the intention of integrating the psychological with the spiritual. His books themselves also draw inspiration from Buddhist and Christian spiritual practices.

I’ve just lifted this from his website. And checking out the section of his books on his website – it turns out he’s written loads of books – so perhaps someone worth checking out.

Anyway, I wanted to talk through how to be an adult in a relationship – and whilst I’ve never read any of Richo’s work – I will offer my commentary upon his central points:


So this is about giving your partner ‘true attention’. A good example of this was yesterday when Strawberry came back from university and told me about her day. There was a moment where I caught my mind wandering (more than one moment actually)…but I did something different yesterday.

I forced myself to aggressively tune in and listen to each and every word she said – and really comment on things with my interest, and comments, and ask points of clarification where I needed them.

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What an amazing difference it made to her appreciation of me and our connection.

I think that many of you might find this ‘banal’ perhaps – like ‘isn’t this obvious?’.

And I want to reframe this – because I’m not sure just saying ‘attention’ really ‘does it’ in my view – so think of it like this instead:

  • Discipline your wandering mind – don’t ‘go away with the fairies and think about your day’ or otherwise – FOCUS on what’s being said
  • Aim to ask 3 questions – have an aim to ask a couple of questions that further the conversation or what your partner is saying
  • Involve your FULL BODY – listen attentively, look at your partner and not up and around, make nods, grunts, and laughs and exclamations of agreements at the appropriate times
  • Demonstrate you’re remembering details within the same conversation – OR in the next conversation or when you raise it separately

If you’re able to work on executing these four things – you’re going to really demonstrate you’re paying attention.

So I hope this help!


This is about accepting your partner for who they are, and not just accepting them when they ‘act or behave’ in certain ways.

That’s a recipe for disaster. Richo talks about the acceptance of our partners in totality – including the parts of them that give rise to frustrations and challenges.

So this is about letting go of your partner ‘needing to be a certain way’ – and rather just accepting them for exactly who they are.

So – this is Richo’s advice (or rather a review of Richo’s advice from a summary I found online.

I don’t know how useful this is for me – or at least it feels a little too abstract.

Here are some practical applications of this that I hope help –

When my partner Strawberry has exams – the house turns into a waste ground. There are old plates with forks and knives on the floor. I see tissues everywhere. Near her mirror, there are some cleansing wipes with makeup remover on them. The kitchen turns into a bomb site.

I used to get frustrated about these things….but soon realised that she’s a DEFCON level 1 when she’s preparing for assessments – so it’s better I clean up.

Furthermore, when she’s preparing for exams, or in her examination period – she goes into something of her own world. So for those weeks – I back off and give her her own space to do things.

The most recent period was 2-weeks more or less – where we lived together but like we were on other sides of the same moon.

Strawberry isn’t one to be pushed into opportunities or to pursue building a business or anything else or this ilk.

I used to fight with her by pushing her into doing things she really didn’t want to do – or that ‘she knew would benefit her’ but didn’t come easily to her.

Backing off from these places – and having the realisation that I’m here to be her life partner and support her with whatever decisions she makes – is a better way to have a successful relationship…has helped us massively.

And it also reframed in my own mind how I look at her – the ‘speed’ at which she pursues her own path feels totally alien in my brain now.

Now I don’t even consider those things as relevant to us – and only comment upon them when I see her suffer or she asks me something.

So – I hope this helps more practically with understanding for me at least how acceptance works.


Feeling appreciated by our partners is critical to feeling loved. Dr John Gottman (relationship expert and author) writes that for every complaint/criticism we need 5x positive things said to us to balance it out.

It’s easy for your partner to feel like they are being taken for granted and what they bring to the relationship isn’t being recognised.

Some ideas then – appreciation is something you can show in the form of:

  • Written notes as a surprise – ‘I really the dinner you cooked last night’
  • Taking over something your partner ordinarily does to show your appreciation they usually cook
  • Giving massages to show appreciation
  • Taking care of household chores when your partner is stressed or unwell

These are just some examples of how I would think of showing appreciation – I hope this helps!


Affection is the lifeblood of a relationship that can be express in words, with hugs, kisses or holding hands. Outside of this you there are buying flowers, speaking up for someone when they feel overwhelmed and more.

Richo talks about encouraging the couple to give each other one-minute hug’s – and this has been reported as being a way to close the feeling of ‘distance’ between two people.

I’ve read this several times, as well as it being something that soldiers will do on long Marches as it releases dopamine and oxytocin – the body’s natural pain killer and happy hormone (whether this is actually done though I have no clue).


This is all about freedom. Your partner is not just in a relationship with you – she/he’s also in a relationship with the world.

So allowing them to explore their other interests and relationships that are completely independent of you will always help you.

It demonstrates trust, care, and gives them opportunities to miss you – which is very important to your overall relationship health

They will come back to you – enriched.

So basically (and much easier said than done like all of these things) – don’t be jealous – let them be their own person.

Final Thoughts

Final Thoughts

I hope this offers some insights into how you can be an adult in relationships and the critical factors at least according to David Richo.

And in hindsight – it’s way more comprehensive than my insight – which definitely wasn’t enough alone.

But it’s definitely served as a powerful reminder for me – and I hope it does the same for you!

Until next time 🙂