Posted by: freestylewords | July 7, 2010

Intimacy is About the 5 A’s

Recently I listened to a lecture called Making Love Last; how to sustain intimacy and nurture genuine connection – given by David Richo, a practicing Buddhist and a psychotherapist.

I find his perspective insightful and balanced.

He discussed what he calls the five qualities of love – Attention, Acceptance, Appreciation, Affection and Allowing.

David started off by examining how the five qualities were expressed to us in childhood, because our childhood interactions form the building blocks of our adult relationships.

Then he went on to describe the three phases of adult relationships – Romance, Struggle and Commitment. He also spoke about what it means to be compatible and if we’re not… how to know when its time to move on.

And finally, Richo addressed two central fears that often surface in relationship – the Fear of Engulfment and the Fear of Abandonment. In addition he gave practical advice on how to work through common relationship difficulties.

I thoroughly enjoyed his talk. You can purchase the lecture on Itunes. Most of this blog is made up of quotes from parts of Making Love Last. But there is much more information in the talk itself.

The Five A’s are the needs that we came into this world with. They are instinctive needs that every human has and we don’t have these needs because we’re greedy. We have these needs because we are human.

Someone has to pay ATTENTION to your needs and respond to them. We have to be ACCEPTED just as we are. So if our parents were working hard at making us into something else, that would present us into adulthood in a confused state. We have to be APPRECIATED. We have to be looked upon as a person of value. We require AFFECTION. Which is shown to us in physical ways. In fact the full development of our brain depends upon how we’re held. And finally in addition to all of this, we require full ALLOWING, to let us go when the time comes. This is first needed around the time when we learn to toddle away and if we get the impression from one or both of our parents that its not ok to go (“You have to stay here and be available to me because I’m using you for something missing in my own life.”) then it will be difficult for us to go.

It turns out what served as childhood needs becomes later exactly the same needs we have in intimate relationships.

These 5 A’s describe what intimacy is about. Its the giving and receiving of Attention, Acceptance, Appreciation, Affection and Allowing, between two people.

If these needs from childhood were received in a good enough way the result is – as an adult you have the ability to give and receive moderate doses of the 5 A’S.

You will not need the full amount of all of them because you already have them somewhat installed into you or fulfilled from childhood and even then you will only need 25% or so of it from your partner. The rest can come from yourself, your friends, family, support system, career or spiritual practice. But if you did not receive the five A’s well enough as a child then you will have a deficit going into adulthood….

A loss of something ever felt I
The first that I could recollect
Bereft I was—of what I knew not
Too young that any should suspect
A Mourner walked among the children

Elder, today, a session wiser
And fainter, too, as Wiseness is
I find myself still softly searching
For my Delinquent Palaces
(the 5 A’s)

-Emily Dickinson

So, if this wasn’t received in early life, then we have work to do. Grief work. In grief work you go to – “Well, it was missing so I will grieve it and find a way to move on from it.” Rather than – “It was missing so I will make it all up from other adults.” (or from work, religion, drugs, etc).

The healthy way of looking to others for these five A’s is to simply ask for them directly.

Also you should try to notice when they happen automatically and then appreciate them.

But if you haven’t done the grief work, containing no blame, but understanding that your parents probably didn’t receive the fulfillment of their needs, you will run into trouble.

You will be trying to get this fixed by your partner, children, friends, etc. Which they can not do for you.

You will have to look at your childhood and see what needs were and were not met. Do grief work and begin to consciously give yourself and others: Acceptance, Appreciation, Affection, Attention and Allowing.

Perhaps most importantly, go towards the people, places and ways that give you the 5 A’s.

That provide you a safe and loving holding place in which to flourish.

For more information on this go to or Itunes and look up David Richo. I hope his work will affect your life as deeply as it has affected mine.

Happy healing and loving!     -Monica




  1. Great blog post. Thanks for posting this-I’m off to Amazon to look him up!

  2. Comment on Facebook:
    “Perfect! Those words feel good for my soul!” -Karen

  3. Love David Richo’s work!! He is a man of great insight!

  4. […] can read the reminder of Freestylewords  on her […]

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