Without question, “How to be an Adult in Relationships” makes it into the top 3 best books on relationships that I have ever read. While the central focus is on romantic love, much of the book is equally applicable to friendship and familial love.
If you want to change your life with regards to your interpersonal relationships (romantic, friendship, even familial), read this book.
Even those who are quite content and satisfied with the relationships in their lives should read this. It will both ensure that you keep the relationships in your life healthy and wonderful, as well as offer further growth and even more joy and betterment.
Within this inspiring, thought and eye-opening read, you learn what genuine love both looks and feels like (hint: it isn’t any of what we often mistake for love or affection, including though not limited to: lust, need, passion, words with little to no action backing them up, jealousy, and possessiveness).
“Most people think of love as a feeling but love is not so much a feeling as a way of being present.”
A central concept, both in action and in spirit, of truly loving instead entails offering those we love the “five As.” These five As are characteristics of and are present in all truly loving relationships (romantic, friendship, and familial).
Of course, no one can give these things fully and all the time. But, in truly loving relationships, they are clearly present, and very often. In reading, we learn in depth, what each of these five As looks like, feels like and entails. How to both give them, as well as being able to identify when we are receiving them.
“Our higher needs include making full use of our gifts, finding and fulfilling our calling, being loved and cherished just for ourselves, and being in relationships that honor all of these. Such needs are fulfilled in an atmosphere of the five A’s by which love is shown: attention, acceptance, appreciation, affection, and allowing.”
The reader also learns of the three stages through which every and all relationships must and will pass: Romantic, Conflict, and Commitment. (And in that order). None of these are avoidable, all of them are necessary, healthy, and crucial to each relationships growth and progression. All three equally applicable and important to a complete, healthy, truly loving, authentic, mature, and committed relationship.
In Romance, we see the most lovable version of one another. This, giving us the chance to be appreciated and be seen in all our grandeur. A lovers view of us in this phase is not false, contrary to some peoples belief that this phase is all smoke and mirrors. It isn’t. Instead, romance reflects who we truly are, deep within.
However, in romance, where we see all of our partners light, in Conflict, their darkness appears. This is when we meet our partner’s shadow side (which every single one of us has). Their weaknesses and less than becoming qualities. This phase is the longest of the three, during which we must contend with the fullness of who our partner is, both good and bad. This is the stage where, on seeing both the light and the dark in our partner, we must work out: can we accept and love our partner for who they are fully? Both their beauty and their shadows.
Sometimes, the answer becomes no. For some, their partner’s shadows and weaknesses might be deal breakers. Some peoples shadow sides might be unhealthy, with much personal work they still need to undertake before they may be truly ready for any kind of close interpersonal relationship, or just be too much for their partner. We all have differing needs.
This is totally ok. But, the key to remember is that everyone has a shadow side, we all have weaknesses, certain difficult personality traits, and personal challenges. You will not find a partner without. So the question then becomes: can I accept, live and work with my partner’s weakness and challenges? Or not?
Another way to frame this question: is my partner able to meet my needs most of the time, in light of whatever weak points or personal challenges they have? Or, do these get in the way of their being able to be a healthy, attentive, and available partner?
And, the final stage of all relationships (assuming they make it through the conflict stage, which many do not), commitment.
A crucial note on commitment though.
Commitment, real as well a mature, adult commitment, is not premised on vows blindly followed, nor on convenience or shared history, nor on ease or security, nor on having married or shacking up. Most of these, instead of signifying commitment, are reasons people lazily or fearfully stay in relationships that may have otherwise expired or not be especially happy/healthy, or just not a great match generally.
Genuine, adult commitment depends on both people actively doing what they need to do to consistently, to attend to the relationship and to nourish and love on another, on a regular and frequent basis. It means doing at least half the work of what it takes to be a great partner. It means being open to feedback and interested in growth. It means being flexible and present. Focused, giving, and open. Giving your partner the 5 As of love, regularly and often (Attention, Affection, Allowing, Appreciation, Acceptance).
When this ceases and one partner stops doing the work such as described in the paragraph above, truly healthy adults relieve their end of the commitment. Vows or not. Marriage or not. Lengthily shared history or not. Even love or not. Healthy and mature adults walk when their partner is not bringing to the table what that person should be.
So, vows can be problematic and are generally misguided, in that they promise and prompt a sense of blindly following one’s partner through anything, “no matter what.” This can be misguided and even become unhealthy, resulting in miserable people who stay together out of a sense of martyrdom (“I made a promise so I have to keep it, unhappy or not”- silly and nonsensical), and not infrequently results in relationships that are not especially good. This is why vows can be dangerous.
Again, a truly adult partner relives their end of the commitment when one partner stops doing the work to be a great partner. End of story.
“How to be an Adult in Relationships” teaches the reader how to learn to let go in relationships, when it’s warranted, either because we are left, or we are the one doing the leaving. That letting go bravely when its needed, despite the immense pain this is likely to bring forth in you, is the truly mature, courageous, healthy, and adult way to love.
“Our wounds are often the openings into the best and most beautiful part of us.”
The book teaches one both criteria to look for in prospective healthy, emotionally available, good partners, as well as how to be this type of partner yourself. It addresses topics including jealousy, fear of abandonment, fear of engulfment, self-care, childhood wounds, monogamy, infidelity, the navigating of opposite gender friendships, and more.
Literally, everything you ever wanted to know about having the best relationship of your life can be found in this book. It’s a goldmine.
I have read this book two times now, and will most certainly read it again. I don’t feel its an overstatement to say its excellent, even life-changing. Reading this book, if you allow it the attention and consideration it invites, will change both your romantic relationships, as well as your life in the big picture, in significant ways and for the better. And personally, I think that is far too good of an offer to pass up.
“Our identity is like a kaleidoscope. With each turn we reset it not to a former or final state but to a new one that reflects the here-and-now positions of the pieces we have to work with. The design is always new because the shifts are continual. That is what makes kaleidoscopes, and us, so appealing and beautiful.”