eing an adult in a relationship with another adult doesn’t automatically make your relationship an “adult relationship.” Adult relationships are all about communicating and acting in a mature, healthy, and respectful way toward one another, and this actually takes a lot of effort.

But don’t fret. We’ve compiled a list of some of the things we advise you to do in order to ensure that your relationship - wherever it’s at now - is well on its way to blossoming into a fulfilling adult relationship.

1. Be a Good Listener

A man smiles at his wife from his workspace as he eagerly listens to her speak.
Listening, not just hearing, is one of the greatest contributions you can bring to your relationship.

Everyone knows that listening is important, but did you know that listening may actually be the greatest contribution you can bring to your relationship?

Listening to your partner doesn’t only show them that you care about what they’re saying in the moment - it also shows them that you care about them as a person. Giving your partner your undivided attention when they are speaking and truly being present in conversation is one of the greatest things you can give to them.

For some people, listening is a skill that comes naturally to them. But for others, it can be challenging and it’s something they need to work on. If you fall into this category, here are some key things to remember:

  • Do not interrupt
  • Do not compete
  • Do not discount
  • Do use your body language

2. Speak to Your Partner With Respect

A man signals something to his wife as she takes note of it in a planner.
Speaking to your partner with respect means no name-calling, rude tones, or yelling - even during a disagreement.

Whether you’re having a conversation about defining your relationship or deciding between pizza or sushi for dinner, it’s important to remember to always speak to your partner with respect.

In the same way listening to your partner is important, so is responding to your partner. The way you speak to them reflects how you value them.

How exactly do you speak to your partner with respect? You don’t take a rude tone when you respond to them, there’s no name-calling, and there’s no yelling. You know you have a good relationship with your partner when, even after you have a disagreement, you still feel respected in the relationship because of the way you and your partner spoke to each other during that disagreement.

Of course, we all have our moments, but speaking to your partner with respect should be the rule - not the exception.

3. Pick Your Battles

A man looks on at a women who stares out the window with her arms crossed.
Picking and choosing your battles doesn’t mean that you don’t care enough to bring something up to your partner, it means that you care so much that you weighed your options and went with your gut.

Not every disagreement needs to be a full blown fight.

Sometimes being an adult in your relationship means letting some things slide. This doesn’t mean that you don’t care, it actually means that you care so much that you put a good amount of thought into what is worth fighting over and what isn’t.

Say for example your partner left their clothes all over your shared room as they were rushing to get ready for work. When they get home, do you want to argue with them about it? Or would you rather let it go and cook dinner together and then watch a movie?

When deciding what is worth fighting with your partner over, some questions to ask yourself are:

  • Is this worth fighting about?
  • Is the sadness or anger my partner might feel from having this conversation worth it?
  • Do I want to spend this time fighting with my partner rather than enjoying their company?

If something is truly bothering you, like if your partner continues to leave their clothes all over your bedroom and it really upsets you because you like to keep things tidy around the house, then you may want to bring it up to your partner. There is potential for you to argue with your partner about it, but arguments aren’t all bad. Sometimes they bring you and your partner closer together and it may even solve the problem.

4. Learn from Your Past Mistakes

A couple hugs on a rooftop overlooking a cityscape.
If you ever make your partner upset, make sure that you take note of what upset them and put a plan in place to ensure that you don’t hurt them in the same way again.

Learning is an important element of growing up, so it only makes sense that learning from past mistakes you’ve made in your relationship is something that helps your relationship become a healthy and mature one.

If you did something that upset your partner, don’t get frustrated with them for getting upset. Instead, take a mental note of the situation so that you remember not to do the same thing that upset your partner again.

A poor example of an adult relationship would be one in which one person continuously does something that upsets their significant other even though they know it upsets them. In this relationship, the one partner doesn’t seem to be learning from their mistakes at all and is choosing to continue hurting their partner.

Another poor example would be a relationship in which one partner continuously makes “bad apologies” - and yes, there are such things as bad apologies. An example of a bad apology would be, “I’m sorry you got upset by what I said” or “I’m sorry you took it that way.” These are not real apologies. They’re not taking ownership for hurting their partner. Instead, they’re placing the blame on their partner for getting upset or misunderstanding what they said.

Here’s the right way to learn from mistakes you’ve made in your relationship:

  • Apologize for hurting your partner
  • Reassure them and make sure they’re okay
  • Put a plan in place to make sure it doesn’t happen again

5. Laugh with Your Partner

A couple laughs in each other's arms on a bed with white sheets.
Research shows that couples who poke fun at each other and laugh together are happier than couples who don’t.

You’ll be happy to learn that being in an adult relationship doesn’t mean you have to be serious all of the time. You are meant to laugh and have fun with your partner! Just look at all of the times the famous Hollywood couple consisting of Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively have trolled each other.

In one study conducted by Jeffrey Hall from the University of Kansas, researchers found that couples who can poke fun at each other and laugh together are the happiest. Not only is laughing a great stress reliever for those in the relationship, but the sense of playfulness in the relationship helps to strengthen the bond between two partners.

But there’s a difference between poking fun at someone and making fun of someone, so be careful not to cross the line. Another study found that people who fear being laughed at or made fun of by their partner are less happy in their relationships.

You will most likely be able to tell if your partner is upset by a joke you made. If you see that your partner isn’t laughing along at a joke you made or is clearly hurt by it, take note of it and make sure that you don’t make that kind of joke again.

As long as you continue to respect your partner as you joke with them, you should be in the clear!

The Takeaway

Being in an adult relationship doesn’t just mean that you’re in a relationship with another adult. It means that your relationship is mature, healthy, and respectful and both you and your partner are putting in the effort to make it the strong relationship that it is.

Five things you can do to ensure you’re navigating your relationship in a mature, healthy, and respectful way are:

  • Be a good listener - really be present when your partner is speaking to you
  • Speak to your partner with respect - don’t yell or name-call
  • Pick your battles - not everything is worth fighting with your partner over
  • Learn from your past mistakes - once you learn what upsets your partner, don’t continue to do it
  • Laugh with your partner - playfulness in a relationship strengthens the relationship

The most important thing you can do for your relationship is to continue putting in effort where effort is needed. As you may have noticed, none of these things are one and done. Listening to your partner, speaking to your partner with respect, picking and choosing your battles with your partner, learning from your past mistakes in the relationship, and laughing with your partner are all things that need to be done continuously throughout the course of your relationship. But don’t look at this as a daunting task. Instead, look at it as if it’s a million opportunities to continue to make your relationship better and stronger.

Mar 22, 2021