How to Be More Mature in a Relationship, According to 15 Experts

Being mature is one of the key factors in a healthy and lasting relationship. However, not everyone becomes mature overnight.

That is why we have asked 17 experts to help us on how to be more mature in a relationship.

Table of Contents

Debbie Harkness MSC, CATC, LAADC

Debbie Harkness
President, ATR | Marriage and Family Therapist Associate, Board of Behavioral Science

Maturity in a relationship requires personal responsibility for actions and behaviors, never causing intentional harm, and having a positive attitude.

Personal responsibility

This requires you to focus on your part regarding your decisions and behaviors. Owning your part whether the action was positive or negative allows you to maintain boundaries or recognize and change behavior that is hurtful or harmful.

Example: You have an argument with your spouse about money spent that was earmarked to pay bills. Even though the spouse spent the money and caused a shortfall, you have to look at the cause.

Did you communicate with your spouse that the money was already spent? Did you already know that your spouse is irresponsible with money and this was a problem in the past? If so, why did you allow the money to be spent without consequences? Are you in a relationship that is codependent and can’t set boundaries? Is there a drug problem?

This allows a person to come up with solutions by changing their behaviors to solve the problem, instead of the other.

Never cause intentional harm

This requires personal responsibility and not allowing resentments to dictate decision making. If you’re having a bad day, coming home and taking it out on everyone is petty and mean. Instead, let everyone know you need some space and communicate your feelings.

Apologize for anger if it’s unjust, especially to children. Don’t start an argument to get your way or deflect off the topic. Passive aggressive behavior is the worst type of intentional harm.

It is calculated and causes the person you’re referring to feel insecure and confused because the statements are intended to cause harm. Hate is the most irresponsible hurtful emotion to oneself and the person that is the target of the hate.

It focuses on everything that is wrong with a person and how much hurt they caused day in and day out, resulting in the hurt person relive the pain constantly. This makes the hurt person into a predator because the hurt person plans revenge.

An exercise is to write a gratitude list of ten reasons why that person place or thing they hate helped them gain a better life. This does not condone the actions but allows the person to acknowledge that there was some value to the thing they hate allowing them to move forward. Even if it’s trauma-based, there has to be some value to move away from it.

This person can become resilient; prompt them to enter into a career that would prevent another person from experiencing their pain, etc. The list has to include ten reasons to allow them to feel relieved that they moved away from the hated person, place, or thing and will enable them to focus on positive outcomes.

Having a positive attitude

Hope that things will work out no matter what allows a person to find solutions quickly and prevents ego-based decision making. Ego-based decision making doesn’t let a person ask for help. If there’s a problem and you can’t easily resolve it, then you don’t have the skills or knowledge to fix the problem.

You go in circles attempting to fix a problem with the same outcome. Happy people don’t like to feel stress or anger and quickly resolve issues to prevent these emotions from interfering with their day.

An exercise for a person with a negative attitude is to write down three things that made their day better before going to bed at night for two weeks. This can include something as minor as making it work early because they hit every green light. Habits take approximately two weeks to become established.

If this is done every night, it forces a person to acknowledge what’s right in their day instead of what is wrong. They sleep better at night and it becomes subconscious for them to look at their environment as positive instead of negative, allowing them to grow and improve their quality of life.

Joseph Tropper, MS, LCPC

Joseph Tropper
NCC Director of Operations, CoreWellness

There are three components of love based on Sternberg’s “Theory of Love” – passion, intimacy, and commitment. Once these three components are met, it’ll result in a Consummate type of love, which is often the ideal type of love. In this type of love, both share their passion and are both committed to each other.

Go for a Consummate type of love

Based on this theory, we can say that the relationship is mature when they reached the consummate type of love.

Another theory suggests that maturity in relationships can also be measured by the amount of dependence on each other.

The “M-Frame Relationship” model suggests that a relationship can be called mature because they have a strong sense of connection with each other but also has a strong sense of self-love. It means that they don’t need to be with each other every day and that they don’t need other people to complete them because they are already complete on their own.

Based on these theories, here are some suggestions on how to be more mature in a relationship:

Increase the time spent with yourself

Self-love should always come first in every relationship. Because once a person doesn’t love his/herself, all kinds of negativity and insecurity will sink in and will eventually lead to doubts and jealousy. Maturity in a relationship equals in loving yourself.

Allow your partner to pursue their interests and goals

Let them be with their friends without restriction. Trust should always be present and should always be the foundation of the relationship. Remind yourself that the world doesn’t orbit for just the two of you and that each of you has dreams and goals, which can be fulfilled by supporting each other.

Choose to love that person in every situation and decision you make

You’ll know you’re mature and that you genuinely love the person when you still choose to love and be with them every day, in spite of all their flaws, imperfections, and negative situations. Maturity doesn’t equal loving yourself but also in loving that person for who they are.

Rob Magill, MA, ICAADC, CCPG, DOT-SAP, LPCT

Robert Magill
Founder, Magill Counseling Associates, LLC | BHI Certified Tele-behavioral Health Practitioner

Tell them what you want

Don’t assume your partner knows you well enough to know ABC. Or that if they love you enough, they will just DEF. Unless you specifically tell them that is something important to you, how will they know?

Tell them what you need to change

Your partner will do things that irritate you or make you angry. It’s going to happen. Clearly and calmly communicate the personal impact of their actions to you and what you need from them to resolve the situation.

Maintain friends and hobbies

You need to take care of yourself, even in a relationship. Don’t give up meeting with friends, your favorite hobby, etc. for your partner. What those things look like may change, but don’t give them up.

Maintain boundaries

If something is unacceptable to you, maintain that boundary. If the other person respects you they will listen. If that ends the relationship, then was the relationship going to last and be a good relationship for you? Probably not.

Listen to them

Don’t listen to be right. Or to disagree. Or even to respond. Listen to understand where they are coming from. Many times, you may both agree more than it initially seems like.

Date each other

Have fun with the relationship. When life gets busy, make sure to keep dating and tell your partner how much they mean to you.

Chris Pleines

Chris Pleines
Dating Expert | Founder, Datingscout.com

Listen

No matter how intense your emotions are, you’ve to make sure that you give importance to what your partner says. If you’re happy because you’re promoted, don’t talk about it all day. Your partner might have something to share too.

If you’re mad because of something that he/she has done to you, you have all the right to get hurt. But your partner also has the right to speak for him/herself. If there’s someone who your partner wants most to listen to what he/she has to say, it’ll always be you.

“Me-Me-Me” attitude is only excusable for toddlers, not you.

Set and respect boundaries

Once you acknowledge and respect that you and your partner are your own person, the relationship grows. This understanding entails immense trust and support as you let your partner flourish, even if it means you spend some time physically apart.

When you respect your partner’s individuality, they’ll also respect yours. This will enable you to act on your dreams and passion, fully knowing that a partner who wishes nothing but the best supports you.

Accept that your partner is not perfect

Set your expectations on a realistic level. Your partner is not perfect either, so the bumps along the way are a normal part of the process.

You show maturity in a relationship when you can accept these things, and don’t try so hard to impose change on things that you don’t like as long as these things don’t do injustice to you. Looking at things from the perspective of your partner will significantly help in achieving this.

Carla Marie Manly, PhD

Carla Marie Manly
Clinical Psychologist | Author, Aging Joyfully and Joy from Fear

You can show maturity in a relationship in several ways

Some people, despite their chronological years, tend to be very mature in relationships while others—who may be older in actual years—may be relatively immature.

For those who want to be more mature in a relationship, it’s important to give ongoing attention to the following areas:

Communication

Mature relationships rely on open, honest communication between partners. Communication that is abusive, critical, or passive-aggressive is immature in nature.

As well, tactics such as closing off or shutting down to avoid communication will keep a relationship in a low-functioning mode. Consistent use of techniques such as “I” messages and “reflective listening” will build your skills—and maturity—in the realm of communication.

Compassion and empathy

Mature relationships have a strong foundation of compassion and understanding. When partners are compassionate and empathic, they can soften and be open to the other person’s thoughts and feelings.

Compassion and empathy also create the ability to compromise and cooperate—which are essential features of a mature relationship. This increases the couple’s connection and level of trust. When compassion and empathy are not present, one or both partners are often mired in emotionally immature, self-absorbed behavior.

Respect

A mature partner understands and honors the importance of bringing consistently respectful behavior into the relationship. This includes consistent attention to creating and maintaining features such as solid boundaries, honesty, and transparency.

When respect is present, a relationship will feel mature, safe, and secure. When respectful behavior is not present, the relationship will suffer from the lack of this basic element.

Mark B. Borg, Jr., PhD

Mark B. Borg
Clinical/Community Psychologist and Psychoanalyst | Author, Don’t Be A Dick: Change Yourself, Change Your World

A mature relationship is the manifestation and expression of the whole history of each partner’s experience of relating to others and to one’s self—starting from our very first breath, likely even before that.

It begins when we meet with and engage in an environment—initially represented by our primary caretakers—that challenges us at every moment of our life to create, to co-create, a “good fit” between our needs and desires and it’s (their) ability to meet them.

It seems logical that a good fit would develop between an environment (other people, starting with our parent) and us (as infants and growing human beings) when the environment “gets it right”—is able to sniff out, detect and effectively fulfill our needs and desires.

But that’s not the case. It’s actually when the environment “gets it wrong” and both environment and infant have to “right” it together that a good fit develops between us and the world. When parent-infant connection fails, the stage is set for a healthy relational development. The process is called “rupture and repair.”

To be mature in a relationship requires five interlocking attributes—the ability and willingness to…

Pause

Some have suggested that mental health itself is the pause between thought and action. Those in mature relationships must be able to respond, rather than react, to the ups and downs of daily life—especially with the likelihood of tumult in the process of loving and being loved.

A mature relationship is difficult to develop in the soil of impulsive action. In pause, a couple can develop a sense of safety. Thoughtful response is required for a sense of peace that we can share and maintain together.

Account

Taking inventory of our contributions to our relationship is crucial for mature relating. This inventory must account for what is good, our assets and solutions as well as what problems, character defects and unresolved conflicts we bring with us.

In this way, there are no heroes and there are no victims, we co-create a sense of togetherness in what begins to feel like our relationship.

Collaborate

In order for a mature relationship to develop, we must base our relationship on a process of reciprocity—a dynamic of giving and taking that allows us to each feel a sense of connection to each other and an ongoing and increasing conscious sense of ownership of our relationship. In this kind of mutuality, the practice of accepting what we each have to offer each other and opening the door to felt emotional connection is experienced as compassionate empathy.

Empower

Empowerment is the sharing of power between people in mature relationship. It is the result of shifting the paradigm of love from one of scarcity (where everything that one person has is something the other does not) to synergy (where what each of us has is more for both—for all—of us). It allows for a sense of we-ness. And in this shared dynamic the relationship is experienced as a third entity that is “us.”

Re-affirm

The dynamics of long-term love don’t simply resolve itself. They’re always in flux, growing and changing and shaping us and our relationship along the way. Especially the dynamics of emotional investment, power and intimacy are ever-shifting.

Therefore, affirming and re-affirming our partner, and our love, is imperative to the maintenance of mature relationship. Affirmation is best offered as a daily—or numbers of times daily—gift to each other, our relationship and our love.

When these attributes combine in a loving relationship, we can open ourselves up to experience and share empathy, intimacy, vulnerability and emotional investment together.

When combined, these attributes result in a dynamic where the goings-on in relationship can be best compared to an ongoing conversation—a way of relating that allows for both closeness and distance, intimacy and solitude, vulnerability and boundaries, and empathy and solitude.

When a relationship makes room for each of us and both of us, solidly grounded on the process of “rupture and repair,” not only is it likely to be a mature one, but also likely that it will be one that is open to continuing growth and development.

Rabbi Shlomo Slatkin, MS, LCPC

Rabbi Shlomo Slatkin
Certified Imago Therapist | Co-founder, The Marriage Restoration Project

While your partner may not always be the most expressive, it doesn’t mean that he/she doesn’t love you. Begin to notice other ways he/she may express his/her love such as doing nice things for you, buying you gifts, providing for the family. While it would be nice for him/her to tell you more often in words, it may be challenging for him/her.

Don’t let it get in the way of your connection. Moreover, make sure you express your appreciation him/her. Try not to be critical. His/Her main aim is to please you and if you pick on him/her, he/she will feel unloved and undervalued.

Find ways to acknowledge what he/she does for you

Being more in a relationship requires one to take personal responsibility. This means no blaming or shaming your partner; rather taking ownership for your feelings, articulating your thoughts, and becoming more conscious of your triggers.

If it’s hysterical, it’s historical. Anything that really pushes your buttons is often more about you than your partner. This is a paradigm shift but when you practice it, you will be healthier mentally and see your relationship shift.

Emotional maturity is the key to detoxing your relationship and creating a safe space.

Lisa S. Larsen, PsyD

Lisa S. Larsen, PsyD
Psychologist

The number one sign of maturity is being able to accept responsibility for one’s own part in an argument or interaction

If we don’t evolve beyond “he/she started it” when arguments happen, then the conflict is very likely to resurface and/or worsen.

I’ve seen many couples where neither person can admit to having any fault or blame and an argument and it is close to impossible to reason with someone who will not take responsibility for their part. It may be difficult at first to recognize that we had a part in an argument or conflict because we’re hurt or feel wronged by the other person.

However, on reflection, most people can see that they had a part in the interaction and the conflict. Sometimes in dysfunctional homes with narcissistic family members, people were always made wrong and so they have a hard time accepting responsibility now because they think that they’re going to be the only person who can admit their wrongdoing.

Other people didn’t have that modeled for them and so they don’t even know that it’s a possibility. The best circumstances when both people can see their part in it and discuss ways to avoid having the same conflict in the future.

Patience is also very important in relationships.

Sometimes we want what we want right now and it’s hard to wait for the other person to have the same opinion or share the same desire in that moment. Sometimes it takes time for the other person to arrive at the same conclusion.

Giving another person the time and space to do that can be helpful and another sign of maturity.

I also believe that allowing a person to be different from you and have different opinions and desires is a sign of maturity. Sometimes we expect other people to think and feel just as we do, or to want the same thing at the same time.

Mature people can recognize that their partner or friend has a different agenda and that does not make their partner’s desire worse than theirs. Sometimes people in relationships lose sight of this and expect everyone to feel the same way and have the same outlook.

The ability to take a step back and recognize our differences respectfully is also a sign of maturity.

Paula Langguth Ryan

Paula Langguth Ryan
Communications Consultant | Author, Manifest the Right and Perfect Mate

My son is currently a sixth grader and the way middle school teens approach relationships strongly mimics the way so many adults approach the topic. My top advice, as a mediator, relationship coach and communications consultant for individuals, couples and even businesses can be summed up in 3 words:

Be fully authentic

Which has so many aspects to it. For instance, I encourage people to have one-on-one authentic conversations – that’s a voice talking to another voice, whether over the phone or in person, or via video chat of some sort.

Most people shy away from this type of communication because they’re afraid. Afraid of hard conversations, afraid of being rejected, afraid of being judged, afraid of…. [insert your personal reason here].

When we text, email, post on social media, or engage in other avoidance types of communications, we create immature, artificial, mono-layered relationships, instead of rich, full, mature relationships.

Of course, even one-on-one “face-to-face” conversations can create a less mature relationship if we’re not versed in HOW to authentically communicate. First off, no triangulating. No more engaging another person to bolster your position. Things like, “well, your mother says I’m right about this.” Or “so-and-so told me you did such-and-such….”

To have more mature conversations, you’ll want to learn how to speak your microscopic truth in ways that are kind, compassionate, and honoring to both parties.

Some of my top tips along this line:

Be honest

If something does feel good to you, or it’s not something you want to do, instead of blowing up, deflecting or blaming, simply say, “that’s not something I’m interested in doing.”

Be kind

Start every conversation with phrases like “I love you, AND…” or “I really appreciate how you…..AND…. ” Follow the “and” with the statement you need to make for yourself.

Such as “I love you, AND I have no interest in going to watch NASCAR.” Or “I really appreciate you, AND I would have more energy for quality time with you if you helped with the morning/evening chores.”

Be motivated to find the common ground

Every relationship issue has a win-win-win solution that doesn’t require “compromise” – which to me is the death knell of relationships.

Relationships require collaboration, not compromise.

Mature relationships are a team sport, not a singles tennis match of opponents.

A couple I worked with came up with a unique collaboration to their completely different tastes in movies, which was creating havoc for their date nights. They started finding theaters where movies each of them would like was playing at close to the same starting time.

They would go out for dinner together, then go to the theater, where they would separately enjoy their movie. Then they’d get back together after the movies for coffee and dessert before heading home together.

Be willing to apologize

Saying “I’m sorry” isn’t an actual apology. Don’t be sorry – just change your behavior. If you realize you screwed something up, don’t make excuses and don’t blame anyone else.

Own what you did and why. Just say, “wow, not going with you to that party wasn’t the best choice in hindsight, but I prefer hanging with just one or two couples instead of big groups. At big parties it’s hard to have deep conversations, and I enjoy getting to really know your friends.”

Tiiu Lutter, MA

Tiiu Lutter
Mental Health Professional | Writer, The Truth About Insurance

There is nothing like being in love to make you act just like a 14 year-old (except maybe visiting your parents). It’s funny, even though we dismiss kids’ feelings as puppy love. But in reality, intense feelings are the same no matter how old you are.

Feelings are physiological experiences that just occur, unsummoned and unexpected. What we do with them is up to each of us; and as we mature, outcomes can get better and better.

Being mature means recognizing what we can control and what we cannot, and making responsible choices

Realize that no one is perfect, and plan to allow for a little grace. This means you assume your partner is well intentioned and check in to see what they really meant when you feel upset.

Know that you can only actually control yourself, and that your feelings will get hurt and you will hurt your partner, so plan to take time to both explain yourself and also listen to the other’s thoughts. Couples who can disagree and recover are way ahead of the game.

As relationships develop, and arguing begins, as it inevitably will, the gifts of maturity are really important.

Remind yourself that disagreement is part of life

Speak to the issue, not the personal characteristics of your partner as you solve the problem. Avoid personal attacks, and check yourself so that you don’t say the unforgivable things.

Anger is always protective. When you find yourself getting angry, ask yourself what your anger is protecting you from; usually it is fear or hurt. If you can share the first, underlying emotion that sparked the anger, you can resolve your pain without a huge fight.

There is great power in saying, “when you said x, that really hurt me.”

Maturity in relationships means thinking before acting, talking about your feelings and developing mutual goals. It means asking questions and actually listening to answers, and creating room to build something together, not pushing for your sole desires.

Jules Purnell, M.Ed.

Jules Purnell, M.Ed.
Sexuality Educator

Part of my personal growth with respect to how I show up in relationships has involved one-on-one therapy and working with a couple’s therapist. This has given me insight into myself as well as how I interact with others romantically.

List down your “needs list” in a partner

Before getting into my current relationship, I took a year off from dating anyone seriously and made an inventory of my wants and needs based on what I learned doing self work and troubleshooting past relationships.

My “needs list” in a partner included things like them having their own support system, such as friends and family.

It’s impossible to have a mature relationship if you don’t have other people in your life that you can process things with, bounce ideas off of, and seek support and guidance from.

It’s not healthy to expect your partner to meet your every social and emotional need. I also knew I needed to be with someone who was mindful of their words and actions, who would be responsible and take accountability for themselves.

Another important one that I had previously overlooked was financial stability. Not wealth, but someone who was gainfully employed and could be responsible with money. This is especially important if you plan to combine households and share finances at some point.

My “wants list” included some of the more frivolous things, like being well traveled, educated, and engaged in some kind of volunteer work or putting good things into the world. I also wanted to be with someone who liked camping and road trips, and preferred someone vegetarian (I didn’t wind up with a vegetarian, but that was lower on my list and was more of an “icing on the cake” quality!).

After I wrote the list, I felt very daunted, like I would never find someone who met my criteria, but the great news is I found a wonderful partner who had (unbeknownst to me) created a similar list which had complementary needs and wants!

We’ve now been together for two years and have a vibrant, growing social and family circle. I now encourage the people I teach about mature, adult relationships to take a similar inventory and encourage the folks they want to date to do the same.

I used a similar strategy when I was job hunting and landed a great job, and am applying it to my friend circle to ensure I have the kind of people in my life I want to be in community with.

Adina Mahalli

Adina Mahalli
Mental Health Consultant And Relationship Expert | Founder, Enlightened Reality

Begin with the fact that people are imperfect

We all come with our own faults and weaknesses and that’s a reality. You can then enter a relationship knowing that there are things about this person that are flawed, at least in your mind. How you view and deal with these flaws is what can determine your level of maturity.

Relationships make us emotionally vulnerable, and the person that brings us the most joy can also be the one that breaks our heart. Forgiveness is what will give you hope that the hurt is just a part of the growth of the relationship.

You must admit to mistakes, own them and learn from them.

It’s a high level of maturity to admit to our own imperfections. The fact that the foundation of a healthy and mature relationship is trust means that jealousy is a non-issue. You’re also able to recognize that you can disagree on issues but there doesn’t need to be a whole battle.

Part of maturity in any relationship is knowing when to stand your ground and when it’s okay to just agree to disagree.

Yocheved Golani

Yocheved Golani
Counselor | Author and Editor, eCounseling.com

You’re already tired of hearing how much forgiveness matters in mature relationships, but it’s one of the fundamentals of a good relationship. So, here’s a thought to perk up your sense of “I’m going to be mature about this” perspective: Refusing to forgive someone is like taking poison in the hope that the other person will die.

Think that through.

Is it so important for you to be “right” in a discussion, to fight about the topic until both sides feel anger and resentment, or more important to have a functional relationship? Relatives, lovers, colleagues, neighbors, and everyone else can benefit as much from forgiveness as you can.

Maturity means that you allow the ebb and flow of satisfaction and disappointment, giving in and giving up

Maturity also calls for letting someone win an argument even if you don’t agree with them. You can think to yourself or say aloud “OK, you have a valid point, but we’ll have to agree to disagree. I see things another way and it makes sense to me.”

In most cases, all of you can cooperate with each other despite divergent points of view. Males and females have different thinking processes. So do friends, people of different ages and cultures.

Maturity in those relationships means practicing patience until you understand the other person’s point of view. You clarify things by asking “Did you mean…?” and “Can you explain that to me another way? I didn’t understand.”

Stating your perception of the other person’s position after the clarifications have been made and asking “Is that right?” lets everyone communicate more successfully and happily. The entire effort leads to understanding each other and continuing instead of ending, limiting, or otherwise harming the relationship.

Lowering your expectations from time to time can help

All of us go through times when we’re not on top of our game, feeling down, distracted, sick, or tired. Bear with that just as you need people to put up with your less than stellar moments. They’re temporary.

Go for depth, not superficiality. Control your impulses. Focus on living with integrity and pleasant behavior. Tantrums or emotional outbursts such as lies, refusing to accept responsibility, and loud voices are the polar opposite of maturity.

Pace yourself when you feel anger or frustration, especially if you want to express it. Pause to choose neutral words instead of accusations and vulgarities. Sometimes, just being silent and breathing for a bit can calm a situation and the people involved.

Verbal abuse is never excusable. Physical violence due to anger is never justified.

Develop your self respect by behaving sensibly. Excuse yourself from a discussion until you calm down, if necessary. That shows compassion for everyone involved.

You can also admit to mistakes, adding to your integrity and trustworthiness. Enjoy the fin of laughing at yourself from time to time. And while we’re on the topic of going for depth, focus on being supportive of yourself and other people.

Praise efforts. Praise thinking patterns. Praise results. And always thank someone for doing the best the could, especially in trying situations. Do the things above, and choose friends plus partners who behave the same way. All of you will be happier, well-adjusted people for the wise decision.

Jeff Campbell

Jeff Campbell
Relationship Blogger, Middle Class Dad

From a relationship standpoint, I’ve been married (2nd time) to my wife for 13 years and while our marriage was headed for divorce in 2013, it’s better than ever now.

A mature relationship requires a few key things and the more someone can implement these things, the longer the relationship will last and the better it will be.

Learn to put aside our ego

A wise person once said you can be right or you can be happy, but you can’t always be both. They were almost certainly talking about marriage communication.

I can stand on my principals in the heat of an argument with my wife, or I can let go of the need to “win” every time and just accept that we might have different points of view.

Give the benefit of the doubt

By that I mean, I don’t assume the worst if something happens I don’t understand. For example, if my wife’s phone rings late as night, I wouldn’t jump to some conclusion without additional information.

Realize that you can only control yourself and not your partner

So many couples get fouled up with having expectations of one another and then spend so much time being angry when the person fails to live up to those. A mature partner has to realize that the only thing they can truly control is themselves and their own actions, statements, and reactions.

It’s totally OK to talk set mutually agreed upon goals. But, if instead of expectations, we simply focus on appreciating what they do and who they are we’ll be MUCH happier. So we have to stop placing unreasonable expectations on each other that build resentment, frustration, and often make the relationship competitive in an unhealthy way.

Communicate in a way that doesn’t make our partner defensive or feel criticized

Many of us get our feelings hurt over something and lash out. In those cases, we aren’t really trying to feel heard or understood. We are trying to hurt our partner the way we feel they hurt us.

I like to use a formula called “when you . . . I feel . . . because . . . “

A bad example of an argument might be “where the heck were you last night?? You couldn’t have simply called or texted to say you were going out with your friends?? You’re so selfish and don’t care about me at all!”

Instead, a mature couple could communicate the exact same thing with:

“When you forget to call or text when you’re going to be out super later, I feel scared because I don’t know where you are or if something has happened to you. I know you were just out with friends and I don’t need to be constantly updated or get an exact ETA of when you’ll be home. I just would appreciate a little consideration so I don’t spend all night worried.”

Thomas R. Harris

Thomas R. Harris
Owner, The Exceptional Skills

Resist the desire to get even

All too often, one person does something negative (or it’s perceived negative), so the other person wants to get back at the person and does something negative back. This creates a negative cycle that causes much harm in the relationship.

Instead, when someone does something negative to you (whether with words or doing something you don’t like), resist that urge to get back at them. Ask yourself why a good, rational person may have said or done that (instead of the negative intent we too often assume).

When both of you are calm, sit down and talk to the person about it. Use I-messages: “When you say/do this, it makes me feel X” or “I feel X when you do Y because Z”.

Even if they don’t listen or they did it out of spite toward you, resisting that urge to get back at them and working toward restoring the relationship is a sign of high maturity on your part.