How to Be an Adult in Relationships When the Going Gets Tough

Building a healthy relationship takes time, effort, and commitment. By finding ways to stay connected and be respectful of each other, you can strengthen your bond and, in turn, your relationship. These are just a few changes you can make to how you communicate and interact with each other, to create a healthy, adult relationship.

Communicate directly

Communicating well is vital in every healthy, adult relationship. Both you and your partner should feel comfortable expressing your needs and concerns.

Being an adult in a relationship means being clear and up-front in your communication. You can’t expect your partner to mindread, so you should directly communicate your thoughts and feelings. Doing this means you avoid any confusion and any resentment building up due to your partner not guessing what you’re going through.

It can be scary and vulnerable to express what you need, but in a healthy relationship, both people will feel comfortable doing so. This means there needs to be a strong foundation of trust and the knowledge that you can express yourselves without judgement.

Good communication includes listening well. When your partner is talking to you, give them your full attention and try to engage with what they’re saying. This will make them feel valued in the relationship.

Create quality time

In our hectic day-to-day lives, your relationship can end up falling on the list of your priorities, when work, kids, and household chores seem to become more important. You might not be prioritising spending real quality time together, which means you don’t get a chance to enjoy each other.

To be in an adult relationship, you will both need to carve out space to spend quality time together. This quality time will look different for everyone. It could be eating at least one meal together with a no phones rule, so you can give each other your full attention. It could be a monthly date night or activity day, where you go somewhere new or take part in a shared hobby.

The aim of spending quality time together, no matter what that looks like, is to show each other that your relationship is a priority that deserves time being spent on it. It can demonstrate how much you value your partner and reignite the sense of fun and play that you may have had in the early days of your relationship. This can help to alleviate stress and also strengthen your bond, so you can take on challenges together more easily.

Express your gratitude

It can be all too easy to take our partners for granted, especially when we’re living busy lives. But when we’re not shown appreciation, we can grow resentful and angry. So, showing your gratitude to your partner can create a much more positive environment.

When you’re appreciated in a relationship, you’ll also find it easier to express your gratitude back. Showing appreciation for your partner can happen in all kinds of ways. You can show gratitude for their qualities that you love and that make a difference to your interactions.

It might be that they remain calm in a crisis, they’re kind and generous, or they always make you and your family feel loved. You can also show gratitude for the things they do, such as household chores. It might be a part of a daily routine, but showing gratitude will let your partner know that what they do is valued by you, and their efforts aren’t going unnoticed.

You can take a few minutes every day for you to each tell each other something that you’re grateful the other person did, said, or how they behaved that day. You can also use the Morale app to send positive affirmations and let your partner know they’re appreciated.

Find ways to be intimate

Intimacy is an important part of an adult relationship. Intimacy includes physical intimacy, which isn’t just limited to sex. It could be kissing, hugging, holding hands – basically, anything which involves physical touch. Physical intimacy boosts oxytocin in the body, which can help to strengthen the bonds in our relationship.

You should communicate with your partner what sort of physical touch they want and need from the relationship. Giving each other space is just as important as being intimate, so you should look for a balance that both of you are happy with.  

Intimacy isn’t just restricted to physical touch. There are many ways you can be intimate to build a healthier, more adult relationship. You can have a deep and meaningful conversation, discussing the things that really matter to you, as a way to strengthen your emotional intimacy. You can boost your spiritual intimacy by taking a trip together and experiencing the beauty of nature together. Being intimate will look different in every relationship, so find what strengthens your bonds together.

Approach conflict respectfully

Conflict is an inevitable part of every relationship. The key is to approach it in a respectful manner. You should try to really listen to what your partner is saying. You might feel yourself getting defensive, but remember that you love each other. One way to avoid attacking the other person is to use “I” statements instead of “you”. So, you can say “I feel frustrated when you do that” rather than “you make me feel frustrated”. You’re still expressing your point, but the other person won’t feel so attacked.

You should try to keep the discussion focused on the issue. Don’t bring up old arguments or other issues that you’re upset about. Deal with one thing at a time. If there needs to be a separate discussion about something that happened in the past that still upsets you, you can have that conversation at a later date. Keeping the discussion focussed will help to reach a conclusion.

If things get too heated, it can be best to take a pause and allow both of you time to calm down. You’ll probably find that when you return to the discussion, you’re both in a better place to listen to each other and solve the problem.

Know when to let go

When we’re in the midst of a conflict, it can be a challenge to let go. We might be stuck on proving that we’re right or that we have the best point of view. However, in an adult relationship, compromise is key. Your partner will have a viewpoint that’s important to them, just like yours is to you. When working through conflict, try to take a step back and see if there’s somewhere you can meet in the middle.

Sometimes, the best answer to a conflict is just to agree to disagree. There doesn’t need to be one “winner”. You can both have valid points of view even if you disagree with each other. Rather than dragging out an argument that isn’t going anywhere, agree to end it where it is and move on.

Stay curious

Staying curious about your partner can help to strengthen your relationship and remind you why you fell in love with them in the first place. Ask them questions about what they think and how they feel. Remaining interested in your partner is an important part of a healthy, engaged relationship.

When you communicate with them, take some time to reflect on their thought processes and allow them the opportunity to do the same or you. This can be especially helpful in a conflict and can help you both to better understand each other.

Expect ups and downs

Every relationship will have ups and downs. There’s no such thing as a perfect relationship. Accepting that there will be bad times as well as good can help you both to get through the negative experiences.

It might be that one of you is having a bad time, and the other needs to be on hand to help you through it. In this case, it’s important not to take your stress and anger out on your partner. It can help to discuss what you’re going through with your partner, but make sure you don’t pick arguments as a way to vent.

It might be that you both find yourself in a conflict that you have to work through together. In this situation, remember your open and respectful communication. Keep in mind that you both might have different ways of dealing with stress. If one of you likes to talk things through and the other needs time to deliberate, try to find a compromise that allows for both.

It can be helpful in any adult, healthy relationship to be flexible. There will always be change. Adapting to this change and allowing yourself and your partner space to grow and develop will be vital in maintaining a strong bond.