Love is one of those abstract concepts that is so subjective, it causes many people confusion. There is a hierarchy of feelings, from crushes to infatuation to true love, so how do you know where you stand? Long-lasting relationships are based on mature love and a healthy relationship; this is the type of love that, while not perfect (who is?), can weather any storm. It takes a lot of effort and hard work, yes, but for those looking for a committed, meaningful relationship, it can be worth it.
The Ingredients for a Healthy Relationship
For starters, "Romance and sex are vital to any intimate relationship. But there’s no excuse to get lazy and just not bother being fully present as romance rolls into the routine of daily life," reads a 2015 article in Psychology Today. As you approach a mature relationship, "You’ll fully expose the real you—flaws, weird habits and all," notes the online dating site Zoosk.
But what exactly does it take to get to this stage in a relationship? Most experts agree, however, that if you're thinking, "I want a mature love that I can feel free to be myself and know that my partner has my back," there are distinct characteristics that most solid relationships are grounded in.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, however, experts say you're on the right track if your relationship can be characterized by the following:
- Respect: That means mutual respect, as we all know relationships are a two-way street. "If you find yourself showing more respect to people you hardly know than you show your partner, take a step back and revisit your priorities," writes Devon Corneal in Real Simple, though he is not a therapist or relationship expert and instead derives insights from a decade of marriage.
- Open Communication: “Knowing that you are being heard is one of the experiences most likely to cement a feeling of connection to another,” according to F. Diane Barth, L.C.S.W, for Psychology Today.
- Trust: In another article for Psychology Today, psychologist and author Andrea Bonior, Ph.D. says, “It’s imperative that you stop saying things that you won’t follow through on, or that don’t represent your actual feelings. Even what seem like minor lies, when chronic, will tell the other person that they should no longer trust the things that come out of your mouth.” Broadly speaking, build trust by being willing to open yourselves up to the things that scare or embarrass you—the right partner will handle these things with care and compassion.
- You Fight, But Fairly: Approaching conflict with empathy is critical when things get heated. And more often than not, "Most fights start when one or both partners feel misunderstood," says Dr. Samantha Rodman, a clinical psychologist in a Talkspace blog post. Aiming for empathy can help de-escalate situations, Dr. Rodman continues. "They can see you are trying to understand their viewpoint. This reaction can defuse the tension."
- Individuality: In healthy, mature relationships, partners don't lose their sense of self. "Healthy couples recognize that change is good and developing identity is a lifelong process," says psychologist Ryan Howes, Ph.D, ABPP for HuffPost. "They encourage new hobbies, career paths, friendships, and interests their partners embark upon. Of course, it is natural to feel fear if the change threatens your livelihood or sense of safety, but hopefully you can communicate this and navigate the changes together."
Inspiring Quotes About Mature Love
That said, love means something different for everyone, so we compiled a few definitions from relationship experts and public figures past and present to shed some light on their version of love, from the romantic to the practical and singular:
- "Love is a moment and a lifetime. It is looking at him across a room and feeling that if I don't spend the rest of my life with him, I'll have missed the boat. Love is working together, laughing together, growing together. It is respect for each other and the people each cares about, however difficult it is sometimes to like his kinfolk or his friends. Love is wanting to shout from the rooftops the successes, little and big of one another. Love is wanting to wipe away the tears when failure comes. Love is liking the feel of each other. It is wanting to have children together because they are the exclamation point of love. Love is laughter, especially in the middle of a quarrel." – Liz Carpenter, author of Getting Better All the Time (1987)
- "Someone else's love story is never going to be yours. True love is woven out of honoring and understanding each other's unique gifts, vulnerabilities, and eccentricities." — Dr. John Gottman of The Gottman Institute, in a Facebook post, 2013
- "Kathy Freston, author of The One: Finding Soul Mate Love and Making It Last, says the clearest sign you're in the right relationship is that 'you like who you're becoming when you're with this person.' So in the end, it's all about finding your best self, not losing yourself in another. About finding someone you like yourself with, not someone to save you from yourself." —Arianna Huffington, author of On Becoming Fearless ...in Love, Work, and Life (2006)
- “Immature love says: 'I love you because I need you.' Mature love says 'I need you because I love you.” — Erich Fromm, psychologist, and philosopher in The Art of Loving (1956)
The Final Word
There's no way around mature love and a healthy relationship without becoming intimately familiar with your feelings. While there are no guarantees, love takes an emotional risk. Mature love makes us feel safe, nurtured, and cherished by another person. Knowing that there is someone you can count on in all of the ups and downs of life is one of few unparalleled feelings.