When you think about it, there's a pretty big difference between the activities couples do in the early days of dating, and the bonding activities for couples that are done later on, once they realize things are getting serious. In the beginning, it's all about keeping things light and fun, and getting to know each other — and that's great. But once you start to see a future together, the things you do together take on a whole new meaning.
There are several things all mature couples should do together in order to make sure they're on the same page, such as discussing finances or the future. And there are several things all couples should do in order to keep their relationship healthy, fair, and fun. "When it comes to building and maintaining relationships, it's the little things that matter," Chicago-area couples therapist Theresa Herring, LMFT tells Bustle. "What you do daily will matter much more than what you do once in awhile. The success of relationships is in the couple's habits and rituals."
Whether it's planning a vacation, talking about money, divvying up household chores, or simply checking in with each other after a busy day, experts say these are the things you should do with your partner in order to further cultivate a "grown-ass" relationship.
1. Sorting Out Your Finances
If you can see your relationship going the distance, one of the most mature things you can do as a couple is sit down and talk about your finances. "The reason for this is to make sure you are financially compatible," licensed psychotherapist Nikita Banks, LCSW tells Bustle. Are you both OK with sticking to a certain budget? Do you know about each other's debt?
Answering these questions will help kick off a bonafide relationship, as will the vulnerability of it all. Banks says nothing can bond a couple faster than breaking out a bank statement and being honest about your finances.
2. Planning Out Your Holidays
If you're in a mature, committed relationship, you've likely already worked out your holiday plans. And that's a good thing. "You both should either have a routine about whose family/friends you spend holidays with or be able to openly discuss what these special days will look like," marriage and family therapist Racine R. Henry, PhD, LMFT, tells Bustle. If you find yourself having to guess year after year, however, Henry says it may be time to have a talk.
3. Spending Time Apart
In order to keep things healthy, you'll both want to feel good about spending time apart — even if it's just for an hour or two. As Henry says, "The hallmark of a grown-ass relationship is knowing how to remain an independent individual. This does not mean you behave like you're single if your partner isn't in the room." But it does mean giving each other space when you need it, and having a life outside your relationship.
4. Planning A Big Trip
Planning a vacation is another way to instantly learn more about each other, while testing the the health of your relationship. "Whether it's a simple road trip or 10 days in Europe, you should be able to compromise on an itinerary, accommodations, etc.," says Henry.
And, in doing so, you'll quickly figure out if you can work well together. "You have to agree on who's going to bring the dog to the kennel, who's packing the sunscreen, and how you're going to divide expenses," she says. "Traveling together will definitely strengthen your bond or reveal how fragile it is. If you survive it, this shows how well you both work together to problem solve."
5. Trying Something New
Falling into a rut is a major mistake many long-term couples make, which is why it's important to go out of your way to keep things fresh. "Investing in your relationship sometimes means escaping the confines of your everyday life and routine and having some fun," says Herring. "Whether it's picking up a new hobby or sport or trying a new restaurant, novelty is necessary. Relationships suffer when they get routine, stagnant, and boring. Learning and experiencing new things together can bring fresh energy into your relationship."
6. Cooking For Friends Or Family
Nothing screams "adult couple" quite like inviting people over and cooking for them, even if it's just artfully arranging fruits and cheeses on a plate. "Cooking together in the kitchen is an excellent opportunity to work together and to show off your bond to your family [or friends]," Dr. Sal Raichbach PsyD, LCSW of Ambrosia Treatment Center, tells Bustle. "Plus, you get a delicious meal of it too! And you’ll both feel accomplished and satisfied in more ways than one."
7. Discussing The Future
Even though it can be nerve-wracking, you should be able to chat about the future, and what you think it holds for you and your partner. "If you want to move in together, have a baby, get married, etc., this should not be news to your partner," says Henry. "If you find that you can't bring up any of these topics because you know they don't want the same thing, you should probably start thinking about leaving the relationship. Some things you can't compromise on and you two need to be on the same page."
8. Checking In On Each Other
Mature couples also have a knack for checking in on each other, and offering support when necessary. "Whether your partner just got a new job or just lost their job, you should know how to comfort and support him/her," Henry says. "You both should know how the other person likes to be celebrated and comforted."
9. Going On Dates
Date night might feel like something reserved for couples who are just getting to know each other, but it's important to keep up in the long-term, too. "You need to keep those fires lit, which keeps you sexually attracted to each other over the years," dating and relationship coach Susan McCord tells Bustle. Again, it's all about keeping that spark alive.
10. Divvying Up The Chores
Even though it's not always "fun," mature couples aren't afraid to talk about chores, or to divide them up in a way that feels fair. As licensed psychotherapist Annie Wright, MFT tells Bustle, "Couples who can work through the sometimes-tough conversations about who does what ... can, in my opinion, strengthen the shared respect, power, and emotional intimacy between them."
11. Going To Therapy, If Necessary
Hey, if you need therapy, it's totally OK to go by yourself, or with your partner, in order to learn more about yourself and your relationship. "When a mature couple encounters relationship barriers, counseling can help with determining how to proceed," Dr. Alicia Hodge, a registered psychology associate, tells Bustle. "Additionally, not all couples come to therapy at their breaking point. Some couples seek services prior to marriage, relocation, a family birth and/or death. These decisions, made jointly, ultimately bond a pair and can make their relationship even stronger and sustainable."
And this is, of course, the ultimate goal of a long-term, mature, "grown ass" relationship. By doing these activities together, experts say you can strengthen your connection, and grow together as a couple.