A previous post, Toddlers in Love, pointed out that many people in committed relationships go through a period of high emotional reactivity, which makes them feel like they can't be themselves around each other. This common phase of relationship development is due to the Grand Contradiction of human nature - opposing drives to be autonomous yet connected. The current post is about balancing these competing drives.
Characteristics of adults in love
Adults admit that they don't know how to make a modern committed relationship work. (There's no way we could know - biology has not prepared us, tradition is hopelessly outdated, and pop-psychology gives little more than platitudes.) Once we let go of the illusion that we know how to make love work, we're relieved of the ego burden of defending our preconceptions of what relationships should be. Then we are free to use our innate motivation to learn, applied specifically to learning how to love the unique persons we come to love.
Adults know how to switch out of the toddler brain. The human brain must do three operations when confronted with a bad situation; the first is in the toddler brain (in advanced development by age two), while the second two are in the adult brain (in advanced development around age 28). First we must feel (acknowledge) the signal of possible trouble. In the adult brain, we must assess how bad things are and how much damage has occurred. But then we must shift quickly into the repair-improvement mode - we have to figure out how to make things better. Toddlers in love stay stuck in a feedback loop of bad feeling-assessment-bad feeling. Adults in love develop the skill to move easily into improvement-repair mode.