Without emotional maturity, it’s nearly impossible to build a healthy bond with someone. This is why emotionally immature partners often struggle to form stable relationships. But what is the meaning of emotional maturity?
According to Monique Judge, editor of The Root, “emotional maturity is the ability to handle situations without escalating them. Instead of seeking to blame someone else for their problems or behaviors, emotionally mature people seek to fix the problem or behavior. They accept accountability for their actions.”
Emotional immaturity instead, as Samantha Burns, relationship counselor, explains in one of her articles, “can reflect a lack of depth and understanding about one’s own emotions, inability to communicate and process things related to the relationship, as well as lack of empathy and ability to understand your partner’s emotional experiences.”
There are some traits emotionally immature partners tend to have in common, that you can learn to identify and avoid to improve your relationship — especially if you or your partner struggle with one or more of them.
1. Emotionally Immature Partners Use Passive-Aggressive Communication
In a recent article, I talked about my friend Mark and his girlfriend Dana. One of their problems has always been that they communicate quite differently. Mark tends to be assertive, while Dana often uses passive-aggressive communication, which I find is damaging their relationship.
One day, Mark told Dana he would go out with his friends on a Friday night and asked her if she could take their dog out and feed him. She assured him she would take care of it. On that Friday night, when he arrived back home, he found the dog crying, at home alone, without food.
Dana was not at home, so he called her. She replied she was feeling alone, so she went to a club with her friends (without letting him know). The following day, when Mark called her out on her behavior, she said it was simply fair to have a girls’ night, as lately he “wasn’t spending much time with her.”
Can you see the problem here? If Dana felt Mark wasn’t spending enough time with her, she could have assertively expressed her opinion. Also, if she wanted to spend a night with her friends, she could have told Mark. Instead, she chose to speak with her actions, “forgetting” about the dog, without letting Mark know about her plans.
How to avoid this
Always choose assertive communication over passive-aggressive behaviors. Anytime you feel upset or disappointed about something, learn to express your ideas in an honest, direct, and respectful way. With this approach, your relationship can only improve.
2. They Struggle to Apologize
Emotionally immature partners hardly ever apologize. Instead, they tend to blame you, change things around, and, as Nick Wignall mentioned in one of his articles, they are not able to respond in a mature way to genuine feedback and criticism.
An example of this is how Dana behaved with Mark on that Friday night. Did she apologize in the end? No. She tried to make Mark feel guilty for going out with his friends instead of staying home with her.
Deep down, emotionally immature partners know when they are wrong, but they tend to deny it to themselves too. To avoid taking responsibility for what they did or said, they focus on what you did so that you feel bad for it — this behavior is also known as blame-shifting.
How to avoid this
Anytime your partner calls you out on something you did or whenever conflict arises, ask yourself these questions: “What could I have done better here?” “Would the best version of myself have behaved like this?”
Mature and confident partners are the ones who have the courage to question themselves, recognize their mistakes, and apologize.
3. They Tend to Use Words to Hurt
After Mark and Dana talked about what had happened on that Friday night, she told him he should grow up, and that he was too used to his mother doing everything for him. She knew that would hurt him — as Mark had recently moved out his parents’ house — and she used it against him, simply because she was upset.
Telling him those things was unnecessary, but she chose to use those words against him to punish him for his behavior.
How to avoid this
Anytime you are about to say something you could regret, think about how it could damage the relationship in the long-term. If you still feel upset, create some space from your partner, write down how you feel, and then allow yourself some time to cool off.
As Barry Davret explains in one of his articles, writing down what is going on in your mind will help you dissipate your negative emotions. Taking your time to calm down will help you process and elaborate your emotions without acting on them.
4. They Are Excessively Jealous
Let’s be honest, we are all at least a little jealous, every now and then. Feeling jealous doesn’t necessarily make you immature or insecure. However, a consistent feeling of intense jealousy for your partner is definitely a sign of insecurity and emotional immaturity.
One day I saw my friend Mark in a restaurant — Dana didn’t know me at the time. Mark came to say hi and introduced me to Dana. We didn’t kiss or hug; we just said hi and talked for a few minutes. After that, Dana asked him who I was, how we met, and why he was so friendly and warm with me.
Mark explained to Dana we had been good friends for almost ten years, and that nothing ever happened between us. However, she kept asking questions about me, such as if I had a boyfriend and if we lived close by.
I don’t know about you, but when someone acts like that, the first thing I perceive is immaturity.
How to avoid this
Work on your self-confidence. And remember that if your partner is with you, there is a reason. Trust your partner and remind yourself of your own value and why they chose you. Be the person they fell in love with.
Of course, if your partner gives you clear reasons to be jealous — for example, they blatantly flirt with other people or cheat on you — respect yourself and walk away.
5. They Expect to Be Put on a Pedestal
Emotionally immature partners usually want to be your number one priority all the time. Now, making your partner a priority is not a bad thing at all, in fact, it’s essential for a relationship to be healthy.
The problem arises when you want your partner to make you their only priority — for example, you don’t want them to go out with their friends, spend time on their hobbies or visit their family.
Immature partners want you to be focused only on them. An example of this is when Dana was upset because Mark wanted to go out with the guys. Instead of being happy for him having a good time with his friends, she was resentful.
She looked for ways to make Mark feel bad for not spending time with her. Instead, she could have used that me time to focus on herself and on something that made her feel really good.
How to avoid this
Remember that time apart is essential to the health of your relationship. If you struggle with this, learn to be emotionally independent and spend more time on the things you love. Focus a bit more on yourself.
If you let your partner spend time doing what they love without being upset, you will show emotional maturity and confidence. And they will feel happy and lucky to have you by their side.
6. They Easily Get Defensive
According to an article published in Psychology Today, defensive mechanisms are “strategies whereby individuals protect themselves from anxious thoughts or feelings.”
As Susan Heitler explains in one of her articles published in Psychology Today, emotionally immature adults often use these mechanisms whenever they don’t want to deal with a problem or resolve conflict. For example, they can deny something they said or did, or use projection by attributing their unacceptable feelings or desires to someone else.
How to avoid this
Learn to observe your behaviors and to accept accountability for your actions. A great way to work on these unconscious mechanisms is cognitive behavioral therapy, as it focuses on modifying dysfunctional emotions, behaviors, and thoughts by working on negative, harmful beliefs.
Emotional maturity is all about the ability to identify and work on your emotions, acknowledge other people’s emotions, and accept accountability for your actions.
Avoiding passive-aggressive communication, learning to recognize your mistakes, avoiding hurting with words, working on overcoming jealousy, and letting your partner have their space, are all things that can help you become a better, more emotionally mature partner.
Relationships are our best teachers. How we feel and behave around our partner is often a reflection of our true essence. It’s also a good indicator of our level of self-confidence and self-respect — and most importantly, of the things we should work on.
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Article originally published on Medium – PS I Love You
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