Picture this: You’re out on the town with your partner at a fancy new restaurant. Everything seems perfect. But when you try asking them about your future together, they keep switching the subject.
Finally, you point it out, only to have them crack a joke at your expense — leaving you feeling all shades of frustration.
While we’ve all had our moments of childishness, these antics can end up taking a toll on relationships, because the other person is failing to take your feelings into account.
Someone emotionally immature will find it hard to effectively communicate or process their emotions and can often appear selfish or aloof.
Here’s a look at some signs of emotional immaturity that can show up in a relationship and steps you can take if you recognize them in your own.
They won’t go deep
As we can see in the above scenario, an emotionally immature partner will delay tough conversations because they aren’t able to make sense of their feelings or find them too overwhelming to deal with.
They’ll skim the surface of topics without revealing much and won’t connect with you on a deeper level.
Here are some diversion tactics they might use:
- laughing instead of opening up
- telling you they have to fix the TV at that moment
- saying they’re too stressed to talk
- postponing your discussion for next week
Everything is about them
This one’s a biggie. People who are emotionally immature will always bring in the “me factor” at inappropriate times. They may have a hard time understanding that the world doesn’t revolve around them.
If your partner doesn’t pay attention to your concerns or interests, it’s a clear sign they have some emotional growing to do.
They become defensive
If you bring something up, they’ll get overly defensive.
For example, if you complain that they didn’t take out the garbage like they said they would, they’ll respond with “Why are you always on my case?” or crack a condescending joke like, “Looks like someone’s PMSing.”
They have commitment issues
Talking about the future can feel intimidating to someone who is emotionally immature. They’ll avoid planning things together because they’re afraid of limiting their freedom.
Do they make up excuses for not meeting your parents or trying to schedule a vacation together? It can be a sign they’re commitment-phobic.
They don’t own their mistakes
In short: They aren’t accountable.
Instead of being thoughtful and admitting when they’ve messed up, they’ll place the blame on other people or circumstances beyond their control.
Here are some things they might say:
- “My boss kept sending me emails and I didn’t get around to it.”
- “Steve wanted to have another drink so I couldn’t make it home on time.”
- “My assistant forgot to remind me of today’s lunch date.”
You feel more alone than ever
More than anything, you feel lonely and sense an “intimacy gap” in your relationship.
Bonding or connecting with your significant other becomes stunted because you feel a lack of support, understanding, and respect.
There’s also no way for you to articulate your needs and desires to discuss improvements.
If you find yourself nodding along and recognize the above signs in your partner, not all hope is lost. Emotional immaturity doesn’t necessarily mean things aren’t destined to work out.
The key factor here is if the other person is willing to make a change. If so, below are some ways you can approach this kind of behavior.
Initiate a straightforward conversation
Bring it to their attention. One of the simplest yet potent things we can do is to talk to the other person and be open to feedback.
You can let them know how their behavior is affecting you by using “I” statements and then proposing possible solutions.
This trains your brain to respond, and not react out of anger or frustration.
Here are some of the following you can try:
- “When we moved in together, we had plans to marry in a year. I feel hurt and concerned that you won’t discuss the topic with me anymore. Would you please help me figure out the reasons you’re hesitating?”
- “When I am doing so many chores around the house every day, I feel overwhelmed and exhausted. Are there ways you can help me out with the weekly laundry and food preparation?”
Create healthy boundaries
Stop picking up the slack for your partner and engaging with them when they come up with excuses for poor choices.
It’s important they understand that their behavior has consequences and that you won’t keep participating in their unhealthy dynamic.
- Be self-aware. Have an awareness of your own comfort level. Identify which situations make you feel hurt, uneasy, or angry.
- Communicate with your partner. Mention that there are certain things you won’t tolerate, like being shouted at or lied to.
- Follow through on what you say. No exceptions. This can mean taking the high road during temper tantrums and letting them know you’ll be willing to talk once they’re ready to discuss things maturely.
Seek professional help
Talking through fears and insecurities can help someone develop more self-awareness about the effect their actions have on others.
If your partner is willing to work on themselves, addressing issues with a qualified therapist can help them identify their feelings and find healthy coping skills.
Emotional maturity is defined by the ability to manage our emotions and take full responsibility for our actions. At the end of the day, no matter how hard we may try to communicate with our partner, it’s up to them to recognize that their behavior needs to change.
If you’ve been together forever and you feel there’s a good chance they won’t grow out of their childish ways, it’s time to move on. One foolproof sign? They keep making the same mistakes over and over again.
Remember: You deserve to be in a loving, supportive relationship with a partner who values you — not someone who you’ll end up feeling lonely with.
Cindy Lamothe is a freelance journalist based in Guatemala. She writes often about the intersections between health, wellness, and the science of human behavior. She’s written for The Atlantic, New York Magazine, Teen Vogue, Quartz, The Washington Post, and many more. Find her at cindylamothe.com.