by: E.B. Johnson
It isn’t always easy to build a life with someone else. We have to re-discover a new sense of balance together and make room for one another’s emotions. That’s hard to do when we aren’t on the same maturity level. Is your partner an immature person? Do they resort to petty arguments? Or lack a certain awareness that makes your relationship a struggle? While serious decisions may come, you first need to get some perspective. That requires understanding, and it requires compassion and good intention too.
Signs your partner is immature.
There’s no hiding the signs of an immature person. Rather than moving consciously through the world, they are creatures of reaction. They have a need for attention and aren’t above going for the lowest fruit when it comes to arguments and differences in a relationship. Is your partner immature? Awareness of the following behaviors is an important first step in figuring out where to go next.
Need to be in charge
Would you say your partner is the alpha in your relationship? Did you willingly give them this title — or is one they took for themselves like a toddler-tyrant? When your partner insists on being the boss in the relationship (and uses that to put you in a place of inferiority) you’re looking at someone who cares more about themselves than anything else in life. Partnerships have nothing to do with forceful domination. Healthy relationships require partners that work to establish the balance they need equally.
For a relationship to be worthwhile, partners have to come together and acknowledge one another’s needs and feelings. What happens when you express your emotions to your partner? Do they welcome your need to open up? Do they run away from you? Avoid you? Dismiss the way you’re feeling? An immature person often struggles with confronting emotional issues in a partnership. Rather than address what’s wrong, they’d rather dismiss the issues and focus on what matters to them.
For many, their immature antics center around the need for attention. Would you describe your partner as someone who is an attention hog? Maybe they crave attention and demand to be at the center of attention at all times. They may also exhibit other more subtle behaviors like over-sharing on social media (even if it damages your relationship). Their need for attention can even drive them into the arms of jealousy.
Going for low blows
What happens when you and your loved one get into a fight? Do they try to bring down the emotion? Do they try to see things from your point of view? Or is their primary priority to “get even” or prove that they’re right at any cost? These are trademark signs of an immature person. They fight dirty. Name calling and petty shade throwing are only a few of the tools in their arsenal.
A lack of emotional awareness is a trademark sign of an immature partner. Maturity refers to a lot of things, but in a relationship it especially refers to our ability to understand our own emotions and the emotions of our partners. This is the key to getting on the same page. It’s the key to working together and making it last. Your partner needs to understand how they feel, and how their emotions impact your partnership as a whole. Without that, you’re looking forward to selfish behavior and hurt feelings all around.
We’ve all known someone in our lives who loves to aggravate others. They love to irritate those around them for entertainment. What happens to the other person doesn’t really concern them. You may find that they always pick fights with you, or that they do little things to make you explode in anger or exasperation. Over time, this creates resentment and feelings of distrust.
Does your partner or spouse act like that are entitled to you? While that mature partner knows that they are building a life with another person (versus building a life over someone else), the same cannot be said for the immature spouse. They think they’re entitled to your time and affection and don’t make any effort to return the investment you make in them. This doesn’t work if we want something that lasts. In order to keep working together, we have to put as much into our time together as we get out of it.
Being passive aggressive
In life, we are forced to confront uncomfortable issues and mistakes. While this isn’t ever easy, it’s necessary, and our ability to do it effectively grows with maturity. It’s not the same for the immature person. As they haven’t fully become aware of who they are or what they want yet, they often struggle with confrontation. Additionally, they are sore losers. SO, when their egos are injured, this results in passive aggressive behavior that rips apart our faith in one another.
Does your partner have a hard time admitting when they’re wrong? What happens when they make a mistake? Do they apologize and make changes? Or find someone else to blame? An inability to take responsibility is a very common sign of immaturity in our partners and spouses. They can’t admit when they’re wrong, and they are always on the defensive. There is always an excuse or a justification. And you’re often the one forced to shoulder the blame.
How to handle an immature partner.
Is your partner an immature person? Is it causing problems in your relationship (and your life)? Before your future gets wrecked by the antics and the juvenile behavior, you need to take a step back and consider where you’re at. If this is a relationship you want to hold on to, then you need to take space to process your feelings, set stronger boundaries, and communicate more directly and openly with your partner about your needs.
1. Clear up how you see things
Relationships with immature people tend to be chaotic and emotional. Things move fast, and there’s always some new hill of drama to climb. Before you can make any serious decisions to take action to correct things, you need to be clear on what’s going on and you need to be clear on how you’re feeling. You can’t do this if you’re chasing after someone who’s constantly creating fires. You’ve got to to take a step back and get some time and space for yourself to embrace an honest perception.
Find clarity in your situation for yourself. You need to take a step back and consider your feelings and what’s going on in your partnership. How is the immature behavior affecting your connection? How are your feelings being impacted by your partner’s juvenile behavior?
Get some space to reflect on your relationship, and where you want it to go. Are you approaching your issues with accountability and maturity? Or are you being dragged down into the petty reactions too? If you value holding on to your partnership, you’re going to have to find the power to be the more mature part of the equation. That means sorting through your feelings, discarding those that aren’t helpful, and addressing the core issues that are making it hard to communicate and connect in love and compassion.
2. Don't give them engagement
Immature people play a lot of games. Because they don’t confront their thoughts and emotions head-on, they go about getting their resolution in round-about or avoidant ways. This results in games. They play games when it comes to getting what they want and saying what they need to say. When you give in to the games, you give your power away. Worse than that, you lose sight of yourself and the goals you’re trying to achieve for your future. Playing the games will get you nowhere — just like they’re getting your partner nowhere.
Don’t engage in the game-playing your partner tries to lure you into. Giving in to their petty conflicts only gives them power and further justification for their poor behavior. By throwing back snide remarks and emotional explosions, you’re only feeding into (and encouraging) their immaturity to come out to play.
Instead of playing games, walk away from high-pressure situations until you’ve had enough time to cool off and consider how you want to proceed. Before you do anything rash, list out the pros and cons and consider how your life could change. Come back to your partner only when you’re prepared to express how you feel and what you want to see shifted. Mature partners don’t play games, because they know it wastes time. Instead of giving in to temper tantrums and silent treatments, be the bigger person and rise above it.
3. Create stronger boundaries
Boundaries are so crucial in relationships with the immature. We have to draw a line around our happiness and make sure we communicate our expectations openly and often. Have you taken time to create boundaries for yourself and your relationship? Does your partner know where the line lies? Immature people lack boundaries for themselves. Make sure they know how to respect yours if you expect to move forward with them.
Create boundaries for yourself and stand by them. You should be respected by your partner, and the things you want from your environment should be respected by them too. It’s okay to have time to yourself. It’s okay to have your own social circles, and to expect your partner to treat you a certain way.
Take some time re-imagining what you want your relationship to look like. Visualize how you want to be treated and put yourself into the emotional states you want to exist in. If your partner wants to live their life like a child — that’s fine. But it becomes a problem when it encroaches on your wellbeing and the things you were promised as a partner and a friend. Draw the line around your expectations and the things you need to be happy. Refuse to settle for anything less than what you need.
Putting it all together
Be clear on where you stand and clear on how you feel before you approach your partner or confront the issues that are mounting. Don’t engage in the game playing. Immature people play a lot of emotional games in order to avoid and manipulation. Stop giving them power over you by dropping out of the chaos. Create better boundaries for yourself and make sure your spouse or loved one knows where the line is when it comes to your expectations and your needs. When you’re feeling hurt, have honest and direct conversations. Don’t leave room for confusion. Above all else, however, don’t make their issues your issues. You can’t take the immature person’s behavior personally if you want to build the happy and fulfilled relationship you’ve been dreaming of. Make a choice. Is this the life you really want? You’re the only one with the right answer.
- Galambos, N., Barker, E., & Tilton-Weaver, L. (2003). Who gets caught at maturity gap? A study of pseudomature, immature, and mature adolescents. International Journal Of Behavioral Development, 27(3), 253–263. doi: 10.1080/01650250244000326