Being raised by emotionally immature changes the trajectory of your life and relationships. While many discount the experiences of childhood, the early bonds we build there do a lot to shape who we are, how we see the world, and how we’re able to create relationships in adulthood, too. When you get healthy examples, you lead a healthy life. When you get unhealthy examples…well, it can seriously derail everything that’s important to you.
What do we learn about love from our emotionally immature parents?
Our parents are the first reference point through which we come to know love. From the time we come into this world, they are the ones who fill us up and make sure we feel secure in their emotional presence. When you have emotionally immature parents, though, that safety net quite exists.
Instead of learning that love is a safe experience, children raised by emotionally immature parents come to know very different rules about love. Raised without your central emotional needs being met, you learn some crucial lessons that forever change your adult relationships:
- Low self-esteem: Children raised in the home of emotionally immature parents can exhibit signs of low self-esteem. Emotional insecurity forces the child to internalize external experiences. A lack of further validation from parents can reinforce these negative self-views.
- Total lack of safety: Emotionally immature parents often struggle with their emotional reactions, which can lead to explosive reactions and damaging expectations and punishments. Subsequently, children raised in these homes often develop a general sense of being “unsafe” in intimate relationships.
- Settling for less: Children are treated poorly by emotionally immature parents. This can lead to the child understanding that all intimate relationships have similar toxic or damaging dynamics, encouraging them to settle for less in adulthood.
- Dramatic tactics: In the emotionally immature household, one never learns how to relate to emotions healthily. Parents react and overreact and even use relationships as gambling chips. Children learn to associate dramatic threats, screaming, and affection withdrawal as par for the course.
It’s simple to understand how these lessons change us as partners, but can we see the bigger picture at play? Emotionally immature parents teach not only how to relate to yourself negatively. Raised by these chaotic individuals, you also learn to relate to relationships in a much more challenging way.
How do these lessons play out in our adult relationships?
As humans, we’re complex creatures with a lot of different layers. We take the lessons of our childhood and apply them across various aspects of our adult lives and personalities. That’s certainly true as the child of an emotionally immature parent. The lessons you learn in your childhood create feelings of jealousy and insecurity that can be hard to escape in toxic relationship loops.
Would you describe yourself as a jealous partner? Some of us learn that in the homes of emotionally immature parents. We watch them get jealous; we watch their paranoia bloom. Like them, we learn to expect the worst. That jealousy sabotages our happiness and pushes our partners away. The secret? It’s not getting rid of the jealousy. It’s becoming emotionally mature enough to confront and resolve it.
Emotionally immature parents have a lot of counterproductive mechanisms they use to punish, reward, protect, and control both themselves and the environment around them. A lot of these are defense mechanisms, which they pass down to you. As an adult, this plays out in your adult relationships. The worst defense mechanisms include redirection, projection, denial, and regression.
It’s hard to walk into healthy relationships when you haven’t necessarily experienced that for yourself. Emotionally immature parents are rarely a good example. In most cases, they teach us to reach for petty dramatics more than they teach us to be emotionally intelligent and resolute. In your adult relationships, that repeats. Instead of being open and honest with your partner, you can react like a petty brat when you don’t get what you want.
Off balance role-play
Many relationships are off balance in our society. One partner exists on a pedestal, while the other does most of the mental, emotional, and physical labor. Some of us learn this from being brought up by an emotionally immature parent. They can demand a level of attention that is unhealthy, and put family members into roles they don’t want to play. In turn, you learn to repeat those patterns in your relationships.
Aiming for pain
What happens when you feel hurt, slighted, or disappointed by your partners? Do you sit down and ask questions? Talk things through? Or do you explode and punish your partner for making you angry or sad? That’s a skill we often learn from our emotionally immature parents. Being reactive and hurtful themselves, they show us that this is the way to proceed in our own partnerships.
Communication is one skill that takes the biggest hit in the relationship department. Much of how we communicate on intimate levels comes from our families and from our parents specifically. When what is modeled at home is mostly negative or emotionally immature, you come to echo these communication skills in your own relationships. Specifically, we learn to be passive aggressive. Emotionally integrity hits an all-time low.
The best ways to break the bad relationship patterns.
So what can be done? Can we break these cycles? Can we find healthier ways to build intimate relationships? Of course we can. By getting clear, intentional, and committed to a healthier way of connecting, we can learn how to step out of the shadow of our emotionally immature parents and into something far more fulfilling.
If you want to break the cycles handed to you by your emotionally immature parents, then you have to:
- Build emotional intelligence
- Learn new relationship skills
- Increase your self-esteem
- Elevate your social circles
- Create iron-clad boundaries
Some of us need professional help to get this ball rolling. Unable to see how twisted our own dynamics have become, the elevated perspectives of professionals can help us identify the specific issues that are preventing us from getting the relationships we want.
In the end, however, it is you and you alone who can change the patterns you’ve been living in. Emotionally immature parents or not, you are now being presented with a chance to do it all differently.
You can either choose to stay where you’re at, to do things how they were always done. Or you can choose an alternative path for yourself. You can choose maturity, fulfillment, and emotional intelligence…but not without a commitment.
Take this opportunity to commit to yourself. Commit to better relationships, a better future, and that sense of love you’ve always craved. It’s out there. Don’t give up. Give in to an elevated version of who you are and who you want to be in this moment.
Lindblom, J., Punamäki, R., Flykt, M., Vänskä, M., Nummi, T., & Sinkkonen, J. et al. (2016). Early Family Relationships Predict Children’s Emotion Regulation and Defense Mechanisms. SAGE Open, 6(4), 215824401668139. doi: 10.1177/2158244016681393