It’s all smiles and laughter until you want to talk about something serious!
When you try to bring up an issue and address concerns, you’re met with a partner who shuts down, blows up, or straight up ghosts you. If this sounds familiar, you might be dating someone who is emotionally immature.
Emotional immaturity 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.
Having an emotionally immature partner can impact the overall health of your relationship. Often times these partners have a “me” factor over a “we” factor, so they can come off as selfish or unable to take your feelings into account.
When there’s conflict, an emotionally immature partner may blame you, rather than be able to process how his or her actions contributed to the issue.
It may be difficult to have calm, effective communication when talking about anything of substance. There could be deflection through humor, or just an avoidance of emotionally intimate conversations.
In the psychology world, attachment theory posits that there are three different attachment styles—secure, anxious, and avoidant, which impact how you interact and show intimacy with a romantic partner.
Partners who are securely attached are reliable, consistent, don’t play games, make decisions together, believe that closeness creates further closeness, communicate well about relationship issues, can compromise during arguments, aren’t afraid of commitment or dependency, naturally express feelings for each other, and don’t view the relationship as hard work. Basically, these partners are emotionally mature, and tend to be committed and loving.
However, avoidant partners may send you mixed signals, prioritize their own needs, call you names or devalue you, distance themselves emotionally or physically, have uncompromising rules, need to escape during an argument or blow up, have a lot of difficulty talking about your relationship, and don't make their intentions clear.
Anxious partners may play a lot of games to keep you interested, and make a lot of issues about themselves. Avoidant and anxious partners may be more emotionally immature than those with a secure attachment.
Here are 5 signs that your significant other is emotionally immature:
1. Your partner doesn’t talk about the future: An emotionally immature partner likely does not think ahead and plan a future with you, but rather lives in the moment. If they do see a future together, they probably have a lot of difficulty articulating and communicating this vision.
2. Your partner struggles to talk about feelings: People who are emotionally immature are stunted when it comes to talking about feelings. Processing their emotional experiences could be very overwhelming for them, or tap into some sort of vulnerability or shame that causes them to shut down or withdraw, rather than being able to explain and process these complicated feelings.
3. You feel lonely in the relationship: If your partner is emotionally immature, there’s likely a lack of emotional intimacy in your relationship. This will leave you feeling disconnected because your partner can’t bond with you on a deeper level.
4. Your partner keeps things surface level: Sure, they makes you die laughing or are a blast to do activities with, but when it comes to getting more intimate, they just can’t go there. Intimacy involves opening yourself up, sharing, connecting and brings about a sense of closeness, affection, and familiarity.
5. Your partner backs away when you’re dealing with something stressful: If your partner is emotionally immature, they likely do not know how to support you when you’re going through a tough time, whether it’s job stress or a family crisis. You will feel them distance themselves at a time when you could really use a rock in your life.
Healthy and successful relationships are built on communication, which enables emotional intimacy. Emotionally mature couples will chat about what’s going well in their relationship just as easily as discussing what needs to be improved.
When you’re both emotionally mature, you can clearly and effectively articulate your needs, desires, and current emotions, which allows you to connect, form a stronger attachment, and be better partners for each other.
If you realize your partner has some emotional growth to do, the conversation should focus on how you’d like to grow as a couple in order to be stronger as a team, rather than singling your partner out as emotionally inept, which will likely make them defensive or critical of your feedback.
Focus on modeling emotional maturity in the relationship, beginning with the expression of positive feelings for your partner, such as praising them when they do something you really like and letting them know when you’re feeling connected. Processing your feelings about the relationship out loud in the moment, instead of just thinking it to yourself, may encourage your partner to do the same.
You can also suggest going to couples therapy, where a professional, like me, can ask questions and help guide you in developing more emotional maturity and intimacy together.