The “go with the flow” attitude that was enticing at first in your partner can over time increasingly make you feel like the parent in the relationship. It could be that you are tired of being the only one to handle the finance or keep on top of household duties or manage the social calendar. Maybe you are tired of feeling like a nag and keep wondering whether your partner will ever share some of the responsibility for the adult aspects of our relationship.
Your partner may excel at living with passion and adventure, but when it comes to doing the emotional work in the relationship, your partner is a disaster. This could exhaust you create resentment. Your friends may think you have the perfect relationship from the outside, but you often feel like you are living with an “adult child.” Differences in maturity levels have the potential to wreak havoc in relationships. Here’s how to know if you’re dealing with a maturity discrepancy in your relationship.
What is maturity?
Psychological maturity in adults is generally defined as the ability to wisely and appropriately manage developmental responsibilities in mental, emotional, behavioral, and social arenas. It’s common to be excited by a partner’s wild or uninhibited side yet ultimately find that there’s an accompanying irresponsibility that is hard to take.
Signs of immaturity
Some signs of immaturity such as a lack of financial responsibility can be fairly obvious. Others, such as emotional immaturity, can be masked by high cognitive intelligence or a witty sense of humor. When you are assessing maturity, it’s important to take into account the person’s chronological age, life circumstances, and the number and degree of the immature behaviors. Here are some key signs of immaturity:
• Inability to communicate kindly, honestly, and effectively.
• Unwillingness to take personal responsibility such as refusing to make heartfelt apologies.
• Inability to regulate emotions such as being hot-tempered or prone to tantrums.
• Patterns of incongruent goals, values, or messages to self or others.
• Chronic shutting down in times of difficulty or conflict.
• Habitual aggressive or passive-aggressive behavior.
• Lack of consideration for others needs and wants.
• Manipulation and boundary-dismissing behaviors.
• Lack of direction in setting and achieving important goals.
• Unwillingness to set and maintain appropriate financial goals and spending standards.
• Chronic avoidance of issues including procrastination.
Maturity differences in relationships
Maturity disparities in a relationship normally arise over finances, employment, daily chores, and communication. An immature person may also have difficulty in their career and may go through constant job losses, lack of commitment in the workplace, or refusal to work at all. On the homefront, the more mature partner may be left with doing far more work.
Chronic fighting, gaslighting, manipulation, and stonewalling are all signs of immaturity. It’s also important to note that a controlling partner may initially present as being more mature, but being controlling is actually a sign of psychological immaturity. Mature people know and honor their needs while making appropriate space for their partner’s needs and desires.
Causes of maturity differences
Although you don’t need to excuse or accept a partner’s lack of maturity, it is helpful to recognize that a variety of factors from early childhood experiences and parenting styles to traumatic life events can negatively affect psychological maturation. When a child is put into a parental-type role that involves age-inappropriate amounts of responsibility; s/he will often mature far too early and may be overly responsible in adult life. At the other end of the spectrum, helicopter parents who tend to shield their children from responsibility and natural consequences, create adults who often suffers from irresponsibility and a sense of entitlement. As a wide variety of historical issues tend to create and perpetuate psychological maturity or immaturity, it’s important to be curious rather than judgmental when working to understand the factors that created the maturity discrepancies at work in your relationship.
When is maturity difference a problem
Maturity differences can sometimes be problematic, yet can also add interest and variety to a relationship. If maturity differences create disharmony, it’s important to address the underlying issues such as discrepancies in values or chronic irresponsibility. In some cases, the more immature partner may want to foster more mature behaviors which is a positive sign. But if a less mature partner wants to stay stuck in their problematic behaviors, it’s wise to seek outside guidance or move on from the relationship.
What’s matters most however in any relationship is that you and your partner allow your maturity differences to make you both better people and partners.