Not everyone is emotionally mature enough to be in a relationship. Real, genuine, healthy relationships are built on mutual trust and respect, as well as the ability and desire to communicate about your issues — all things that an emotionally immature partner might struggle with. Of course, no one is perfect, but if you want your relationship to succeed, it's important that you're in touch with your emotions, and mature enough to acknowledge what you might need to improve on to become a better partner.
"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," Samantha Burns, couples counselor and dating coach at Love Successfully, tells Bustle.
It's tempting to dismiss any of your partner's bad relationship habits as just another of their "quirks," but having an emotionally immature partner isn't something you should sweep under the rug — because it can have a seriously detrimental effect on 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."
"Having an emotionally immature partner can impact the overall health of your relationship," Burns says. "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 blow up or blame, rather than be able to process how his or her actions contributed to the issue. It may be difficult to have a calm, effective communication when talking about anything of substance."
Everyone matures at their own pace, and it's OK to admit that you have some work to do — but sometimes you're better off flying solo and working on yourself before getting into a relationship. Here are 11 signs of emotional immaturity to look out for in a partner (or even in yourself).
1They Struggle To Talk About Their Feelings
Some people think it's funny to brag about being "allergic to feelings," but the truth is, whether you admit it or not, everyone has feelings — and it's immature to ignore them and pretend otherwise.
"People who are emotionally immature are stunted when it comes to talking about feelings," Burns says. "Processing 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."
2They Don't Talk About The Future
You don't need to be planning your wedding from the first date, but if your partner is seemingly unable to commit to even the smallest future plans with you (like planning a quick camping trip), that's a red flag.
"An emotionally immature partner likely does not think ahead and plan a future with you, but rather lives in the moment," Burns says. "If [they] do see a future together, [they] probably have a lot of difficulty articulating and communicating this vision."
3You Feel Lonely In The Relationship
The whole point of a relationship is to have a partner who makes you feel loved, supported, and respected — so there's nothing worse than feeling like you're totally alone in your relationship.
"If your partner is emotionally immature, there’s likely a lack of emotional intimacy in your relationship," Burns says. "This will leave you feeling disconnected because your partner can’t bond with you on a deeper level."
4They Keep Things Surface Level
It can take time to really open up to someone and connect on a deeper level, but if you've been together for a long time and you *still* feel like your partner is holding back, that might mean they're unwilling or unable to move past a surface-level relationship.
"Sure, [your partner] makes you die laughing or is a blast to do activities with, but when it comes to getting more intimate, [they] just can’t go there," Burns says. "Intimacy involves opening yourself up, sharing, connecting and brings about a sense of closeness, affection, and familiarity."
5They Pull Away In Times Of Stress
The best thing about being in a relationship with someone who's truly an equal partner? You have someone on your side during all of life's sh*tty moments.
"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," Burns says. "You will feel [them] distance [themselves] at a time when you could really use a rock in your life."
6They Don't Like Compromise
I don't think there's anything less sexy in a partner than an inability to compromise. Being able to communicate your needs and find a middle-ground when an issue arises is *crucial* for a relationship's success, and if your partner would rather throw a tantrum than let you get your way, that's a big problem.
"Emotionally immature partners always have to have things their way," April Davis, Relationship Expert and CEO of LUMA Luxury Matchmaking, tells Bustle. "This means that they won't shy away from a deceptive route, often times resorting to lying, blaming and guilting their partner."
7They Get Defensive
Even if their feelings are a little hurt, a mature partner doesn't get overly defensive at even the smallest criticism. In a healthy relationship, both partners should feel comfortable bringing up potential problems and working on them together — one person shouldn't have to walk on eggshells in fear of upsetting their partner.
"[An emotionally immature partner] becomes extremely defensive over even the smallest of things, especially if they are in the wrong," Davis says. "And if their partner does step on their toes, a tantrum and some name-calling may be in order."
8They Don't Carry Their Own Weight In The Relationship
Don't get me wrong: being thoughtful and doing nice things for your partner is definitely a good thing. But if you find yourself constantly picking up your partner's slack, that could mean you're headed for a relationship where everything is one-sided and your own needs aren't being met.
"[An emotionally immature] partner expects you to do everything for them," speaker and spiritual counselor Davida Rappaport tells Bustle. "You may have to ask them multiple times to do something; they may do so grudgingly and possibly make you feel guilty in the process."
9They Don't Like To Be Held Accountable
Part of being a mature partner is being able to acknowledge when you mess up, and sincerely apologize and make amends. Someone who's emotionally immature likely won't want to admit when they've screwed up, and would rather place the blame on others.
"[An emotionally immature] partner refuses to take responsibility for their actions and mistakes," Rappaport says. "They will blame something or someone else for their problems. It’s always someone else — never them."
There's a huge difference between having a partner who knows their self-worth and recognizes when to put their own needs first, and having a partner who is totally selfish and constantly steps on others in order to give themselves a leg up.
"Your partner may only do things that benefit them," Rappaport says. "If you need something, the only way they will step up is if it will benefit them as well. They are not a helper-type of partner."
11They Hold Grudges
It's OK to admit that something in the past is bothering you, but the healthy, mature way to deal with that is to communicate how you feel and work together with your partner to move on. Holding a grudge isn't healthy for you, and will only create further resentment in your relationship.
"Being emotionally immature in a relationship means that you can't control your emotions or reactions towards your partner, often times lashing out and holding grudges," Davis says.
What Should You Do If You Realize Your Partner Is Emotionally Immature?
Does your partner fit the bill? Don't worry, your relationship is not necessarily doomed. "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 him defensive or critical of your feedback," Burns says. "Focus on modeling emotional maturity in the relationship, beginning with the expression of positive feelings for your partner, such as praising him when he does something you really like and letting him know when you’re feeling connected. You can also suggest going to couples therapy, where a professional can ask questions and help guide you in developing more emotional intimacy together."
If you're with a partner who exhibits any of these behaviors, it's understandable to feel frustrated, drained, and want to throw in the towel. Fortunately, there are ways to help your partner with their emotional growth, so the two of you (hopefully) come out stronger.