How To Tell If Your Partner Is Emotionally Immature

TFW they act way younger than they actually are.

by Laken Howard and Carolyn Steber
Originally Published: 
If your partner has some of these annoying habits, they may be emotionally immature.
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If your partner argues over little things, gets defensive, or refuses to compromise — among other traits that leave you feeling frustrated and confused — it very well may mean they are emotionally immature.

"Emotional immaturity can reflect a lack of depth and understanding about one’s own emotions, an 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, a couples counselor and dating coach, tells Bustle.

It's tempting to dismiss bad relationship habits like these as "quirky” or vaguely annoying, but the truth is they take a serious toll on your relationship. "Oftentimes 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,” Burns says. “When there’s conflict, an emotionally immature partner may blow up or blame rather than be able to process how their actions contribute to the issue. It may also be difficult to have a calm, effective communication when talking about anything of substance."

Since everyone matures at their own pace, you may choose to be understanding and attempt to help your partner see how their actions impact not only themselves, but you and your relationship. If you want to stick together, it may help to model emotional maturity for them by expressing positive feelings, as well as pointing out the moments when they’re effectively connecting.

“You can also suggest going to couples therapy,” Burns says, “where a professional can ask questions and help guide you in developing more emotional intimacy together." But it’s also OK if you decide enough is enough and choose to move on instead. Here are 17 signs of emotional immaturity to look out for in a partner.


They Struggle To Talk About Their Feelings

Let’s start with the most obvious. When someone is emotionally stunted, they’ll most definitely seem closed-off when it comes time to talk about feelings. "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,” Burns says.

It’s why your partner may joke that they “don’t have feelings” or claim that nothing bothers them when the truth is they’re just unable to access or process what’s going on inside. It can lead to one-sided conversations, as well as a sense that you’re the only one responsible for the health of the relationship.


They Avoid Talking About The Future

You don't need to start planning your wedding on the first date, but if your partner is seemingly unable to commit to even the smallest plans with you (like agreeing to dinner next Saturday), consider it 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. They may claim they’re “going with the flow” when in reality they’re avoiding commitment while also washing themselves of responsibility.

If they don’t see a future, they won’t tell you. "If [they] do see a future together,” Burns says, “[they’ll] probably have a lot of difficulty articulating and communicating this vision."


They 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 still feel like your partner is holding back, that might mean they're unwilling or unable to move past a surface-level relationship.

Perhaps your partner makes you laugh or is a blast to hang out 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."


You Feel Lonely In The Relationship


If your partner is unable to participate in emotional intimacy — by having meaningful conversations and going beyond the aforementioned surface-level interactions — Burns says it can leave you feeling disconnected and lonely.

The whole point of a relationship is to feel loved, supported, and respected, which is why feeling alone, even with a partner by your side, is a huge red flag.


They Don't Like To Compromise

Have you noticed that your partner is simply unable to meet you in the middle or budge in any way, shape, or form? If so, emotional immaturity may be to blame. As matchmaker and relationship expert April Davis says, you can spot someone’s inability to compromise when they start lying, blaming, or guilting you in order to get their way.

Being able to communicate your needs and find a middle-ground when an issue arises is crucial for a relationship's success. If your partner would rather throw a tantrum or sulk than have a conversation about compromise, that's a big problem.


They Pull Away In Times Of Stress

Take note if your partner turns away during life’s sh*ttiest moments, like when you’re having a health problem, family issue, financial struggle, or even a slightly annoying day at work. If your partner is emotionally immature, Burns says, they won’t know how to support you during a tough time. Instead of asking how they can help or simply offering a shoulder to cry on, they’ll shut down or distance themselves to avoid you and the situation. You’ll notice that they’re suddenly “busy” all the time, don’t answer their texts, or go quiet when you ask to talk.


They Get Defensive

In a healthy relationship, both partners are able to bring up potential problems and work on them together without one person feeling as if they have to walk on eggshells for fear of upsetting the other.

When you’re with an emotionally immature person, that balance gets thrown off. Davis says it’ll feel like even the smallest criticism sets your partner off and before you know it they’re making excuses, calling you names, and acting as if you’re “trying to hurt them.” It can be very frustrating.


They Don't Help Out In The Relationship

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Being thoughtful and doing nice things for a partner is definitely a good thing. But if you find yourself constantly picking up your partner's slack, that could mean you're in an immature 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."

Think asking for help around the house, cleaning up after dinner, or planning things for the future — it’ll all fall on you. Either that, or you’ll be the one who has to delegate tasks — ones your partner may still fail or “forget” to do.


They Don't Like To Be Held Accountable

Another important part of being a mature partner is freely acknowledging when you mess up, followed by sincerely apologize in order to make amends. Someone who's emotionally immature likely won't want to admit when they've screwed up and may even attempt to place the blames on others. "They will blame something or someone else for their problems,” Rappaport says. “It’s always someone else — never them."


They're Selfish

There's a huge difference between having a partner who knows their self-worth and recognizes when to establish a few boundaries, and having a partner who is totally selfish and only takes their needs into account. So keep an eye out for signs of selfishness, like the fact they only help out when the situation also benefits them, Rappaport says.


They 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.

"Being emotionally immature in a relationship means that you can't control your emotions or reactions towards your partner, oftentimes lashing out and holding grudges," Davis says. So take it as a sign if your partner is in the habit of silently stewing without even telling you why. Or worse, if they bring up old issues that happened years ago during an argument. It’ll be clear in those instances that they aren’t processing their emotions properly or looking for ways to talk with you about what’s on their mind. Since this type of immaturity can result in nastiness and resentment, it will take a negative toll on your relationship.


They Don’t Consider You When Making Decisions

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You should both be involved in decision-making. “In a relationship, partners should check in with each other when a decision would impact both of them,” Rappaport says. But when it comes to emotionally immature folks, it’s common for them to surge forth with the decision without pausing long enough to consider how it would impact you.

While it’s fine for someone to make an honest mistake, you might notice that bringing it up only results in an argument. And that’s not OK. “If one partner refuses to communicate, discuss things, and work toward making sure they are on the same page, it is generally a sign that they don’t really care about the relationship and/or their partner,” Rappaport says.


They Don’t Know What They Want

It’s one thing to be a tiny bit indecisive on occasion, but it’s something else entirely to literally never know what you want. If your partner falls into the latter category, consider it another sign of immaturity, therapist Jacob Brown, AMFT, tells Bustle.

While some emotionally immature folks will make decisions all on their own, others will need their partner to decide everything for them. “In addition, they may keep changing their mind,” Brown says, which can be immensely frustrating.


They Don’t Take Responsibility

There are lots of reasons why someone might struggle with organization, but according to Jen Browning LCPC, NCC, a licensed clinical professional counselor, being emotionally immature is definitely one of them.

She tells Bustle you might notice that your partner drops the ball in many ways related to work and life in general, simply because they don’t care to take responsibility. And that’s a bad sign.

“The way they treat the things they should be self-responsible for is a telltale sign of how they will maintain a relationship,” Browning says. If you notice this trait, let your partner know and see if they’re willing to make a change.


They Get Really Angry

According to clinical psychologist Dr. Tari Mack, emotional immaturity often reveals itself in outbursts of anger. “This is a sign that someone is emotionally immature and is unable to regulate intense emotions,” she tells Bustle. The same is true for name-calling. If your partner gets so mad that they start calling you names or attacking your character, they have a lot of work to do when as far as properly handling conflict.


They Take Things Personally

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Does your partner assume you’re always trying to fight? Do they get upset even when you approach situations calmly or claim that they “can never do anything right?”

As licensed psychotherapist Sharon Peykar, LCSW, tells Bustle, “Taking things very personally is a sign of emotional immaturity because it indicates that the person over-focuses on themselves in a relationship.”

It all goes back to the fact they don’t express their feelings and allow things to pile up. They also don’t view themselves as a part of a team, and thus think everything is an attack instead of a gracious conversation meant to improve the relationship.


They Are Super Clingy

While some partners may be distant, as mentioned above, others may be “very clingy and have a hard time respecting personal boundaries, independence, and/or your autonomy,” licensed therapist Brandon Santan, Ph.D., LPC-MHSP, NCC, BC-TMH, CCMHC, tells Bustle. “The emotionally immature partner who displays this sign will always be in your business, wanting to know where you're going or who you're hanging out with.”

Since this can become toxic fast, it’s important to nip it in the bud by pointing out the issue, discussing change, and maybe even going to couples therapy. “It's definitely possible for an emotionally immature partner to grow and change,” Stanton says. But remember that your well-being is important, too, as they work to figure it out.


Samantha Burns, couples counselor and dating coach

April Davis, matchmaker and relationship expert

Davida Rappaport, speaker and spiritual counselor

Jen Browning LCPC, NCC, licensed clinical professional counselor

Sharon Peykar, LCSW, licensed psychotherapist

Dr. Tari Mack, clinical psychologist

Jacob Brown, AMFT, therapist

Dr. Brandon Santan, PhD, LPC-MHSP, NCC, BC-TMH, CCMHC, licensed therapist

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