My Partner Is Emotionally Immature - What Should I Do?

Updated June 13, 2024by Regain Editorial Team

Being with someone who isn't on the same maturity level as you can be frustrating, and it can be hard to figure out what to do about it. Two of the biggest signs of emotionally mature people are the ability to accept responsibility for their actions – whether good or bad – and the ability to adjust to change with minimal negative consequences. An emotionally immature person, on the other hand, is generally self-centered, maladaptive, unable to handle conflict, and often even narcissistic – all of which can lead to difficult relationships. However, there are things you can do to help your partner become more emotionally mature – if they are willing to try.

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My partner is emotionally immature – what can I do?

What are some signs of emotional immaturity?

Emotional immaturity often has some key signs and indicators, which often include the following:

  • They behave like someone much younger than their age.

  • They are self-absorbed.

  • They rarely show guilt or remorse.

  • They lack empathy for others.

  • They disregard other people’s well-being and safety. 

  • They have little self-control, act impulsively, and rarely learn from past mistakes.

  • They cannot handle being alone – even for a short period of time.

  • They minimize or stop discussions that make them feel uncomfortable. If they feel challenged in a discussion, they with often respond dramatically – such as yelling, blaming, or giving the silent treatment. 

  • They do not know how to resolve conflicts.

  • They suppress complex thoughts or feelings. 

  • They rely on their parents and are in touch with them more than anyone else.

  • They expect to be served or pampered.

  • They have difficulties staying in long-term relationships.

  • They have commitment issues, despite being needy.

  • They have few friends.

  • They exhibit hostility, use insults, and behave stubbornly if they don't get their way.

  • They bully others.

  • They are narcissistic.

  • They lie to get out of uncomfortable situations.

  • They are financially irresponsible.

While not a formal diagnosis, a popular term for a form of emotional immaturity is called “Peter Pan Syndrome,” which came about with the 1983 book by Dr. Dan Kiley entitled The Peter Pan Syndrome: Men Who Have Never Grow Up. While the book is based on outdated patriarchal concepts of gender and sexuality, many of the principles still apply – only to all genders, not just men as originally written. 

In particular, Kiley pointed out that those with Peter Pan Syndrome find maintaining personal and romantic relationships difficult. The book included seven key markers: 

  1. Difficulty expressing their emotions (dulled emotions) or expressing them appropriately

  2. Putting off important tasks until forced to do so 

  3. Difficulty making meaningful friendships 

  4. Avoiding responsibility and casting blame on others for their mistakes

  5. Treating female romantic partners as mother figures

  6. Having difficulty with male authority figures

  7. Fearing sexual rejection and wanting romantic partners to be dependent on them

Do any of these sound familiar?  This doesn't mean the way they act is excusable, but it can give you another lens through which to assess the situation for maintaining a healthy relationship.

What can I do if my partner is emotionally immature?

In many cases, emotional maturity can be developed over time with practice and dedication, so if you notice that your partner shows signs of emotional immaturity, it may be something they can work on – if they are willing. If you recognize that you have something you want to change or improve, you have the power to do so. There are also things you can do to try to make your relationship with an emotionally immature partner healthier.  

Discuss their upbringing

Before dealing with a person who is emotionally immature, it's important to understand why they are that way to begin with. Often, a person’s lack of maturity can be attributed to their upbringing and how their parents raised them. It can also be the result of trauma, unstable relationships in early childhood, addiction, or untreated mental health issues. 

If you are experiencing trauma, support is available. Please see our Get Help Now page for more resources.


Talking with your partner about how they grew up may help you understand their personality better. Politely confronting them may seem odd or can be taken the wrong way at first – especially because emotionally immature people often don’t handle conflict well –  but it’s important to discuss things to build healthy adult relationships. Discussing their upbringing is necessary to understand where they are coming from.

For example, you might ask them – as nonconfrontationally as possible – why their parents keep sending money while they play video games all day long. By allowing these things to continuously happen without saying anything, you may be encouraging them not to get a job and earn their own money. Since they didn't make the money they received, they don't understand its real value, spending it irresponsibly compared to other adults.

Stop enabling them

Negative behaviors persist often because they are reinforced. This relates to "operant conditioning," a psychological theory coined by Edward Thorndike and elaborated on by B. F. Skinner. Operant conditioning, as defined by the American Psychological Association (APA), refers to “the process in which behavioral change (i.e., learning) occurs as a function of the consequences of behavior.”

When you reinforce something – like a negative behavior – you are using external stimuli to strengthen a particular response. Although it was most likely unintentional, being spoiled and overprotected ensured that your partner could get what they wanted and needed. Even if they threw a tantrum, they would still get a reward, which eventually reinforced their negative behavior.

The good news is that operant conditioning can often be unlearned using two other concepts – punishment and extinction – to stop specific behaviors. For punishment, you would need to do something aversive to make them stop behaving a certain way, such as taking away their privileges. With extinction, you remove the stimuli to decrease a behavior. 

When you take a deep breath and stop giving in to your partner's demands, they may eventually stop behaving immaturely because it doesn't yield the desired results. They learn that immature behavior has consequences. 

Stay available to them

Just because you don't plan on enabling their behavior doesn't mean that you must abandon them. But it’s important for your own mental well-being to express your emotions and needs. 

If your partner is not emotionally mature enough to handle such a conversation yet, you may need to do a little soul-searching and get validation from within. Practicing self-care, breathing exercises, or being a part of a support group can be great ways to put yourself first and improve your mental health.

For change to happen, your partner will likely need your help. One way to do this is to create an environment where both you and your partner can be honest with each other. You will need to be honest with your partner if they mess up, but they need someone they are comfortable with to confide in as well.

They need to learn to accept their vulnerabilities instead of resorting to mechanisms, such as lying and avoiding uncomfortable situations. Reinforce their positive behaviors by showing them respect when they tell the truth and confront things productively, as this may incentivize them to behave more maturely.

Help them seek support

Due to their emotional age and maturity levels, there's a pretty good chance that your partner may be missing out on some crucial life skills. This emotional immaturity may lead not only to you feeling frustrated, but may impact your ability to make friends, get a job, and so on. 

One of the best ways for your partner to recognize and replace emotionally immature behaviors is through therapy – whether as a couple or individually. Two types of therapy that have been found to help individuals with emotional immaturity are cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy. CBT is the most popular form of therapy for a variety of mental health concerns and focuses on learning to identify false thinking and beliefs and reframe ideas with healthier options. DBT focuses on learning interpersonal skills and emotional regulation, among other things. 

Studies have also found that CBT (and other therapies) are just as effective online as in-person, and offer some unique advantages, such as the ability to meet with a counselor from the convenience of home or to find and utilize a specialist outside of your home community. Talking with a therapist online can help you learn coping skills to move out of your comfort zone and into life as an adult. BetterHelp is a hub to help you search for and connect with the right counselor for you. You can look for someone who specializes in your area of need and talk to them from wherever you are, whenever you need to. Read reviews of our online counselors below, from people experiencing similar issues.

Getting help from a professional counselor can help not only to work on mental health concerns but to also learn social skills and healthier coping mechanisms. For example, your partner can learn how to be proactive instead of reactive, learn how to take responsibility for their actions, build emotional intimacy, get out of their comfort zone, and find purpose. The goal is to help them grow as a person rather than rely on or blame others for what happens in their lives.

A professional relationship counselor can help them learn how to be more present with what's going on around them and embrace reality, which may be much different from their current worldview. Counseling can also help them become more disciplined individuals. Instead of resorting to bad habits – like avoidance, escaping, self-indulgence, and instant gratifications – they can commit to making good, healthy, and responsible choices. 

Studies have found that online therapy is often just as effective as in-person sessions. Because it is convenient and affordable, online therapy has quickly become one of the most popular and effective ways to get help; it eliminates the need to travel to a location. Making appointments is flexible and stress-free.

At Regain, licensed and professional counselors and therapists are available online to help your partner learn important skills and thought processes in order to help them grow. You may also want to attend online therapy sessions with them so you can provide support and reassurance and be there every step of the way.

My partner is emotionally immature – what can I do?


Emotional immaturity affects relationships. Having an emotionally immature partner can be frustrating, but there are things you can do together to help foster a more mature and satisfying relationship. Your relationship can often improve – especially with professional help. Reach out to a Regain relationship specialist today. 

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