What Is Emotional Maturity And Why Is It Important In Relationships?
By: Lydian Shipp
Updated April 02, 2021
Medically Reviewed By: Aaron Horn
Emotions and relationships go hand-in-hand. Although logic in relationships is important and vital, the relevance of emotional competence is often overlooked. In all relationships, but especially in relationships of a romantic nature, a certain degree of emotional maturity is valuable. And of course, over the course of a relationship, increased emotional maturity is expected and natural as each individual learns new relationship and emotional skills.
What is Emotional Maturity?
The key thing to remember when it comes to understanding emotional maturity is that an emotionally mature individual takes responsibility for their actions. Whether it be a positive or negative action with a positive or negative effect, a person with average or high emotional maturity acknowledges what they've done and the effect that it had on the people and world around them.
There are some specific signs that indicate emotional maturity. For example, being honest, grateful, and optimistic are all signs of emotions maturity, as is the ability to stop and think before acting on a feeling, to set healthy, reasonable boundaries, and to notice one's own emotions and needs. Emotional maturity encompasses a variety of behaviors and internal mechanisms of control, but in the end, this form of maturity has everything to do with responsibility and the acknowledgment, thought, and consideration of oneself and others.
Why Emotional Maturity is Important in Relationships
Relationships are very emotional and feeling-oriented. When a partner does or says something that is contrary to what you believe, you may have strong emotions that translate into an argument, or into a long, fulfilling conversation (or, perhaps, both). Because significant others are close to each other and must always be working together to establish a happy medium that works for both of them, it's important that both parties are emotionally mature so that they can handle the ups and downs of this process of working together.
Emotional maturity is what makes it possible to have a fight or argument and then reach a compromise and/or make up. Both partners must be able to take responsibility for themselves and their actions in order to subsequently recognize the other person's point of view. Emotionally mature people are also more likely to be able to regulate their impulses so as to not let a fight get excessively out of control. In this way, emotional maturity can be an essential glue that binds two people together.
In a relationship, being able to take responsibility for yourself and your actions is one of the biggest gifts you can give to your partner. When both partners take responsibility for themselves, together they're able to take responsibility for their relationship. And thus, the two of them can grow together and create a shared life that suits both of them and their unique, individual needs as well as their shared needs as a couple.
How to Know if You or Your Partner is Emotionally Mature
So then, how is it possible to recognize emotional maturity in yourself or in your partner? There are a few ways to know. Chances are if you're in a long-term committed relationship that you and your partner both have some degree of emotional maturity, but there's almost always some room to improve. Here are some ways that partners may exhibit their emotional maturity:
1) They have enough self-confidence and security that they can successfully make themselves vulnerable in appropriate situations. For example, they're comfortable enough with themselves that they can apologize and show remorse, and also so that they can handle the discomfort and emotional ups and downs of their partner with grace.
2) They can provide emotional support to their partners. Emotional support comes in many different forms, including everything from providing a shoulder to cry on to celebrating a happy achievement. An emotionally mature partner will take on their partner's emotional ups and downs and will be there for them to offer encouragement and consolation when necessary. People with average or higher levels of emotional maturity have a reasonable amount of control of their own emotions that they're able to handle the feelings of other people too.
3) They communicate effectively using an appropriate communication style during arguments (and during peaceful times too). A partner with emotional maturity seeks to resolve conflict rather than making conflicts grow bigger and bigger. Instead of placing blame, using insults or abusive talk, or speaking poorly of themselves, the person will take responsibility for their part of the problem and consider possible solutions that will work for both partners. An emotionally mature person recognizes that conflict has value, and they will strive to find a positive outcome.
4) They have a solid, secure way of connecting to the people around them. A person's attachment style develops starting at a very young age and continues developing throughout life based on previous relationships, both close and distant. If a person is able to connect securely, they will not have issues with being intimate and creating a close relationship with a marriage partner. A person who can connect deeply will work hard to treat their partner kindly and with respect because they recognize the value of having the other person in their life and of deepening their connection further through kindness and love.
Both partners in a relationship must have emotional maturity in order to create a stable, balanced relationship dynamic. There must be a give and take between the two people in the relationship, and some days one partner may show more emotional maturity than then another person. That's fine! Life can be intense, and romantic partners must be able to help each other through their struggles. Emotional maturity can develop over time, and at first, partners may not be as emotionally mature as they will be years or decades in the future. The main key is that both partners wish to grow as people and that they're both committed to the relationship.
What Emotional Immaturity Looks Like
So now that you know about emotional maturity, what about emotional immaturity? Just like with emotional maturity, there are some distinct signs that can indicate emotional immaturity in a potential (or current) partner.
1) They can't handle time alone. There's a difference between enjoying the company of others and absolutely not being able to spend time by oneself without falling into a deep depression or some kind of mania. People who are emotionally immature will not deal with solitude very well, no matter the period of time. In contrast, a person who is emotionally mature may recognize that they enjoy being around other people, but they acknowledge that they're also perfectly fine being alone sometimes.
2) They immediately discount and shut down discussions that are challenging or that make them feel uncomfortable. The "shutting down" of the discussion can be dramatic and harsh, or it may be more subtle and maneuvering, depending on the individual nature of the emotionally immature person. Emotionally mature people can confidently handle conversations about topics that are somewhat controversial or that may go against their beliefs, whereas people who are more emotionally immature will struggle with these topics and work to avoid them.
3) They frequently say (or indicate) that they haven't considered past relationships or difficult situations. An emotionally immature person avoids difficult thoughts because these thoughts bring about complex feelings that the person may struggle with handling. So, if a person goes through a rough breakup or faces a death in the family, they might say that they simply haven't considered the way that the event impacted them. Emotionally mature people are more likely to have worked through their emotions and will have more thoughts and considerations about the situation.
As mentioned above, emotional maturity can be developed over time and with practice and dedication, so if you notice that you show signs of emotional immaturity, don't despair! If you recognize that you have something you want to change, be grateful because you have the power to change it. You can't change other people, but you can always change yourself. Developing emotional maturity takes time and is a lifelong process of learning and self-improvement.
Emotional maturity is an extremely important trait to have when it comes to relationships of any kind, but especially those of a romantic sort. Being able to take responsibility for oneself and handle one's own emotional ups and downs as well as those of other people can make the difference between a happy and successful partnership and one fraught with difficulties. When choosing a life partner, putting "emotional maturity" on the imaginary list of important qualities and requirements that special person must have is a smart idea.
Luckily, emotional maturity can be nurtured and developed. For people who are overall emotionally immature, over time they can emotionally grow and mature with enough practice and care. Working with a licensed therapist to learn skills and strategies for emotional maturity is an excellent place to start! If you want to improve your relationships with others and also improve your overall well-being and happiness, talk to a professional today to start your journey toward emotional maturity.
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