There are many ways to handle an emotionally immature partner during an argument. You can work on your own emotional maturity skills, even if your partner is still emotionally immature.
You may never have learned the adult skills necessary to become emotionally mature. Fortunately, being emotionally immature is basically a skills deficit. So, you can learn emotional maturity.
Emotionally Immature Versus Emotional Mature Behaviors
When you are emotionally mature you are flexible and open minded. Emotionally immature people have a difficult time being open and flexible. Mature behaviors include taking responsibility, versus blaming, showing empathy versus being self-absorbed, and owning your own mistakes versus not being able to face and then find a solution to a mistake. As a result, emotionally immature people do not learn from their mistakes.
When you are emotionally mature you can be vulnerable and recognize when you need help. You can set healthy boundaries and share your own feelings. You can learn to manage stress in healthy ways rather than overreact and lash out at others. Instead, you can listen compassionately and then exercise careful judgement before speaking.
While emotionally immature adults can impulsively blurt things out in a hurtful manner, emotionally mature adults are thoughtful about the way they express their feelings. They don’t just react in the moment.
You can carefully think through your options. Think about how you respond to stressful situations or unexpected change. You can learn to take your time and adjust to change without resorting to negative behaviors.
Sometimes, emotional immaturity can lead to lying and financial irresponsibility. Discussions can often make them feel very uncomfortable, to the point of yelling, blaming or giving the silent treatment. They are needy and don’t like being alone, however it can be difficult for them to sustain a long-term relationship.
Dealing With An Emotionally Immature Partner
Here are some ways to deal with an emotionally immature partner.
Avoid Defending Yourself
When your partner is being emotionally immature, do not defend yourself. Getting defensive, and being more and more loud and upset, just doesn’t work. Your partner might even be baiting you, trying to get you to respond and fight back.
Telling them that you never said or did something they are accusing you of just stokes the fire. Instead say, “I don’t remember it that way” or “I guess we believe different things” or “I’m sorry you feel that way” or “Let’s agree to disagree”. Then disengage!
Try Not to Explain or Justify
Don’t try explaining or justifying yourself when they aren’t listening or can’t understand you anyway. If they are too immature, they might only be able to see their own way of understanding something. If you keep explaining, they might resort to yelling or ignore you completely.
They might invalidate your feelings or gaslight you. This feels like you are going crazy, since they will deny your view of reality. Explaining and justifying will not stop this behavior but only fuels it.
When your in a difficult situation, you can detach and let go of your expectations. Most importantly, let go of your decided outcome. Take a deep breath and step outside the situation and look at it more objectively. Holding onto an idea that isn’t realistic in the moment can just create anxiety. You might not be able to control the situation. You might have to detach.
Do not engage in your partners need to argue, win, dominate or be right. Learn the limits of their communication so you know when to stop engaging. When things become fruitless, let it go, and detach. Leave the room, go do something else. Set your boundaries. Smile to yourself and move on.
It’s important to be realistic about your partners limitations. You might have to keep your interactions short and informational, without emotion. If an argument degenerates and isn’t respectful on both sides, detach and disengage. Keep your distance and stop being vulnerable if it’s not safe. Knowing that they are emotionally immature means you can’t rely on them to be able to solve problems with you and so you might have to disengage.
Find other people that you can share your opinions with, talk to and do fun things with. Cultivate close friendships with emotionally mature people and trusted family members.
Detachment Means Don’t Personalize
Stay neutral. Don’t take what your partner says personally. They might just be impulsively and defensively lashing out, and that is about them, not about you. If they are gaslighting you and behaving badly, this is not your fault. When they treat you badly, that is about them, not about you. An emotionally mature person treats others with respect and consideration, even if you don’t agree.
Stay calm and don’t take responsibility for their unhealthy behavior. It’s not your job to grow them up, or to read their mind and figure out what they need. Your partner needs to take responsibility for their part in things in order to change and grow and have a better relationship. This is not just your job.
You can see if you and your partner can use a book to learn skills for emotional maturity. Look online or try The Power of Two: Communication Skills for a Strong and Loving Marriage by Susan Heitler PhD and Abigail Heitler-Hirsch PhD.
Acceptance That Your Partner Is Emotionally Immature
Acceptance is a process and can take a long time to come to. When you realize you are in an argument you can’t win, use the ideas above. It can be hard to admit to yourself how limited your partner really is.
Stop blaming yourself and banging your head against the wall! If you realize they can’t or won’t change, and that things might not get better, this can bring up many different feelings. Sometimes it can be easier to blame yourself rather than feel things like grief, pain, sadness, anger, loneliness, shame and guilt.
You might need to deal with your own abandonment and loneliness. This can trigger old childhood feelings that you may have forgotten existed. Your feelings can then be even more difficult to handle. Not only do you have feelings from your present situation in your relationship, but, on top of that, you’ve got old feelings coming up from your past. This can be overwhelming.
If you’d like to develop skills to deal with an emotionally immature partner, please reach out. I am happy to help. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 310-314-6933.