Are you in a relationship with an emotionally immature individual? Or are you dating and wanting to know how to look out for the common signs?
See below a non-exhaustive list of characteristics of an emotionally immature person:
- Everything is about them. If you tell them something about you, they don’t empathize, but rather bring it back to them, e.g., “let me tell you what that reminds me about me”
- Control. They are egocentric. You are a part of what they want the interaction to be. They dictate the dynamic, and you’ll just play the part they want you to play. Here they are safe because they have control, and won’t be questioned on what they don’t want to be questioned about.
- Hard to reach. In communicating with them, you don’t progress the relationship no matter how many interactions you’ve had. You don’t get to know them more. You don’t feel any more connected to them.
- Inability to self reflect and be accountable. They are incapable of being self-aware enough to accept areas in which they’ve contributed to issues or ruptures. They’ll find a way to rationalize their behavior and blame other people or circumstances.
- Deny, dismiss or distort reality. If they don’t agree with it, they’ll deny, dismiss, distort, rationalize, explain it away, deflect.
- Don’t tolerate complexity. Have black and white thinking. Immediately judge and categorize.
- Easily activated. Easily triggered, especially by children (children have a lot of emotions), because they don’t know how to handle their own emotions let alone others’.
- They use moral judgment of other people to control dynamic and get what they want. I have a need and you better fill it quick and if you don’t, you’re bad. You feel like it’s your responsibility to meet their need.
And sometimes an internalizing personality on the other side will take it as what THEY need to do to fix the relationship, or to improve themselves. So they take in the projection of the emotional immature person and makes it about them and feel bad about themselves and then the emotionally immature person gets off the hook. It’s everything else’s or everyone else’s fault.
- Low self esteem. Who they are and their worth is always at risk. They haven’t built that inner feeling of self to say “no, you’re okay, we know who we are, we’re good, we know how we feel, that’s not about me.” Secure people can see people making weird face or glance at them, and they have the inner makeup to handle that and keep sense of self, versus falling apart easily because your worth is always in question.
- Feel drained after interacting with them. They need your attention as a kind of energy to fuel their own stability and self-esteem. Typically when we open up and share emotions and get to know someone better, that gives us energy. With emotionally immature individuals, we need to give empathy to them because they don’t know how to process or regulate their own emotions because of an undeveloped personality who doesn’t know how to deal with problems. But it’s one-sided. They are not interested in talking about your issues or feelings. They can’t sit with it. They don’t care to talk about it. They’re not interested. They might say “Don’t worry about it!”
- They always had to tackle things on own so they don’t have the ability to co-regulate or provide empathy. They’re afraid of big expressions of feelings or intimacy. In their past, they showed intimacy and a caregiver shut it down (maybe they got a blank face, startled face, “I don’t know what you’re talking about”, etc.) so then they say “oh, that part of me is not attractive,” so then they think it’s shameful. They ask themselves, “how did I create this bad connection?” so that they can fix it. And then they don’t develop the muscle of intimacy and instead learned to shut their attachment system down.
- If you want help navigating a relationship with an emotionally immature individual — or wish to attract emotionally mature partners — this is exactly what I help my clients with.
Message me for a complimentary consultation to start coaching 1-on-1!
* This article was inspired by the work of Lindsay C. Gibson (read her great book titled, “Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents”).