Whether you’re dealing with his temper tantrums or having to babysit him when he’s too drunk, you know it sucks to date someone who isn’t very mature. Maybe he was fun when the two of you were younger… but now he needs to grow up.
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Is it so unreasonable to expect a man who is dating to be a bit more mature?
When people think of maturity, they tend to think of a steady job or marriage. They think of dinner parties instead of clubbing until 3 am. While these actions might make a person sound mature, I think that maturity is most important when it comes to emotions.
Emotional maturity is about being able to recognize and effectively act on what you feel, in yourself or in others. It’s what allows you to be there for your friend even when you’re having a hard day. It’s also what helps you manage your frustration when you know your boss is in a bad mood.
If you’re frustrated because you’re ready to stop dating immature guys, read on to learn about the characteristics of a mature man.
Developmentally, children are not very emotionally mature. They have to learn from their parents and caregivers how to understand what they are feeling and how to respond. Learning that skill takes quite a long time. Most people don’t fully understand their own emotions until well into adulthood.
Learning how to read other people can take a lifetime. Some people are naturally more emotionally reactive, making it hard for them to get past their own feelings. Others have difficulty reading social cues, which makes it hard to understand what others are feeling and why.
But emotional maturity has a significant impact on general well-being, satisfaction, and relationship health.1
Women are generally considered more emotionally mature than men. Research suggests that that’s because girls and children considered feminine are encouraged to develop deep friendships. They are given space to learn about each other’s inner feelings.
Boys are often discouraged from taking time to understand how they feel, let alone how anyone else feels.
Studies suggest that women mature at least a decade earlier than men. This may be because women’s brains make connections in social and emotional realms faster than men's.2 So while most women ‘become’ mature in their early thirties, this study says the average man doesn’t mature until he’s 43.
But don’t despair! With increased attention to mental and emotional wellness, emotional education is more and more accessible. Many men are learning how to be responsible for themselves
Our feelings are biological responses to our environment. They drive us to act, communicate, and remember the importance of past experiences. Emotions can lead people to rash behavior if you don’t have a handle on them.
Someone who is not very mature is often very impulsive. They do what feels good and they get mad easily. They avoid feeling discomfort by any means possible. This often leaves their partner mentally exhausted and beyond frustrated.
One of the first signs of emotional maturity is this man’s ability to recognize what he’s feeling and why. He can identify a potential problem or notice the small things to resolve conflict before it starts. This allows him to address his emotions before they get to an uncontrollable level.
Accountability describes our ability to take responsibility for our actions.
An emotionally mature guy recognizes that he is able to feel his feelings, but they don’t control him. He recognizes that he is the only person he can control in any situation. He recognizes that there is always a choice to respond mindfully to a situation.
This kind of man will take responsibility for his part in unpleasant situations, not just the things that will get him rewarded. He doesn’t blame others. He acknowledges that he has hurt people and seeks to put things to right.
It’s not always easy to make a decision, especially for someone who is emotionally immature. When the stakes are high, the negative consequences of making the “wrong” choice can be huge. Which can make it appealing to not make any decision at all.
Someone who isn’t mature will refuse to make decisions. He might even push you to make decisions for him. That lets him feel good when things are good and point the finger at you when things are bad.
A mature man is going to weigh the pros and cons of his options and decide how to proceed. If he needs to seek advice, he doesn’t make that person responsible for his next move. He stays focused on his goal and acts decisively.
Compromise is important in any relationship, especially romantic ones. The ability to work toward a goal while respecting other people’s opinions and priorities is a clear sign of a mature man.
Someone who doesn’t have this ability is hard to get along with. They draw out unnecessary arguments because they need everything to go exactly the way they want it to. They are unwilling or unable to consider that other people’s needs are important too.
One of the clearest signs of an emotionally mature person is that they are ready to negotiate. They are able to recognize what other people find important and offer to help them achieve that. Instead of demanding everything go their way, they look for an option that benefits everyone.
He’s flexible when he needs to be
A clear sign that someone isn’t very mature is an overwhelming need for control. Though people might associate that need for control with anger, it mostly stems from anxiety. Fear of the unknown or being unprepared makes people try to control the world around them.
Unfortunately for them, the only thing we can fully control in life is ourselves.
An immature person is likely to have a very rigid idea of what is “supposed” to happen at any given moment. They find it difficult to adjust to a change of plans. They lash out or get pushy to try to make things go the way they want.
A mature man is able to stay calm when something unexpected comes up. He’s able to adapt his plans to the situation. He can recognize what’s important to him (usually having to do with his emotions!) and allow everything else to flow naturally.
You know the saying, “You are what you eat?” Well, we’re also who we spend time with. The people in our lives are a big part of our mental and emotional environment. They influence the way we think and behave, for better or for worse.
An emotionally immature man is most likely going to be surrounded by other immature people. His immature behavior is reinforced by the actions of the people around him. If he tries to act mindfully or skillfully, he’s likely to be pressured to engage in problem behavior again.3
An emotionally mature man avoids drama. He focuses on relationships that are encouraging to him and the other person. If he’s acted childishly, he expects his friends to call him on it and encourage him to do better. He and his friends encourage themselves to be better people.
You might be surprised to hear it, but we set boundaries with ourselves, not other people. A boundary is our own understanding of what we will accept and what we will not. We make requests that other people respect our boundaries, but ultimately we are responsible for respecting our own boundaries.
For example, one of my boundaries is that I don’t accept calls after 8:30 at night if they aren’t planned. That helps me unwind before bed. I can request that my friends not call later than that, but it’s my job to make sure I unwind. So if they do call, I set their ringtone to silent.
Someone who is not mature doesn’t know how to identify their own boundaries or communicate them. They don’t know how to hold their ground when someone crosses the line. They are often anxious and frustrated in their relationships because they feel taken advantage of or helpless.
Someone who is mature knows how to keep their priorities straight when it comes to their peace. They can talk clearly about their expectations. They communicate their boundaries and enforce them firmly with their friends, their boss, and their family.
Being assertive is the skill of recognizing your priorities and respecting the priorities of others. This communication style focuses on achieving your goals without hurting your relationships. It’s more than nice words. It’s being honest about what you need and what you are willing to accept or do.
A lot of people are not aware that they aren’t being assertive. Immature people will often communicate in aggressive or passive-aggressive ways. They make requests that are unclear and punish others when they don’t get their way.
Open communication is probably one of the best signs to look for when it comes to maturity. He may not say what you want to hear, but he will not attack you. If he is confused he will ask questions and won’t mind clarifying to make sure everyone understands each other.
Being in a relationship doesn’t mean you and your partner are always on the same page. Hopefully, you share relationship goals. But you should have your own life and goals, and he should have his.
Immature guys will assume that you are automatically on the same page. He won’t recognize signs that you’re looking for something different from the relationship or activity. In fact, he might feel surprised and betrayed when you disagree with him.
A mature partner will be interested in what makes you tick. He creates space for you to express yourself, even if he’s not personally invested in the subject. Instead of making decisions for you, he’ll ask for your opinion and encourage you to pursue your goals.
A lot of people avoid vulnerable and emotional conversations, even with the people they love and trust. The ability to open up about things that hurt or make us embarrassed is one that a lot of young people have to work to develop.
An emotionally immature person often will not have the self-control to open up without getting defensive or lashing out. That’s because of the sympathetic nervous system (SNS). The SNS controls our fight or flight, and when a painful conversation is on the horizon, it can get activated.4
Pop culture will make you think you can’t have those kinds of conversations with a man. Emotionally mature men, however, will start those conversations themselves. They aren’t afraid of their feelings.
None of us like to have to admit when we are wrong. It doesn’t feel good. From a young age, many of us were taught that being wrong means something bad about us. So we push back against it.
Think about any teenager you know. A cousin, one of your friend’s kids, your own child. Don’t they think they know everything? Because they’ve not yet matured, they have difficulty understanding that there are things they don’t know that they don't know. And without practice, they can’t develop that skill.
Only a mature man can admit when he’s wrong. I would consider it to be one of the biggest signs that someone has grown.
There isn’t a single person in the world who doesn’t have a bad habit or two. We tend to develop them to help us deal with stress.5 But they don’t stay helpful forever, and sometimes they become downright disruptive.
Before developing healthy coping strategies, immature men develop more bad habits to deal with the first batch of bad habits. He might drink to deal with how avoidance makes things harder at work. He might avoid dealing with the consequences of his drinking.
A mature man recognizes that old patterns can keep him from his future goals. When he notices a bad habit or has it pointed out to him, he recognizes a need to change. He may not be able to change everything in 21 Days, but he will focus on making progress.
Self-care is important to maintaining our mental health. Though spa days and reading breaks are helpful, self-care is also doing things that can feel uncomfortable. Going to the gynecologist or saying no to a date because of a deadline are examples.
Men who haven’t matured will focus on things that make them feel good at the moment. Long-term wellness goals are often based on what feels good, not what’s practical. An immature man will spend hours in the gym, for example, but avoid dealing with a banking issue.
An emotionally mature man has a broader sense of what self-care is for him. He creates space in his schedule to take care of the things he doesn’t enjoy. He sets himself up for success by being consistent.
It can be easy to lose yourself in a romantic relationship. Spending time with your favorite person feels great. But it’s healthy for couples to be able to spend time apart. Time apart allows you to keep up with your friends and hobbies.
Immature men need their partners around. External validation is important to them, which makes it hard to be alone. They tend to feel frustrated when dating an independent woman. Insecurity often makes them jealous.
A mature guy doesn’t have issues spending time away from his partner. He has his own events and social network to engage with. He trusts his partner, so any jealousy he might feel, he knows to deal with on his own. He often isn’t even jealous to begin with.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, I think we’ve all had to adapt to things being different than before. Whether it’s mask and quarantine mandates, paying rent, or dealing with supply shortages, things have changed.
A lot of people struggled to adapt. Some still have difficulty accepting “the new normal.” Feelings of instability can trigger maladaptive behaviors. Even we, therapists, had a hard time keeping an even keel.
No one is a better person just because of their ability to adapt. But resilience is something a mature guy strives for. He learns from his experiences and the experiences of others around him.
If you’ve never dated a mature man, you’re in for a few surprises. His behavior will definitely be different from that of the immature men you’ve dated before. But you’ll probably also be surprised by how that makes you feel.
When you’re used to unhealthy relationship patterns, a mature man’s communication can feel a bit distant or too direct. But you don’t want to fall back on past unhealthy communication patterns. So how do you handle it?
To be the best version of yourself, you have to practice recognizing your thoughts and emotions. Working with a therapist or coach can help you figure out where some of your unpleasant feelings come from and how to handle them effectively.
Healthy relationships rely on effective communication. Passive aggression won’t get you very far. Practice reminding yourself to be honest. You may have felt like you had to play mind games in previous relationships, but now you can focus on it.
You may have learned in previous relationships that men won’t want the same things you do. But a mature man wants to be a good partner to you. He wants to know what you want and how to meet your needs.
Having boundaries is not just about cutting people out. It’s about creating space for you and the people in your life to show you that they love you. Let him know upfront what makes you uncomfortable.
Despite the messages we get from the world around us, you are enough. Make sure that you spend time engaging with your interests, friends, and family.
Studies published as recently as 2013 suggest that most men don’t fully mature until they are 43. But a lot has changed in the last 9 years, including how we talk about mental health and emotions. More men are learning emotional literacy earlier.
A mature man understands his feelings and can respect yours. He’s not afraid to talk directly about a problem so that you can solve it together. He doesn’t hold grudges and instead looks for solutions that you can both work together on.
There are many benefits to spending time alone, even in a relationship. Time alone helps people to maintain their independent identities. Where an immature man might define himself by his romantic relationships, a mature man doesn’t. He cares about his partner while staying his own person.
Finding a mature man to date can feel like a trial, but when you know what to look for it can be a bit easier. Hopefully, this list has helped you identify the things you want to see in your next relationship.