But it’s probably most important.
Growing up, there comes a point where we begin to learn important elements of adulting in preparation for entering the real world. We learn how to manage money and be more responsible. We start to take school more seriously. We get jobs and may even pay a couple of bills. Our behavior evolves. Eventually, our decisions become more logical and we do fewer stupid things.
We grow as individuals and mature in most areas. One area that often goes unnurtured during this process, however, is our emotional maturity. It’s frequently overlooked, though I’d argue it’s one of the most vital aspects of our being. Our emotional state influences so much of the person that we become.
In being taught the fundamentals of managing our lives, rarely is a focus on emotional development among the lessons. But it should be. We need to learn to maturely express ourselves. And be comfortable having open, honest, respectful communication about the way that we feel.
Being emotionally immature is a hindrance in romantic relationships. It leads to people playing games and being dishonest, while unable to ever have a serious discussion about anything. These are usually the ones who consistently bolt when feelings get “too real.” We do this when our emotional maturity isn’t at a level that can handle giving and receiving love. Such depth of connection is too much.
Communication is key in any type of healthy relationship. And emotional maturity is the key to effective communication. When underdeveloped, we avoid heavy conversation. It feels foreign and unnerving.
Emotional maturity affects our ability to accept criticism, as well as respond appropriately. If lacking in this area, it is tough to handle difficult situations without escalating them. When told that we’re wrong, need to work on something, or anything else undesirable, emotional immaturity will respond by growing defensive and placing blame elsewhere. Everything is taken personally, as a slight. The capability to assess the situation and take responsibility for fixing what’s broken is nonexistent.
I’ve been in relationships, all kinds, where you’re almost afraid to tell the other person that they hurt or angered you because you know that no matter how gently it is expressed, they’ll get upset. Their reaction will be emotionally volatile. It’s unmanageable. Either this or they will just shut down and not want to deal with it, or you at all. Actually having calm, productive dialogue about the issue is out of the question.
Isn’t that something? The person who has potentially been offended is apprehensive about saying so because they know such a proclamation will be ill-received, and possibly lead to them feeling even worse. Those emotionally immature are masters at reverse psychology. They’ll have you believing YOU did something wrong in the end.
I’ve also been the person who struggles to say what they want and just expects others to know — then gets upset when they don’t! I’ve hurt my own feelings by having expectations of others of which they were not aware and naturally did not meet. We all likely have or had areas where the underdevelopment of our emotional health was evident.
It’s in the way that we handle pain. The difference between finding a way to heal and taking it out on others, or holding it in to our own detriment. It’s in our capacity to express empathy, objectivity and accountability. It’s in our willingness to be vulnerable for the progress of a relationship.
But no one teaches us that. We’re not taught how to grow emotionally. Seldom do we learn how to constructively process others not liking or wanting us. We aren’t shown how to let go and move on when we don’t want to. No one sits us down and says, “be an open book, let people in, it’s OK.” We aren’t told that how others respond to our truth is their problem, not ours.
Lucky you if you were.
Most of us end up learning as we go along, unlearning and then learning again. We guard our feelings rather than express them, for fear of being hurt, for protection and control. We take criticism as an indictment of our character or worth as a person.
Then hopefully, someday we start to recognize our emotional roadblocks and value the maturation process that needs to occur. We take it more seriously as our desire to be whole, cultivate meaningful life and relationship experiences increases. The gravity of it all becomes more apparent.
Imagine the heartache and disappointment we would’ve potentially been spared had it been properly weighted among all other forms of maturity to begin with.