I want to talk to you about something that's come up a lot for me lately and also for my clients. And that is how to deal with just growing up when you're in a marriage. How do you deal with emotional immaturity on your side and also your partner's side? I think it's really important to know that marriage is only going to be as good as the ingredients. You wouldn't take really crummy things to bake a cake with, and then it turns out kind of crummy and very dry you complain and wonder what's wrong or what's happening, because the reality is it's just you're dealing with imperfect people. You're dealing with people who are learning how to grow up, how to show up, how to take responsibility, how to have some humility.
Maturity is a spectrum, not a destination
And that is kind of where we're all at. We're all at different spectrums as individuals in terms of growing up and being emotionally mature, and also with our marriages and the combination. And so in this blog, I just want to help you sort a few things out when it comes to emotional immaturity. How to deal with it, so that you can have a better perspective and maybe kind of see the trajectory of where your relationship possibly could go, or maybe just be really accepting of where your marriage is right now because that's the first step of any kind of growth. It's just, "Huh, this is where I'm at. This is where my partner's at. And what's the next thing that we can do?"
There is absolutely no judgement
So when I talk about emotional immaturity, I'm not making a judgment about it. I'm not some teenage person saying, "You're so immature." No, this is just the fact that life is about growth and we are all on a path of maturing and growing up. So no judgment here. I struggle with this too. My husband struggles with this. Everyone does. It doesn't matter how old you are. In fact, emotional maturity doesn't correlate with age at all.
What really affects maturity?
So what really affects maturity? After just a brief brainstorm, I narrowed down four things. Number one are the tests that we go through in life. We recently had a flood. The plumber just left holes all over our walls, places of disaster. I would say that that experience helped me mature a little bit. It helped me see what things are really important in my life. It helped me be more patient with the process. It helped me be detached. The fact that we laid that beautiful floor eight months ago with our blood, sweat and tears, does it really matter?
So all the tests that I've gone through in my life, generally, have helped me just advance just one step further. Now, we can use the tests in our life to then backtrack and slide into victimization and, "Why me?" And blame and criticize. So there is always a choice, but tests do allow us to step up and grow a little bit.
Humility is one of the most important characteristics I see in relation to learning about something, about accepting other people's influence. Maybe our partner's, perhaps. Humility helps us see that this is a spectrum and we are just taking little baby steps forward each and every day.
Trauma will also affect your ability to move through something. This is really heightened in terms of anything related to attachment. If you've had trauma, that possibly affected you when you were young or your connection with other adults or with authority. That can sometimes hamper our maturity as well.
Addiction, I have seen profoundly affect maturity. Because I work in the realm of intimacy and sex, I often talk about pornography addiction. Maturity almost stops at the age that the addiction really took firm hold. And I've heard about this in terms of other addiction as well; alcohol, drugs, that sort of thing.
What you can do
There are many things that affect our immaturity and again, this is really all a spectrum. The most important thing to remember in a relationship is that the only thing you can do ever, is control and change yourself. That's it. That never changes. And often it's easy to say, "Well, you know what would be better? What would work really well for this relationship? If you would just grow up. If you would just mature a little. If you could just handle the situation better. You could just have a little bit more humility. If you could reflect on your emotions and take care of your needs and express yourself better, then we would all be good here."
That's just kind of what the brain does, right? The brain says, "We're better than everybody else." So we have to fight that and part of that is the maturing process is saying, "Okay, what can I control? Can I control myself, can I change myself. And what can I look at? What behaviors are just not serving my relationship? What behaviors are not serving me? And what thought patterns are just not going to create the marriage that I want in the long term?" That really helps you get out of feeling like a victim, feeling like you're just at the whim of whatever your spouse decides to do or not, and helps you move into feeling a lot more hopeful and empowered.
What does maturity look like?
So what does maturity even look like? What does it even sound like? I would never want to say that I've reached the pinnacle, but let me give you an example from my life this morning. So I mentioned we have had a flood, and so life is a little bit chaotic. We're also in the midst, at the time that I write this, of social distancing. Does feel like social isolation sometimes. Social distancing and everyone's at home. My kids are home, my husband's at home. And we had the flood, and so there's a lot of things, right? And one of the things that is happening is a lot more dishes. I don't know if you've experienced this, but if there's more people in the house for a longer length of time, then there are just more dishes to be had in the kitchen.
So we had a plumber come in today and I was really feeling embarrassed about the state of our house. We were all really tired last night and we didn't get to the dishes and I asked my husband to please do them. So my husband said, "Yes, I will do the dishes in the morning." I said, "Okay, good. Then I won't be so embarrassed and humiliated." And he did. He loaded the dishwasher and then my older daughter was supposed to do dishes and that didn't happen and I was feeling all the feelings and all the thoughts. “My family's on a team. Here I am, I've got a call in 10 minutes and I'm doing all the work and poor me and I'm a victim and everyone wants to throw me under the bus and no one wants to support me.”
And then I just took a pause. I just took a pause and thankfully my little mature self kicked in and said, "Wait a minute, Janna. Wait a minute. Just hold on. Steady yourself. Whose need is this for the house to be in order?" I mean, it wasn't disgusting, but, "Whose need is this for the house to be in a certain state?" It's my need. It's not my husband's need. If it was, he would have done it. Is it my children's need? No, they seem perfectly fine if someone comes in the house and it's a little bit of chaos, so it's my need. So I just kept on repeating to myself, "Janna, this is your need."
So for me, at this stage of my development, at this stage of my relationship to myself and my husband, that's what maturity is looking like. It's taking responsibility for what my needs are and really stepping back from what I really wanted to do, which was to go upstairs and yell at anybody and rage at everybody. Well, why did I want to do that? Because I had an interpretation. I had a thought that was mine.
I had a client call the other day and I was just so thrilled at what they did. She had an interpretation of what her husband said and she was going to react. She was going to fight right back. We like to do that. But instead of doing that, she paused, she took a deep breath, she thought it through, and then she called him back and said, "Hey, can you come back here? You just said something and I think I made up a whole story about what you just said. Can I just check in with you about that?" Turns out it was a big story that her brain had made up and so they were able to calmly connect back again.
That is what I see emotional maturity looking like. Those are the sparks of it, the growing up process. And we could come up with a million different scenarios and cases and I'm curious for you, what does it really look like in the trenches of your relationship where you can see these moments?
Sit with your feelings
Another moment for me is when I can sit with really uncomfortable feelings. I was having a conversation with my daughter and she shared something and I lashed out a little bit because I was interpreting what she said to me to mean that I'm a bad mom, in a really roundabout way, and it really upset her. And I sat there with these really, really uncomfortable feelings. I wanted to just either explain and defend or change her mind.
I also wanted to just get up and run out of the room, but I just took a deep breath and allowed myself to stay in the uncomfortable feelings. And it took about three minutes for those horrible, in the gut, in the throat, you could just feel it everywhere feelings, to start to mellow out. For me, starting to step into that is what emotional maturity or the maturation process is.
Where to start
Okay, so if you are noticing some trends in yourself that perhaps you want to just grow up a little bit with or you're noticing some trends in your husband that you're like, "Oh, I see you. You're also needing to grow up." I really recommend that you focus your attention on yourself and when you change the dynamics, if you change the pattern that you get into, maturity will come. Maybe it's a passive aggressive pattern or a criticize defend pattern. There's all sorts of fun ones you can get into.
If you stop that, if you pause, if you allow some uncomfortable feelings or you check in with your stories and thoughts, you change the dynamic completely in your relationship. And whatever they were doing, it no longer works anymore and no longer serves a purpose. And in that way you really can inspire change. I've seen this so many times in my relationship from myself and also from my husband. My husband is great at saying things like, "Janna, I can handle about five more minutes of negativity and then I need to move on." Beautiful. He's saying, "I'm not going to keep this dance going anymore. I love you, but I'm just going to step away." That is incredibly emotionally mature, from my perspective. Oh, I can think of many things that he does.
He's a trooper, but in the early days of our relationship, a lot of it was on my end. I did a lot of reading. I became a marriage coach. It doesn't really matter who's doing it. You really will affect change in your relationships. Isn't that great news? You don't have to wait around. You don't have to change your partner. You don't have to get a new partner in order to have a relationship that's continually growing up and maturing and involving.
We need help to do hard things. I got so much help when I was doing this process early on in our relationship. There is no way we would still be married if I hadn't gone to many different professionals, therapists, counselors, and coaches. So if you recognize that there are some patterns in your relationship that you see are kind of on the immature level, again, no judgment. We all do it.
If you notice that and you want some support, you need a third party. I encourage you to book a free discovery call with me. We'll just go through what it looks like to work together and it doesn't mean that there's anything massively wrong with your relationship. It just means that you want to have some radical communication and some radical intimacy. Isn't that amazing? I mean, it's just never ending how much you can grow and evolve in a relationship. And a lot of that has to do with looking at yourself. I hope I get to chat with you soon and please let me know what your thoughts are around emotional maturity in your relationship.