Though we like to think of our romantic relationships as a constant, they are really more akin to variables — ebbing and flowing with the different phases of our lives. The partnerships we build in adolescence look nothing like those partnerships that comfort us into old age, nor should they. Our relationships change as we do, and they shift from immature to mature as we realize more who we are and what we want from life.
Relationships as a changing force in our lives.
Relationships happen in ages and in stages, and it’s not irrational to consider them as events that occur in specific relation to where we’re at in our own inner journeys. As a child, you share childish relationships; which help you both work out what you’re doing and what you want on the most fundamental of levels. Aging, however, should bring with it new perspectives, and with that a new view of both the type of partnership that you want, as well as what type of partner you need.
In our youth, we often find ourselves engaged in passionate, volatile love affairs that make our hearts race and packs our days with drama. As we blossom into adulthood, however, these types of relationships can become extremely damaging — and distract us from the career and life goals we’re trying to achieve.
Our partnerships should change and grow as we do. As we move away from this need to chase our skewed ideas of “passion” we should find ourselves chasing grander ideals, and partners who add to our experience rather than detracting from it. If you want to start building more stable, fulfilling and satisfying relationships, you have to start from the inside out and embrace those changes within you as well as the new patterns they indicate. Stop letting your life be ruled by juvenile passion and start building mature partnerships that last.
Signs of an immature relationship.
Immature relationships are fraught with difficulty and hardship, and this is because that is the state we are often in when come to them. These relationships are superficial, shortsighted, and often chocked full of conflict and difficult (yet unexpressed) emotions. Power imbalances are common here, as are partners with zero plans for the future.
No one can express themselves
One of the most common signs of an immature relationship is an inability to express. This happens when neither one of you feels safe or confident enough to express what you want or what you need from yourselves or each other. In an adult relationship, both parties know that the only way to be happy together is to work through uncomfortable topics and difficult feelings, and that takes talking and addressing the tough stuff.
Zero future plans
When we’re in a committed and happy relationship, it’s only natural to make plans. When we’re in a superficial or immature relationship, however, no one is planning for the future or imagining a life with their partner in any real way. In this state, it’s honeymoon only, with zero consideration for hardships or doing difficult things together throughout life. There’s no planning when it comes to a juvenile partnership. It’s all about reacting to the here and now.
Immature relationships are often extremely superficial, with very little substance lying beneath the surface. In this partnership it’s all face value, with one or more parties invested strictly in what they can get, or how they can benefit from the attention and affection of the other person. These couples might be the stereotypical social media highlight reel couple, or they might look more like the two who settle and never question why.
Arguments as the norm
While conflict and arguments can provide important points for growth, in the immature relationship conflict is used more as a weapon, and is rarely ever analyzed below surface value. When you’re stuck in a juvenile pattern of bonding, you argue over everything and are constantly wondering what’s in it for you. Arguments, fights and conflict become the norm as you both battle it out to see who can come out on top.
Looking for a parent
Those with pain in their childhoods often go looking to correct those childhoods through their romantic partnerships. Trauma and hardship can cause a state of arrested emotional development, which leads to baggage and a perceived need for a new or better “parent”. As adults, however, we have to come to our partners looking for an equal — who can match us in dreams, ability and ambition, in order to build a stable and fulfilling future together (rather than alone). We can’t expect them to correct the pain of our past, as there’s no going backwards…only forward.
An inability to take responsibility
The immature person is one who refuses to take responsibility, either in a relationship or outside of it. They don’t want to admit when they get things wrong, and they want to blame other people when they mess up or hold themselves back. This behavior is toxic, and limits our partnership in a number of ways — not least of which by increasing conflict in our relationships, and making it impossible to connect on a real level.
Giving up or walking away
It’s not healthy to give up and walk away when things get hard. Relationships aren’t easy, and they encompass a number of ups and downs that require our openness and commitment to overcome. When you give up and walk awayfrom your partner in the middle of an argument or tough moment, you’re indicating an unwillingness to work together; and a juvenile behavioral pattern that will continue to undermine your partnerships time after time.
Masters of punishment
Punishing one another in a relationship isn’t normal, and it’s also indicative of a juvenile or immature perspective. When we punish one another, hold a scorecard, or otherwise look to “get even” with our partners, we erode the bonds we share and likewise the trust that stabilizes our connections with one another. Punishing our partners pushes them away, and further corrupts our ideas on love and building lives together.
Everyone else first
Do you or your partner put everyone else first? Do family commitments, social time with friends, or even your pets come before the other person in your life? It’s good to have a blooming life and blooming support networks, but it’s not fair to put everything and everyone else before the person we’ve promised to build a life with. Adult relationships are those which know how to manage the balance and meet their own personal needs while still meeting the personal and social commitments they’ve made to others.
Obsessive proximity is one of the hallmark signs of a relationship that’s resting in the immature zone. This happens when one (or all) partners involved feel as though they have to be in physical proximity of their partner 24/7/365. Usually, this results from a lack of trust or insecurity in self, but it can also result from past relationships or insecure bonding lessons that taught you it wasn’t safe to spend time apart.
Signs of an adult relationship.
When you’ve finally slipped across that threshold of “adult” versus “juvenile” relationships — the differences are clear and distinct. Adult relationships have clear boundaries and levels of trust that empower us to become better versions of ourselves. This is how.
Finding the healthy balance
When two healthy and focused adults come together to build a life, they know who they are, and they are already firmly rooted in their existing life and experiences. If your relationship has worked out the healthy balance between friends, family and career — alongside romantic and personal needs — then it is a sign that you are in a mature partnership that’s moving in the right direction.
No need to change
Mature relationships are those in which neither party is working to change the other. You understand that you can’t change your partner, and indeed you don’t want to. Likewise, you don’t want to change yourself to fit into the relationship and you don’t feel any need or pressure to do so. Relationships based in maturity and reality are those that are accepting, with little to no emphasis placed on changing for outside influences alone.
Serious about the future
When you’re truly committed to someone, you want to build a future with them and you make plans to that effect. If you’re making plans and taking real-world steps to get there (ie saving money, booking tickets, applying for jobs near their family, etc) then it’s a sign that you take one another seriously, and have mature (and shared) goals for the future.
Fighting as a constructive device
There’s a common misconception that mature relationships are those in which there is no fighting or disagreements, but nothing could be further from the truth. Truly mature relationships still possess conflict. They are not, however, riddled and controlled by it. In an adult partnership, fighting is a constructive device used to bring parties closer together in ideas — rather than as a weapon, meant to tear the other person down or achieve a “victory”.
Trust beyond question
If you have benefited from the love of a mature relationship before, then you know how deeply trust is involved in the experience. In a mature relationship, you don’t have to constantly question the other person’s motives or where they’ve been; you know (inherently) that they have your best interests at heart and won’t do anything consciously to wreck your day, let alone your happiness. That’s called trust, and it exists beyond question or conversation when we’ve found the right person.
Leaving the rush behind
Mature relationships don’t feel the need to rush, or constantly get to the next stage. This is because, in these partnerships, you’re confident in where you’re going and know you’re there together now. Today, tomorrow. Those things are all just opportunities to share time together and make plans. There’s no need to constantly pinpoint what precisely comes next, and there’s no chase to make it to the next stage.
Decision making as a team
Immature relationships are marked by their conflict, but also their imbalances of power. In these relationships, it’s not uncommon to find one person calling all the shots or making all the decisions. In a mature relationship, however, one person doesn’t hold all the control and decisions are made in tandem as partners. This is because both parties realize that they are stronger when their efforts and their ideas are combined.
Committing to the journey
Mature couples commit to the journey and understand that their lives together won’t remain a shining honeymoon utopia forever. Life is full of conflict and adversity for us as individuals, and that doesn’t change when we get into a partnership. Mature partners commit to that fact, and agree to work their problems no matter what, making it clear that the ups and downs won’t distract them from the life they are trying to build.
Eyes on the same prize
The biggest thing that immature relationships often get wrong is this idea that we must have personal similarities in order to build successful partnerships. While these similarities can be helpful, the true bonding agent that holds a partnership together is the shared vision of a future. An adult couple that withstands the test of time is one who has their eyes on the same prize. They don’t always listen to the same music, or wear the same clothes — but they do want the same things out of life and that’s what matters in the long run.
Braving the tough stuff
Perhaps one of the biggest benefits of a mature relationship is its ability to navigate the tough stuff. Because there’s so much trust, comfort and love in these partnerships, they are better able to empower the partners to open up to one another. This means you’re not afraid to confront the tough feelings and experiences head-on, and talk to one another when things are going wrong.
How to build more lasting and mature relationships.
We can move from immature relationships to those in the more adult realm, by getting real on what we want and focusing on authentic love and trust. Finding the right person isn’t always easy, and it isn’t always easy to fix what’s already gone wrong. By tapping into our understanding and our forgiveness, however, we can often find our way to mature and fulfilling relationships that make it easier to thrive as a couple.
1. Sit down and focus on what you want
The first step in building healthier, more mature relationships is getting clear on what relationships mean to you. Whether you are already in a committed partnership, or you’re reeling from the last mistake, it’s never too late to take a step back and refocus on what you want and what you need. It just requires some brutal honesty from you, and the understanding that you alone are responsible for creating the life that you want.
If you’re in a relationship, align your futures and figure out what it is you want from the long term. If you’re single, completely detach from where you are at, and remove yourself completely. Look at the way you perceive relationships and look back over the long stream of partnerships you’ve held. What worked in those relationships? What didn’t? Compare the two and find where you want to live in the middle.
Redefine your commitment to one another, or to yourself. Stop compromising on the things that are important and ensure that you’re working to build a future with someone who wants the same things. If you want a family and they want to be a globe-trotting playboy — it’s probably safe to say that you aren’t working toward cohesive long-term goals. Get real and spend some time deeply considering what matters to you. Base your relationships in reality, and you’ll find happier results.
2. Address needs — don’t run away
Mature partners address their needs and confront their problems head on rather than running away from them. While this isn’t always comfortable, it does ensure a culture of honesty that bolsters your relationship with trust, and empowers you to bloom. Instead of shutting down and shutting off when something goes wrong, we have to get committed to making it better and talking it through. We can’t always run away from our problems, and we certainly can’t run away from ourselves.
If there’s are problems brewing in your partnership — address them. Likewise, stop turning away from the internal healing you need to do on yourself. When you run away, or refuse to address things, you allow them to fester and turn into even larger problems and conflicts.
Open up to your partner and let them know where you’re at. If you’re struggling with problems in your partnership, find a safe time and place to talk to them about it. Be candid and share your feelings without using any blaming or victim language. Stick to the facts and don’t sugarcoat things for their needs. The more brutally honest we are about what’s going on in our heads and our hearts, the less room we leave for misunderstandings and miscommunication.
3. Build a base of trust and respect
Trust is pivotal to any partnership we build, but it’s especially critical in a mature relationship that is building a temple against time. When we trust our partner we know, implicitly, that they have our back and will fight our corner or protect us when times get rough. Likewise, they can trust that we will always be there to support them in any way that we can, and safeguard their feelings and concerns as if they were our own.
Demonstrate your worthiness of trust every single day and do it through actions as well as words. Keep your partners secrets (within reason) and don’t go out of your way to hurt, wound, or otherwise demean whatever journey they are on.
Look for romantic partners who give you the same, going out of their way to prove to you that their love is one which can be trusted. Don’t assume the worst. Look for the best and don’t throw in the towel on the first misstep. Trust is something that takes time to build; we have to prove that we are worthy of it and we have to prove that we can give trust. Build that base every day for longer lasting, more mature and healthier partnerships you can rely on.
4. Find a new perspective
Perspective is a powerful thing, and it has the ability to dramatically transform the way we lead our lives and build relationships. Our perspectives change, and they change with the experiences and memories that we create. When you shift your perspective, you see things in a whole new light and come to understand them as a part of a different picture. Shifting your perspective when it comes to relationships can lead to some surprising transformations, not least of all stability and compassion.
Start seeing your relationships in the right light. Don’t run away from your feelings or the things that you want. Likewise, don’t run from those things in your partner. Try to see things from their point of view, and shift your perspective into one that is all-encompassing, honest and forgiving.
Consider the reasons you’ve come to see relationships as a struggle, or a challenge that almost always ends in defeat. Rebuild and reshape the way you see your partnerships, by selecting the partners that compliment your vision for the future. If you are down on yourself or down on the person that you’re meant to love, a lot of it can lie simply in the way you’re looking at things. Try a new perspective and force yourself to see your love in a new light.
5. Choose forgiveness more often
Is there any gift in this life so capable of inspiring change than forgiveness? Through forgiveness, we learn to understand ourselves differently, and we learn to understand others differently too. Forgiveness is letting go of what was and embracing what is, while simultaneously agreeing to live in the right here and the right now. When we cultivate forgiveness, we build stronger relationships — but it’s a gift that can only be granted from within.
Let go of any desperate need to “get even” for past hurts. Let go of any scores you believe need settled, or competition that’s ongoing. Start choosing forgiveness and start that journey from within. Forgive yourself for the mistakes you’ve made and the situations you’ve goofed. Forgive your partners (past and present) for all the shortcomings and pitfalls.
To forgive is not to forget, and it’s certainly not to condone. When we forgive, what we do is to sever the emotional ties that bind us and say, “I no longer hold on to this pain as my own. I release it back into the universe and to the person it belongs to.” It’s the ultimate release, and one of the ways by which we clear our paths forward as individuals and as couples. You can cling to the darkness, or you can let it go. Choose forgiveness for longer lasting relationships.
6. Live in truth and authenticity
Real adults live in their truth and they live in authenticity, because they know that they are strong enough to do so. The same can be said for our relationships. In the mature relationship, we are both able to live as unique and independent individuals, with our own interests, thoughts and experiences. Only when we live in our truth, can we attach to people who are doing the same and thus build partnerships together that can stand the test of time.
Don’t hold back who you are and don’t force your partner to do the same. Let them live in their truth and their authenticity as vibrantly as you live in your own. Seek your truths together and allow those truths to fortify the love you share between one another.
Live in truth together and don’t let the fears and admonitions of other people impact the way you choose to love and live. As partners, we have the ability to encourage one another and shield one another, making us the perfect complement to the journey we are trying to undertake. Don’t stifle one another if you want a mature relationship that encourages positive transformation. Let yourself bloom alongside one another and enjoy the vision of it all.
Putting it all together…
Our relationships age and change from phase to phase, just as we do. In the beginning, we might find ourselves in a number of immature or juvenile partnerships that detract from our experience more than they add to them. Over time, however, this should change as the things we want to begin to change and we start to look for more adult relationships that can help bolster the transformations we’re seeking in our lives.
Taking our relationships from the juvenile realm and into adulthood requires us to dig deep, and figure out what it is we really want from life and our partnerships. We have to address our needs up front, and learn how to share our concerns bravely with our partners, in a way that is both fair and comforting. Likewise, we have to build a base of trust and know that we are sharing our future with someone who has our back. Building a relationship that lasts isn’t easy, but it is one of the most rewarding experiences we can give ourselves. Shift your perspective and the way you see partnerships. Choose forgiveness and start forgiving yourself and the lovers of your past for all the mistakes that were made. Relationships can be a boon, or they can be a burden. The choice is ultimately ours and occurs in the way we build our relationships and the partners we pursue. Find a partner that you can live authentically and in truth with, and stop running from the things you need. There’s someone out there for everyone, but you have to embrace both what you really want and what you really need to find them.