Did you know that many people struggle with depression, anxiety, anger issues, and relationship difficulties because they never grew up? Just because you become an adult doesn’t mean that you emotionally function like one. Emotional maturity is quite different than your age, and therefore so many people act childish regardless of their age.
When you consider your age, you use your birthdays as a guideline. The medical community calculates your biological age by height and weight by cognitive abilities. Now, psychologists use a different scale for emotional age, as your reactions and habits determine it.
For instance, two children are arguing over a toy truck, and one throws a temper tantrum to get their way. This is typical behavior that you would expect from kids, but what if it were two adults? Grown-ups know that you must use tact and negotiate without smacking, screaming, or using hurtful words.
It’s not uncommon for children to cry and throw a fit many times during the day, but you don’t expect an adult to act the same way. You can’t expect a child to act civilized as they haven’t grown and matured enough to gain emotional maturity. The real problem occurs when a child isn’t allowed to grow emotionally, often due to trauma, abuse, or other circumstances.
They become adults with childish behaviors and emotional problems. While crying and throwing fits work as adolescents, it doesn’t have the same effect when they reach adulthood. Therefore, so many people are emotionally stunted and in relationships where they make others miserable.
Eleven Signs of an Emotionally Childish Person
Do you know the signs of someone immature emotionally? Here are some things psychologists have observed when dealing with someone who never grew up on the inside.
1. Childish People Distance Themselves from Others
Having a relationship means someone to shoulder the burdens of life and stay by your side. However, when someone lacks maturity on an emotional level, they don’t offer the support you need.
They may distance themselves when a crisis comes, as they don’t know what to say or how to react to your issues. They see things as a one-way street where people cater to their needs and not the other way around.
2. They Expect Everyone to Do Things for Them
Relationships with the person who still acts like a child are challenging as they want you to wait on them hand and foot. However, don’t expect them to lift a finger for you. You will need to ask them ten times to pick their clothes up off the floor, as they still have that kid-like manner where their parent must give them instruction.
Many people who lack this maturity will look at their partner as a nag or another parent figure and rebel just like a kid.
3. They Can’t Put Their Feelings into Words
Have you ever known what you wanted to say but couldn’t find the words to get it out? The emotionally stunted person does this as they have difficulty putting their feelings into words.
Their brains cannot process their complex emotions, so they often say nothing. It’s common for this person to withdraw and shut down rather than be vulnerable because they don’t know how to respond.
4. Relationships Are Kept Superficial When Someone Displays Childish Behaviors
Connecting on a deeper level is what relationships are all about. However, the person who lacks emotional maturity likes to keep things on a superficial level. While you can quickly open up about your life and past, they feel like something’s holding them back.
Sharing and communicating with your partner brings you closer and strengthens your bond. However, it can cause a lack of intimacy when a person can’t express their feelings due to a lack of maturity. Those couples who cannot be emotionally intimate will have serious issues.
5. Childish People Are Unwilling to Compromise
It would help if you found a middle ground as a couple, or it would lead to many arguments. Some give-and-take ensures that everyone is happy. However, when dealing with a childish person, they will throw temper tantrums to get their way.
They don’t consider your side or needs and are undoubtedly unwilling to compromise. Adult temper tantrums can be just as messy as a toddler, but it’s not fun to constantly walk on eggshells that your partner will fly off the handle when they don’t get their way.
6. They Don’t Take Responsibility for their Actions
Emotional intelligence allows you to admit when you’ve made a mistake. Once you’ve done something wrong, you know that you must apologize and make the situation right. Consequently, someone who lacks this intelligence doesn’t want accountability for their errors, as they would rather blame it on someone else.
According to the National Library of Medicine, blame-shifting is a form of verbal abuse, as this person would instead force someone else to take credit for their mistakes. It’s toxic and shows a selfish person, but there can also be other personality disorders, such as borderline or narcissistic, under the surface.
7. They’re Defensive
Even if someone hurts your feelings, you’re not going to get defensive as you have maturity. In contrast, immature people will become extremely defensive when someone blames them for any wrongdoing. When there’s an issue within the relationship, you may want to avoid it with this person as you don’t know how they will react.
They won’t show any empathy towards you or the situation, and if you try to say they’re in the wrong, they will react. This person doesn’t like people to step on their toes as it triggers an outburst of emotions they can’t control. Don’t be surprised if they call you names or have a temper tantrum when you try to confront them about anything uncomfortable.
8. A Childish Person Is Selfish
The childish person isn’t the type of partner who will help you unless there’s some benefit to them. They will only help if it means that it furthers their agenda, or they can get a leg up some other way. It’s very challenging to have a romantic relationship with this person as they’re hard to read.
They can be exhausting to deal with as you’re constantly second-guessing what’s behind their motives. Most of the time, when they do offer to help, it’s just a scheme to further their plans or ideas.
9. They Make No Preparations for the Future
The emotionally intelligent person makes plans for their future and saves for tomorrow. Yet, those who lack intelligence can’t see beyond the here and now. It’s overwhelming for them to consider things outside of what they can see, and if you ask them about it, they’re likely to shut down as you’ve challenged their rationale.
10 They Hold Grudges
Everybody has things from their past that bother them. Even if you’ve forgiven this person, you could still have some baggage over significant situations. An emotionally mature person won’t hold a grudge against wrongdoing.
People will always disappoint and let you down, but if you expect to be forgiven by others, you must also learn to forgive. The childish person doesn’t know how to forgive or is unwilling to do so. They will hold grudges and avoid folks who’ve done them wrong, like that of a child.
According to Sage Journals, a study examined how forgiveness and holding grudges affect one’s health. They found that folks who had unforgiveness in their heart performed poorer than those who had forgiven and let go of their grievances. It can affect you physically, so these folks showed a lack of physical endurance in testing.
11. Childish People Don’t Like to Be Alone
If you were to leave a child alone for long periods, they would be afraid, get into trouble, and are unable to care for themselves. The same can be said about the person who lacks emotional intelligence. Technically they can be left alone due to their age, but their maturity level causes them to be at risk when left alone. They may be tempted to do things to keep their attention that is dangerous, much like a child.
Final Thoughts on the Emotionally Childish Person
If you’re involved with someone who is very childish and doesn’t act as much of an adult, you may be troubled about what to do. Society loves and accepts children and doesn’t put much thought into their behaviors, but they don’t view adults with these mannerisms the same. For the grown-up, they will only act out when they feel threatened or under duress.
You can’t change this person; they can only change if they see and accept their unsettling behaviors. You must keep growing and evolving as a person, as trying to fix someone who hasn’t reached this maturity level will only stunt you. If you haven’t matured emotionally, you can help further your emotional levels by learning some adult skills. A therapist can help you heal the past and work on fixing the future.