Emotional maturity isn’t a complicated therapist term. It is the key to any healthy relationship. But, how can you spot the signs of emotional maturity?
I know people who are 19 but act as if they are 20. I also know people who are 20 and make 10-year-olds look mature. Emotional maturity is not about puberty or age; it is about your ability to handle adult feelings.
Emotional maturity is different for everyone. It isn’t just about your childhood or relationships. It comes from all of the time you have walked the earth. It is about the things that you have gone through and your life experiences.
Some of us are forced to grow up quickly due to life circumstances. And some of us are coddled so that we don’t grow up at all. Even having a high school job can offer emotional maturity that someone who was a bit spoiled would be lacking.
But, having a decent level of emotional maturity is vital to having happy and healthy relationships. It is what not only lets you face your own emotions head-on, but helps you understand others too.
Your emotional maturity is the ability that you have to deal with situations and to communicate with other people. It is about how well you can manage your life and understand what is going on around you. Having emotional maturity is having the ability to handle your emotions.
What is emotional maturity?
Emotional maturity shows itself in many forms. It isn’t just about being about to communicate your feelings. It has a lot to it.
When you first think of this term, emotional maturity, you may think of someone you look up to for their ability to handle stress. Maybe they give great advice or have a level of confidence you covet. All of these things equal a high level of emotional maturity.
But, these are only a few of the signs of emotional maturity. It isn’t about being as amazing as Oprah or Captain America. Having emotional maturity is about having the confidence to stay calm and focused even in stressful situations.
When you see a couple arguing, yet they listen to each other and share their sides, they are exercising emotional maturity. Those couples who yell at each other, interrupt, or ignore one another are lacking that emotional maturity.
The confusing signs of emotional maturity
The signs of emotional maturity are not always so obvious though. You may think someone is emotionally mature because they can share their emotions, but that isn’t the only sign.
Someone can tell you they love you or be romantic, but that doesn’t mean they are emotionally mature. They can show those signs while being manipulative, controlling, and unwilling to compromise.
As I said, there are many signs of emotional maturity. Although you don’t need to have them all to be considered emotionally mature, lacking too many or using them as a form of manipulation, can make it confusing.
Someone may admit they were wrong and apologize, which shows emotional maturity. But, if they continue to repeat the same action over and over again, they are not following through on those signs.
In this instance, it wouldn’t be emotional maturity, but emotional manipulation. It is important to be able to spot the difference. You want to be able to look for emotional maturity in yourself and your partner. But, if you confuse these two you can end up in a wildly dysfunctional relationship.
The line between these two can get murky, so try to stay on your toes and read between the lines. Being aware of someone’s intentions, even your own, can keep you aware of the true signs of emotional maturity.
The signs of emotional maturity to focus on
Being able to spot these signs of emotional maturity can help you indicate whether you and your partner are mature enough to handle an adult relationship.
If you are in a place in your life where you want to start a family and behave like a grown-up, these are the characteristics to look for.
1. They take responsibility for their actions
There is nothing that takes more emotional maturity than to admit when you are wrong. We all want to be right. It hurts your ego to admit you were wrong and to take accountability for your actions and words.
Someone who has emotional maturity can realize that being wrong is a part of being human. They have a level of humility that allows them to understand their mistake and admit it. The key is to not only recognize when you’re wrong, but also be able to acknowledge it outwardly.
Letting others know you made a mistake and own that shows you are able to live without being perfect. You know that is part of life and take a lesson from these moments instead of fighting them.
The stubbornness that comes with the need to be right is dangerous to all kinds of relationships. If you are still willing to go down with the ship just to prove that you were right, you aren’t ready for a mature relationship.
2. Being aware of your own biases
Being able to spot your own privilege is a major sign of emotional maturity. Most people live life from their own point of view and assume others have had the same opportunities. Taking the time to realize that the things you may judge others for are out of their control takes a lot of courage.
No one wants to admit they had it easier than someone else. No one wants to realize that the world is so broken. But, being able to remove blame from others and call yourself out when these stereotypes or prejudices arise, shows your ability to put reality above your comfort.
What that means is that you can see someone else’s situation and realize that we all have our own challenges. We all have biases that guide the way that we think, but it takes emotional maturity to admit that our thought process is skewed. Being able to admit that you are judging people without cause is something even very emotionally mature people struggle with.
3. They think before they react
Who you are isn’t about what happens to you, but how you react to it. We are hardwired to react to things with the first emotions that arise. It can be incredibly hard to take a breath, think rationally, and figure out the consequences before reacting. When you are immature, you don’t think about the consequences of your actions or reactions.
When a child throws a tantrum in a store because their parent wouldn’t buy them a toy, they don’t think about how that reaction will cause them punishment. They aren’t thinking that they’ll be put in time out or not be allowed dessert. They are only thinking of what they feel at that moment. Adults who do this have much greater fallout than no ice cream after dinner.
It takes growth and emotional maturity to look at the entire situation to make a rational decision before reacting. If you meet someone who is quick to react, or more importantly, overreact, then you should probably look elsewhere for a partner.
4. Being vulnerable
No one wants to get hurt. In fact, our instincts are all based on avoiding pain and finding pleasure. The thing about making yourself vulnerable is that you are allowing your guard to be down and leaving yourself unprotected.
It takes someone with emotional maturity to recognize that sometimes to find love, you have to give it. And that means putting yourself out there, and possibly getting hurt. People lacking emotional maturity will have trouble admitting their emotions, because they are putting their fear of rejection ahead of their desire for a true connection.
Being able to recognize that you will be okay even if things don’t go your way is a big part of growing your emotional maturity. When your first relationship ends it can feel like you are physically dying and that your life is over. But, eventually, breakups don’t feel like the end of the world, at least not for long.
With time and experience, you realize that you are strong enough to handle those intense emotions in a healthy and mature way.
5. Having empathy
Empathy is the way that we can feel for others. Although you are not in the same position, you can feel the emotions of the people around you. Someone with emotional maturity can see a situation and put themselves into the position of the people involved to know how they feel.
This is usually seen in someone who is good at comforting or offering advice. If you are drawn to those in pain and have a desire to help them, odds are you have emotional maturity. People who have high levels of empathy thrive in jobs like teaching, therapy, and nursing.
Another sign of emotional maturity through empathy is having a concern for others. You want to feel what their feeling so you can help.
6. Asking for help
A person who possesses emotional maturity is someone who isn’t afraid to admit when something is too much, and they need help. Think about a 2-year-old who wants to do everything on their own. They want to prove to the world that they can do it all.
Someone who goes to a new job and has trouble asking for help thinks it is a sign of defeat to not know everything. They don’t want to seem incapable. The thing is, when you have emotional maturity, you are able to admit that you need help, and not while gritting your teeth. You know that asking questions is a sign of strength and openness.
It shows you are open to learning and growing. Assuming you know how to handle everything a relationship will throw at you prevents you from growing. Thinking you can face it without help isn’t a sign of your ability, but a lack of communication.
7. You pick your battles
Some battles are worth fighting, and others are much better to wave the white flag. Someone who is emotionally insecure and immature will never just let someone “have it” and move on. They will stretch out a fight over something essentially meaningless because they want to win.
It only gets worse when they will try to win an argument by any means necessary. This can often include hitting below the belt. They want to have the last word. An emotionally mature person will realize that sometimes it is better to make someone happy and secure than to be right.
Why get into a screaming match about which superhero is better when you can just nod along and let them be happy? This level of compromise shows that you care about your partner’s happiness more than your desire to win. That is emotional maturity.
8. Realizing you hurt someone
Someone who is emotionally mature takes responsibility for their part in any situation. Often, we want to blame someone else for our mistakes. But we ultimately choose our own path. If you’re dating someone who snaps at you and blames their ex for making them behave that way, they aren’t showing signs of emotional maturity.
The key to making it work is to recognize when you hurt someone or went overboard. Sure, maybe your partner gets worked up when talking about a specific topic because they always fought with their ex about it, but they still jumped to that reaction. They should be able to apologize for their action, no matter what may have caused it.
If you can’t see how you are causing someone pain, or how you played your part in their pain, then you aren’t going to have a stable, or mature relationship.
9. Being able to calm yourself down
There is nothing worse than someone who can’t calm themselves down. If you let someone rile you up, and don’t know when it is time to walk away, then that is your fault.
Children throw temper tantrums because they don’t know how to self-soothe and come to terms with their emotions. As an adult, you should be able to pause and calm down. You should have the emotional maturity to step back from a situation that you feel is pushing you over the edge. Knowing when you are going to explode, lose your temper, or go overboard, is a sign that you are mature, and ready to share your life with someone else.
10. Knowing when to laugh it off
Having the ability to laugh at yourself especially in the face of adversity is the best sign of emotional maturity. You want to find someone who can roll with it and not take life too seriously. Being able to see everything as temporary, and taking the worst situation, and finding the silver lining, is what being mature is all about.
This is what is going to make your life with someone that much more enjoyable. Sure, there is a time and a place for serious talks and intense moments, but everyday life should have you laughing. Being able to take small inconveniences like a flat tire or long line at the post office, and let them go is a major sign of emotional maturity.
If you let one idiot who cut you off on the highway ruin your whole day, you aren’t categorizing your emotions rationally.
11. The ability to adapt
Another sign of emotional maturity is the ability to adapt to any situation with grace. Nothing in life that is worthwhile is ever going to be easy. The older you get, the more situations you go through, and the more experiences you have. With that, you can better learn to go with the flow and to adapt to those things around you.
Those who are immature think that the world should conform to them. They may think people in their country should speak their language or that every shop should offer their preferences. Someone who has emotional maturity realizes that they are not the center of the universe. They know that life is better when they try to make things easier on others.
12. You have an open mind
This may be the biggest sign of emotional maturity. Having the ability to listen and hear others out even when you disagree is a hard thing to do.
If you meet someone who is so stubborn in their beliefs that they can’t see the other side, they are not open-minded. They don’t have to agree, or even fully understand the other side, but being open to hearing them out, and respecting them for having their own opinions is a great sign of emotional maturity.
Sometimes facts are facts, but knowing that others have their own interpretations, and being okay with that is an important skill to have. This is important in families, the workplace, and of course, relationships. If you can’t be open to the fact that you and your partner won’t agree on everything, you will consistently have issues.
13. They have confidence
Someone who is emotionally mature believes in themselves and knows their worth. That means they trust their instincts. You want to be in a relationship with someone who believes that they are not only a good person, but also knows what is important to them.
Someone who is unsure of themselves isn’t necessarily emotionally immature, but may not be at the point in their lives where they are ready for a committed relationship. This isn’t to say that you can never have doubts or bad days. But, those with emotional maturity don’t let those negative thoughts take over. They power on because they know they can.
14. Setting boundaries
Boundaries are important in relationships and in life. Setting boundaries when it comes to privacy, respect, and other situations and sticking to them is hard to do. Many people go into a relationship saying they won’t put up with this or that, but comfort sets in, and those boundaries are often pushed aside for convenience.
Being able to bring up topics that make you uncomfortable, shows that you are confident in your ability to clearly communicate, and are not afraid of confrontation. You are willing to stand up for yourself and what you believe in, because you know the level of respect you deserve.
This can be hard to do, especially in a newer relationship, but sticking with your boundaries shows your commitment to yourself, which can be difficult to maintain when you want a relationship to last.
15. You don’t complain
Everyone complains and needs to vent on occasion, but blaming the world for your problems is a sign that you aren’t trying to work on yourself. You think everyone around you is to blame for your unhappiness.
A sign of emotional maturity is being able to be grateful for what you have. Instead of blaming your boss for making you work late, you are relieved you accomplished your task. Instead of being annoyed that your parent wouldn’t co-sign your loan for an apartment, you figure out what you need to do to get what you want. Being emotionally mature means you know that your life is within your control.
Kindness isn’t just about holding the door open for the person behind you. Kindness is about compassion. You forgive others when they make a mistake, and maybe more importantly, you forgive yourself. Instead of holding onto guilt, anger, or frustration, you don’t carry those negative emotions.
When you make a mistake you are aware of that fact and forgive yourself and move forward. Showing that level of kindness to others and yourself shows that you care, and are able to compartmentalize the good emotions from the bad.
17. You put your mental health first
Something that has been ingrained into many of us is that if we work hard, we will be successful, and therefore, happy. But, in more recent years, it has become glaringly obvious that, that isn’t always the case. Knowing when to stop and take a break is so important.
It may seem admirable when we see someone who works long hours and has no time for a social life, but the odds that they are happy, and both mentally and emotionally healthy, are low. Knowing that sometimes you need a day off to rest and recharge is important for your emotional maturity.
This can be misleading because so many people would say that being responsible and always showing up for work is what makes you mature. That may be true in some circles, but in regards to emotional maturity, taking time to treat your mental health is a must-have.
18. Always learning
Thinking you know it all is not just close-minded but quite immature. Even the oldest and smartest people on the planet always have more to learn. Being excited about gaining more knowledge is a sign that you have emotional maturity. You can admit that you have more to learn, and instead of seeing that as weakness, you see it as a strength.
19. You embrace your emotions
You are not afraid of feeling your emotions. Many people live in denial of what they’re feeling because they don’t want to admit that they are sad or angry. But, someone who has emotional maturity sees their emotions as a strength. They know that their emotions help to guide them in the right direction.
They aren’t afraid to feel emotions like fear or disappointment because they know they are normal. You know that every emotion you feel has a reason.
This is one of the first things that show signs of emotional maturity. Being able to control your emotions instead of them controlling you shows your ability to balance. Being controlled by our emotions shows that we aren’t able to handle overwhelming feelings. If we can express ourselves in a healthy way then our emotions control us.
Someone with emotional maturity would communicate their feelings, journal, exercise, or do something constructive to release their overwhelming feelings, and deal with their emotions. But, someone who is lacking that emotional maturity may lash out by screaming, throwing things, or doing something reckless to release those feelings.
When someone has the emotional maturity of a child, they are not ready to live a happy and healthy adult life, that features a stable relationship. But, if you recognize these signs in yourself and your partner you’re on the right path.