I’d like to think that most of us hope to have mature relationships, and I know that I do. Even teenagers like to think that they’re more mature than they actually are, especially when it comes to their romantic partners.
The problem is that wanting something and actually having it are two different things. If we truly want to have a mature relationship, we need to work at it, and that means nurturing positive behaviors and ditching the negative ones.
That’s where today’s article comes in. Let’s take a closer look at 11 of the bad behaviors that you’ll want to say goodbye to if you’re trying to develop a mature relationship.
1) Poor communication skills
Communication skills are important for any kind of relationship, because they’re what allow us to foster trust with the people that we’re talking to. If we can’t communicate with someone, no relationship can exist.
We all have communication skills, but we’ve developed them to different extents. Like any other skill, being a good communicator requires practice, and you have to put in the hours and the effort if you want your communication to shine.
This is particularly true when it comes to having a mature relationship. You need to make sure that you’re communicating effectively with your partner because otherwise simple misunderstandings can derail everything you’ve been working towards.
Without decent communication skills, the rest of the points in this list don’t even matter.
2) Being judgmental
Most of us are judgmental to a certain extent, which is why we all love people-watching. Perhaps this point would be better worded as “being too judgmental”.
In particular, while it’s unpleasant to be judgmental towards anyone, you’ll need to make sure that you’re not judging your partner. If you judge them too much and too often, they’re going to leave so that they can live their life without feeling as though they’re constantly under a microscope.
This extends to providing advice to our partners. There’s nothing wrong with making suggestions, but you should only provide advice when people ask for it. If they don’t ask for it, it’s easy to come across as judgmental.
If you’re ever in doubt, ask your partner. Use those communication skills to find out whether they think you’re being judgmental or not.
3) Needing validation or attention
Validation and attention are both nice, don’t get me wrong. I enjoy receiving them as much as anyone else.
The problem is that we often think about them in the wrong way. They should be considered as something that’s nice to have if your partner decides to bestow them upon you. You don’t automatically have a right to receive them.
That’s why if we act as though our partner automatically owes us attention and validation or if we keep on begging for it, we can easily push them away. The key word here is “needing” – there’s nothing wrong with wanting validation, but needing it can cause all sorts of problems.
With validation in particular, you should look internally and find ways to validate yourself.
4) Lack of emotional intelligence
Different people define emotional intelligence in different ways, but the most common way of looking at it is to think of emotional intelligence as the ability to think and feel through your emotions.
In a relationship, emotional intelligence allows you to display empathy and to understand how your partner feels in any given situation. It will also allow you to make predictions, so you could figure out whether the action you’re thinking of taking is likely to upset your partner. You can then decide whether to take that action based upon the impact it might have.
This alone should be enough to show you why it’s important to display emotional intelligence. You need to remember that a relationship is built by two or more people and the way that they feel about each other, and emotional intelligence will help you to strengthen those feelings and connections.
5) Poor self-expression
Self-expression is important for a number of reasons. For a start, it helps us to take care of our mental health, because expressing ourselves can be cathartic and help us to come to terms with our feelings.
But in the case of your relationships, self-expression can be seen as an extension of your communication skills, and it will allow you to let your partner know if there are any problems or if there’s something that you need from them.
A classic example of poor self-expression skills occurs when a kid’s at school and they’re so scared of raising their hand in class to tell the teacher that they need the toilet that they end up wetting themselves where they’re sitting.
Don’t metaphorically wet yourself. If you need something, express it.
6) A tendency to control or be possessive
This point here is one that I see all too often, and the worst part about it is that even if you try to say something, you get ignored.
Controlling, coercive and possessive behavior has no part in a healthy relationship. Relationships should be built on trust, and so if you feel the need to control who your partner speaks to then it suggests that the trust has gone, if it was ever there in the first place.
These traits can be a symptom of something more sinister, because they’re typical early warning signs of abusive relationships. If you’re ever tempted to display these behaviors, ask yourself why that is and remind yourself that you’re trying to build a healthy relationship, not an unhealthy one.
7) Hiding from conflict and being defensive
A little bit of conflict is actually a good thing, although that might sound counterintuitive. Let me explain.
Disagreements are only natural when two people come together, and as long as you handle those disagreements in a positive way and look for ways to find a compromise, you’re doing okay. The problems kick in when you’re so scared of conflict that you just agree with whatever your partner says.
A variant of this is when you automatically start being defensive, so whenever there’s an issue in your relationship, it’s impossible for you to talk about it rationally. You’re so busy proclaiming your innocence that you don’t consider your potential guilt.
8) Failing to set and respect boundaries
Boundaries are vital to any healthy relationship, and those boundaries look different from one person to another.
The idea is that we all have certain needs that we want our partners to respect. For example, introverts often need their alone time, while I have to set boundaries with my partner so that I get time to work on my writing.
If you don’t set these boundaries then you can’t be upset if your partner fails to respect them – and if your partner sets them and you don’t obey them, you can’t be upset if they leave you and find someone who will.
TL;DR: Boundaries are important. Ignore them at your peril.
9) Inability to accept your partner’s change
As human beings, we’re constantly changing. It’s just a default part of the human experience.
The problem is that a lot of people don’t like change, and that can lead them to fear or resent it. This causes enough problems in life in general, but it’s even worse when you’re in a relationship and your partner starts to grow as a person.
If you want your relationship to be healthy and mature, you need to go out of your way to support your partner’s growth. Acknowledge that growth happens whether you want it to or not, and that if our partners grow then it’s a good thing. We need to accept that change.
Gaslighting is defined by Psychology Today as “an insidious form of manipulation and psychological control.”
When someone gaslights their partner, they feed them lies and falsehoods until they start to question their own understanding of reality. It’s commonly used by abusers. For example, after someone has been hit by their partner, they’ll make excuses about how it’s not their partner’s fault.
As you can imagine, then, gaslighting has no place in mature relationships, or indeed in relationships of any kind. If you spot it happening to you, you should run – and if you’ve done it to other people then just know that you’re the worst of the worst.
11) Calling your partner names or using insults
If you were asked to list three behaviors that are immature, there’s a good chance that you’d think of name calling as one of the three.
It should be obvious why insulting your partner or calling them names is a big no-no. At best, it’s unpleasant, while at its worst, it can be downright abusive.
With that said, I know a few couples who use names and insults as a form of endearment. It’s a very British thing to make fun of your partner in an endearing way, and so this might not translate well throughout the rest of the world.
The key, then, is to make sure that you and your partner understand each other, and that if you do poke a little fun, that they know you’re not being serious. And even then, it’s better to be careful and to use this sparingly.