22 March 2012
Emotional maturity – what is it?
Aside from the usual criteria - age, height, career, location etc. maybe another ‘must have’ on a dating profile could be ‘emotional maturity’ – here we look at what it is and how important it is for a healthy relationship to develop.
Emotional maturity often doesn’t develop in line with the years you have been alive, many people say they feel much younger inside than they look on the outside. While it is good to have a youthful approach to life a certain amount of emotional maturity is required to have a healthy intimate relationship.
People who are emotionally mature tend to be able to:
1. Stand back from a situation – this is an important skill that stops you from being swept along with emotions and allows you to see the whole picture rather than just the small part of it which affects you. In relationships this is really important because it enables people to make decisions based on what is best for the relationship as a whole rather than just what they want.
2. See someone else’s point of view – empathy is different from sympathy and involves being able to imagine what it feels like to be in someone else’s shoes. It stops us from doing things that are cruel or hurtful because we can imagine what it would feel like if we were treated in that way. In any relationship there will be arguments and the ability to see your partner’s point of view could make the difference between rows being useful and constructive or hurtful and destructive.
3. Take an interest in other people – some people are self-obsessed and you can spend a whole date with them without them ever asking you a question about your interests or life. Emotionally mature people are interested in other people, not just dates, they know everyone is unique and may have something interesting or valuable to offer them. In a relationship it is a great quality because it means they are more likely to get on with your family and friends and are happy and comfortable in social situations.
4. Base decisions on facts rather than feelings – emotions are often irrational and it is important that we develop the ability to make decisions that are based on a real evaluation of a situation rather than our feelings about it. A lot of people don’t go on dates, make commitments or say what they want because they are overwhelmed by FEAR – False Evidence Appearing Real. It can also work the other way where people are so overwhelmed by feelings of elation when they meet someone that they take huge risks which they may later regret. Passion is wonderful but the ability to still see the facts in any given situation is essential for a balanced relationship.
5. Take criticism without becoming defensive – no tantrums – whenever we are in relationships with other people it is essential we learn to take criticism otherwise everyone will be walking on eggshells around us, afraid to tell us the truth. It isn’t an easy skill to learn as often when people hear criticism it taps into all their insecurity about themselves. When someone acts violently or defensively whenever a problem is raised in a relationship, or they are told something they said or did wasn’t acceptable, it doesn’t stop the problems from arising, it stops the relationship from developing.
6. Let go of the past – we have all been hurt at some point in our lives and a sure sign of emotional maturity is the ability to let go and move on with our lives. Sometimes people become so attached to whatever happened to them in the past that it destroys any happiness they could have in the future. One way emotionally mature people manage to release the past is by taking a philosophical approach and seeing how everything that happened to them up to this point in their lives brought them to where they are today and the only thing they can change about it is their perception of it. They can, for example, see it as a difficult lesson they had to learn; a gift that helped them grow; a test of their ability to survive; or as a curse which will haunt them forever and which must be resurrected at every given opportunity making it almost impossible for them to move on and find happiness with someone new – a different choice will yield a different future.
7. Be honest with ourselves and change – none of us are perfect and we all have habits and behaviours that we would like to change. A key factor of emotional maturity is knowing when the time has come to let go of things we are doing which damage our life, health, careers or relationships and do what is necessary to make changes even if this involves seeking professional help.