All relationships pass through various stages. First comes the honeymoon phase of giddy love and romantic overtures. This is followed by eventual conflict and learning ways of resolving it, called the power struggle stage. Couples that come out of it reach the next stages of stability, commitment, and bliss. Some experts have rightly clubbed the last three stages as the mature relationship stage.
It is clear that maturity in relationships is an eventual outcome of passing successfully through various stages of a relationship. Cementing the foundation of love and romance is the skill to handle conflicts, being deft with the tools of communication, avoiding unrealistic expectations while being respectful to your partner, and valuing your relationship.
To talk about this in detail, and to share with you a few signs that tell you if you are in an emotionally mature relationship, is our expert, psychologist Pragati Sureka (MA in Clinical Psychology, professional credits from Harvard Medical School), who specializes in addressing issues like anger management, parenting issues, and abusive and loveless marriage through emotional ability resources. We also discuss a few ways in which one can learn how to be emotionally mature in a relationship.
What is A Mature Love Relationship?
Maturity is one of those broad concepts that most of us feel we understand but may find it difficult to lay down straight in terms and words. Do experts have a set definition of what is a mature love relationship? Or, how do they choose to define it for their professional practice of relationship or marital counseling? Pragati responds, “Mature relationships are the ones where there is a sense of emotional well-being. Where you feel that the cumulative positives in your relationship are more than the cumulative negatives.”
In his book, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work – A Practical Guide, relationship expert Dr. John Gottman calls a mature married relationship an emotionally intelligent marriage. He too talks about the cumulative positive concept in terms of “positive sentiment override”. He says that in a stable marriage “the positive thoughts about each other and the marriage are so pervasive that they tend to supersede their negative feelings”.
Many couples are in a happy stable relationship without being consciously aware of the psychology of love or principles that make a relationship mature. They just seem to be doing the right thing that has led them to be happier and more content with each other, than annoyed, disappointed, or angry. But experts do have an idea of those principles at play.
Pragati says, “People in mature relationships have learned to value direct communication, active listening, respect, and commitment, along with empathy, accountability, a mindset of making amends, and a harmony of thoughts and actions.” Clubbing all these under the term “emotional maturity”, she adds that emotionally mature people know how to control their inner environment and as a result their behavior and response in a relationship.
Why Is It Important to Have A Mature Relationship?
Interpersonal interactions in the human world happen on the basis of thoughts and feelings. We also call these our emotions. Emotional maturity helps an individual deal positively with the surfacing emotions caused as a response to one’s interaction with the outside world. This is even more relevant in the case of a romantic relationship.
Not only is this relationship more important than all the other ones, but it is also so up close and personal. It leads to a level of vulnerability like no other interaction. This results in an extremely high level of stimulus that prods in us an equally intense response. For example, your significant partner can either make you feel an intense high of acceptance, love and respect, or a scornful rejection from them can push you into a chasm of debilitating self-esteem issues.
This is why emotional maturity plays such an important role in romantic relationships. Let us look at some of its benefits.
- Foundational skill: Pragati says, “Maturity in a relationship works as a prerequisite for an emotionally stable marriage or a committed long-term relationship. It forms a base on which other work can be done”
- Easy conflict resolution: Partners can effectively and effortlessly resolve conflicts as they come while prioritizing the health of the relationship and their individual mental health
- Effective conflict resolution: It comes in handy if the couple does see a rougher patch that needs a more deliberate intervention. Pragati says, “If there is a glue of emotional maturity, it becomes easier to work on the relationship”
- Allows for personal growth: People in mature relationships have the mental bandwidth to focus on personal growth. Mature partners provide encouragement and support
- Happiness: For all of the above reasons, people in mature relationships have more secure and stable bonds, leading to a sense of contentment and joie de vivre
Related Reading: 9 Expert Tips To Grow In A Relationship Every Day
15 Signs You Are In A Mature Relationship
Emotional maturity is an outlook or an attitude toward looking at life, love, and relationships. It is a way of thinking. But how does it manifest in the form of behaviors and outcomes? A relationship with two emotionally mature individuals will show recognizable mature relationship signs. If you find that your relationship is lacking these signs, this could be a reminder for you to try to practice emotional maturity and learn some mature relationship tips.
1. You feel seen
Pragati says, “In a mature relationship you feel seen and understood. You have a presence in that space.” What she means by this presence is essentially the feeling of being valued and respected. The feeling of being understood and that someone just “gets you” and realizes your worth is truly special.
Everything in a mature relationship culminates into this broad feeling of emotional well-being. Mature people, through effective sincere communication, active listening, and prioritizing the relationship over personal wins, are able to create an environment where each partner ultimately feels like they belong and their presence matters.
2. You feel heard
While feeling seen and heard sound similar, Pragati means something more specific. She says, “Knowing that you are being heard feels like someone is actively listening to you. Not just with words but with their whole attention and body language.” For example, a mature woman in a relationship keeps her work aside when her partner talks to her. Or a mature man doesn’t attend a webinar and talks to his partner at the same time.
It also means that someone cares about your grievances, advice, opinions, and future plans. Someone is there to listen to you. Your opinion matters, your feelings matter. Emotionally mature people know that active listening is crucial to making your partner feel important. This creates a stable relationship.
3. You both celebrate your differences
Partners in emotionally mature relationships do not see differences as reasons to judge or make adverse opinions of each other, which causes bitterness to creep into your relationship. Pragati calls this maturity “open-mindedness toward accepting the differences”. For example, a religious partner may be living with an atheist or someone with a neutral attitude toward religion. In either case, each partner should allow the other to practice their beliefs, hobbies, and interests.
Differences should be seen as a way of adding variety to life and the opportunity to learn new things. A partner who likes swimming will talk about a new stroke they learned, while a partner who likes reading novels may share a plot to make a point. In either case, both learn something new they would not have known otherwise.
Emotionally mature people, in fact, may go above and beyond and even indulge in things of their partner’s interest if they think it is extremely important to them. That comes from flexibility, and we talk about that next.
Related Reading: 9 Examples Of Mutual Respect In A Relationship
4. You both compromise easily
Mature relationships depend on the ability to have a fine balance between being assertive and accommodative. Self-love is as important as loving your partner. Being assertive allows you to safeguard your emotional boundaries whereas accommodating your partner’s needs comes from an underlying emotion of love and respect for your partner.
Pragati says, “Mature people are like bushes, they could sway in the event of a storm, bend a little but otherwise stand erect. They are not stiff like a bamboo shoot. They are willing to be flexible.” This flexibility allows mature people to think beyond the limits of the individual’s ego, and work for the happiness and success of the couple.
5. You both have realistic expectations
Partners in mature relationships have passed through the romanticist honeymoon stage. They have been there, done that, seen the overtures and hyperboles, and have enjoyed it while it lasted. They have the emotional maturity to see the larger picture. Their expectations of each other are grounded in reality.
As an example, Pragati points out cases of partners of either gender asking their other halves to lose weight to fit an idea of being attractive, all the while ignoring their limitations in life. This is clearly an unrealistic expectation. She adds, “Mature people realize they must not idolize each other. They know that all idols have feet of clay. They see each other as real humans with limitations and weaknesses.” For example, a mature man or a mature woman in a relationship does not expect their overworked partner to stay up late for them.
6. You can rely on your partner
Some experts call reliability the basic right in a relationship. A mature relationship gives both partners a sense of security and trust. It gives the relationship consistency. You can rest assured you are in an emotionally mature relationship if you can trust your partner to do what they said they would and trust that they have your back.
Reliability is demonstrated beginning from tiny observations. Do both of you keep your word? Do you do what you said you would? Do you show up on time? Do you show up at all, (we hope you do)? These small things add up to build trust in your partner. Mature people do not waste their promises, their words, and each other’s time and emotions. A classic mature relationship vs immature relationship differentiator.
7. There is a sense of accountability
We can also call this taking responsibility in relationships and more specifically, personal responsibility. Mature people are keen on resolving conflicts. This means that someone has to take responsibility for the bad behavior. In a mature relationship, both partners are quick to take responsibility for their actions. This helps in quick forgiveness and moving on.
This behavior is essential in a stable relationship. When no one takes responsibility for bad behavior, the repetition of conflict becomes imminent. Resentment builds up. And remember the positive sentiment override? A long list of resentments will tilt the balance toward an overwhelming negative sentiment for the relationship.
8. Forgiveness comes easily
Mature people find it easy to forgive. All their emotional maturity has allowed such little resentment to collect, that they have no scores to settle with their partner. There is an experience of a happy relationship to tap into that facilitates a future relationship goal to pursue. This goal is far more important than any personal win.
Moreover, the positive sentiment override makes it very easy to let go of resentments, if any, and move on. This manifests in the relationship in the form of short conflicts, which are often resolved through sincere apologies and heartfelt forgiveness. If you and your partner forgive each other readily, it is most definitely a mature relationship sign.
Related Reading: 9 Emotional Effects Of Stonewalling On Your Relationship
9. Communication is a breeze in a mature relationship
With trust in each other, good communication feels natural to a mature couple. Pragati names several aspects of good communication in a relationship. First is responsible communication. She says, “Mature people do not snap at their partners very easily or communicate in a disrespectful way. They also do not dump their emotions on their partner. Mature people know the subtle differences between venting and emotional dumping in the name of sharing.”
The second is direct communication. This means they do not communicate through their children or other family members. Pragati says, “They don’t look for flying monkeys to do their dirty work, or third parties to take their sides or prove that they were right.”
And third is fearless communication. Mature people have nurtured a safe space for communication. If A has something to share, there is a trust that their partner, B, will not be upset or judgmental in their response. If B is unable to comprehend A’s emotions, their response will have clarity. Emotions like annoyance or dismissal are a refuge that people take when they find themselves unequipped to communicate their true response.
10. You resolve conflicts easily
Everything we have discussed up till now makes it clear that the resolution of conflicts must come easily to an emotionally mature couple. But how does that show? Since communication skills are spot on, you both do not waste time beating around the bush. What this means is that issues are addressed head-on and dealt with as they come.
Second, since there is no or little build-up of resentment, a new conflict doesn’t open Pandora’s box of older issues, pushing you down the rabbit hole of accusations and blame-shifting in relationships until you lose track of what the immediate conflict was about. In an emotionally mature relationship, arguments don’t go astray.
Lastly, what this leads to is, that at the end of an argument, there is a feeling on both sides, of the satisfaction of being heard and understood by the other.
11. You find it easy to be alone
And to let your partner be alone too. Pragati says, “In mature relationships, partners show immense appreciation for each other’s personal boundaries. Mature people respect each other’s time and space.” This is not possible without trust in your relationship and a sense of self-love and respect for your own passions and interests.
Mature people see themselves as interdependent on their partners and not codependent. A healthy dependency on your partner to come together in meaningful ways, while always acknowledging and nurturing one’s individual identity and existence. Such people do not use the relationship to fix broken parts of themselves. That is why, if you are in a mature relationship, you value your “me-time” and your individual identity.
12. You know your partner – The Love Map
Dr. John Gottman has a name for it. Love Map. He says people in emotionally intelligent marriages really “know” their partners. They have “dedicated cognitive room for their marriage”. They know what is important to them, what is happening in their lives currently, what are their major worries these days, and where they stand on important issues and similar things.
Love Map, according to Dr. Gottman, is “that part of your brain where you store all the relevant information about your partner’s life”. People in mature relationships have spent enough time talking to each other, sharing, and conversing that they “remember the major events in each other’s history, and they keep updating their information as the facts and feelings of their spouse’s world change”.
13. You have productive conversations about future goals
Love Maps inevitably lead us to conversations and sharing. Here we focus on future goals. Pragati says, “Mature relationships are marked by the sharing of goals, dreams, and aspirations. This leads to each partner feeling invested in the dreams of the other and feeling clarity about the road ahead.”
Sharing goals also gives each person the motivation to support the other person. The partner’s struggle feels like your own struggle and their victory, your victory. It allows both people to be on the same page, and feel like they have a witness and a cheerleader for life. Needless to say, practically speaking, financial planning becomes more effective. Sharing goals allows you to combine forces and have an easier crack at the goal.
14. Mature relationships don’t feel restricted by a timeline
Mature people trust themselves, their instincts, and their judgment. They do not feel restricted by a preconceived established idea of a timeline. They allow things to happen naturally. Mature people allow things to unfold and depend on the reading of their emotions as a feedback system to gauge what feels right and what doesn’t.
On the contrary, emotionally immature people frequently ignore relationship red flags. Experts see innumerable cases of people getting married even when things were not working out for them just because they were forcing a formulaic timeline (first date to moving in together to getting married, having a child, and so on) on themselves. This is yet another mature relationship vs immature differentiator.
15. It feels easy and it feels right
Emotionally mature relationships are not impassioned tales filled with drama. There is no anxiety-inducing fight followed by a heart-wrenching making-up. Mature relationships are essentially drama free and feel easy. This shouldn’t be misunderstood to mean that they don’t require work. But the work does not feel treacherous. In fact, to people in such relationships, the work they put in for the betterment of the relationship feels natural and gives them joy.
Such relationships also feel right. Like they are worth one’s time, effort, and attention. People in mature relationships feel supported by their husband, wife or partner. Mature relationships help both partners accomplish what is called in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs as self-actualization, the fulfillment of one’s truest highest potential, whatever that may be.
5 Ways To Be More Mature In Your Relationship
Thus, we understand to what heights emotional maturity can take a relationship, and what the lack of it can reduce it to. If your relationship shows most of these mature relationship signs, you are very lucky to have been gifted with this emotional capacity. You are also lucky to have found a partner who can match your level.
However, if you think your relationships have lacked signs of maturity in the past or your current relationship lacks these signs, it is advisable to up your game. The good news is that experts believe that it is completely possible to nurture and develop one’s emotional capacity and learn how to be emotionally mature in a relationship. Here are a few mature relationship tips to raise your emotional capacity.
1. Identify your emotions and label them
Emotions work as a feedback system to gauge the negativity or positivity of a situation. It’s a language through which your intuition speaks. Emotionally mature people are well acquainted with that language. They understand the emotions that surface because they recognize them.
Try to be aware of the emotions that surface in you. Notice them closely. Ask yourself questions, such as, “Why do I feel this way?” It will help you recognize various emotions and labeling them means finding out what they are called. For example, is what you feel perpetual tiredness? Maybe you are in an emotionally draining relationship. When you understand something, it becomes easier to tame. Feeling comfortable talking about these emotions also helps in communicating them to your partner. For example:
- Situation: Showing anger in response to your partner unintentionally cutting you off in public
- Emotional observation: Why did this make me angry? This anger is coming from feeling disrespected. The feeling of disrespect is coming from embarrassment. This embarrassment is a result of a lack of confidence in myself
- Outcome: I must rebuild my confidence. I must ask my partner to not alienate me publicly. I need their support while I build my confidence back
2. Practice self-care
The advantages of self-care are manifold, and self-care can take various forms. Pragati advises journaling as one of the ways to acquaint oneself with their emotions. She says, “One can use journaling to document how one feels. This will help build emotional vocabulary.”
Additionally, she advises pursuing personal hobbies. She says, “This is so that you don’t get resentful of the partner and don’t revolve your life around the other person. So that you don’t completely victimize yourself and blame the partner for not paying attention to you or fixing you.” These are some of the ways to be more mature in a relationship.
Related Reading: How To Emotionally Detach Yourself From Someone – 10 Ways
3. Practice mindfulness in your conduct
Astute awareness is one of the foundations of any personal development. Live your life in awareness. Since you wish to develop emotional maturity, be wary of your responses. Watch out for negative behaviors that are detrimental to your relationships. Pragati points out contempt and criticism, two self sabotaging behaviors which manifest in the form of name-calling. Do not allow complaints to take the form of contempt. For example:
- Complaint: Why did you not throw the garbage?
- Contempt: You are lazy, you never do anything
- Complaint: I can’t believe you lied to me. You shouldn’t have. I am hurt
- Contempt: You are a liar. You are manipulative. You are selfish
This awareness is possible when you take personal responsibility for your behavior. If you find yourself indulging in detrimental or immature behavior, take responsibility for it, apologize, correct it and move on while avoiding repeating it in the future.
4. Accept your partner for who they are
Part of taking personal responsibility is also to let the other person be. Accepting your partner for who they are is a straightforward step you can take. It may be difficult but there is not a lot of mental gymnastics to do there. This step allows for freedom in relationships.
All this step needs is your sincerest commitment to this decision. “I accept my partner for who they are.” The decision to shift the focus away from your partner and on to yourself. In a way, this one is the simplest of ways to be more mature in a relationship.
5. Take the guidance of an expert
Emotional maturity is a skill influenced by how we were raised as children. As adults, what you may need to work on your emotional maturity is reparenting. This may involve a lot of unraveling of deep emotions and unlearning and learning. Professional guidance from a licensed therapist can be of immense value to guide you through the process.
If you find yourself struggling more than you can handle when trying to build emotional capacity or if these steps overwhelm you, it may help to seek professional guidance from experts. Should you need to start the process, Bonobology’s panel of experienced counselors is here to help you.
- Mature relationships are the ones where there is a sense of emotional well-being. Where you feel that the cumulative positives in your relationship are more than the cumulative negatives
- Maturity in a relationship works as a prerequisite for an emotionally stable marriage or a committed long-term relationship. It forms a base on which other work can be done
- People in mature relationships have learned to value direct communication, active listening, respect, and commitment, along with empathy, accountability, a mindset of making amends, and a harmony of thoughts and actions
- To be more mature in your relationship, learn to identify your emotions and practice mindfulness in your conduct. If you find yourself struggling to get to the root of your feelings, seek the help of an expert
We hope these expert tips have made you recognize the level of maturity in your relationship. Do they make you proud of how well you are doing? Touch wood! Do they point out a few shortcomings that you could take care of? Or they red-flags pointing to you the glaring inadequacies in your relationship? Either way, we hope that this introspection has been of value.