Dealing with an emotionally immature husband is hard. And unfortunately, it seems that most (but not all) men come into a relationship with a sort of childish streak.
All marriages go through a stage of disillusionment. Our expectations for marriage and our husband’s character just don’t meet up with reality.
Even if you deeply love your husband, we might grow frustrated with their lack of maturity.
If this sounds anything like you, then it’s likely that you’re beginning to question your own judgement when it comes to choosing a mate.
In most cases, we are more than willing to put in the work to help our immature mate grow and change, but the question that continues to nag at us remains. Can an emotionally mature man really change?
Before you call a divorce lawyer, let’s talk about emotional immaturity and what can be done to elicit a change!
What is Emotional Immaturity?
Emotional immaturity is neither a personality disorder nor a death sentence. It is, simply put, the inability for someone to adequately think about or process their own thinking and emotions.
Still not sure if this is what you’re dealing with? Don’t worry emotional immaturity is easy to spot.
Signs of emotional immaturity
#1 – He refuses to have a real conversation about serious matters.
Take note of how your husband reacts when you attempt to have an actual discussion about a difficult topic. If he refuses to talk, makes excuses to avoid the Convo, or laughs it off, you may have an issue.
On the other end of the spectrum, he may get instantly angry or overly stressed when a serious discussion is brought to the table.
#2 – He’s entirely self-centered.
Does your spouse lose interest in subjects that don’t directly pertain to him? He might even grow angry at the suggestion of an activity that is about someone other than him.
If every issue is his issue and every conversation revolves around his wants, needs, desires, problems, and thoughts, then you are likely dealing with immaturity.
Behavior scientists believe that we are all born with this sort-of ego-centric worldview.
However, we should begin feeling the first stirrings of empathy by the age of 5 at the latest. Unfortunately, growing in age doesn’t always mean growing emotionally.
There may a little bit of “nurturing” needed to help the empathetic region grown.
#3 – It’s never his fault.
A primary sign of emotional immaturity is the blame game. If he makes a mistake, he may look for anyone else to blame but himself.
He may also be defensive when errors are pointed out. Dealing with emotionally immature husband issues is not easy, but it can be done.
The Characteristics of Emotional Immaturity
- Unable or unwilling to talk about serious subjects
- Seems extremely self-centered or ego-centric
- Responds defensively to concerns
- Doesn’t like making plans or following through with plans that have been made
- Blames others and/or won’t admit to mistakes
Dealing With Emotionally Immature Husband
If you are, indeed, dealing with a case of emotional immaturity, then your husband may not be able to communicate effectively or think deeply about important subjects.
Once a wife looks through the list of signs of emotional immaturity and determines that her husband is emotionally immature, she may wonder what she can do. There are a few options that might help.
Don’t Try to Change Him
Repeat after me: I cannot change someone who does not want to change. Say it again. Say it again a few more times until it really sinks in.
A man will not change because someone else forces him to do so. Instead of trying to change him, give him the encoura gement to want to change himself.
Talk it Over
Show him how his behavior is affecting others. Using “I” language, explain feelings and emotions. Give him the opportunity to see a different point of view.
Once he sees how his lack of maturity is creating a troubling atmosphere for those around him, he is likely to choose to make a change.
Give Him Time
Do not expect change to happen all at once. Any person’s ability to change is a slow-moving process. This is particularly true for men whose brains are still growing.
Indeed, a man’s frontal lobe doesn’t fully develop until he is 25. The male brain won’t hit peak maturity until he is 30.
Seek Professional Help
There may be a time when a couple discovers that they need intervention. It might start with a self-help program, which then can expand into following helpful advice from marriage experts.
What Not to Do
It’s become a pretty common belief in today’s culture that whenever we are in a realitionship with someone who’s immature (emotionally or otherwise), it’s an unhealthy situation that we should get out of immediately.
And at times, that may be true. But the truth is that most marriages start with at least one of the two partners being immature and in need of doing some growing up.
So if you’re considering leaving because you think you husband will “never change” then I would encourage you to slow down and consider carefully whether or not that’s really the best option for you.
Most of the time, men DO change as they get older and wiser. It may be a bit slower than you’re hoping.
That said, spend your time focusing on learning how to be strong woman who’s emotionally grounded and does not allow your husband’s behavior to determine your emotional mindset.
Can Emotionally Immature People Change Over Time?
Without a doubt, the answer to this question is yes. They can.
But it’s important to remember that just because he CAN doesn’t mean he WILL. In fact, he may not realize that his immaturity is a problem.
Because of this, if you find yourself at a crossroads where you are beginning to feel that his level of maturity is something that you absolutely can not live with, the best thing to do would be to seek out a counselor for yourself or a marriage coach.
In many cases, the emotional immaturity will fade over time and be replaced by a stable, loving husband, but as with anything in life, there are no guarantees.
How to Know if an Emotionally Immature Man Has Truly Changed
If I’m being honest, you don’t. And really you never will. The truth here is that no one really ever knows another person or how that person will respond to the things life throws at them.
What this means is that your goal should know be “waiting for your husband to grow up.” But rather, learning to be okay with his present level of emotional maturity.
I know that may seem COMPLETELY impossible, but learning to be content in less than ideal circumstances is actually something that we ALL do every day.
For example: I have a dog that CONSISTENTLY uses the bathroom in one corner of my living room. I’ve done everything I can think of to get him to stop, but for whatever reason, he believes that THIS SPOT is where he should go to the bathroom.
Still, at the end of the day, my kids love him and I love him and I just can’t bring myself to get rid of him or keep him caged up over this obnoxious habit.
It’s less than ideal. But it’s not stealing my joy as a whole.
This is where you need to be emotionally when in comes to living with a husband who’s emotionally immature. Don’t focus on when he will finally change. Instead, focus on how you can be happy and keep on loving him IN SPITE of these things he’s doing.
It’s important to note that I’m am ABSOLUTELY not suggesting that you live in a loveless marriage. I’m suggesting that you live happily, in spite of a less than ideal situation. These two things are very very different.
Sometimes It’s Not Emotional Immaturity
My husband loves watching blooper videos. If someone is getting hit in the crotch with a baseball bat, he is roaring with laughter.
I have sat through countless “America’s Funniest Home Videos” and “Ridiculousness” episodes with him. While I have yet to crack a smile, he laughs until he cries.
Make no mistake, that is not a sign of emotional immaturity. A man might love to watch slapstick comedy, play video games or build a fantasy football team, but that simply means he has found a way to enjoy himself.
As long as a man is able to separate leisure time from work and family time, he should be allowed to pursue these activities no matter how silly they may seem.
I would go so far as to not just allow these activities, but encourage them. I don’t like movies where the primary plot device involves loud and disgusting bodily functions.
I would never choose to even think about a fantasy sports team, much less get emotionally involved in one. That said, I love that my husband finds joy in these things. He works long hours.
He is a very devoted husband and father. He stresses over bills, the longevity of his career, his mother’s health and all of those matters that can truly weigh a person down.
It makes me happy to know that he has found a way to occasionally let those heavy matters go and just relax.
It is important for all of us to have leisure activities that give our minds and emotions time to rest. Getting involved in a hobby is not a sign of emotional immaturity.
It can be quite the opposite. Giving oneself some downtime is a good thing that we should all pursue.
How to Become Emotionally Mature
Emotional maturity is not born. It grows over time. A good way to encourage that growth is by having him confront his need for change.
An open and honest discussion can start with a series of questions. They must be answered as honestly as possible in order to be beneficial.
Following are some statements wives can share with their husbands. Pondering these statements together as a couple may be able to give both parties more insight into how emotional maturity can be attained and why emotional intelligence needs to improve.
Respond to the following statements with always, sometimes, rarely or never. After each statement, read the paragraphs that follow in order to better understand the importance of each aspect of emotional maturity.
I become defensive when questioned or criticized.
Not everyone is aware of their own defensiveness. Defensive behavior may include name-calling, placing blame on other people, refusing to speak or attacking the person who is doing the criticizing.
Defensiveness is a technique used by emotionally immature people so they do not have to confront issues that need to be addressed.
Instead of being defensive, a person should listen to the criticism and try to understand the root of the issue.
A defensive husband may feel he is being attacked, which sets his fight or flight response in motion.
A wife might help by using “I” language. Replace “You forgot to take the garbage out again” with “I need you to take the garbage out, please.”
At the same time, the defensive husband needs to recognize that, in her own home, a wife should not feel as though she needs to tiptoe on eggshells in order to diffuse a situation.
Opening the lines of communication can do wonders to help in this situation.
I stay calm under pressure.
Any can lose their cool under pressure. The occasional outburst is part of being human.
A regular inability to stay calm under pressure is the sign of something more serious. Those who find themselves regularly experiencing anxiety or anger when the pressure is on the need to do some soul-searching.
The primary cause for being unable to handle pressure is a lack of emotional intelligence. Over time, and with experience, much of this goes away.
In the meantime, when the pressure starts to mount, it is a good idea to take a deep breath and, if possible, take a step away from the situation.
Those who continually find themselves unable to stay calm may be suffering from an anxiety disorder.
Over 40 million adults in the United States alone have anxiety disorders. Luckily, most of these disorders can be managed with breathing exercises, meditation or medication.
I get angry when things don’t go my way.
Anger is a natural human emotion. Feeling anger over little things is not. My friend Lynette* almost gave up on her marriage because her husband’s anger was so overwhelming.
For instance, if his favorite football team lost a game, he would throw household items, which often resulted in damage. She began to fear for her own safety and ultimately refused to be around him until he could get his emotions in check.
Lynette took the time to talk with her husband about his behavior and how it scared her. It was only then that he realized how his emotional responses were affecting her life.
Luckily for them, his love for his wife was stronger than his love of sports. He began keeping his anger in check and they have now been married for almost 20 years.
Use humor to diffuse anger and frustration
Humor is an excellent tool that can lighten the mood during a dire time. However, humor isn’t always appropriate.
Someone who doesn’t yet have the ability to understand when humor should be avoided is not emotionally mature.
The use of humor can sometimes do more harm than good. One person may feel as though they are lifting a tense atmosphere while the other looks at the humor as proof that the person simply doesn’t care.
Part of this is “reading the room.” In a serious situation, humor is rarely appreciated.
At the same time, the person who is offended by this humor can help the emotionally immature by stating, “I find joking hurtful at this time.”
Without making accusations about the other’s intent, they are given the opportunity to stop using humor when it is not warranted.
I put others’ feelings, wants and needs before my own.
It isn’t easy for anyone to put their own wants and needs aside for others. In fact, it is not wise to always sacrifice one’s own happiness.
That road leads to resentment, which isn’t good for anyone. However, it is important to remember that others do have feelings that should be considered.
Someone might feel as though he deserves to have his own needs always come first. If that is the case, consider why that might be.
What is it that makes one person more deserving than another?
In Jennifer’s* case, her husband felt as though he should be able to to choose their meals, vacations, music and even favorite television programs because he made more money than she did.
She pointed out to him that she sacrificed her own career to watch the children and care for their home.
It was the support that he received at home that made his career possible. Those who don’t think of others must remember that they neither live nor function without support.
I listen when other people are talking.
Some people listen when others are talking. Others simply wait for their turn to speak. Truly listening means paying attention to the words, understanding what they mean and asking follow-up questions.
Listening to other people helps us to understand them better. It gives us a glimpse into what it is like to walk in the shoes of someone else.
It can help us to understand ourselves better as well.
I admit my mistakes and I apologize.
One of the primary signs of emotional immaturity is the inability to accept responsibility and apologize. He may point blame, refuse to admit a mistake has occurred or get angry that it is pointed out.
Apologies are rarely heard from immature people. They don’t realize the simple phrase “I’m sorry,” said with sincerity, can heal a great many wounds.
Can an emotionally immature man change? Absolutely. However, he sometimes needs help from a loving, supportive spouse along the way.
*names have been changed