15 signs of emotional immaturity in a man, according to psychology

Girl meets boy, or boy meets boy.

Sparks fly. The air sizzles with chemistry, excitement, possibility.

And boom. We’re on the path to true love. We’re walking towards a mutually respectful, deeply fulfilling relationship. Maybe we’re even going to end up at that nirvana, Happily Ever After.

Right?

Wrong.

Sorry to be a party pooper (and believe me, I don’t want to be). Yes, the above can happen, of course.

But it more frequently ends in heartbreak, tears, pain and disappointment.

Why?

Because we’ve got dating the wrong way round.

We get swamped by all the feels and forget about one key factor – emotional maturity.

What’s fun at first can get very ugly, very quickly. Then you might find yourself isolated, desperate to make things work or scared to leave.

Of course, women can be emotionally immature too. But in this article, we’re going to explore what this looks like in a man, according to psychology.

So, helmets on, brave truth-seekers, and let’s go!

1) Emotional outbursts

The APA (American Psychological Association) defines emotional immaturity as “a tendency to express emotions without restraint or disproportionately to the situation.”

It’s good to remember that the word ‘disproportionately’ is subjective and influenced by age, culture, social class, family upbringing and, perhaps, neurodiversity. But it’s a good guide.

In VeryWellMind, psychotherapist Marni Feuerman writes: “At times, a person who is immature may go so far as to throw tantrums—particularly when they feel that they are being slighted, blamed, or ‘called out’ in some way.”

Hmmm. Not so sexy now, huh?

2) Suppression of emotion

Interestingly, what seems to be the opposite – suppression of emotion – also shows a lack of ability to regulate.

Marni Feuerman again: “A person who lacks maturity might have a hard time explaining how they feel.”

This is in addition to a limited ability to fully feel their feelings and to feel empathy with others.

3) Lack of self-awareness

Being cut off from feelings and letting feelings run wild both demonstrate a lack of self-awareness.

Marni Feuerman again: “People who lack emotional maturity often do not have good insight into themselves or their behaviour. They might not believe or will refuse to see that their behaviour is dysfunctional or unhealthy.”

‘No observing ego’ is a term from psychology, explained by Susan Heilter, psychologist, in Psychology Today. It describes someone who has “no ability to see, acknowledge, and learn from their mistakes.”

Which, of course, leads to…

4) Blaming others

Pretty childish, huh?

Susan Heilter explains that “Children (…) regard their emotional outbursts as ego syntonic, that is, perfectly fine, justifying them by blaming the other person. In other words, ‘I only did it because you made me.’”

Marni Feuerman adds that, “An emotionally immature person may frequently complain, whine, and insist that they are being treated unfairly. They can be petty and may ‘keep score’ when it comes to arguments.”

5) Victim mentality

Psychologist Dr Dan Kiley explains that: “People who lack emotional maturity tend to see and present themselves as always being the innocent victim.”

There’s no ownership of mistakes. No holding their hands up. No apologising.

(And, therefore, no opportunity to learn.)

You may notice they have problems at work, with friendships or family difficulties, too.

Which leads us to…

6) You dislike their friends

In fact, you may not like their friends.

Perhaps they’re just as emotionally immature as your partner.

It’s easier to forgive in your partner, maybe, because of other traits. And especially early in the relationship when that chemistry and those feels have you enchanted.

But it’s starker and more shocking to see in his friends.

And what happens when you try to talk about any of this?

7) You can’t share a healthy emotional conversation

Sylvia Smith of Marriage.com tells us that, “Immature men are typically not interested in what you have to say. They think they are always right or what you have to say is unimportant. His poor listening skills range from interrupting… (to)… forcing his opinions on you.”

Do you feel uneasy in conversation with your partner? Take a step back and observe what’s going on. I know it’s hard when you’re feeling emotionally unsafe or upset. But give it a go.

Are any of the above in play?

Sylvia Smith also says: “You can hardly get a word in with an immature man during a conversation, and they might get offended if you suggest another way of handling a situation.”

Also, according to psychologist Nick Wagnall, emotionally immature men also respond to your sharing with unsolicited advice rather than empathy.

Is this your experience?

8) They lie

Emotionally immature men often lie.

This is down to an inability to be vulnerable or handle emotions.

Their defensive-aggressiveness leads them to believe that lying is justified. So does their disrespect for you and others, and their lack of accountability.  

Habitual lying is distressing to be on the other end of.

You shouldn’t have to put up with that, or…

9) Name-calling

And screaming, shouting and other verbal abuse.

These are also products of emotional dysregulation and disrespect.

They can really rock your self-esteem, leaving you feeling you don’t deserve respect.

You do. Truly.

10) Bullying behaviour

Research shows that bullying is linked to emotional immaturity. As is being unsupportive and inflexible, according to Marriage.com.

Emotional gaslighting is also bullying. Nick Wignall highlights this issue and advises: “Be very careful about getting into relationships with people who believe that feeling bad is bad. Because consciously or unconsciously, they’re likely to end up gaslighting or guilt-tripping you into feelings bad about feeling bad.”

You may notice them bullying others as well.

11) Mocking others

It’s not just what they say about you, it’s what they say to you about other people.

Mocking. Being snobbish, critical, unkind or downright nasty.

This comes from a superior attitude and feeling justified to judge others.

And/or it’s attack as a form of defence.

Underneath, it’s always from a place of feeling inferior and wanting to take back power or control.

This can include making light of other people’s pain. It’s painful to witness and will make you feel unsafe in the relationship.

This is all a way of…

12) Making it all about them

Emotional immaturity can also look like a need to be the centre of attention.

And like always putting themselves first. Even when someone else’s needs are clearly more important.

As a side note, this is a feature of NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder), but it’s not the same. While all narcissists are emotionally immature, not everyone emotionally immature is a narcissist.

13) Irresponsible

Peter Pan syndrome isn’t recognised as an official psychiatric diagnosis, but it IS a thing.

According to Marni Feuerman, it describes a person who refuses to grow up, and it covers a range of symptoms of emotional immaturity.

Irresponsibility is one of them. Maybe that’s not paying bills, driving drunk, not cleaning up after themselves, and not looking after children or pets properly.

Peter Pan types are also…

14) Unreliable

This comes from a lack of care and commitment.

And sometimes from a need for instant gratification.

And often from thinking their needs always come first.

It all shows that they don’t respect or value others enough.

As does…

15) Not taking responsibility

This can be in practical ways, such as around the house.

Marni Feuerman says, “If asked to help with chores, an immature person might respond petulantly. They might need to be bribed or demand compensation for performing tasks.”

There is also the issue of taking a fair share of the emotional and mental load. These are unseen but just as big a demand on women’s time and resources.

Psychologist Nick Wignall makes the point that “Men stay emotionally immature and fragile because they easily avoid working through difficult emotions on their own and then miss out on the emotional confidence that would come from it.”

To be fair, many men have not been educated in this, so give your man a chance! Here’s a primer from Jimmie on Relationships to help. And something else from Jimmie just to make you smile!

Your smart kit

Coming back to the beginning – how can we avoid getting into this situation?

Kate at The Heart of Dating has some great advice. She recommends giving potential new relationships 90 days before going exclusive. “You can have all the feels in the world,” she says. “Sure, sparks, chemistry, that’s fun. But you also might be in an approving energy … (wanting) … to win them over.”

She suggests asking yourself these questions. When you’re with them…

  • Do you feel safe?
  • Do you feel secure?
  • Do you feel like they share empathy with you?
  • Do you feel like they’re curious about you?
  • Do you feel like they give generous assumptions of you?

She invites you to notice how you feel in your body around them. Are you anxious? Feeling sick?

She encourages us to evaluate a partner’s emotional maturity over time, and in community, not in a silo. As she says, “That’s where the emotional immaturity is kept and guarded as a secret.”

Conclusion

If you’ve realised that you’re in a relationship with an emotionally immature man, be firm, yes, but be kind too.

One, because kind is what you are. And two, because emotional immaturity is usually the result of trauma.

Remember, kind also means setting boundaries. And kind means you may have to leave a relationship.

On the look-out for love? In that case, slowing down and gauging emotional maturity may be just the path to Happily Ever After you’re looking for!

Pearl Nash

Pearl Nash has years of experience writing relationship articles for single females looking for love. After being single for years with no hope of meeting Mr. Right, she finally managed to get married to the love of her life. Now that she’s settled down and happier than she’s ever been in her life, she's passionate about sharing all the wisdom she's learned over the journey. Pearl is also an accredited astrologer and publishes Hack Spirit's daily horoscope.

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