Are you in a relationship with someone who hasn’t grown up? That person who makes impulsive decisions, lives life on the edge, and avoids responsibility and commitment repeatedly? The immature, rebellious, and boundary-less guy who consistently gets into trouble with his spouse and family for not following through on his promises and focusing more on just having fun? It can be very difficult if not impossible to maintain a good relationship with this type of person. He might overindulge in certain activities and seem oblivious to the impact or consequences of his actions on others. It should be noted that although I am focusing on men, women can be guilty of these behaviors as well. Unfortunately, it seems we men have a greater probability of acting child-like in our relationships. How does a person get this way and why does he choose to not grow up emotionally?
Without pointing fingers or assigning blame, let’s discuss possible causes. Of course parents play a role in our personality development and our behaviors. In some cases, boys who grew up with parents who overlooked their inappropriate behaviors and rarely set consequences for their actions are more inclined to perpetuate immature behaviors. Maybe their father modeled this same behavior and their mother allowed it, condoned it, and enabled it. Or maybe they were the golden child and got away with misbehavior since they were so good at sports or excelled in school. In their mind, the rules were different for them. Maybe they weren’t held accountable, didn’t have chores as a child, and expected others to do for them. I believe that enabling is disabling. When we do too much for others, they don’t do for themselves.
So why do people prefer to perpetuate child like behaviors and what can you do to change them? For many being a “child” takes less work and maybe it’s all they know. Others are lazy and prefer to be taken care of instead of caring for themselves. Regardless of the reasons, people can and do change. What spouses and family members can do is stop picking up the slack for them and making excuses for their behaviors. Call them on their immaturity and set boundaries so they can’t continue to engage in these behaviors with no consequences. You can also discuss your expectations and needs so that there is a clear understanding of what it takes to maintain a relationship. You deserve to be treated with respect and each person in a relationship needs to contribute equally to make it successful. Lastly, decide to not be codependent and seek an interdependent relationship that allows for both parties to take ownership and responsibility for the health of the relationship.