Dale Curd chatted with Chris about what it means if you have an immature relationship, and how to turn it into an adult one.
What are the features of an adult relationship?
The primary thing in a healthy adult relationship is that each person is interested in their own emotional growth as well as facilitating their partner's emotional growth. That means promoting and supporting their partner to grow in ways that makes them feel good about themselves.
They need to have a dialogue between themselves about the issues and concerns of their relationship. They need to have a vision of their relationship - do they know where they're going as a couple. There has to be a foundation of commitment to each other and an agreement of what they'll talk about and how they'll talk about it to each other.
Where there isn't a power struggle, that's a sign of an adult relationship. It becomes a safe place.
What are the signs of an immature relationship?
A lot of the problems couples have are around balance of power. Am I in a relationship where I'm playing the parent to a tuned out teen - or am I a child with a controlling parent.
I hear a lot from women that their man is expecting them to be like their mother - they want to be nurtured, taken care of but not challenged. They say that their partner wants to be able to behave like a teenager.
Women also often complain their guy is always late, doesn't pick up after himself, doesn't take care of himself physically, or doesn't stay in contact with their family. Or he's a tourist in the relationship.
Why do women let them get away with that?
They're more comfortable in a mothering role than being seen in any other way.
What's the guy's reaction when he hears what his partner has to say about him?
Most men would take that as their partner complaining - they wouldn't see it as a call to action.
Men don't see themselves as being children - their vision of themselves tends to be based on physicality or that they've met certain benchmarks - a level of employment, the amount of their pay check. They don't see where they haven't grown up emotionally. Our society perpetuates stereotypes about this kind of male - the Family Guy, Homer Simpson. There's a portrayal of men as being immature, big teenagers.
What do men say about women?
At some level women want to be treated like princesses rather than queens, they want to be nurtured - they want their man to treat them like a little girl rather than a woman. Often the guy won't question how his partner spends money, he gives her free rein when it comes to decision-making - he lets her behave like a little girl. Men will say that women get away with everything, they don't want to hear the truth about themselves, and can be irresponsible around money.
If a woman is immature they want their men to be the ultimate provider and they're critical when he falls short on that. At some level, he is to be the 'dad'.
How common are immature relationships?
Very common. Nowhere along our development does someone say 'you need to be more responsible about what you say, for your choices - you need to own your actions'.
When I see a couple come in one of first things I look at is how they talk to one another - is one talking to the other as a parent? Sometimes they talk like two teenagers arguing. Sometimes I see two people talk like children. Baby talk has a purpose in romance, but if I'm labeling my partner as 'baby' a lot then I'm vested in them being a baby.
Couples argue and say damaging things, not caring about impact of their words - they act like nasty children.
Other signs of immaturity?
What can a couple do if their relationship isn't an adult one?
Growing up is real work. Being responsible for my language, choices and behaviour is real work - it's uncomfortable - laziness can be a cry for help - come notice me.