What is Maturity?

Dear Neil: What is maturity? Are there certain behaviors that comprise maturity? Are there certain skills that compromise maturity in a marriage or a relationship? My husband says I don’t act with maturity, but I’m in my 60’s and have thought of myself as a mature person for years.

Trying To Understand in London, England

Dear Trying To Understand: Here are the skills and attitudes that are components of maturity. If I am mature:

  • I exercise considered judgment before acting on something important. I control my emotions and impulses (anger, revenge, lust, vindictiveness, hopefulness, etc.) in order to make the wisest choice.
  • I act with integrity, and I’m honest, reliable and trustworthy. I keep my promises. I do the things I say I admire, and I avoid the things I say I don’t respect. My behavior matches my values.
  • I have made peace with my past, and am no longer controlled by it.
  • I am able to learn from mistakes, and as a result, I’m less likely to repeat the same misjudgments in the future.
  • I have the ability to contain my reactions and be in charge of my behaviors. That includes what I say and do.
  • I am able to keep a solid sense of my selfhood even when I am strongly criticized or praised. I am less swayed by popular opinion.
  • I believe and trust in myself.
  • I accept responsibility for the predicaments I get into, and I accept responsibility for getting myself out of bad situations. I understand that I am not entitled to special treatment or to be pardoned for my harmful actions.
  • I have stick-to-it-ness. I keep my commitments and I do not give up on important tasks, goals or relationships until all options have been exhausted.
  • I am responsible for making sure that when I use the statement “I love you,” that my behaviors match those words. If I say “I love you,” I am declaring that your feelings and desires are important to me, and that you have the right to assume that I will behave in loving ways toward you. But if I act as if your purpose in our relationship is to satisfy my needs, then I will feel hurt and resentful anytime you don’t fulfill that role. This is why romantic love only works well for grown-ups.
  • I am actively pursuing my goals, and I have the ability to delay gratification so I can concentrate on longer-term goals. I can distinguish between what’s important and what isn’t, and I am keeping my eye on the ball.
  • I give as much as I take. I am as tuned into my spouse/partner’s feelings, needs and desires as I am to my own.
  • I soothe/nurture myself in healthy, appropriate life-affirming ways, and I avoid unhealthy addictions.
  • I am willing to continuously grow and learn. I am consistently recreating myself and/or evolving. I am humble, not arrogant, because I understand that my life is and always has been a work in progress.
  • I treat my spouse or partner with fairness, benevolence, trust, benefit of doubt, good will and absence of malice.
  • I am grateful for what I have, what I have experienced, what I have accomplished and for being alive.

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