Episode 378: Emotional Immaturity & Making Friends After Bullying

Hello friends!

In today’s insightful episode, we delve into two very relatable and poignant listener questions that highlight the complexities of personal relationships and social anxiety.

Navigating Emotional Maturity in Relationships: Our first discussion revolves around a listener’s five-year relationship with her boyfriend. She’s passionate about personal growth but finds her boyfriend, though professionally driven, lacks emotional maturity in their relationship. We explore the challenges of addressing emotional immaturity in a partner, the balance between accepting inherent personality traits and fostering growth, and the importance of direct communication and understanding in nurturing a healthy, supportive relationship.

Coping with Social Anxiety and Jealousy in Adolescence: The second question comes from a 13-year-old listener in the UK, grappling with feelings of jealousy and social anxiety. They talk about the challenges of making friends, the impact of bullying, and the complexities of navigating friendships with older peers. We discuss strategies to manage social anxiety, the significance of self-reflection, and the importance of recognizing one’s value in friendships.

As always, you can send me questions to duffthepsych@gmail.com and find the full show notes for this episode at http://duffthepsych.com/episode378.

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Question 1:

Hi Duff, Thank you for your show and always sharing honest, fact-based insight on mental health. My boyfriend and I have been together for five years. We started dating when we were both 22 years old. We’ve had a lot of ups and downs, especially as we navigate our 20s. I’m passionate about my own self improvement and personal growth (emotionally, mentally, professionally). My boyfriend is very professionally inclined, which was a huge attraction for me in the start. However, he struggles to show up in the same way within our relationship.

When I try to have direct conversation about how I’m feeling, or even trying to ask him deeper questions beyond, “how was your day?” he seems to go blank. There have been several moments during an argument or serious conversation that he will leave the room, refuse to talk about it and totally shut down. Those moments are extremely frustrating for me and make me feel emotionally alone. Through listening to my usual mix of self improvement podcasts, I’ve become increasingly aware of emotionally immature people. In full transparency, I can see parts of myself in some of the content out there around the topic. But a lot of what I’ve learned seems very closely aligned with my boyfriend’s behavior over the years.

Do you have any advice on how to navigate a relationship with someone who may be emotionally immature? Is it something that can be improved, or will it always be foundational to who they are? What can I do to check myself to ensure I’m not meeting him with an equal amount of emotional immaturity? I want to be supportive of my boyfriend, but it feels like my patience is taken for granted and it’s taking a toll on my own well-being.

Response:

Navigating emotional maturity within a relationship can be a challenging yet enlightening journey. At the age of 27, after being together for five years, it’s natural to reflect on the dynamics of your relationship, especially when it comes to emotional communication.

Life, particularly in your 20s, can indeed move swiftly. As you grow and evolve, both personally and professionally, you may suddenly realize aspects of your relationship that were previously overlooked. This can be especially true when it comes to emotional maturity, an area where your boyfriend seems to struggle, despite his professional prowess.

Emotional immaturity, as you’ve observed in your partner, can be a consistent and fundamental personality trait. However, it’s essential to remember that people can grow and change. This change is contingent on various factors, including an individual’s background and their willingness to evolve. For instance, if your boyfriend had a history of being discouraged from expressing emotions in his childhood, this could significantly impact his current emotional expression.

Direct communication about these issues is crucial. Approaching the topic with curiosity rather than accusation can foster a more open and understanding dialogue. It’s about exploring why your boyfriend reacts the way he does in emotional situations and whether there are underlying reasons for his behavior. Perhaps he avoids deep conversations to prevent upsetting you or feels inadequate in providing the emotional support you seek.

Understanding how your boyfriend communicates his feelings is also vital. Emotional communication doesn’t always involve words or overt expressions; sometimes, it’s conveyed through actions. Recognizing and appreciating these non-verbal forms of communication can be a step towards a deeper understanding of each other.

Patience is key in these situations. If a conversation becomes too overwhelming, it’s okay to revisit it later. It’s also important to remember that your boyfriend doesn’t have to be your sole source of emotional support. Balancing the emotional support received from him with that from friends, family, or a therapist can be beneficial for your well-being.

Finally, it’s crucial to contemplate what you need from a relationship. If emotional validation and depth in conversations are non-negotiable for you, it might be time to reevaluate the relationship. This doesn’t mean rushing into a decision but rather taking gradual steps to address the issue. This could involve more attempts at conversation, expressing your concerns more clearly, considering therapy, and directing your boyfriend toward helpful resources.

Remember, every relationship is a journey of mutual growth and understanding. It’s about finding a balance between accepting who your partner is and encouraging each other to grow. Whether this growth occurs within the relationship or individually, what matters most is your happiness and emotional fulfillment.

Question 2:

Hello I am 13 and live in the UK. I really love your podcast. I have extreme social anxiety and I overthink things most of the time. I have these friends that are older than me they are new friends this year. I have not been the best at making friends since before I have experienced bullying. But I can’t help feeling sad or jealous when my friends hang out with this other person constantly it seems like there having such a fun time and I can never give them this kind of friendship. I don’t want to force them into a friendship. But these feelings have caught me off guard so many times. Is there any way I could possibly help my anxiety and overthinking when it comes to stuff I fell really insecure about. And how do I deal with the thought of being abandoned by my friends and stop feeling jealous.

Response:

Dealing with social anxiety and feelings of jealousy, especially in your teenage years, can be incredibly challenging. At 13, it’s normal to feel a whirlwind of emotions, and navigating these feelings while managing relationships can often seem overwhelming.

Firstly, it’s important to acknowledge the impact bullying has had on you. It’s unfair and deeply hurtful, and it’s understandable that this experience would make you hesitant to open yourself up to new friendships. Healing from such experiences takes time, and it’s okay to be gentle with yourself as you navigate this path.

Feeling jealous when you see your friends hanging out with someone else is a natural emotion, especially at your age. During adolescence, it’s common to evaluate your self-worth by comparing yourself to others. However, it’s crucial to remember that someone else’s friendships or qualities don’t diminish your own value. Happiness and success aren’t finite resources; there’s enough to go around for everyone.

Remember, the relationships and social dynamics you experience now will evolve over time. Most of the people you know today may become distant memories in the future. Life offers countless opportunities to meet new people and forge meaningful connections.

Regarding your severe social anxiety, seeking help can be a game-changer. While navigating mental health care can be challenging, there are resources available, such as therapy, which can provide valuable tools to manage anxiety. Books and audiobooks on dealing with social anxiety can also offer helpful insights.

A practical approach to managing anxiety and overthinking is to reflect on past situations and identify patterns of unhelpful thinking. For instance, you might realize that you’re making assumptions about what your friends think or why they behave a certain way. Challenge these assumptions and consider alternative explanations. Perhaps your friends aren’t aware of how their actions affect you, or maybe they’re unsure of how to approach you.

Humans often focus on specific aspects of a situation while ignoring others. Just because you feel distant from certain friends doesn’t mean you’re incapable of making friends or unworthy of friendship. There might be others around you who could make great friends if given the chance.

It’s also vital to recognize your own strengths as a friend. Maybe you’re the loyal, supportive type or the person who brings a calming presence to others. Reflect on what makes you a good friend and a unique individual.

Sometimes, imagining your situation happening to someone else can provide a new perspective. How would you view their situation? What advice would you give them? This can help you see your circumstances in a different light and find more compassionate ways to address your own challenges.

Finally, remember to be patient with yourself. The anxieties and doubts you’re experiencing now won’t define your entire life. You’re young, and life will present many more opportunities and experiences that will shape you in ways you can’t yet imagine. Seeking feedback, exploring resources, and being open about your struggles will not only help in managing them but also contribute to your growth and resilience.

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