8 ways to deal with a childish partner

Romantic relationships can be so close they almost feel like family, but that doesn’t mean you should ever feel like the parent to your boyfriend or girlfriend.

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If you’re struggling with a childish partner, here are some tips to help you deal. After all, you have better things to do than teach an adult how to act like one.

  • Look to their childhood

You may or may not have known your partner when they were younger. But look for clues about their family dynamic and upbringing. Did they have a difficult childhood? Was their mother anxious and overprotective? Does their relationship with their parents seem overly attached? Though it may not be an excuse for their bad behaviour, understanding your partner’s childhood and family life can help you treat their childish tendencies with a little more compassion.

  • Talk to your partner like an adult

How you talk to your partner may be just as important as what you say to your partner. It’s easy to fall into the trap of talking down to a childish partner. But this only reinforces their childish behaviour more. Avoid criticizing, scolding, or speaking sarcastically to them, especially during arguments. Instead, when you’re frustrated with their behaviour, remain mature yet assertive.

  • Honour their needs

We all have needs in relationships, but your partner may not know how to ask for them. This can lead to some immature behaviours to try to get your attention. For example, they may use the silent treatment, make hurtful jokes, or even stomp around like a child when they don’t get their way. This behaviour isn’t okay, but initiating a conversation about what they really need may give them a new, more mature outlet to express themselves.

  • Set a good example

To deal with a childish partner, make sure to set a good example for the kind of mature, adult relationship you want. Model what you want to see. If you want them to help with chores more, make sure to be responsible for your part of the housework. Or if you want them to talk about problems calmly, stay calm during arguments. Sometimes, taking the high road will encourage them to eventually do the same.

  • Let them care for you

Allowing yourself to be cared for may seem like a strange way to deal with a partner’s childish behaviour. However, when there’s one childish partner, there’s often one “adult” partner too. To let go of this unhealthy dynamic, it’s important to practice interdependence. When you’re interdependent, you both balance independence and some healthy dependence too. You can help each other and show each other care and affection. If you’ve been taking on the parent role, remind your partner that you want to be cared for too.

  • Allow them to make mistakes

Be honest with yourself: are you trying to protect your partner? Do you sometimes tell them what to do so they avoid getting hurt? Do you try to shield them from making mistakes? They may act childish and make questionable decisions, but sometimes, that’s okay. It’s not your responsibility to save them. Just like with actual children, making mistakes can be a learning experience for your childish partner. In fact, it may be exactly what they need to finally grow up.

  • Spend time apart

If their childish behaviour is hurting you or if they’re using you as a crutch, sometimes the best solution is to make yourself unavailable. Spend time with your own friends and family or enjoy time alone. Either way, this gives them an opportunity to use their own resources and reflect on their actions

  • Set clear boundaries

Every relationship needs boundaries, especially if one partner behaves immaturely. Clearly state your expectations, what you won’t tolerate, and the consequence of a crossed boundary. For example, if they have a temper tantrum-like reaction during an argument, tell them that you will only talk when they can remain calm and respectful. If they start yelling or calling you names, you will end the conversation. These boundaries make it clear that childish behaviour is unacceptable in your relationship

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