In the course of sorting through the aftermath of a dear friend’s break-up with her boyfriend this week, the issue of maturity compatibility arose. I thought about some of my break-ups, those of others and how the difference in maturity played a role.
I noticed that being at the same level of maturity, not necessarily age, made for less problems than the idea of one mature person bringing along the one less mature in the relationship. Before going much further, it would be good to define this ‘maturity’ in the context we’re currently using it. Once we are on our own in this world we go out into it curious and full of interest in many things, unsure for the most part what we will eventually want or desire to put our passions and energy into. Some people figure out within a few years what it is they want out of life in general and what they want to do with their life specifically in the areas of career and personal development. Others are considered ‘late bloomers’ who attempt several pursuits before learning from their experiences exactly what their own priorities are and then begin to delve into them. And then are those who never really catch on to how precious time is and simply squander away their days until they have used up their life and look back to no real path of effort or accomplishment. Again I am reminded of the phrase, “All men die, but not all men truly live.”
There are various approaches leading to these decisions. For some the logical process is to begin with college right away and fine tune their goals as they proceed into their education. A high school friend of mine took four years of Political Science and in the end married his Spanish professor and started a thriving kite business in the Bay Area that has done well for over the last ten years.
For others it may be pursuing the hobby or interest of their heart’s desire. Another acquaintance of mine pursued film school, made a few small movies, began specializing in special effects, got a job with Steven Spielberg and four years ago received an Oscar for his effects in ‘The Last Crusade’.
However, with another friend of mine, he began working on the Alaskan pipeline years ago, became an alcoholic, moved to California, worked for eight years with me, got fired and is now approaching fifty but living no different than when he was 19. He never really developed or focused his priorities or values beyond “work a little, drink a lot and rest.”
But this maturity I speak of is not so much to be measured by physical accomplishments as it is by the focus of the goals and effort themselves. A man may know, after years of searching out the world, that all he really wants in life is to be the best Father and wood sculptor he can be. He focuses his life and his meandering days are pretty much over with only some fine tuning along the way. Whether or not he ever sells sculpture to the Hollywood elite or not is beside the point. The point is he knows what he is about and pursues it with all his strength. Same for a woman who wants to be the best doctor, Christian, Mother, activist or charitable person she can be.
So back to couples. It seems much better (and there are probably exceptions, though none come to mind personally) that two people be of the same level of maturity, or even immaturity, to be in position to grow together. The woman who knows she wants to pursue a healthy lifestyle, read good books, be a loving person and excellent in her career will find herself ‘wanting’ when her mate is still in the “all I want to do is work, buy toys and play” mode of his development. Though this man may love her emotionally, so long as his character does not pursue the virtues and character needed to be an attentive, supportive mate he will be unable to provide the very things a mature woman desires.
When I was nineteen years old, basically, I was a bone-head when it came to knowing what I wanted out of life. All I really knew is that I wanted to know what love was more than whether or not I made a lot of money. As to how I would shape my life around that idea, I only had the faintest of first clues. My wife of the time, also 19, was of the same mind. But we worked well with each other for over 8 years because as I was growing out of my lack of focus so was she. Unfortunately we finally decided we wanted different things and, due to other issues as well, found ourselves parting ways once we knew what they were.
On the other end of the spectrum, I’ve seen couples who met -after- each of them had already decided what they wanted out of life, had been pursuing it for a time and did not feel an imbalance when meeting and loving someone who valued the elements of a good relationship as much as they did. While there’s a definite attraction between the “older man/younger woman” (or vice versa) relationship, unless the younger is matured ahead of their years the older tends to feel they are alone in knowing the value of such things as fidelity, communication, tenderness, forgiveness and other virtues that require character to be given consistently in a relationship.
These days I find myself less concerned with the compatibility of music, movies, favorite colors or other “light-weight” topics and find myself instead giving more attention to listening for what is at heart most important to the person I am considering getting involved with. Even age is less of an issue with me since I’ve met several women at age twenty or twenty-five who were more aware of their heart’s desire and personal goals than women I’ve met at the age of thirty-eight who were still clueless to what they wanted other than a relationship.
C.S. Lewis once said that people who want friends only for the sake of having a friend will find themselves most frustrated and least capable of being a good friend. He said this is because friendship is always about something in common between the friends that gives the friendship it’s focus. Being as how a relationship is a far more progressed, intimate friendship it would seem plausible that wanting a mate only for the sake of ‘having someone’ results in the same inability to bring something into that relationship to build together.
Myself, I believe that as important as it is to me that I create and build my own successful business, the issues of being a loving person to both God and men are the only valuable efforts we find true personal and external satisfaction in. Some may agree, others may not and will seek other goals they consider of greater worth. But to not pursue and desire some direction in one’s life (however effective or focused we may or may not be at the moment) is, I believe, a disservice we do to ourselves and those we would love who already possess such direction and maturity.
Henry Velez is a writer, traveler and vlogger currently living in the Philippines. He has written extensively on social issues, relationships and travel.