Each of us has a “mental age.”
I define mental age as “the age we think we are in our heads.” Some of us are older than our actual age, and some of us are younger. It need not always be an inverse relationship between age and mental age. We can be ahead of our time, behind it… or right on. Most of us are not right on. Most of us are behind it. Most of us get stuck somewhere in the past and our brains stop aging completely or, at the least, slow down quite a bit.
At some point in our lives, we reach a saturation point in which we can no longer take in new ideas and process them without preconceived notions and biases. Most of the time it is a gradual process of becoming out of touch with pop culture (movies, tv and music), or simply not being able to keep up. Sometimes there is a definitive moment in our lives that changes us fundamentally in a way we are unable to fully process. A divorce or a bad breakup can cause us to stop aging mentally. A death in our family, or the demise of a close friend can also trigger this pause in the mental aging process.
When someone you love moves on to another lover, it leaves you feeling rejected and inadequate. Your brain has a hard time justifying that you are all you need to be, but this person was simply in need of something different. At that point you turn off a part of your brain, and from that broken-hearted moment on, you will always compare new relationships to this failed one and, even if you try not to, you will be slightly guarded in your new relationships.
This principal is seen more often in men than women, mostly because men are not as versed in processing and purging emotions. Men are taught to bury feelings and portray a facade of unphased, emotionless fortitude. A good friend of mine lost a best friend to an overdose and it took him years to recover. He continued indulging in the same behaviors that led to his friend dying, even though he knew how destructive these choices could be. Instead of dealing with the isolated incident, we sometimes close our minds to that pain and stop growing in the process.
When people are described as an “old soul,” it is typically because they are older mentally than physically. They are ahead of their time. Some of us do not get stuck in a moment. Some of us can process more than the experiences we have have lived in our lives. We can commiserate and empathize with other people’s problems and learn and grow through them in a way that person themselves might not be capable. Mental age has less to do with how long you’ve been here and more to do with how much you have been able to process.
When you date someone, it is crucial that you ascertain their current mental age. There are plenty of 40-year-old men who behave like a 20-year-old. Their bodies have continued the aging process but their brains were left behind somewhere. There are also 20-year-old women who present like a 40-year-old woman would. They are developed beyond their years and capable of interacting effortlessly with people twice their age. These examples are not tied to gender but it is more often the case than men are less evolved than their female counterparts.
Take your time getting to know this person. If you are looking to partner with a 30 year old, you may not want someone whose mental age is 20 or 40. Also, know your own mental age. If you’re a 30 year old man who still drinks and smokes like a college student, then maybe it is in your best interest to find a partner who is in a similar mental age group.