Do bad habits die off as one grows older because people mature and grow wiser as they age?

A student wrote to me with this question:

I’m dating someone who loved drinking and was a clubber and didn’t want any responsibilities when we were quite younger. Do you think that such habits die off as one grows older because people mature and grow wiser as they age? I’m worried that these habits don’t die and I am scared of raising a family with someone who behaves like this.

I think the sad reality is that many adults grow old physically, but they don’t actually mature very much in their thinking, how they manage their emotions, and how they handle responsibilities.

Maturity does not come automatically with age. It develops through a conscious effort to want to be a better person.

If you’re worried about whether your partner will become a more responsible person in the future, then you have to ask yourself whether s/he is taking conscious steps to be a better person, and not just avoiding certain things only because you told him/her not to do them. If s/he is putting in a lot of conscious, deliberate effort to be a better person, like taking on responsibilities, etc., then it’s a good sign. For now, you shouldn’t worry if s/he’s failing at those attempts. It’s normal to struggle at being a better person. The first couple of times, we’ll screw up. But the more we try, the better we get.

You can talk to him/her about this about how you’d like for both of you to strive to be better persons, and see where s/he goes with this. It’s important that you do not actively change your partner by your own actions (like controlling him or scolding him/her). The more you do this, the more your partner will outwardly comply and practice those habits in the dark away from you just to appease you. As I have said before, your partner must want actively want to will it for the sake of your future together.

If s/he agrees and tries his/her best to be better, then you can be assured that this person has the sense to want to mature and grow to be a responsible person with you.

Author: Jonathan Y. H. Sim

Jonathan Sim is an Instructor with the Department of Philosophy at the National University of Singapore. He is passionate about teaching and he continues to research fun and innovative ways of engaging students to learn effectively. He has been teaching general education modules to a diverse range of undergraduate students and adult learners at the University.

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