Being out of sequence and insufficient progression in the relationship occurs when an individual, couple, or family skips or rushes developmental tasks. Skipping or rushing development can mean that there are insufficient quantitative experiences or changes to merit the critical mass that leads to qualitative change. A child or individual (or couple, family, or also an organization or political/social movement) is then expected to process and function from a qualitatively sophisticated position that is inherently uncomfortable. It is a position that he or she cannot yet fully understand and own. The person ends up functioning with pervasive anxiety addressing what he or she cannot quite comprehend. He or she uses tools he or she does not know quite how to handle, to gain a result he or she does not quite know for a reason that is slightly to significantly outside his or her horizons. All this occurs while being judged by others or his or her internalized critic. It takes the person outside his or her locus of control into harmful stress. Skipping or rushing development betrays the essential sequence and progression needs within healthy developmental processes. This rule or principle of developmental theories as applied to the individual in an intimate relationship examines if he or she has been skipped or rushed through individual development, especially, attachment needs with dysfunctional emotional, psychological, and relational consequences. The lack of positive progressive foundational experiences folds back upon the individual with additional dysfunctional development, as an individual, in a couple, and in the family. As such, entering into an intimate relationship is in of itself a further harmful skipping and rushing of development.
Jessica and Chester met at the club on Saturday night about 9pm. By 9:30pm, they were both drunk. By 9:45pm, they were making out on the couch. By 10pm, they were having sex in a restroom stall. At 3am, they went to Jessica's place. They spent Sunday there without ever seeing the sunshine or stepping outside. Monday morning, Chester left for about an hour to get his stuff. By Monday afternoon, Chester had moved in. Within three months, Jessica was pregnant. Eight years later, with three kids, Jessica and Chester were still trying to catch up on all the developmental tasks and needs they had skipped or rushed through. When they came to therapy, it became clear that over the years they had both discovered the other did things and believed in things that the other did not like. Many of these things would have been deal-breakers for a life partnership if they had not already moved in together and made babies. Although they said they loved each other, they acted as if they did not like each other. Jessica and Chester were both in their late twenties but seemed more like immature teenagers. Trying to be and needing to be parents, partners, and a family, neither one of them had really grown up. Not surprisingly, they were having issues with their children as well. The older one was acting out at home and constantly in trouble in school. Jessica and Chester had a laundry list of dysfunctional compensations to deal with their stress and unhappiness. Who were the children in this family? Who were the immature ones?
Important additional developmental principles continually manifest for the individual and therefore, for a couple or family, plus other relationships. Developmental demands that are skipped or rushed will pull the person back for resolution until they are completed. A person can frequently get stuck or regress to such stages until they are resolved. In relationships, especially the romantic relationship, insistence on "stop being so immature" or "don't be such a baby" can skip or rush the individual through the developmental tasks or needs once again. Chester tried his best to step and be the man of the house, the good dad, or the good husband. However, he had not finished being growing up when he and Jessica hooked up. He became a sports fanatic: professional football, college football, fantasy football, and so forth, with the requisite betting, beer, and partying. The therapist may find that an individual's acting out or problematic behavior is actually developmental needs seeking address in the current relationship or situation. Jessica ate compulsively and became bulimic. She hated herself for being "fat." She was not sexually receptive to Chester anymore and found him and sex repulsive. She was desperately lonely in the family of five people. She had not been able to get Chester to attend to and care for her… as she had not been able to get her emotionally barren father to attend to or care for her. She pouted when her father ignored her and she pouted when Chester shut her down. The therapist may be able to recognize developmental stuckness or regression when an individual displays attitudes, beliefs, or behaviors that are confounding from an adult, but could be age-appropriate for a young child in distress. The therapist can be cued to this dynamic if aware of his or her parental counter-transference becoming impatient with the client's child-like "immaturity," "adolescent entitlement," "egotistic selfishness," or "infantile tantrums." Chester and Jessica tweaked the therapist, frustrating therapeutic directives and interventions with childish impulsivity and defiance. The therapist felt like a parent- a frustrated angry ineffective parent to them.