Is Your Husband a Man-Child?

Husband wins pillow fight
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Also known as a "Peter Pan," a "man-child" is a man who refuses to grow up. You are probably wondering why he will not grow up and furthermore, how did you end up falling in love with this person. His emotional and mental capacity is that of a teenager. He is immature, irresponsible and unreliable.

You are overworked, overly responsible, and overcompensating for his deficits. At first, you were drawn to him thinking he was fun, carefree, and laid back. As alluring as this was at first, you grew up, became an adult, and he did not.

You now have to do everything possible to keep from strangling him.

Common Man-Child Behaviors

  • He has very poor insight. He actually believes he has no emotional baggage or family dysfunction. You are his longest relationship. Now you know why he has never had a long-term relationship prior to you.
  • He thinks recreational drugs, particularly pot, are just fine to use. He doesn't give weight to the health effects, lazy mentality, or negative influence that his poor choices will have on your young children. He emails you studies that say pot smoking is not damaging and drinking alcohol can be healthy. He always seems checked out but calls it "relaxed." He's quick to point out how "uptight" you are, and that you should be using too.
  • He is not employed in a "career." He may go from job to job or try to avoid working at all. He always has, and possibly still does, survive off of the financial support of his enabling parents. If he is at work, he's the one passing the blame, complaining about all the rules, taking long smoke breaks or hiding out in the restroom playing with his phone.
  • His main hobbies involve electronics. He may be addicted to video games and/or fantasy games which he plays for hours. He is allergic to exercise.
  • He does not share the load at home. He doesn't do ANY cooking, cleaning, or laundry. If you ask him to help, he acts like it is a huge deal. You have to help dress him for any nice occasion because sneakers and T-shirts are 95% of his wardrobe.
  • He can't express himself maturely. There is no "manning up" when necessary. No back and forth discussions that lead to problem-solving. He complains, whines and thinks everything is unfair. He is petty and keeps score. He may even throw all-out temper tantrums. You will always be the one to bring up important issues for discussion. He is great at pretending that nothing is wrong.
  • All of his friends behave similarly. You may have met some in the past that seemed mature and responsible, but they no longer come around anymore. When you go out with other couples, you feel embarrassed over his behavior or lack of accomplishments.

You know the story: behind every Peter Pan is a Wendy. The man-child at first seemed like a challenge. Your maternal instincts kicked into overdrive. You were quick to take him under your wing and help guide him. You are now beyond frustration at the current state of your marriage. Your sexual desire for him is completely gone. What do you do now? Will this man ever grow up?

What Should You Do?

You must stop your own enabling and dysfunctional behavior to get out of this challenging dynamic.

You have to realize that you are part of the reason that your spouse continues to act the way he does.

Think back to your childhood. Were you made to grow up too fast or be overly responsible? Maybe you had to take care of an alcoholic or neglectful parent. Were you in charge of your younger siblings? You most likely got stuck in such a role, then brought your care-taking behavior into adulthood, including your current romantic relationships.

Marriage to a Man-Child

It is time to stop picking up the slack for this man. It will be critical for you to create healthy boundaries. Once you do, it is not guaranteed that he will finally grow up. If he doesn't, professional help is imperative. He must understand that the viability of the marriage is dependent upon you both changing the dynamic you two have created. If you are both willing to make the necessary modifications to allow him to grow up, only then may you find the happiness that has been eluding you.

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Article Sources
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  2. Quadrio C. The Peter Pan and Wendy syndrome: a marital dynamic. Aust N Z J Psychiatry. 1982;16(2):23-8. doi:10.3109/00048678209161187

  3. University of Granada. Overprotecting parents can lead children to develop 'Peter Pan Syndrome'. ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, Updated May 3, 2007.