Have you heard of the term “manolescent” yet? It’s a relatively recent expression, but fairly apt for describing a certain kind of guy… namely one who, like Peter Pan, doesn’t want to grow up. Most of us likely know at least one guy like this – one who is boyishly charming and fun to hang out with, yet totally useless as an adult.
In relationship terms, it can be harsh to come to the realization that the man you thought you were dating is really an avoidant, simpering man-child who refuses to get his shit together.
Below are a few solid signs that your partner isn’t quite the man you thought he was, but is more of a tall, hairy child in a man-suit instead.
“Adulting” Stresses Him Out
This guy’s addiction to everything fun and light-hearted can be quite endearing at the beginning of a relationship, as it can make him a real laugh to be with. He may surprise you with a weekend away, drag you out to have a midnight picnic at the zoo, or insist upon chocolate chip pancakes as part of an all-day cartoon marathon. Basically, being with him is great because he helps you to retreat from all the serious, grown-up stresses and responsibilities that you deal with on a daily basis.
Strife arises when those issues actually need to be dealt with, at which point he gets sullen and resentful. He might dismiss these issues outright and insist that they’re not all that important, or merely distance himself from the situation by immersing in something that’s more fun, like online games.
The economy is crap, job stress gets to everyone, debt accumulates, and health issues are inevitable. All of these things cause Mr. Manboy to regress to a state of emotional adolescence, so you’re basically left with a bearded teenager who’ll spend his income on drugs or action figures instead of bills or groceries.
He Cannot Handle Conflict. At ALL.
The man suffering from Peter Pan Syndrome generally reacts to conflict in one of two ways:
1. Running away: he’ll walk or stomp away from the discussion, leave the house, or lock himself in a room where he can distract himself with games or just curl up under a pile of blankies to cry like a toddler for a couple of hours.
2. Retaliation: he’ll pitch a fit and bring up things that he thinks (or knows) will upset you to “get back at you” for making him feel upset. Tantrums are common, as are name-calling and/or throwing things.
Since life is going to have ups and downs, and conflict will be inevitable, these are the two options you’ll be facing with your puerile manchild of a partner. Excited yet?
He Still Dresses Like A Kid
There’s a lot to be said about dressing in a manner that makes you feel good about yourself, but if your partner is 40 and still wearing the same style of clothes he wore when he was a teenager, that’s a bit… off-putting.
Adapting one’s favorite style to one’s age is fine: living one’s truth is important, and if dude feels happiest in jeans, converse, and the well-washed Morcheeba shirt he’s had for 25 years, cool. Okay, he’s confident and that can be a good thing. If he refuses to work anywhere that won’t allow him to dress like that, or if this kind of outfit is deemed acceptable for weddings, funerals, and the like, that’s disturbing.
He’s just having fun, right? So it’s totally cool that he spent the grocery money on weed and cheap wine and then had to binge-watch Netflix to catch up on several shows’ storylines. Right.
Escapism is a very common trait amongst manchildren, so if he’s the type to “wake and bake” or starts drinking as soon as he’s home from work (if he even has a job…), there’s definitely cause for concern. Drinking with friends on the weekend is one thing, but if you honestly have no idea what your partner is like when he’s sober, well, that’s both weird and worrying on countless levels.
His Priorities Are Skewed
He may have to be reminded to pay his rent every single month and he won’t do laundry until he’s literally out of clean clothes, but you can bet that he has spent weeks researching special builds and outfits for his World of Warcraft character… which he has leveled up to epic status while you were doing things like sorting out bills or cleaning out the fridge.
He may moan and complain about having to trek all the way to the store to pick up diapers or laundry detergent because that’ll put a huge dent in his day, but you can bet that he’ll have no problem devoting a day (or three) to re-watching all the Avengers films to make sure he didn’t miss anything the first time around.
He Doesn’t Do His Share Of The House Cleaning
When two grown-ass adults share a living space, it’s generally expected that they’ll also share housekeeping duties. Not so with a man-child. He’s probably the type of person whose parents did all the cleaning so he wouldn’t have to (thanks for that, mom and dad!), so now he doesn’t notice when the place is a steaming pigsty, nor does he have any idea how to wash clothes or vacuum.
*A public service announcement to parents: while you think that you might be doing your kid a huge favor by not making him do any chores, you’re basically ruining him for any woman he might get involved with in the future. Do keep that in mind.
You Can’t Rely On Him
…unless it’s to pick up beer en route home from work, or something else that he considers to be fun or important. If you make it clear that a certain event is important to you, you’ll have to make all the arrangements for it yourself; unless it interests him on an epic level, he won’t make it happen. Similarly, if there’s something important that needs doing, but he really doesn’t want to face it, he’ll procrastinate, make excuses as to why it can’t be done, and/or shirk the responsibility entirely. He’ll probably need to rely on you, of course, especially financially, but if the roles ever need to be reversed, he will lose his shit and have no idea wtf to do.
Bottom line: if it isn’t truly important to him, it isn’t important at all.
It gets incredibly tiring and frustrating to come to the realization that although you may be a couple, the only person you can count upon is yourself. Hopefully that realization will dawn sooner rather than later, so you can ease out of the relationship before you’re stuck dealing with things like child rearing and mortgage payments all by yourself.
There are many factors that can contribute to Peter Pan syndrome, from a lack of discipline during childhood to chemical imbalances, but very few ways to reverse it. If your guy exhibits all (or even most) of the traits above, you’ll have to brace yourself for a future in which you’ll be more of a parent than a partner. If that appeals to you, then you’ve won the relationship lottery. If it doesn’t… well, you may need to be very honest with yourself about your relationship needs, and then determine whether this is a partnership that can make you happy.
Catherine Winter is a writer, art director, and herbalist-in-training based in Quebec's Outaouais region. She has been known to subsist on coffee and soup for days at a time, and when she isn't writing or tending her garden, she can be found wrestling with various knitting projects and befriending local wildlife.