The idea of a boy who never grows up is promoted and even romanticized in our culture as sexy or just “the way men are.” Sadly, women often pay the price for such a prize because there are consequences to keeping this type of “man” in check. She does the work for two and he coasts by.
This may partly explain why men, by and large, benefit more from marriage than do women.
Marriage brings most men greater happiness, better physical health, and more wealth than their bachelor counterparts. Women, on the other hand, can’t take for granted that they will reap these same benefits—whether women benefit from marriage or long-term partnership is dependent upon the quality of the partnership.
Consider if you are dating someone you will have to carry along in life instead of a real partner you can depend upon. What appears fun and sexy now could eventually become deadweight that you have to carry—along with your children, household duties, and finances.
Here are 5 signs that you might be dating a “man child”:
1. You have to pick up after him.
This can be anything from the mundane—picking up his clothes and food items around your shared living space—to the more serious, such as picking up after his unpaid debts, picking up the tab more often than not, or picking out Christmas or birthday gifts for his family.
When something goes wrong with his work or friends, you are the one who bails him out—you explain things to take the heat or responsibility off of his shoulders. You find yourself making excuses for him, rationalizing his poor choices, and working to see things from his perspective more than your own.
When people do not fully grow up, they farm out the hard work of adulthood to those closest to them. It can be subtle, but if you are making excuses, stop and reflect on why you’re picking up after a grown man?
2. Talk of children or commitment brings panic to his eyes.
Once you have dated for some time, you bring up the future. And then you immediately see panic and a desire to flee. Blaming your tactic, you vow to yourself to bring it up more casually next time.
Then you raise it in a joking way—maybe while watching a sitcom about the horrors of potty training, you say, “You’ll be in charge of potty training when we have kids, ha!” But you look over and see that same panic in his eyes—and within a half-hour of your joke, he leaves the premises.
If after a reasonable amount of time (Note: this should not be years) you can’t bring up the future on any level and have a reasonable discourse about it, you are dating a man-child.
This behavior is strange: After all, just talking about the future or what you want or don’t want doesn’t mean it’s going to happen or that you are certain you even want it to happen. It’s just talking, and you deserve to be able to have these talks with your partner so you can see if he wants the same things you want.
3. You incessantly nag.
You hear yourself nagging him but you can’t stop. You feel that if you don’t remind him of what he needs to do, said he would do or should do, he will never do it. You invariably find yourself disappointed and let down as he doesn’t follow through with plans or commitments. He tells you to stop nagging him but when you try to have a serious conversation about what bothers you, he shuts you down.
The “nag” always gets the bad press, but when you look deeper, the nagging is usually the result of someone not taking full responsibility for himself and his actions. However, just like parenting a teenager, each time you nag you to enable his behaviors. Instead of owning what he didn’t do, he can deflect it by blaming you for being such a complaining nag.
4. He avoids serious conversation.
When you stop the nagging and try to bring up deeper issues or your deeper needs, he makes a joke, changes the topic, looks at his phone, or turns the tables on you by telling you what you are doing wrong in the relationship.
The last thing a “man-child” wants is a confrontation, and he will do anything to stop one in its tracks. When you try to bring something serious to his attention, see if you are the one backing out of the conversation by apologizing for something you did wrong.
Do you find your original point never gets addressed and you wind up talking about what you did wrong that triggered his poor behavior?
5. His interests and friendships carry a middle-school vibe.
When he goes out or spends time with friends, he becomes an adolescent again. He can’t keep adult limits with alcohol, abuses recreational drugs, participates in pranks, or generally reverts to a middle-school sense of humor. When around you, he doesn’t exude this silly-fun-self and you feel like a buzz kill.
Men who never grow up don’t know how to deal with adult women who want to have an adult conversation. They revert to their adolescent ways out of discomfort with intimacy and to protect them from getting too close to you. In fact, the more adolescent your man, the more “motherly” you may be in his presence.
It’s hard to let go if you feel like you are the only one watching the controls. And it’s even harder to have a thriving adult romantic relationship with someone who is glorifying his college days or constantly wants to hang with the guys. You may find you’re alone more than you like and when together, you don’t truly have fun and enjoy each other.
Jill Weber, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in Washington DC. Dr. Weber is the author of Building Self-Esteem 5 Steps: How to Feel “Good Enough” and Breaking Up and Divorce. For more, follow her on Facebook.
This article was originally published at Psychology Today. Reprinted with permission from the author.