In a day and age when definitions of masculinity are constantly changing, there is an interesting phenomenon that has been noticed by several single women who are looking for a partner – finding themselves a man child. The man child is a recent addition to the dictionary to describe a person with qualities that would otherwise be considered toxic, are given a huge pass under the guise of being sweet and cute.
Jane Reuben, a marketing professional, says, “My boyfriend was a man child – he had none of the care or the responsibility I would expect from an equal partner. I was always attracted to simple, non-aggressive men but in the process, I realized I was dating a careless idiot.”
Jane had several reasons to be disappointed. “I had to constantly nag him to act on something. There were far too many eye-roll moments in our relationship, which made me wonder why I needed to babysit him.”
What Does The Phrase Man Child Mean?
It’s not just about babysitting. The man child psychology is rather interesting and much deeper than merely a man acting as a child. The phrase is essentially used for a fully grown adult male who behaves immaturely even in important situations. His mental faculties certainly do not match his chronological age and his words and actions may cause tremendous problems for his partner who expects better.
The interesting part of the man child syndrome is that these individuals seem like a lot of fun in the initial stages of a relationship. They tend to take things lightly, they appear to be chilled out and make it seem that they live life to the fullest.
Perhaps they do but the issue is that life is not about fun and games all the time. There are occasions when you have to be serious, take responsibility and lead from the front. It is here that they fail. At his best, a man child can be a little annoying but charming and generous; at his worst, he can be clingy, show a tendency to throw tantrums, sulk when things don’t go his way and be impatient – just like children.
Related Reading: 13 Traits Of A Toxic Boyfriend – And 3 Steps You Can Take
What Are The Signs You Are Dating A Man Child?
The problem of dating a man child is that initially you just don’t realize that there IS a problem. And by the time you figure out what the actual issue is, it may be too late. As I mentioned above, there is a high chance that his antics may be considered cute and hence go unnoticed. Your friends and family might even blame you for complaining needlessly about who doesn’t like a man with child-like ‘innocence’?
If only they knew! The pain of being with a boyfriend who refuses to grow up, or worse being married to a man child, can be felt only by those who have to put up with their immaturity. Of course, our advice would be to steer clear from those who display man child syndrome early on but if you are struggling to decipher this kind of behavior, the below signs might be a good guide:
1. He lacks direction
“Unfortunately, modern-day life coaches have eulogized lack of ambition. It’s trendy to look down on future planning and focus only on the present instead. Unfortunately, my husband takes that ‘advice’ as gospel truth and makes no attempt to grow in his career or look for a new job,” grumbles Shikha Trivedi, a teacher.
Shikha’s is a classic example of what it’s like being married to a man child. Her husband has been happy in his journalism job in a small town in India for years while all of his colleagues have moved on to bigger and better things. He is not bothered by his lack of growth claiming he loves the simple life with few needs, not bothering about what his family wants.
In fact, a distinct disinterest in being aggressive or strategic about one’s career (an essential quality in these hyper-competitive times) is a typical manifestation of the man child syndrome. While it is perfectly okay to not be super-ambitious or take your time to decide what you want to do in life, being stuck or not displaying any desire for intellectual or financial growth is not. It is not a sign of being cool, it’s a sign of laziness.
2. He refuses to take responsibility
Have you seen a stubborn child who gets caught doing wrong things? S/he either throws a tantrum or comes up with an excuse or shifts the blame onto someone else. A man child in relationships behaves the same way, especially when things go wrong. It never is his fault.
A responsible man never hesitates to take charge. If a plan does not work out or he faces failure, he will try to analyze what went wrong and then fix it. But a man child rarely takes accountability for his actions. Whenever a crisis strikes, his first reaction would be to run away from it.
This does not mean that he doesn’t care or doesn’t want to stand by you. But he will just hesitate to be at the forefront of any action. Instead, he would be happy to keep you in charge, possibly to avoid being held responsible if there is a failure.
Related Reading: Top 15 Signs Of An Overprotective Boyfriend
3. He makes unending plans
Some men love to make plans. Unfortunately, they remain planners and rarely transition to being ‘doers’. “My ex-boyfriend would always plan the next big thing,” says Jane Reuben. “He would plan on getting a better job, he would plan to turn entrepreneur and he would plan to make our relationship official.”
“When I realized he wasn’t ever going to act on his plans, I knew it was time to pull the plug,” she adds. A man child in relationships may never know the meaning of how to take things to the next level. He is forever in ‘planning’ mode and procrastination is like second nature to him.
This could be due to a lack of confidence in their plans or the will to take them to their logical conclusion. However, for his partner, the indecisiveness and tendency to delay or postpone important tasks can get very frustrating. It may even lead to a suspicion that his plans were just a ploy to avoid questioning and that he never really intended to do anything concrete.
4. Talk of commitment scares him
A man child might make for a great, fun lover, however, many of them would just prefer to remain that. Talk to them about commitment, future or children and you might actually see the panic in their eyes. Running away from commitment is a classic sign of the man-child syndrome, leaving you feeling like a commitment-phobe loves you.
A lot of men do get cold feet when it comes to marriage but if you have been dating for a long time and your boyfriend constantly stalls talk of marriage or kids – either by gaslighting you or trying to act cute, forgetful and changing the subject – know that he is displaying man child signs.
It might seem funny in the first few years but you must draw a line beyond a point. Even if the two of you have diametrically opposite views on marriage and children, it’s better to be with a man who knows his mind than one who prefers to skirt the issue.
5. Friends are his soulmates
A lot of men claim they don’t like to be tied down. They want to be in a relationship yet want space galore. However, what would you call a man who may forget your birthdays or anniversaries or fail to be by your side when you need him, yet has all the time in the world for his buddies?
You call him a man child. It’s perfectly alright to have great affection for friends and spend time with them but a mature adult knows where to draw the line between his relationship and friendship. If you find that your boyfriend places his friends’ opinions over yours all the time, it’s maybe time to rethink the relationship, as your partner is displaying a classic man child sign.
Endless boys’ nights out, countless soccer matches with the ‘lads’, boozing like out-of-control teenagers might sound like harmless fun for him but can be extremely annoying for you. Long-term relationships require time to nurture, and if the man you love isn’t willing to give you that time, you need to watch out.
6. His obsessions tire you out
Every person has a hobby. In fact, even in a marriage, it is wonderful if partners follow their own interests – either on their own or together. But people who exhibit man child psychology do not believe in hobbies, they love obsessions.
Shikha gives an example of her man child husband’s chronic obsession with video games. “Honestly I didn’t mind it since it made him excited and happy. However, I noticed there was absolutely no balance when it came to playing video games with him. He would lose all concepts of space and time, which irritated me to no end,” she says.
The issue with a man child is that he has no sense of balance and does not realize his responsibility toward people close to him. It is always his fun and pleasure first over everything else. He may not be doing this deliberately to hurt you, it’s just the way he is.
7. He lacks discipline
How often do you clean his room, sort out his papers, clear the mess in his closet and arrange his stuff for him? If you find yourself doing it over and over again with no improvement from his side, then it’s a clear indication of a man child syndrome. Discipline does not just mean leading a regimented lifestyle (often termed ‘boring’ by some).
Being disciplined means having a certain routine and respecting that of others. A lot of women take pride in managing their boyfriends’ or husbands’ personal and professional affairs, right from the food they eat to the bills they pay. “My boyfriend is a man child, he gets lost without my help” – they claim coyly as they run around, being overprotective and doing all the work.
Wake up, ladies! If your man has not been trained to look after his own stuff, you are under no obligation to do it for him. You are, of course, most welcome to support him and provide your insights and inputs if that makes it easier but please do not manage his life for him.
8. He is most often a mama’s child
Perhaps this is where it begins. More often than not, a man child is a person who has been spoiled rotten by his overprotective mother. As a kid, he would have been pampered to the extreme with everything laid out of him. The result: he lacks the skills to deal with the challenges of the real world.
Do not be surprised if your man child boyfriend turns out to be a typical mama’s boy after marriage – someone who dares not go against what his mum wants. Of course, he may be doing it in good faith because ‘mama knows best’. But it shows a deep lack of confidence if he can’t stand up for himself.
In many cases, a man child is rather sensitive and does not like to go against formidable women in his life, but as an adult, you would want to be with someone who is his own person and makes his own decision even if it means going against some people he loves.
Related Reading: 50 Things To Talk About With Your Boyfriend And Know Him Better
9. He hates being alone
A man child dreads the thought of being alone. Because being on his own means having to be responsible and doing stuff that would normally be done for him. He is unable to travel alone or watch a movie or go to a restaurant by himself. He simply becomes rather conscious when the spotlight is on him.
This is because he needs the support of someone stronger all the time. The idea of being carefree and footloose without anyone nagging him might be appealing but he is afraid of the other side of the bargain – where he has to take care of himself, his health and wealth.
A man child also loves to think of himself as forever young. “Age is just a number” might be their favorite refrain but that thought leads him to not grow up ever. He likes to be in the company of those who are sure footed so that he can take it easy.
Life is difficult with a man child who refuses to grow up and behaves as if he is forever in middle school. Adults need to exist in an adult world dealing with problems like mature individuals. If you have a man child husband or boyfriend, you need to take a call on how long you are willing to carry on being the adult in an imbalanced relationship. Is it even worth it?
A man child generally shirks responsibility, loves to throw tantrums, fails to see the larger picture and behaves like a pampered entitled brat when he doesn’t get his way. He lacks the discipline or the rigor to see a plan through.
A pampered upbringing and lack of understanding or concern for the needs of others makes one behave like a man child. He is mostly selfish, obsessive and acts like a mama’s boy.
When he fails to take you seriously, when he tries to talk down your problems, when he does not take responsibility especially in a serious situation that requires a certain amount of intelligence and wisdom, you can make out that a man is immature.