I’ve seen a lot of posts out there throwing around the term “Man-Child” and I have heard it used hundreds of times in reference to grown men who still like to do things they did when they were younger. This article from the Psychology Today reflects on the term, but only gets it partially correct.
There is nothing inherently wrong about adult men who like to pal around with their guy friends, partake in shenanigans we women folk consider immature and childish, or play their favorite video games. Nor is there anything inherently wrong with a man who needs to be picked up after. Individuals have different priorities, and tidiness may not be yours or a mans. There are just as many women in the world who are a mess and need someone else to help pick up after them.
No ladies (and men if you’re actually reading this) the term Man-Child has absolutely nothing to do with any individual man’s personal preferences for leisure or stress-relief, or if he reverts to seemingly juvenile forms of fun on his guy night out. And truthfully, it has nothing to do with a man’s unwillingness to make a long term commitment to his long-term girlfriend via marriage (although that may be a problem if his girlfriend has made clear it’s what she needs for the relationship to continue).
The term, rather, has everything to do with how a grown man interacts with those he is in relationship with and has made commitments to. Is he able to take responsibility for his actions (including his mistakes) and apologize when he’s hurt someone? Can he empathize with the feelings and emotions of another? If he has made a commitment to someone (such as marriage), is he able to give more than just what he feels like giving but give to the extent the other needs? Is he capable of dealing with disagreement as an adult rather than as a toddler or a child who hasn’t developmentally learned empathy yet? Is he capable of compromise? Can he communicate for the benefit of the relationship? Can he be trusted to be present and there for those who he’s made a commitment to?
A Man-Child is emotionally trapped in the developmental stages of a young child generally ages 2-6, but one that never learned empathy (usually because they didn’t receive the necessary love and guidance to learn it). They are stuck in their own feelings, often of hurt and insecurity, and therefore can’t see outside themselves when they interact with others in relationship. Naturally in any relationship between adults there are bound to be disagreements and compromise is necessary. But for the man-child, they know only how to fight to get their way because they are incapable of seeing how there may be more than one way of doing things. So rather than have a collaborative discussion and compromise, they, like toddlers, throw tantrums. Theirs are just more sophisticated tantrums. They will gaslight you, manipulate the conversation to make it seem you’re the problem, act defensive, criticize you, or often just completely stonewall you and refuse to discuss any “tough” topic where they may not get exactly the outcome they personally want. Or they may act out by having an affair or some other action to “show you”and sooth their need for attention and affirmation rather than address whatever issue is at hand. Often they make really fun friends, but impossible life-partners and spouses.
Like a small child or toddler that clearly needs to be loved and cared for, many people fall for a Man-Child when they have individual traits that show great potential. We think, “oh if I just love them enough it will fill that empty part of them so they can be the adult man I know they are meant to be.” They can be very seductive, especially to those with big hearts. The problem is, that ship sadly passed in their early years and they tragically didn’t receive what they needed to grow into a person possessing the habits required to be in close trusting relationship with others. And no one adult can make another adult change themselves for the better or for the worse. Only the man-child can take it upon himself to seek the necessary help to learn to act towards others as an adult……but usually this requires an extent of insight and inner-strength that Man-Children just don’t possess. And frankly, don’t give those bachelors in their 30ies and 40ies the false name of “Man-Child” just because they haven’t taken on the heavy responsibility of marriage or parenthood. Perhaps they are the real men that know themselves well enough to know they aren’t ready to give of themselves in that way and are secure enough in themselves to not need affirmation from another in the form of a spouse.
Ideally none of us would get into close and personal relationships that require trust with man-children. But that’s not reality, and frankly often man-children are really good at selling themselves to us. They often need the affirmation so will aggressively pursue a committed relationship to serve their own interests. So, if you’ve realized you’re in a relationship with a man-child, how do you interact with them and stay sane? It’s all in the name. They interact with you like a child, and therefore you must interact with them as a parent and treat them like a child.
First of all, it is helpful to accept that your relationship with the man-child still may not work out even if you do everything right. Unlike a parent/child relationship, you don’t always have to be their friend, partner or spouse. Just remember, it’s really not you. From there, you can maintain the emotional resilience needed (or rather the ability to not let your very justified emotions get the better of you) when dealing with a man-child.
1) Know your limits and set firm boundaries without weighted emotion….and stick to them. – The emotion bit is key here because if you let your love for your man-child or your own insecurities get the better of you then you’ll end up letting them manipulate you. It’s similar to giving a toddler exactly what they want just so they stop crying.
2) Put your man-child in an extended time out. Seriously, it’s only reasonable that if the recommended minutes for a time-out is age based then naturally for an adult man-child a longer time-out or separation from reliance on you for affirmation without any self-sacrifice on his part should come more in the form of months to a year.
3) Say no to anything he dishes that is not consistent with your or the family’s needs and walk away.
4) If his behavior doesn’t change, confiscate something that you regularly give or do for him until he corrects his behavior. That’s right, just don’t give until he’s willing to learn to give back.
5) If he shows no sustained evidence of wanting to change or trying to change after 6 months of the above behavior, know he is unlikely to ever change his behavior towards you and make your decision regarding continuing your relationship with him understanding this and really knowing what you want out of your relationship.
And if it hasn’t become obvious to you in reading this, the term “Man-Child” has become the urban dictionary lingo to describe what we in the medical profession refer to as Narcissism. Of course women can be Narcissists too, but the fact is there is a far higher prevalence of men Narcissists. Hence – Man-Child. The problem with the Man-Child/Narcissist is that theirs is an inherent issue in how they interact with the world and others, rather than a chemical imbalance that can be treated with the correct cocktail of medication. If you find yourself wishing your man actually had a mental illness such as Depression or Bipolar so that you’d have some iota of hope that a medication could help, then you know he’s officially a “Man-Child”
The Presidency is similar to a marriage, although one between the President and the entire body of the US People. Feel free to share this if you think it might help enlighten some as to how that particular relationship should go.