Peter Pan Syndrome: Does Your Husband Refuse To Grow Up?

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By JK Honeycutt, Featured DM Blogger - June 15, 2015 - Updated March 20, 2017

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5 Signs Your Hubby Might Have Peter Pan Syndrome:

1. He can't hold a job.

2. When he does work he buys electronics, tools, and guns instead of paying bills.

3. He is a pathological liar.

4. His idea of helping with the kids is to play with their toys while ignoring them.

5. He's so immature that people think he is your teenage son and tattle on him, expecting you to punish your "child". (This actually happened to me during my first marriage, even though I was only nineteen and obviously not old enough to be his mother.)

What Exactly Is Peter Pan Syndrome?

Peter Pan Syndrome can affect both sexes, but it appears more often among men. Some characteristics of the disorder are the inability of individuals to take on responsibilities, to commit themselves or to keep promises, excessive care about the way they look and personal well-being and their lack of self-confidence, even though they don’t seem to show it and actually come across as exactly the opposite.

Another characteristic of people suffering from the syndrome is that they are constantly changing partners and looking for younger ones. Whenever the relationship starts to ask for a high level of commitment and responsibility, they become afraid and break it up. Relationships with younger women have the advantage of being able to live by the day without any worries, and they also involve less future plans, therefore less responsibilities.

Is There Help For This Kind of Man?

There probably isn't much anyone can do when a man refuses to grow up. Counseling might help him deal with underlying issues, however, if he is a pathological liar it's probably a pointless waste of time and money. Both of my ex-husbands suffered from varying degrees of the syndrome, the first being a much worse case. In the long run, the results were the same. The marriages were doomed before we even said, 'I do.' Of course, there were many issues but they all tied back to the fact that these two men could not grow up.

In both cases, childhood trauma may have caused them to become emotionally stunted. Hubby #1 was abused and rejected by his mom. He was so emotionally affected by it that even as an adult he would cry and suck his fingers when upset. Hubby #2 had PTSD from losing his mother to brain cancer when he was only 11 years old. Each day his pain was as raw as if she had just died the day before, unable to heal from the trauma.

Even though I knew why both of them acted childishly, there was no apparent solution. No matter what I said or did during my marriages, nothing changed. Counseling made no difference. One day hubby #1's counselor asked me to join them for a session to find out how things were going. When I told him about my husband's childish antics he was so infuriated that the man literally glared at him and threw his hands up in the air, snarling, "I give up, just leave and NEVER come back!"

I should have copied the counselor's actions and left hubby #1 but I was still young enough to be naive. At the time, I was so stunned that a counselor could turn his back on a person like that, even though this man had been counseling him for years. Now that I'm older and wiser I realize that he was sick of drowning in bullshit.

One common theme in both of my experiences dealing with men who have Peter Pan Syndrome is that when the marriages ended, both ex's told anyone who would listen, lie after lie about me. Even over 20 years after the end of my first marriage, my daughter's dad still tells lies about me. Now that she's grown up, I choose to be her one adult parent and let her come to her own conclusions about the ugly things he says.

It is not an easy choice to let him fill her head with bullshit. I actually let it go for her sake, already having screwed her up myself by talking badly about her dad throughout her childhood, with horrible consequences. (Read my article, I Bad Mouthed My Ex, Almost Destroying My Child.)

If you're married to a man with Peter Pan Syndrome, I don't think there is anything you can do as his wife to make him grow up. You may think that he will finally act like an adult when he becomes a dad, but he won't. Oh, there might be a temporary improvement in how he acts, but trust me when I say that it won't last.

I have a family member that is currently married to a man with the same issue. There is rarely a day that goes by in which she doesn't go to bed crying with a broken heart. Now I know how much it must have hurt my family to see me stubbornly sticking by my first marriage.

I can say if only I had known then what I know now but the reality is that it would not have made any difference. We all have to make our own choices and mistakes. Only you will know when and if it is time to stop being Wendy and let Peter Pan go so you have a chance of finding a man that is really a grown up.

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