Did you marry a child? I did. And it was quite legal, because although he was emotionally somewhere between the age of 3 and 13, he was physically a grown man.
When I met my husband he had a lot of traits that I thought were charming, and in fact, they were: in a playground setting. But when the going got tough in life as well as in our marriage, I found myself holding his hand and comforting him far too often. I began fixing the messes he made and explaining the behaviors of others to him as well as pointing out how he was the cause of a lot of the turmoil in our lives, which he never seemed to understand or accept.
I became his mother, not his wife, trying to raise somebody who was never going to grow up.
So what did I miss and /or misconstrue when I first met him? If you see any of these traits in your partner, be warned, they are probably never going to outgrow them.
If you see any of these traits in your partner, be warned, they are probably never going to outgrow them.
1. He was impulsive and spontaneous, or so I thought. When we were dating he would make a lot of last minute suggestions about things he suddenly wanted to do, and he expected me to be on call to go along with what he wanted. If you have kids or have spent time with them, you’ve heard the “I’m bored” complaint and the demand that you entertain them. In my ex, this translated into a restlessness and selfishness that I took to be energetic enthusiasm for new experiences. Instead, he was quite simply constantly bored and looking to other people rather than himself for entertainment.
2. He could insert himself effortlessly into just about any social situation, and be the funny and sparkling center of attention. Have you ever noticed a child who enters a room and twirls around on their new shoes, smiling like Shirley Temple and studying the adults to see who is watching them? I thought he was socially outgoing, instead, he was socially self-centered.
3. Have you ever overheard a child ask their mother loudly why somebody is so fat? My ex was like that. He had no filter on his verbal observations. I thought he was simply confident enough to say what he was thinking. Instead, he wasn’t thinking at all, he was shooting straight from the lip with no consideration for the feelings of others, including mine.
4. Are his ‘toys’ more important than yours? Bigger? Newer? Better than yours? Watch a couple of kids playing with toys and you’ll see what I mean. When they are little, they don’t so much share as compare. “My truck is really big, bigger than yours!” When we were struggling to pay the bills during a dry patch in his employment, he brought home a set of new, expensive golf clubs. In explanation, he told me that he had to buy such golf clubs because he’d been invited to play with some men who were financially better off than him and if they weren’t expensive they wouldn’t admire him.
5. Following on from 4, is he competitive with everyone about everything? When our oldest was about 10, my ex decided to teach him to play chess. Not too long into it, I saw him doing a fist pounding victory dance around the room, exulting over our son that he had won! It was the same with me. The first time I sold a short story to a magazine, I wanted to celebrate so I asked him to go out to lunch with me. I was so happy that I didn’t notice the thunder clouds gathering over his head until he spat at me “I don’t know what you’re going on about, I’ve had things published before.” Well, that would be one article, for a friend’s non-profit publication.
6. Is he fickle with friends to the point that he doesn’t seem to keep any for very long? And when he gets new ones, are they the best friends ever until a new one comes along? My ex had no friends from his childhood or high school or even college days. If I’d been more observant I would have noticed that all the friends at our wedding were either couples we had met after we got together, or personal friends of mine and none of his.
While this in itself is not unusual, he also has no friends of more than about 5 years duration. Does this remind you of anything? Such as the primary school playground, where one day your son or daughter has a best friend, and the next they are no longer speaking to them because they are best friends with the new kid who just moved to town: the one with the nicer bicycle.
7. Does he have trouble understanding that the family he has made, his marriage, his children and even his grandchildren, are his primary family, to which he owes the most attention and to whom he has obligations? I was stunned after nearly 30 years of marriage when my ex told me he wanted to move back to his hometown to be near his “real” family.
When I asked him what he meant he gave an ambiguous answer and continued talking about how he wanted to be near his aging parents and his siblings who were his actual family with whom he had grown up. And his plans didn’t involve moving us there with him even though our youngest was only 16 and very much needed a father in his life. He had decided he would move back on his own for several months and if he wanted to stay, he would buy himself a place there. Oh, and he might come back occasionally, although he was rather vague about it.
I believe that’s called a sneaky way to slip a separation past your partner while continuing to reap the benefits of marriage such as a shared bank account. And with none of the responsibilities or consequences of a legal separation.
Game over. Within a week of his taking off to be with his real family, I made it official and called it what it was. Time to divorce my man-child and get on with living my life as a grown-up.
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