5 Signs You're Dating A Man Child

Have you ever dated a man child? Today a lot of guys in their late twenties and early thirties, and heck, even late thirties or early forties, look like adults on the outside, but think and act like a child.

By Lena Henley3 min read
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Shutterstock/Dean Drobot

A man child fools you at first – he seems fun-loving, laidback, and maybe even responsible, but eventually his immaturity creates resentment within you.

A man child doesn’t have his life together, and the worst part is – he doesn’t want to. A man child is content to behave like a teenager. He doesn’t behave age-appropriately, and he’s perfectly fine staying that way.

Here are five signs of a man child:

1. He Is Unrealistic 

A man child has big dreams. He wants to be famous. He wants to go on Joe Rogan to smoke weed. He has some half baked idea for a start-up company, and he swears he’s going to be a millionaire after it takes off. He says he’s going to be a world-traveling motivational speaker (um, cringe) or a famous rock star.

In reality, he’s almost 34 years old with no job, getting high in a crappy apartment in a bad neighborhood, with a broken down car. 

He thinks he’s special, and therefore exempt from the boring things “normal” people have to do.

A man child isn’t focused on the right things, and he doesn’t have reasonable expectations about what he can do with his life. He’s not very humble – pride tells him he can be a famous star. He thinks he’s exceptional and special, and therefore exempt from the boring things “normal” people have to do.

2. He Can’t Keep a Job

A man child is always planning to do things, but he never takes any action. He talks about how he’s going to build a career or get a job, but months go by and it never happens. He may even get job offers, but he doesn’t take them, or he takes them for a few weeks and then finds a reason to quit. He doesn’t understand why it’s important to have steady income. Maybe he just doesn’t have the discipline. He can’t commit to anything long-term (“What if it gets in the way of my dreams, my acting career?!”). He won’t do anything unglamorous or self-sacrificial. 

Marriage and relationship coach Suzanne Venker says “date the accountant, not the artist” in her 12 Step Program to Getting Hitched (And Staying Hitched). “Once [marriage-minded women] get close to the age of thirty, thoughts of marriage and motherhood begin to loom large – at which point they become (understandably) much more interested in a man’s earnings,” she says. 

Most women are not gold diggers – they just want a man to be realistic about the fact that he’ll need to make money if she gets pregnant and has a child, because she’ll have less time to work. But a man child is himself a child – why would he think about what it takes to raise a child when he’s busy being one himself?

3. He Has the Wrong Priorities

When I dated a man child, he’d have money for music festivals, but said he couldn’t afford to take me out to dinner. He’d have time to take flexing mirror selfies at the gym, but he didn’t have time to work a job or do his budget. He had time to scroll through social media, but not to clean his neglected kitchen. He’d have time to do drugs with his buddies, but was too busy to help me set up an air conditioner in my new rental. 

He puts fun, leisure, and himself before anything difficult or unglamorous.

A man child has all the wrong priorities. He puts fun, leisure, and himself before anything difficult or unglamorous. Play comes before work. And he definitely puts his fun before taking care of you. He doesn’t want to make any sacrifices for other people. A man child is very self-involved and narcissistic – he doesn’t think about anyone except himself.

4. He’s Not Protective 

A man child is so clueless that he might actively lead you into danger. I realized I was dating a man child when two major red flags happened: 

  1. His back door was broken, and he lived in a bad neighborhood where shootings and stealing were common. When I told him I didn’t feel safe with the door hanging open all the time, he didn’t fix it. He just put a bucket of heavy tools in front of it to make it slightly harder for an intruder to push open. Way to go, Mr. Fix It.

  2. We were going for a walk one day and a fight with multiple people broke out on the street. His eyes widened, and he said “Wowww” in childlike awe and started to walk towards the fight. I’m not positive, but he either assumed I would follow him into danger, or he left me behind to get a better look for himself. Given the history of the neighborhood, my first thought was “What if someone pulls out a gun? So I turned around and walked the other way, and told him I didn’t want to go anywhere near a street brawl. He begrudgingly followed me, then moped and didn’t speak to me for four blocks since I had spoiled his fun. 

Man children will throw you under the bus at the first sign of trouble.

I started to think about my boyfriend’s behavior in the context of motherhood – what if a child were present while he acted this way? It simply wouldn’t be acceptable. It already wasn’t acceptable for me.

Man children will throw you under the bus at the first sign of trouble. They don’t care about your safety. They are all about themselves.

5. He Can’t Make Decisions

Man children will put as much responsibility as they can on you. They don’t lead, and they don’t want to make decisions, or maybe they don’t know how to. He’ll look to you for leadership and guidance, from where to eat to when to leave to what you’re doing that evening. When you don’t want to lead because you’re the woman, the relationship will be stagnant. A man child doesn’t want to decide on anything, so he’ll always be looking for other people – mainly you – to do his duties for him.

Closing Thoughts

If a guy is still Peter Pan in his late 20s or early 30s, he will likely never grow up. He’s a lost cause, and you can’t save him or inspire action in him. He doesn’t want to change, period. The man child I dated thanked me for my “patience” until he was blue in the face, but I started to wonder how long I should be patient and how much he was wasting my time. Words are ultimately hollow if not backed up by action. If anything, staying with a man child will only validate his immaturity. It’s a dead-end road – when it ends, you’re in for a lot of heartbreak, disappointment, and worst of all, feeling like a fool for what you allowed.

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