Peter Pan Syndrome is on the rise, marking a psychological shift in our culture indicating many men feel it’s more important not to grow up than be mature.
There are varying degrees of Peter Pan Syndrome, and it’s important to see if it’s a helpful transitional phase or just chronic apathy when we consider dating manolescents. Let’s look at the typical behavioral patterns of boyish men, why it’s becoming more common place and how to determine the severity of the immature habits.
Surely, some of us could use a little more fun in our lives and learn from these man-children before we die of sheer boredom from our perfectly calculated lives. For men and women, we seek to find the balance which lies somewhere between not taking responsibility for our lives and carrying the world on our shoulders.
Peter Pan Syndrome is used to describe men who don’t take responsibility in relationships or their careers, and exist in a childlike state of mind. Let’s just be fair, women can do the same thing. Men are not inherently bad, they respond to the world around them and make decisions accordingly, just like women.
However, when you meet a man that behaves differently that your preconceived idea of a ‘man’, it can be confusing. Sometimes men who refuse to take responsibility for anything can hurt you by being a little too laid back.
Why do women fall for boyish men? It’s easy to be attracted to someone who is lighthearted and playful. We all like to be around people who are smiling and carefree. Their energy is infectious and we want to feed on their happiness. But the moment we seek happiness in someone else, we get tripped up. To see what I mean, read on…
Perhaps you’ve had this experience. You meet a man who’s charming and very loving, he asks you out and you’re very excited. He forgets the plans you made and about a week later, asks you out again. This time he asks you to pick him up, and being the kind person you are, you figure he must be having car problems.
He has nothing in mind to do, but would be happy to hit up the arcade or the nearest bounce house. Slightly confused, you undress from your cocktail dress and heels and replace them with tennis shoes and workout clothes.
Your play-date has just turned into a rambunctious and less than serious episode of unexpected events. You feel unsafe because you can’t predict this man and you’re confused as to why he doesn’t need to take you to a fancy dinner.
Now I ask you, who is more right, your expectations or his childish behavior? I’d like to propose that they are just two different ways of looking at life, and this Peter Pan Syndrome can be healthy in doses and unhealthy in extremes.
Anyone, male or female that refuses to be logical and take some responsibility, even if they choose to be non-conventional, will experience the effects of their apathy.
Sometimes people choose to be lighthearted and incorporate fun to balance out their serious side, and sometimes people choose to act as though they don’t have responsibilities, which can hurt them and those around them.
When dating a Peter Pan, how can we differentiate between a man who cares for us and will make something of himself and a man who only pursues his own desires? Men have actually been dealing with this when choosing women for a long time. We are just having a taste of their pie now.
In Western culture, we all know that the majority of men in their twenties are laid back. If they aren’t at work, they are usually in basketball shorts or sweatpants, watching sports or meeting up for happy hour. They love to vacation and try extreme sports, and with the occasional exception, it doesn’t come in between their work.
This is the work hard, play hard type that pushes their body to the limits and occasionally pays for it. This is a rather harmless bit of playfulness that will still enable them to pay the bills, unwind, and have some fun.
Some men, just like women, go through transitions in their lives where they are reshaping their identity and redirecting their lives. In the process, it can be confusing, as they decide where to focus their energy and what they want to do; they may need a little distraction or fun to deal with the stress of having things up in the air.
The way you can tell if they are shirking responsibility or just shifting gears is by their words and their actions. If they are showing signs of being responsible but not perfect at it, cut them some slack. Don’t we do the same thing?
Some men have realized, especially the good looking ones, that they can skate by without doing much. Maybe they have really nice parents who will allow them to work a few days a week and let them live for free or maybe they rely on hard working lady birds who are naturally mothering to foot the bill for their leisure lifestyle.
Many of these manolescents feel entitled to our nurturing, forgiving care-taking and they will milk it for all it’s worth.
When they expect you to pay for everything and constantly have no money, this is a sign that they do not have a healthy balance between work and play. If they are asking to borrow money frequently or mooching off of other people, this is a sign that their Peter Pan Syndrome is full blown and needs to be remedied.
Here’s the news flash, ladies, you cannot save a man from PPS, he must learn on his own and find his inner motivation. Some men will never fit the molds that you think they should, and honestly, it’s good that many men create their own molds.
However, if men are displaying irresponsible decision making and it affects them in negative ways as well as those around them, it’s not your job to fix that. You cannot change people, even if they seem to have good intentions.
When men are clinging to their childhood, it can be difficult to spot for us women. We may not realize they are mentally immature because they look physically mature. When a man is completely unreliable and keeps telling you he just wants to live in the moment, you can pretty much know you need to walk away.
This type of ‘live for the moment’ mentality can latch on rather tightly to men (or women) who have had a job they hate or been through a traumatic life situation.
The best thing we can do is create healthy boundaries and let them know what they have done that we are not okay with. If their childlike behaviors are hurting your feelings or draining your bank account, walk away my dear, he’s a long way from maturity.
Here is an interesting question, which can help us understand Peter Pans and possibly our own inclinations to avoid responsibility. We can take ourselves very seriously and we can skate by paycheck to paycheck not working all that hard. What it boils down to is goals.
If we are aiming to acquire a big house and a fancy car, we know we need to clear a certain amount of income each month. That may motivate us to kick our butts and just work for the highest paying employer that we can find.
Alternatively, we may be more driven by passion to pursue what we love in our work. That may not mean that it pays off right away. Many men that don’t work to live, but live to work, can be found in this category.
They are willing to do the internships, learn the ropes, go back to school and struggle a little bit if it means that they get to do what they want. Just because they don’t make a lot of money, doesn’t mean they are lazy or any less deserving of love.
The third category is the one with the ultimate Peter Pans. They have confused their disdain for up-tightness with a free hall pass for complete irresponsibility. They feel like they don’t owe anyone anything, and live only for the pleasure they can squeeze out of the day.
This may have come from a culture that caters to instant gratification. We see so many things that increase this instant gratification mindset. Food that takes no preparation, deliveries to our doorsteps, get rich quick schemes and companies that prey on people’s emotions that make a fortune selling fake ideas or stuff you really don’t need.
There is so much in our culture that encourages reckless behaviors, only those with a keen sense of observation can pick up on how to avoid falling prey to mass marketing identity traps.
As women, we have an innate nurturing tendency. We want to take care of people and we want to be nice to them. This can be a great quality, but it can also be taken advantage of. Just make sure that the person you’re dating reciprocates your gestures of kindness. Make sure they show respect for your time and appreciate your efforts.
If you feel like you are in a one way relationship, trying to get them to reel it in, so to speak, it’s your job to set your own healthy boundaries.
We can’t blame another person for our own unhappiness. We choose who we let into our lives and who we keep a safe distance from.
If you don’t pay close attention to the way you are being treated, to the things they promise and don’t deliver, and to the lack of motivation, you will feel hurt because of it. You will feel like blaming them, but really, it’s our responsibility to take our time getting to know people so that we don’t set ourselves up for being used.
Before we make men out to be the bad guys, we must realize that we can also fall prey to Peter Pan Syndrome in our own lives. When we meet a man who is careless about their life decisions, it may be that we also have been careless in some way.
It’s true that many women that are looking to be taken care of are also shirking their responsibilities in life because they want to bask in the pleasure that they feel they deserve.
If we coast through our twenties and thirties, pretty soon it’s going to catch up to us. We are going to get a wake-up call that we need to have a valuable skill to offer the world. We all get older and none of us can skate by on our looks and charm forever.
If you really want to enjoy your life, don’t think in terms of today, think in terms of forever. What would make you happy when your skin is saggy? When you’re unable to work, what will you be proud of having done with your life? What mark do you wish to leave on the world?
It’s easy to live as an escapist and put off thinking about the future. It’s easier to be lighthearted when you’re just focused on enjoying the moment, right? Isn’t that what they teach in yoga, to be present? Well, they also teach balance, we can’t let our sensory experience overwhelm our physical reality.
We can find happiness in helping others and that happiness will outlast the fleeting pleasures of raving all night, spending your money on bottle service, or having the easiest job you can possibly find.
Undeniably, it is what we do for others that gives us the greatest pleasure, not how wild we live. It’s good to throw caution to the wind, but don’t let the wind run your life. Find a grounding that you enjoy and then play within that life.
When Peter Pan Syndrome is unhealthy, it will begin to show, a person’s health may be affected or they may start losing friends. They may have trouble providing for themselves. This is where the checks and balances in life will call them to pull in the reigns and find a new muse.
As the pendulum swings too far in one direction, it works to find its way back to the other side. It’s common for people’s swings to lessen as they get older and learn their lessons, so try not to judge people too harshly as they go through their childish state, but don’t let them take advantage of you either.
I hope you found this insightful and useful, and please add comments below. Don’t forget to share it with friends you feel would benefit from it, and as always, thank you for being a part of our community of empowerment here on YouQueen.
Shannon is a contortionist and yoga teacher that loves to inspire people to lead empowered and healthy lives. She writes practical advice for health and gives real world insights to empower women emotionally.
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