The hard pill to swallow when it comes to attracting man-children is that they’re not necessarily “bad boys,” which makes it difficult to let them go when you start to observe their Peter Pan-like qualities.
I’ve dated many a man-child back in my day (don’t mind me braggin’ over here!). Most of them were well-intentioned, charming people who ended up not being the kind of mature and serious partners I wanted them to be—I held on to some basic gesture like picking me up for a date or calling me on the phone as a sign that they were.
It was easy for me to fall for and hold on to infuriatingly lovely man-children because they were major steps up from a brutal, emotionally abusive relationship I had previously endured. But if you’re looking for the whole shebang in a partnership that includes commitment, security, shared values, and depth, pay attention to these signs that may reveal your guy isn’t as grown up as you’ve been hoping…
Editor’s note: Although this article uses male pronouns, the advice applies to all sexual orientations and gender identities.
He’s still living with a roommate.
Look, no judgment on roommates when you’re a young professional making your way or perhaps in grad school and have your eye on the prize with your finances and setting yourself up for a big-girl or big-boy apartment down the road … But if your partner is established in his career and doesn’t want to let a “roommate sitch” go, to me this demonstrates a lack of desire and willingness to prioritize creating a physical space to nurture and grow your relationship with the privacy and quiet it deserves.
He’s been “in between” jobs for a while.
I get it. It’s hard times out there, and I often coach my clients on not being too quick to write someone off if he’s in between jobs. He could be a really bright, hard-working, and ambitious guy who just got unlucky and lost his job.
But what I want you to pay attention to is what he is doing to set himself up for the next job. Is he hustling? Networking? Figuring out money-making opportunities in the interim? Or is he waiting for someone to hand him an opportunity? He may be great in bed and smell delicious, but that lack of drive and “woe is me” mentality will slowly but surely kill the mood.
He wants to spend a lot of time with you … and his group of friends.
This one was a toughie for me. On the one hand, I really loved that the several man-children I dated wanted me to hang with their friends. I thought it was a sign that they really liked me, and I still think that was true! But if you’re spending more time with him and his friends than you are just with him alone, chances are he’s avoiding emotional intimacy and a deeper connection with you.
Making plans in advance is a regular challenge.
This one piggybacks off the last. It’s Tuesday and you start talking about what he wants to do on Friday, and he has a habit of saying, “I’m not sure yet.” But as soon as a plan is presented with friends, it seems to be no problem for him to say “Yes” in advance.
Even if you’re ultimately included in said friend plans, be cautious-if he can’t say a simple, “Yes, I’d love to go to that concert in two weeks with you” on the reg. he might not be the type of relationship you’re looking for. We make plans for the things that really matter to us, and you may for sure matter to him, but his friend plans and other potential options matter more.
He won’t get deep with you.
You try to get him to open up by asking probing questions (when appropriate!) like, “What was it like for you when your parents split up?” or by telling him, “I really like you, and it scares me” and hoping he’ll safely acknowledge your vulnerability or—even better—reciprocate his feelings … but nothing. He deflects with an uncomfortable laugh or conveniently receives an important “work” text that pulls him out of the awkward moment. But then he doesn’t circle back. And on the flip side, he doesn’t attempt to go deeper with you … He doesn’t ask questions that show he wants to connect with you beyond good times, surface conversations, and great chemistry.
He shuts down any discussions over advancing your relationship.
You’ve been consistently hanging out, sleeping together, and spending time with each other’s friends for months, but when it comes to taking things to the next level—i.e., exclusivity, a move-in conversation, or where he sees the relationship going, he’s got nothin’. Or, he’s all about talking about it, but then he doesn’t follow through with aligned actions.
It’s painful to peel back the blinders and see what you really don’t want to see when it comes to being with an enticing but unavailable man-child. I often hear clients say that it’s harder to get over the nice guy than the not-so-nice guy. I get it and have been there. But just remember that every time you clock the painful truth and take action on letting go of a partner who’s more of a project than a promise, you are creating space for the dreamy MAN-ADULT to arrive … just like I did.
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