Signs You Are Dating a Man-Child and How to Handle It

A man-child hanging out playing video games

When I first started dating my boyfriend Jim, I thought he was just a fun-loving, silly guy. But over time, I realized his behaviors were really signs I was dating an adult man who acts like a child, also known as a “man-child.”

At first, it was cute and endearing. But dealing with a man-child every day made me frustrated and I started to rethink our relationship.

What is a Man-Child?

A man-child is a grown man who displays emotional and behavioral traits usually associated with teenagers and children, rather than their adult age. For example, a man-child may avoid taking responsibility for their actions, rely financially on others, lack ambition, and in general not display the maturity expected of their age.

Dating a man-child can make you feel like you’re babysitting rather than having an equal partnership.

Man-child Narcissist
Man-child Narcissist

1: Avoiding Responsibility

The biggest sign you’re dating a man-child is their tendency to avoid responsibility at all costs. When something goes wrong, a man-child will come up with excuses, blame others, or flat out deny they had anything to do with it.

They can never just own up to their mistakes. This makes it really hard to resolve conflicts in the relationship because a man-child won’t take accountability for their part.

For example, one time Jim forgot to pay an important bill on time. Instead of apologizing for messing up, he blamed me for not reminding him. This blame shifting means nothing ever gets resolved.

2: Running to Their Parents for Help

An adult should be able to handle personal and financial matters themselves. But a man-child still relies on their parents to deal with problems and make decisions.

Whenever Jim faces something difficult like car trouble or deciding on a career move, his first instinct is always to call his parents. He’ll even ask them to help out with money instead of figuring it out himself.

This just shows he isn’t capable of adult independence and still depends on his mom and dad. It puts a lot of pressure on our relationship.

3: Being Financially Dependent

Speaking of money, financial dependence is a huge red flag you’re dating a man-child. Whether it’s asking you to cover their bills, relying on family members for cash, or just generally struggling with managing finances – it all points to immaturity.

Jim expects me to handle all our household expenses even though he makes a decent salary. Whenever I encourage him to budget better or build some savings, he complains it’s too boring and stressful to deal with. This financial irresponsibility makes it hard to do things like save up for a house or retirement together.

4: Immature Communication Habits

Clear and mature communication skills are essential for a healthy relationship. But a man-child resorts to things like giving their partner the silent treatment or having outbursts rather than talking issues through.

For example, if I even gently broach a difficult topic with Jim, he is quick to get defensive. Then he’ll either blow up at me or give me the cold shoulder for days until I apologize, even if I did nothing wrong.

These explosive emotional reactions make it impossible to have productive conversations addressing problems in our relationship.

5: Inability to Handle Basic Adult Tasks

There’s nothing wrong with needing help around the house now and then. But a grown man should have a basic grasp on life skills like cooking simple meals, doing their own laundry, cleaning up after themselves, and taking care of household issues. However, Jim still heavily relies on me for all these day-to-day tasks.

No matter how many times I try to teach him easy recipes or ask him to pitch in on chores, he acts helpless. He’ll feign ignorance and make excuses about being too busy or tired from work to contribute. It’s frustrating feeling like his mother rather than girlfriend.

6: Lack of Drive and Ambition

While it’s fine not to have major career goals, a man-child shows little drive or ambition to better themselves in any way. They coast along in life just having fun in the moment versus setting personal goals for growth.

Jim has bounced between entry-level jobs and just does enough to get by rather than applying himself. Whenever I try discussing making healthier lifestyle changes or taking steps to advance his career, he changes the subject.

This lack of motivation even towards small self-improvements over time wears down the relationship. It holds both people back from evolving together.

7: Dodging Serious Conversations

An emotionally mature adult can have discussions about important relationship matters like values, future goals, and dealing with conflicts. But a man-child avoids or cracks jokes during these serious talks because deep down they cannot handle the realities and responsibilities of grown-up relationships.

I’ll try bringing up concerns I have about where our relationship is heading and Jim will reply with some silly quip to change the subject. Or he’ll suddenly remember an errand he needs to run. It makes me feel like he doesn’t take our partnership or future together seriously.

8: Disrespectful Attitudes

Even if they don’t mean to, a man-child often comes across as disrespectful through their speech and actions. Immature behaviors like making fun of their partner’s appearance, interests, or values all demonstrate a lack of respect.

Jim for example mocks my hobbies and career ambitions quite often as “a waste of time” rather than supporting my goals.

Demeaning attitudes erode emotional intimacy and trust that should form the foundation of a relationship.

9: Childish Behaviors

Even though the man-child is an adult on paper, their mental age seems to hover somewhere around high school. They engage in juvenile behaviors like practical jokes, speaking in silly voices/accents, obsessively playing video games, and generally clowning around.

At first, I found Jim’s goofy antics charming. But the older we get, the more embarrassing and tiresome it becomes to have a partner acting half their age. It makes me question if he’ll ever mature enough to handle the complexities of life and relationship.

10: Emotional Immaturity

Managing emotions skillfully is a hallmark of maturity. But Jim tends to have dramatic emotional outbursts over minor inconveniences. He also demonstrates very little empathy for how his actions impact me or others.

For example, if he says something hurtful, Jim won’t even try to see my perspective. In his mind, I’m just “overreacting” and he did nothing wrong.

This self-centeredness and inability to self-reflect creates a disconnected partnership making both people feel alone.

11: Entertainment Addiction

There’s nothing wrong with playing the occasional video game or binging a TV series now and then. But when a grown man prioritizes gaming and media entertainment over life responsibilities, it’s gone too far. No matter what’s going on, Jim finds a way to squeeze in time for gaming, streaming shows, or scrolling social media.

I’ll ask him to join me for a nice dinner out, and he’ll choose staying home to play instead. His entertainment addiction makes me feel neglected. And the more absorbed he gets in artificial worlds, the less motivated he is to show up fully in our relationship.

12: Needy for Validation

We all enjoy praise now and then. But healthy adults have a strong sense of self-confidence and worth that isn’t dependent on others’ opinions. When Jim feels even slightly criticized or like he underperformed at something, he spirals into anxiety that won’t calm down until I soothe his ego with compliments and reassurance.

This constant validation-seeking is exhausting. I end up spending more energy propping up his fragile self-esteem versus enjoying intimate emotional connections.

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How Can I Handle Being in a Relationship With a Man-Child?

  • Set clear expectations about needing certain behaviors to change, and reinforce boundaries if those expectations aren’t met. Make sure to remain calm and firm rather than angry when discussing these needs.
  • Encourage them to take small steps towards self-improvement like getting therapy, taking a class, or reading a self-help book. However, don’t force change or make them feel attacked.
  • Spend less time together focusing solely on fun activities. Introduce more opportunities for meaningful connection through taking classes together, volunteering, etc.
  • If unhealthy patterns continue long-term with no effort made towards growth, it may be time to reevaluate if you’re right for each other or seek couples counseling.

The Takeaway About Relationships with a Man-Child

The most important thing I’ve learned from my relationship challenges with Jim is that both people need to demonstrate willingness to evolve and confront their own flaws for a partnership to thrive.

Recognizing signs I’m dating a man-child has been a wake-up call. Still, real change requires commitment from both sides through open and compassionate communication.

I know now I must set clearer expectations and boundaries around behaviors I need to see improve for me to stay in the relationship long-term. My needs matter just as much as my partner’s.

While Jim displays some tendencies of a man-child, only he can make the choice to take responsibility for his maturity journey. I cannot force him to grow up, as much as I want the best for him.

My eyes are wide open to the red flags now. So I will continue encouraging small positive steps while observing closely if real change is happening. If over time Jim refuses to progress and continues disrespecting my needs – then I will accept we likely don’t share the same values about what creating a life partnership entails.

As painful as it would be, in that case I must demonstrate self-love by making space for a more compatible match. One who can meet me on equal emotional ground. Life is short and I deserve to feel fulfilled in romantic relationships, rather than perpetually unsatisfied.

We all contain endless potential for growth when we commit to self-improvement. My wish is that by illuminating these common signs of a man-child mentality, anyone in similar shoes can take an honest look at their own behaviors. And from there embark on meaningful change towards emotional maturity.

Isabella Hartley

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Isabella Hartley

Meet Isabella Hartley, a dedicated Relationship Coach and Yoga Instructor with a Master’s Degree in Spiritual Psychology and 8 years of experience in trauma healing. Isabella’s unique approach to wellness combines deep psychological insights with practical relationship guidance and transformative yoga practices. She’s passionate about empowering others to find self-love and understanding, paving the way for holistic healing and richer, more meaningful connections. Isabella’s philosophy centers on nurturing the inner light within each individual, helping them discover and cherish their path to emotional wellness.