Peter Pan Syndrome: 20 Signs the Man You’re Dating Will Never Grow up

So you’re dating this guy who you think is fabulous.

Sort of.

He’s cute, oh so cute, funny and adventurous. He makes you laugh until you pee. The sexual chemistry is ridONKulous. You have tons of fun together — when you are together — and you feel like you could spend the rest of your life with this guy, because it would be SO FUN, except for… except for…

Except, except, except.

Except for all the things he does and doesn’t do, that make you feel doubtful. And anxious.

And doubtful.

And pissed!

I’d be willing to bet this isn’t the first guy you’ve dated who sounds like this, either. I know I’ve dated a few of them in my time, and argh… it’s agony getting rid of them because all you can think of is all the FUN you’re going to be missing! Nonononono!

Thing is, it’s not really fun dating a guy like this. The constant disappointment in him will — if it hasn’t already — take away all the joy you get in spending time with his grand hilariousness. The pain eventually overshadows the fun.

Welcome to the curse of Peter Pan syndrome, a.k.a. dating a man who will never grow up.

And if you’re reading this article, you’re probably already with a guy like this (or have been) and are feeling that pain, and need some sympathy. It’s here, sister!

So what I’ve done for you is curate a list of qualities that these irritatingly attractive and addictive guys have, so that you can RUN FOR THE HILLS as soon as you recognize any of them in the next guy you meet/date. Do not pass GO, do not collect $200. Just get the fuck out of there!

Here they are:

1. He’s 42 and doesn’t have any real furniture in his house (milk crates and cinder blocks, anyone?).

He’s still sleeping on the bed he had in college, even though it slants to the left and the mattress has a giant dip in the middle. And smells weird. And, it lays on the bedroom floor because he didn’t want to fork out for a bed frame… or even a box spring. Beer signs and movie posters are his only wall art. He uses cinder block and wood planks for bookshelves and coffee tables.

2. He spends more money on beer than he does on underwear.

He still thinks it’s funny to wear the same underwear four days in a row — “just turn them inside out! Hahahaha” — whatever. It’s ancient and grey and God knows how old the stains on them are. The elastic came away from the waistband years ago and he holds them up with a binder clip. But he has an ever-growing wall of IPA beer cans in his living room as an art display.

3. He always has money for new ski gear, but he never has money to take you to a restaurant better than Taco Bell.

What about when he asks you to go get his $500 ski jacket out of the closet for a trip to Breckenridge (but whoa, staying in a condo is expensive! Motel 6 is good enough), and ten grand/15 years’ worth of old trail running shoes tumble out all over your head, nearly knocking you out flat. But when it’s time for a dinner date, the best he can offer is the dollar menu at Wendy’s. And if you ever do cook at home, he serves dinner (boxed mac and cheese anyone?) on paper plates with plastic utensils. Why do all those dishes?

4. He seems perfectly happy to live in a one bedroom flat in the university district.

When you’re hanging out at his bewilderingly sparsely decorated apartment, barely fitted with much more than a black leather couch and a 70-inch screen tv (on which you seem to play an inordinate amount of video games), you can hear puking in the bushes and drunken fighting outside the window. He, of course, thinks it’s hysterical.

5. He has a beard so long and unkempt you wonder if maybe a family of sparrows lives in there.

I know beards are in at the moment, but come on. At some point, he needs to look like he didn’t just get out of bed. Unless he’s Aaron Kaufman or maybe one of the guys from ZZ Top, it’s just too silly. And sometimes embarrassing.  

6. He never seems to wear anything other than jeans (or… sigh… shorts) and flannel shirts.

I know there are fantastic, mature, blissful guys out there who don’t own a suit (cue… my 50-year-old boyfriend). But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t own anything nice (he looks like a king on the golf course, lemme tell ya), nor does it mean he doesn’t know when it’s appropriate to dress up (a wedding, hello?). If your man refuses to wear anything other than cutoffs — ever — it’s time to rethink.

7. He still rides a skateboard to work. I just really don’t know how to elaborate on this one.

Unless he’s Tony Hawk, it’s so ridiculous it’s self-explanatory.

8. Maybe he has a good-paying job, but he’s always broke. That is, except when his friends call and invite him to go whitewater rafting.

Some of these guys make good livings at their jobs! Most of them don’t, but there are a few who can manage to keep a job and actually do well at it. But they simply don’t value spending their earnings on the responsibilities of life. Many of their bills are unpaid, their credit is in the shitter, the fridge is empty. He buys one-ply toilet paper and dollar store tin foil, but when his buddies call to go parasailing, you can’t hold him back with handcuffs.

9. His bike is worth more than his car.

The bumpers are falling off his filthy, creaking Outback, and there is dog hair upholstered all over the interior, but crikey the titanium shine on his $7400 bicycle is blinding.

10. He seems to go from job to job about every six months, even though he’s in his late-30s/early-40s.

Why? Because he feels they don’t understand him there. Or they expect him to be there in the morning.

11. As a result, he seems to move every six months because he either can’t pay the rent or his roommate is sick of him loafing on the couch all day.

It’s always someone else’s fault of course, but this guy moves a lot. A lot of the times, it’s back into his mom’s basement.

12. He’ll hide under the bedcovers when you’re angry with him. Or worse… he’ll cry.

I will never forget when an ex hid under the covers to avoid me. We were supposed to travel for the weekend to visit some friends of mine, and he was nervous about going. He probably didn’t really want to go, I don’t know, but the night before he picked a fight so huge I told him he wasn’t allowed to go. I was fed up with him I just didn’t want him there anymore (and I’d paid for the plane tickets!). In the morning, as I was getting ready to leave for the airport, he couldn’t look at me. He was too busy cowering under the duvet, and didn’t come up for air until loooong after I’d left. He was 34 at the time.  

13. When he’s mad at you, he’ll call you names instead of asking you to leave the toilet seat up, please.

Maybe you’re having an argument about whether or not to go to your cousin Sharon’s wedding this weekend (or maybe it is about the toilet seat). He doesn’t want to go, you don’t either really, but you feel like you should. She is family after all. But instead of working together to come up with a reasonable solution you can both feel good about, he pops open his fifth Miller Lite for the hour and calls you fat.

14. He either doesn’t show up for dates or cancels at the last minute, claiming something abominably stupid came up to derail him.

Generally, it was a nap. But he’ll tell you his sister absolutely had to move a couch at the last minute and she couldn’t find anyone else in the known universe to help her but him.

15. He has a “Forever Young” logo tiled into the bottom of his pool. At the house that is going into foreclosure.

Yep, this one is another of my dating realities. The guy couldn’t manage to keep his house from being taken by the bank, but his only regret was that he’d lose his “I came up with it!” little logo for the company he never would find the time or the money to start, that he had tiled into the bottom of his pool. You know, in readiness.

16. He still drinks Mountain Dew for breakfast. In his Froot Loops.

This man doesn’t want to know about vegetables. He refuses point blank to eat a salad, and the only plants he will eat are green beans and corn. Oh sorry, I forgot — potatoes (white only, without peel), of course. The only water he drinks is filled with corn syrup and artificial flavors, and the only solids he ingests come out of a box, jar, or bag. He’s a coronary and diabetic bomb waiting to explode.

17. He watches cartoons on Saturday morning.

Those of a certain age will remember the gift that was Saturday morning cartoons. I know now they’re on 24/7, but this guy reserves Saturday morning for this weekly ritual. While he eats through his box of said Froot Loops.

18. His only friends are the ones he made in elementary school.

He hasn’t established a new relationship since 3rd grade. He lives in the same neighborhood he grew up in (maybe still in the same house…), and all the friends he has have known him for 30+ years. He hasn’t had to step out of his relationship comfort zone since he was six, and as a result, he has no idea what a moron he can be.

19. Consequently, most of the women he’s dated in the last 20 years are either old high school friends he reconnected with on Facebook or chicks he met in the unemployment line.

Similar to #18. Meeting you was a colossal fluke. Maybe you met on an airplane or through a friend, but over time and talking, you learned that historically, your man only really dates people he’s known since birth. Or worse, at the dispensary or waiting to pick up his food stamps. His social circle is so small and narrow, he’s on to repeaters.

20. He talks baby talk… while driving to the mall.

Oh boy, I dated a man who did this. My earring nearly poked an eye out from the speed with which I turned to look at him the first time I heard him do this. We were on our way to the store, and he started telling a story and… pfffft! There it was. Cutesy baby talk, and he wasn’t even telling a saucy story. Why did he do this? Beats me. But ew.


There is hope, ladies! You just need to know what to look for.

Just so we’re clear, these are just a few characteristics of a Peter Pan. There are many, many more. I just had to end the post somewhere or I’d be here for the rest of my life.

The point is, you know in your heart this man is still wanting to be a child, as he clearly resists adulthood at every possible opportunity. Maybe he manages to keep a job (more likely not though), but only to fund his next adventure. Maybe he manages to stay out of his parents’ basement, but only to live in someone else’s.

And I’d bet he’d much rather play video games with kids than raise them.

It’s okay to like these guys. They’re fun! But if you’re at the point in your life when you are ready for something more mature (read: but still fun!), let them go. They’re simply not worth it.

And they never, ever change. (in case you had any ideas about that)

Get away immediately. The cool thing is, responsible guys are fun too. Imagine meeting a guy who has these qualities:

1. He thinks you’re awesome and isn’t ashamed to show it.

2. He tells you he’s going to call or meet you, and he does it. On time.

3. He takes you out on a date to a restaurant that serves — gasp! — wine. From a bottle. With a cork.

4. His living room décor includes a matching sofa and loveseat, from the most recent century.

5. His bedroom has a bed frame.

6. He has a 401k plan. With a positive balance.

7. He has a vacation fund — that he doesn’t mind sharing with you.

8. He owns a vehicle worth more than $35.

9. His only roommate is a dog named Jasper.

10. He can pass a drug test without drinking a gallon of water a half hour before the test.

So yes, there is hope, ladies. I know — after 30 years of dating Peter Pans, I finally allowed into my life that guy. He’s an incredibly fun, smart, hilarious guy who has worked at the same company for 30 years (OMG! Who does that anymore?!?!), has an almost paid-off mortgage and no other debt. Among other things, he loves to travel and ski (and he can afford it), drink good beer, and tell fart jokes. And he thinks I’m fabulous! Tell me that isn’t fun!

These wonderful men do exist. You don’t have to date a child to enjoy your inner child with someone. You just have to require better.

And say NO to the next Peter Pan!

(because there will be one)

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