He’s Not a Child (Even if He Acts Like One!)
We’ve probably all heard a mother with three children talk about her four kids – calling her husband the forth.
I don’t like hearing that, but honestly, I understand why some women feel that way. I’ve run into more than a few 30ish-year-old men who act more like teenagers half the time.
But it’s not just men and it’s not just happening in the States. Google “failure to launch” and you will find a slew of articles about young adults finishing college and moving back in with mom and dad. Look internationally and you find many countries have words for these individuals – from “Hikikomori” in Japan and “Tanguy Syndrome” in France to “KIPPERS” (kids in parents’ pockets eroding retirement savings) in England and “Boomerang Children” in Canada.
There’s plenty of finger-pointing and blaming, much of it backed by some study or theory. If you have teenage children I suggest doing some research on the issue so you can help your children “launch well”. But what do you do if you think your husband falls just short of a failure to launch?
First realise calling him a child, either to his face or behind his back, only makes it worse. It’s human nature to live up to or down to the expectations of others, and if he knows you think he’s childish he is more likely to act childish. Expecting the best is a better plan, especially if you can do so realistically. Beyond that, I think there are some real gender differences in how we mature and how we see maturity. Understanding this will help.
- Male brains take longer to develop than female brains. There’s a lot of debate on when our brains reach full development. Some say as old as the late 30’s, but most put it in the mid 20’s for men and a bit earlier for women. Several studies have shown the PFC (prefrontal cortex) becomes fully developed in women years earlier than in men. The PFC is involved in impulse control and being able to plan to reach a goal. I’ve seen age differences on this from 2 to 6 years.
- Men tend to be more wide-ranging in their daily expression of maturity. He can “act his age” while he’s at work, but then seems to regress by a decade or more on the way home. I think part of this is because the jobs most men do in our modern world are not good fits for the brains God gave us. At work we don’t get to express and enjoy parts of ourselves that God intended us to use, so we then compensate when we’re not at work.
- Becoming a mother affects a woman’s brain. The hormones of pregnancy and childbirth literally change a woman’s brain. Parenthood changes men too, but it’s a less direct and less rapid process.
- We now see much of the world through a female lens. This makes some male things seem odd or wrong. In reality, some of these things are good and necessary for a healthy society. Some of what you wish your husband would grow out of is actually something God wants you to embrace. (And some of it is not – the trick is knowing which is which!)
Much of this is a matter of different, not wrong. If you can accept that truth you will be better able to navigate the issue. Stop focusing on his behaviour and look at his accomplishments. Is he doing the things he needs to do? If so, cut him some slack in his off time. If he’s not doing what he needs to be doing, focus on those things without making it an issue of maturity.
~ Paul – I’m XY, and at 55 I still like to have fun!
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