The Giant Man-Baby Phenomenon
The Giant Man-Baby Phenomenon
Good God, people. Divorce is RAMPANT in my world the last few years.
I am one of the happiest divorced people I know and even I’ll tell you this: Divorce sucks more than Jenna Jamison on a comeback tour. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.
While there are many reasons for divorce, I keep noticing one all-too-common scenario the past few years. I call it the Giant Man-Baby Phenomenon.
Now I do not think all men are giant man-babies. But I’ve seen enough of them in action to know that they’re not uncommon, either.
So before I describe the man-baby in detail, I’d like to issue a warning. Men: If you see yourself in any of the following descriptors, know that your wife secretly (or maybe not so secretly) hates you at least part of the time. It’s highly likely that she’s joked with her girlfriends that it would be easier if you just died in a freak accident so she could collect the insurance and wouldn’t have to get divorced. Yes, they’ve laughed at your expense.
Sounds harsh, right? I know it does. But I speak the truth. And if this pathetic blog entry can get one man-baby to grow the hell up for the sake of saving his family, then good.
So if you suspect you’re a man-baby, clean up your act, dudes. Because your wife has already had enough of you and in this day and age, very few of you get unlimited chances.
Also, a note to all the men out there who are not man-babies: If you know one of these guys — and you probably do — don’t encourage his pathetic behavior. Warn him that if he continues to treat his marriage like a litter box he’s going to end up 45-years old, sleeping on a friend’s couch with nowhere to go on the holidays. You will be doing him a favor (and also, keeping him from crashing on your couch).
You might be a Giant Man-Baby if:
1. You refuse to acknowledge that you no longer live in your room in your parents’ house. You act as if any of the adult responsibilities that come along with life are your wife’s fault and that she is a total drag for suggesting that any of these items enter your world.
Examples: Cleaning out the rain gutters, caulking the shower, wearing a tie when appropriate, or going to family functions. Every time you act like a poorly trained bear that she has to guide through life, she loves you a little less.
Listen, I love the idea of unconditional love but it’s really hard to love someone who’s a lazy ass and who treats you like his personal assistant/mommy/zookeeper all the time. A woman might still be able to muster up some love for that person, but she sure as hell doesn’t want to live with him.
How to know if you’re this guy: Your partner has removed all responsibility for household chores from you out of frustration that you keep screwing them up. Your one regular task is to take out the trash, which you do not do unless reminded.
*Ladies: A friend once had a man confide to her that he purposely messed up chores so he wouldn’t have to do them anymore. If your partner is clueless, keep in mind that it may be learned helplessness.
2. Your wife has to “request” time off. You act like helping with the kids is a massive chore. If your wife wants to go out for an evening, she has to “put in” for time off first and then get your grudging approval. She never even bothers to ask for a full day.
How to know if you’re this guy: You tell people you have to “babysit” if your wife goes out for a few hours.
3. You’re very busy and important. I’ve seen this one happen so many times that it’s almost funny to me now — except that there’s nothing funny about it.
Here’s how this one starts: You’re working more. Or you’re in school. Or you have some other activity that becomes all consuming. The point is, you have something Very Big and Important to do that requires a crushing amount of your time and your focus. Your wife doesn’t love this, but she wants to be supportive. She wants you to be happy and/or she wants you to get ahead in your career, so she deals with it.
At first she waits up for you and saves dinners for you and worries about you if you get home late. She explains your absence at family events and tells everyone how hard you’re working. You get a taste of freedom and you start to use your Big and Important Activity as your ticket to even more time away from the house: another gig, another meeting, a study group, etc. Something always seems to come up, doesn’t it?
Your absences start to grate on your wife. She has to attend family events without you. She gets tired of “waiting for daddy” to do family things and starts to go without you: road trips, the beach, amusement parks, etc. She stops saving dinner for you. She gets tired of explaining where you are at family events. Eventually people stop asking.
When you actually are home, the tension is thick because your wife is so pissed at you for leaving her holding the bag with the kids, the house, the errands, the social calendar, your parents, etc. You will begin to see your wife as a humorless hag. You wonder why you don’t have sex all that much anymore. You stay away even more.
How to know if you’re this guy: You get treated like a special guest star if you actually show up at a family event.
And #3 leads directly to #4 …
4. You’re cheating. If you’re spending that much time away from your wife and your family, you’re going to forget that you’re supposed to be faithful.
Keep in mind, you’ll eventually get caught. It might take a while, but it will happen. You’ll beg your wife not to “break up the family.”
However, you’ve already trained her how to live without you, so she may do just that. Plus, if you’re doing a bunch of the other things on this list, she’s not going to see losing you as an actual loss. She knows she can cover the day-to-day stuff just fine. No, she doesn’t know how to fix things around the house, but you don’t, either, and that’s what they make maintenance departments for.
How to know if you’re this guy or if you’re in danger of becoming this guy: You create extra events on your work/school/activity calendar to buy yourself additional time out of the house. You’re at bars with women at inappropriate hours (which would really be any hour if you’re a married man …). You don’t wear your wedding ring. You tell people you’re divorced or that you’re just about to get divorced. You delay mentioning that you have children as long as possible.
And there is my list.
I recently read somewhere that marriages that end up in trouble are often skewed heavily to meet one person’s needs over the other person’s. This is one way it can look. I’m sure a man could write a rebuttal to this or even craft a list about what it looks like when the woman calls the shots. If so, please send it to me and I’d be happy to post it here.
And now, with much fear and dread, I press “Publish.” Let the backlash begin.
For more on this topic, see the comments below or check out these posts:
The Return of the Giant Man-Baby: A dude weighs in
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…(nods her head every so slightly in what might be construed as agreement, but – hey! maybe not) …
Very diplomatic, Other Trish Johnston.
Love this post!! Thankfully I got rid of my man-baby before getting married. The breakup is such a nightmare, I can’t even IMAGINE how horrible a divorce would be!! Kudos to you Trish, for being honest & amusing & saying the stuff that lots of us are thinking anyway.
Thanks, Kate. Yes, breakups are HARD but divorces are harder. Good to make the hard choice beforehand! Certainly there is a grown-up man out there just dying to be with you …!
“How to know if you’re this guy: You tell people you have to “babysit” if your wife goes out for a few hours.” — this is a common attribute of military men. It annoys me as a parent, a father and a service member to be lumped into the stereotype of the military man.
I grew up around military men. Yes, I’ve seen lots who were like that, but I’ve also seen the opposite as well. 🙂
Love your post – and BTW I think I know and/or have dated/married some of the men you are referring to!!
That said – as a divorced woman I can’t help but feel us women are partially guilty for creating these man-babies. We mother them – and I don’t just mean doing their laundry or cleaning up their dishes (which would be bad enough), I mean the countless times we’ve said “call your mother” or micro-managed their other grown-up responsibilities. Then we blame them for acting like the children we treat them like. If they are only going to rise to meet our expectations then we need to raise that bar a little higher. Believe me – I haven’t figured out the magic formula yet… but if I do I will sell you the secret.
Good points — and I have wondered many of the same things. While I am far, far away from the magic formula, I do see myself being very cautious about what I do and don’t do in my current relationship …
OMG, I was married to a Man-Baby for 14 years! I never knew there was a name for it. Sorry Stephen, but, yes, he was a military man too. I’ll tell you what though – I am so much more appreciative of how much my future husband (hate the word fiance) does for me now. 🙂
How is it possible that you knew my ex-husband even though I was married and divorced in Ohio decades before I knew you? I was silly enough to buy a hundred-year-old house that needed serious rennovation with a man who could not screw in a screw (but was quite profecient with the other type of screwing around).
I liked this story more than I thought I would. I was initially bristling at the concept of “man-baby” because the doofus male is such a stereotype, and deeply held among American women. Nonetheless, my ex-girlfriend told virtually the exact same story regarding her ex-husband, so there’s plenty of truth here. You’ve articulated a lot of things she was trying to say. (We’re still friends.) So thanks for that.
Regarding point one — ask yourself, “How did he act before he lived with you?”
For example, did he manage his own apartment just fine before you came into his life, doing his own laundry, tossing out the garbage, paying his bills, etc.? I have seen a tendency among women to confuse “not how I do things” with “wrong.” It’s a deeply ingrained tendency. Fight it.
For example, I bought a house and keep it clean, paying my bills on time, etc. My credit rating was over 800. I had been employed steadily for 25 years. My most recent ex-girlfriend once said, “I don’t know how you managed to live on your own.” As if I was a doofus. Meanwhile, she had a stack of unpaid bills three months back, I’d repeatedly bailed her out of those, and her house looked like a tornado hit it. But I didn’t do things how she would — so she “corrected” me until I told her to stuff it.
Excessive correction about non-important things will drive a man away. If he can’t do anything without a comment, either good or bad, as if you know the “correct” way and he needs to be “taught,” he’s going to think you’re a condescending jerk and you’re going to find he’ll spend a lot of time away from you. But he won’t say that.
Again, how clean was his apartment when he first met you? How did manage his life without you before you met? And if you don’t like the answers to those questions (i.e., the same before the relationship as he was in the relationship), why was his behavior with you a surprise?
That said, if you’re saying — I don’t care how the garbage is thrown out, as long as it is, fine. If you’re saying, don’t forget to spray Lysol on the bottom of the can each time you change the bag, you’re a nag.
I have found in general men are far more results-oriented about how things get done, as long as they are done and meet the agreed-upon specifications. I have found women seem to take a relationship-based approach to things, and so they read current-relationship-status into something like throwing out the garbage.
While I understand that female tendency myself, you need to understand that to your average man that thinking is unfathomable. So he shrugs his shoulders and you think he’s clueless, but as much as he’s missing how you think, you’re not understanding how men think. To him, you are taking the temperature of the relationship by how and when the garbage gets tossed out. To a man, it sounds narcissistic and paranoid. Hence, women think men are stupid, and men think women are crazy.
If you want to communicate better with the male gender, cracking the code on male thinking will help. Very few men actually understand a women’s relational approach to thinking. Similarly, very few women understand a man’s mission-oriented thinking, which requires detachment from emotions and achievement of goals independent of relationships. Relationships may be a part of how the goal is accomplished, but to a man, the achievement is key.
“I think I saw a rat/insects/children eating out of the garbage” should trigger a man to fix a garbage problem, if addressed not as nagging and “I told you so”. As women, give men problems to solve, and then let them go solve it their way. Once a man is in his thinking tunnel (e.g., working out a solution to a problem), he has detached and that’s a good thing. Thinking about what that means to a relationship simply sounds insane to a man at that point.
I once saw a woman ask a patient suffering from dementia to read off a list of financial numbers, rather than simply pass me the piece of paper with the numbers written on them. I asked what she was doing, and she said, “I was trying to include him.” The idea that such a task would bore him and slow down everything pointlessly, never occurred to her. She was trapped in relational thinking and interfering with accomplishing the goal.
Hope this perspective is useful.
TK: Excellent reply! So insightful! I am going to post this in a blog entry so the rest of my readers are sure to see it as well. Thanks for taking the time to write this.
[…] believe this is an acceptable thing to say, I strongly suggest that you take the handy self test here to determine if you are a Giant Man-Baby. (Here let me grade that for you. Yep, thought […]
It’s like you’re a fly on my wall! Though we haven’t gotten to #4 (yet) all the others ring true! I do know that when he’s been “working late” he actually is working because he answers his work phone when I call to say goodnight. I think our #4 is choosing to play (and swear profusely) At video games while our kids play outside and our son practices basketball (my husbands favorite sport) with the neighbor girl’s dad. Any suggestions for trying to get a giant-man baby turned around into just a man who actually gives a crap about his kids?
Good, good question, Susan. I certainly can’t claim to have the answers on this one, but I’ll give it a shot. Also, let me acknowledge that turning this behavior around may result in things getting worse before they get better.
You might want to read this: http://new.accordingtotrish.com/2012/02/17/the-return-of-the-giant-man-baby-a-dude-weighs-in/
It’s an insightful email from a man who read the Giant Man-Baby post. Good stuff in there about how men think differently than women.
As for what I’d do myself, I’d start with a pretty frank conversation. Keep calm. Just state the facts. “I’m worried that the kids are growing up without you.” And if you’re worried about your relationship, say so. “I’m worried that we’re growing apart. I’m worried at the amount of resentment I feel when you don’t help out around the house. I’m worried that if things continue like this, our marriage is going to be a real mess in five years. I don’t even want to think about 20 years.” Also, ask how he feels. He may be frustrated as well.
Very important: Don’t let him talk you out of your point of view. Stick to your guns. “I understand that you’re busy but I can’t help but be concerned that the kids don’t see you. I don’t see you. I’m afraid for our marriage. I’m afraid for our kids. They’ll base their future relationships on the model that we show them right now. I’m afraid they’re going to learn dysfunctional things. I married you because I love you. I want to see you and I to make sure that they know you.”
Or, a subtle approach that arouses his sense of competition might work … “Yeah, our son is getting really good at basketball. I guess all that time he’s spending with the neighbor is really paying off. He’s learning so much from so-and-so’s dad. I think he really looks up to him.”
Then, I wouldn’t enable any behaviors. Don’t pick up after him (as hard as that may be). Don’t wait to do family things until he can find the time. Take time for yourself and leave him in charge of the kids — even if he whines about it and gives a massive guilt trip. Ask him to take over some kid responsibilities so he has to spend time with them — driving them to things, packing lunches, supervising bedtime. That may force him to really see them.
I’ve gone the counseling route myself — in various formats. That can be good, too. Might not hurt for the two of you to go together.
Good luck. Keep me posted. Let me know if you hit on anything that works!
alllllll of this. Yep.