For those of us who are dating in our 20s and 30s, we have heard it all: all 101 reasons why our sweat and tears have come to no avail. Commitment issues, mommy issues, and plain old jerkishness aside, simply trying to understand what motivates a man has meant that most of us could probably test out of a psychology degree today if we felt so inclined.
But out of all the reasons for relationship doom, the discovery that the man you have been trying to love like, well, a man, is in fact a boy with a full-grown hipster lumberjack beard, is by far the most horrifying.
How did I not see this before? You might ask yourself. I’m practically a certified psychotherapist and I missed this … again? But we can’t be too hard on ourselves; facial hair is a pretty darn good disguise.
The fact that your guy is just not yet a man is not the worst diagnosis among the many male relationship maladies. The boy ranks low on the jerk scale and has no intention of hurting you, it's just that his boyish antics really won't satisfy when there is man's work to be done. You could hang around and hope that your womanhood will inspire him to "man up," but that often takes time and patience that most women are not willing to expend. Why? Because there are grown men out there and they are much easier to date and ultimately marry.
Things can get a little confusing when there are a lot of boys walking around in men’s clothing, so the trick to finding a bonafide man is to look beyond the grown-man appearance and look for those little clues that mean he may not have quite gotten over his fear of girl cooties.
01. He has no idea what he wants.
I wish I could say this man has the best of intentions, but the truth is, he doesn’t have any intentions. For this man, the heart wants, what the heart wants—for now—but he won’t give much thought to what it might want a year or two down the road. He wants to be with you and he wants to let the good times roll, and there is nothing wrong with that, but that is pretty much all he is looking for right now. Ever ask your man what qualities he values in a potential spouse and it looks like he might be having an allergic reaction? Do conversations about the future cause him to go into anaphylactic shock? Does he want to be with you but avoids DTR like the plague? If the answer is yes, your man might actually be a boy.
02. He thinks responsibility is a trap.
The most obvious differentiation between a boy and man is that a man sees responsibility as an adventure and a boy sees responsibility as a cage. Commitment and sacrifice allows a man to make something of himself. Responsibility allows him to be the lover, the entrepreneur, and the adventurer he so deeply desires to be. A man understands that “with great power, comes great responsibility.” A boy, on the other hand, still loves Spider Man, but has clearly missed out on the deeper take away. If your man frequently refers to “the old ball and chain,” thinks of his current family responsibilities as a burden, and refuses to make plans more than a week in advance—your man might actually be a boy.
03. He has no interest in figuring it out.
I should clarify that even the manliest of men need a little help in the relationship department. But the difference between a man and a boy is that a man is always trying to figure it out. A man takes pride in meeting the needs of the woman he loves and thus is always looking for clues—and even sometimes flat out asks for help. But a boy simply does what he is told, and sometimes not even that. Harkening back to the “responsibility is a trap” and the “he has no idea what he wants” hang-ups, a boy has no desire to lead a woman where he is unsure he even wants to go. So a boy tends to be satisfied to ride out the good times and deal with damage control. Does your man ask you about your needs? Does he take initiative in moving the relationship forward (however slowly)? Does he ever go out of his way to be with you or be there for you? If your answer to these questions is no, your man might actually be a boy.
If you suspect you might be dating a boy, save yourself the heartache and set him free to do a little growing. Hopefully one day he will leave Neverland, but not without the regret of having let a good woman go.