Say goodbye to Peter Pan Say goodbye to Peter Pan

Say goodbye to Peter Pan

For him 1 December, 2018 Ana María López de Mesa


When men are slow to leave their family nest and live on their own in a relationship, problems can arise.

Medical Advisor: Gloria Hurtado Castañeda, psychologist, practitioner at Coomeva Private Healthcare

The little boy that never grew up took refuge in Neverland, allowing him to avoid the responsibility of becoming an adult. This is part of the main storyline of Peter Pan, the fictional character, which since the 1980s, psychologists have associated with the syndrome that describes men who struggle with growing up, accepting adulthood and who refuse to leave their parents’ home.

Despite being uncertain about it, when life demands independence, some of these individuals make the decision to leave their nest and begin life in a relationship. This new living situation poses the threat of instability as men who are nervous and attached to the family they grew up in adapt to their new role as a partner – not a child – and stop feeling like they lost privileges in order to take on a serious commitment.

“The Peter Pan phenomenon is common in the modern world. Men have a hard time finding a partner because, while culture teaches them to leave their house, become the head of the household and ‘rescue’ a woman, what is happening is that women want to participate equally in household decisions and no longer need to be rescued,” explains psychologist Gloria Hurtado Castañeda.

Having clear expectations

When the role that each person is going to have in this partnership is not clear from the beginning of the relationship, and clear expectations are not established, the woman runs the risk of becoming a substitute mother or the man runs the risk of being unsatisfied because he cannot find the security that his parents gave him in this new home.

Living together now implies having an understanding that the roles in a relationship are changing at an accelerated pace along with the modern world. As our psychologist explains, currently, unlike previous eras, the feminist movement has transformed the role of the woman to one that is independent, wants to work and wants to be self-sufficient, which shook up the family and its traditional roles.

Men have also been affected by these changes because this autonomous woman has – unconsciously – left them with a sense of loss. The 20th century was the century of crisis for women, and they achieved significant transformation. The 21st century is the century in which men are in crisis because as a result of these changes, they do not know what their new place in this world is. A loss of patriarchal power is an issue that we even see in our offices when men come for appointments because their wife is the one that is giving orders in the home,” states Dr. Hurtado.

Accepting this reality – a cultural burden that is difficult to change from night to day – can help life as a couple be conducive to men finding their place in this world and to rediscovering, with their partner, a new way of inhabiting it. If the goal is to find a partner, living together must involve accepting this new reality because now that women no longer want to be princesses, men will have to get used to saying goodbye to Peter Pan.

Living with someone after age 40

The Peter Pan phenomenon can be more difficult to overcome if the attachment to the home has not been resolved before age 40, especially if this man grew up as the family’s focus of attention with an overprotective mother. In this case, because they have lived together for so long, in their new home, men may assume that their natural life partner is their mother, not their wife. “This situation often occurs with single mothers who, after working hard and successfully at raising their kids, end up trapping or keeping them under their wing,” Dr. Hurtado states.

It is important to be realistic if you want to form a relationship after this age. When a man living in these circumstances says, “I do,” unless they are truly in love, what they could actually be looking for is to hold onto someone in order to avoid being single in the future, which is almost guaranteed to affect the lives of those in the relationship.

As our psychologist concludes, “In order to prevent this from happening, we have to raise our children to be independent. Mom and dad must understand that their children are not safety nets for when they become old and that they also cannot live just for them. They must teach their children to live on their own and not rely on getting a little help when it comes time to paying the bills.”