Manbabies are the subject of sarcastic definitions and memes on the Internet….here is an example from Urban Dictionary:
A man who acts like a baby. If he doesn’t get his way, he becomes crabby and unable to work with. thinks he’s always right. Can be angered and upset by anything.
Must proceed with caution!
If you come into contact with a Manbaby, back away quickly and run like hell.
Manbaby’s are good at concealing themselves amongst society. They seem normal at first but throw fits not long after dating them. Be wary.
-From Urban Dictionary
I am so fortunate because TERRIFIC and WONDERFUL partners and dads write me every single day! I am so grateful for them! I am married to someone who is the complete opposite of a manbaby and I am grateful for that, every day of our 27 years of marriage. However, I have to say being 49 years old can be a bit disheartening because I see a lot of women in their mid to late 40’s and early 50’s dealing with divorce.
Some of it is infidelity and growing apart…but a large reason is women who have killed themselves for years doing EVERYTHING and her spouse or partner essentially wanted to do nothing at all, sometimes not even wanting to work, and who certainly didn’t act like they wanted a close emotional relationship with their family – partner or children. They wanted to do what they wanted to do, and it didn’t really involve the family.
Selfishness in romantic relationships has always existed. In this sense, the idea I think people are trying to convey with “manbaby” is maybe just a new term for something that has been around for ages. So, my definition of a manbaby might be a little bit different then the Urban Dictionary one. My indicators, not all inclusive but a few brief points in the context of family life goes something like this:
- Does your partner want to at least equally contribute to the finances of your relationship? Does your partner hold tight finances over your head but buys whatever he wants? Can you even talk about finances? That’s partnership level stuff in a relationship.
- Does your partner support and nourish and protect you? That’s the friendship/lover side of a relationship.
- Do you find equity in household chores and caretaking? Inside and outside, lawns and garbage and car care and cooking? Or are you doing EVERY single thing every week, including working outside the home, taking care of children, and everything thing else?
- Does your partner do anything with the children – does he change diapers, feed them, help set boundaries, do bedtime, help with homework, help arrange so you are not always on and that you can have time by yourself? Or is every single thing an unwanted chore and source of complaint?
- Is your partner verbally and emotionally supportive?
- Does your partner want to be home or are they always gone out with friends or zoned out in front of a screen?
I know relationships can be more complicated than the famous Ann Landers question, “Are you better off with or without him?” – especially when it involves children and marriage. It’s complicated!! And sometimes there are extenuating circumstances such as addiction, mental illness and more. Sometimes I do wonder though if the whole phenomenon/idea of manbabies is sort of a cover way of saying “narcissist” – you can always look up narcissist and find a therapist specializing in how to deal as the partner of a narcissist if you think that is what you are dealing with.
However, not withstanding all that, maybe a better question is this:
Can this relationship become legendary? Can we be an amazing, communicative, connected TEAM that drives the family?
How can we move towards this?
What would that look like?
Is my partner or spouse open to that?
Perhaps the second better question than a casual meme or definition found in Urban Dictionary is: Can relationship dynamics change?
I guess I am always hopeful that relationships can get better, that we can get better. Maybe you are saying right now, hey, my partner and I are ready! We have talked about it and we are ready to change our lives and level up! I love this, I have seen it happen, I think it is possible if both parties are open and narcissism is not involved.
- Clear and open communication
- Visionary goals set together!
- Time and attention on your actual relationship, not just the children. You are a team, you are the beginning of the family as a unit and after your children are grown up and living their own lives, you will be together again without them living with you.
- Respect and appreciation for each other and each other’s strengths
A few recommended readings:
- Anything by The Gottman Institute
- This fabulous book, available on Audio and free on Kindle (link to audio version): The Miracle Morning for Couples: Create Legendary Connection One Morning At A Time
Feel free to DM me email@example.com and share your thoughts or comment here.
I think there may be man reasons why either a man or woman rejects some aspects of their “roles” in relationships with their life partner or with their children. But one possibility may be that many people are caught between wanting to be an individual and feeling like there are many expectations from society that they may get locked into and submerged by. One tool of considering family roles may be to differentiate between “archetype”, “sterotype” and “caricature”. Here is a link to my article on “Waldorf Dads” that speaks to these ideas and may encourage both women and men to free themselves from common stereotypical expectations of society, reject the many blatant caricatures in the media and still find it in their hearts and souls to reach for the Archetypes that are living, flexible ideals in the Spiritual World and which have very practical and positive application in our lives. Thank you for this thoughtful and optimistic post, Carrie!
I love this, and I have read your article years ago- it’s fantastic! I need to post it on the FB page so people can find it. Thank you so much, Carrie
Thanks for the marriage related post!!
Thank you Kate! I took flak about it, but I see it a lot, especially in my friends dealing with ex-husbands and it does seem culture is recognizing the role of the father in the family, if only in a superficial and sarcastic way (unfortunately or perhaps rightly when there is no equal partnership? Still contemplating). I always think there is hope for redemption if both parties work at it! Blessings, Carrie
Your finger on the pulse of my life. Always. But never ceases to amaze me. Being the same age helps, I guess. But still.
My husband is not a manbaby or a narcissist, and he is fully responsible financially and in terms of parenting and household work, but we are grappling with many marriage issues common to middle age and 25+/- years together. We’ve been to h#ll and back (well, almost back) the past few months. I’m proud of both of us, and have great hope for our future together. To anyone in the deep darkness of relationship turmoil–hang in there, put yourself first like you never have before (it’s the only way!), do your (deep) work, and whether you stay together or don’t, you WILL have a beautiful life.
Thanks for another amazing post, Carrie!
P.S. If you have a special needs child, give yourself and your partner and extra 10 helpings of grace. Because special needs parenting is HARD on a marriage. Parenting is HARD on a marriage, and special needs makes everything more challenging.
I’m a big fan of Melisa Nielsen’s writing about divorce, marriage, and sex. (And her writing about special needs parenting and Waldorf education in general.) Candid, accessible, and insightful.
I had to read this because I needed to know what manbabies were, lol! And I’m glad I did. As a male reader of your blogs I thought I’d go ahead and confess that I lean towards being a manbaby, as embarrassing as it is to admit (although easy here since nobody really knows who I am). I do want connection wife and do want to help and try to always be available, but certain things trigger my inner baby to come out. I’d say I’m 30% manbaby, though my wife might argue that. For me, the trigger has everything to do with my perception own masculinity. It’s a place of wounding for me rooting, I believe, from my parents divorce and my dad not being in my life when I really needed him. My wound says “you’re not enough, you don’t have what it takes, you’ll never be like that manly guy over there”. I’ve been able to name that in my adult life but still searching for greater freedom as I’m pushing 40. There are some great resources out there, and I’ll check out yours you listed, but I think the next step for me is counseling.
Thank you for posting!
Hi There! Thanks for commenting, I appreciate it. I think you are doing great! I enjoyed your perspective of what is most triggering. You definitely have enough, you are worthy of the life you create, and being manly may look a whole lot different now than what our parent’s generation thought! I think age brings perspective as well – the fabulous 40s are famous for that. Counseling is something I think everyone can benefit from , and gives great insight into personal identity and growth. Also check out those resources I mentioned – really good! Blessings, Carrie