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.
-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 firstname.lastname@example.org and share your thoughts or comment here.