#1053: “I might be dating a man-child. How do I talk to him about it?”

Dear Captain Awkward:

I have been in a relationship with my boyfriend for four months, though he has been a friend of mine for 12 years. He is intelligent, well-read, funny and very sweet. So what’s my problem? I feel like he is a bit of a man-child, for lack of better words. First
off. He lives with his parents still. He is 31. This is for the reason that he is in university, and his parents want him to “graduate without student debt”. They have never charged him rent. This isn’t because he needs his money to pay off school: they are
paying for his education in full as well. They make him meals, check up on him to see if he has packed a lunch for work, make his bed and clean his room. They recently bought him expensive new work boots because, not because he couldn’t afford it, but because
he doesn’t think it’s necessary to have footwear for work that isn’t falling apart.

Don’t get me wrong. His parents are the most wonderful people. But he’s 31, and will be in school another 2 years. Which means, he will be living rent-free with his parents
until school is done. He works, but only has to pay for his car and phone. He also seems emotionally immature. Everything seems to have an excuse or be my fault. He hates conflict, so whenever anything comes up that is important, he shuts down. I feel I am
always the one to initiate apologies, conflict solutions, and conversation in general. I feel like I am the one carrying the emotional workload, and constantly having to explain the “real world” to him, because he is so sheltered. I need him to step up emotionally,
and for him to learn how to continue growing as an adult while under his parents roof. I don’t know how to bring this up without upsetting his parents (he tells them everything I say) and hurting his very sensitive feelings.

Disclaimer: Living with one’s parents isn’t necessarily a sign of immaturity on its own and moving out doesn’t magically equal Adulthood! There are a host of reasons (finances, disability, culture, really enjoying each other’s company) that some people stay close to home.

That said, I believe you that this specific guy displays some signs of immaturity that make him wrong for you, for example:

Everything seems to have an excuse or be my fault. He hates conflict, so whenever anything comes up that is important, he shuts down. I feel I am always the one to initiate apologies, conflict solutions, and conversation in general. I feel like I am the one carrying the emotional workload, and constantly having to explain the “real world” to him, because he is so sheltered.

What if I told you that if your large adult boyfriend truly wanted his living/working/footwear/conflict resolution situation to be different, it would be?

What if I told you that if the way he handles finances/parental relationships/conflict/bedmaking/lunchpacking/emotional labor/understanding the world hasn’t changed in the 12 years y’all have been friends, it is extremely unlikely that it will change now?

If you knew those things, would you stay, and have a series of difficult and frustrating talks that hurt his feelings, frustrate the fuck out of you, and change literally nothing?

Would you decide to accept and enjoy the situation as it is now? Where his sweetness and breadth of reading and sense of humor are enough to counteract the fact he doesn’t change anything about the way he approaches conflicts or challenges? Where the best-case scenario is that he might be coaxed to move out of his parents’ place and into yours someday?

Or would you find someone else to date? Somebody whose choices you respect, somebody who does equal emotional labor in the relationship?

I’m sure his great qualities are great, and you love him, and you thought your romantic relationship would somehow motivate him. I’m sorry, I know this hurts. We can’t change people no matter how much we want to. It’s only been four months, and you’re already asking “My boyfriend does zero work inside our relationship and I do all of it. Captain Awkward, can you tell me what work I can do so that he’ll start doing literally any work?

I don’t run a boyfriend school and (probably) neither do you.

 

Holiday commenting break still in effect. The forums at friendsofcaptainawkward.com are accepting discussions, though!

 

 

 

 

 

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