You want him to be a man but he’s content to stay a child, or perhaps you feel like all you know are little boys. Why are men so immature?
Did ya miss me? It’s been quite a while since I’ve done any writing. The reason is because I’ve recently joined the Dad Club, with our daughter being born and I’ve been focusing all my time on making sure that’s been strong. It’s been a great experience and looking forward to our new life ahead.
But before Dad life became official, I was having some chats with some people about some blogs I wrote a loooooong time ago. One of them was about the perception that I had heard from a lot of women that all the men they know are fully immature – so old in fact that was written on a previous writing platform before Walking The Shoreline. I did revisit a more general version in Why Are People So Immature? and I thought it was high time to revisit this topic given there are a lot of people still struggling with this question of masculine maturity, or lack thereof.
In my teens and 20s, I had so many women come up to me and express their dating frustrations with how childish they felt all the males in their life where. “Why are men so immature?” is one of the most frequent questions I have ever heard, and I’ve been surprised in recent months now well into my 30s to hear this one more often again – from the singles and the partnered, but definitely louder from the singles as the world relaxes a bit more from COVID (or embraces the new normal) in certain places and dating is back on the menu for many.
One of my favourite things to do as a writer and in conversation with people about their love lives and states of their relationships is to take those really common expressions and challenge them – is that statement accurate, and if so, what is really being said here? For example, What I’m Too Busy Really Means, What “It’s Not You, It’s Me” Really Means, or What “I’m Not Ready For A Relationship” Really Means.
So I thought I would take a revisited look at this common frustration raised by women and see what we can come up with.
Is it true?
I suppose this question is the first one to look at when addressing the extreme reality this question is putting forward. Why are men so immature? Well, it would have to be said and accepted that this isn’t said about every man. My experience has been that this is more a frustration with the inability to find a good man. Many feel there is a Man Drought and an increasing number even just give up and turn off men completely.
Two studies conducted in 2017 put forward that women are the most likely to file for divorce due to reasons such as immature behaviour in 70-80% of cases. A 2020 dating study by dating.com found that 66% of women refuse to date someone who even appears immature. I could even think back to my youth where so many of my female friends were looking for an older man just to avoid dating someone who’s still a boy.
Think about the words that women are looking for in the ideal man – stable, secure, strong, confident, has it to together, and increasingly One I Don’t Have To Pay For Everything With. Women want to be with men, they don’t want to have to be married and a maid or a mum to a little manchild for the rest of their lives.
I think this should signal out to us that even if it isn’t true that every man is considered immature, it’s widespread enough that we need to take note. Even moreso if you’re a married man or looking to be one.
A two way complaint
I must admit that when I originally heard this question and indeed now hearing it doing the rounds again, that I laughed. Not in a dismissing way to ignore the very real feelings and struggles many women have found in their dating life and marriages, but more ironically.
Because the single men are asking the same question about the women they know. And often, the men that are being complained about are making the same complaints about the women doing the complaining.
So who is really immature here?
Jane thinks Henry is immature because he won’t commit, and Henry won’t commit because he thinks Jane is too immature. And then you end up in this frustrated deadlock of inaction where you waste all these years with two sets of definitions of immaturity that clearly no one thinks applies to themselves.
Psychologists would call this projection. Author Stephen Covey wrote that “We judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their behaviour”. The apostle James put forward that someone who has all these standards but doesn’t adhere to them themselves is like a person beholding themselves in a mirror and then forgetting their own appearance.
When we fail to have a sense of self awareness, or when we fail to pass our own test, we move into a realm of continually creating scenarios of frustration. In the book Before You Do, Bishop TD Jakes rightly suggests that before you say “I do”, you need to know who the I is, and have an accurate assessment of the person you want to say I do to.
Let us not be people who readily criticise the immaturity in others without an awareness to address our own. We need to be aware if we really are as far ahead as we think we are. It’s simply unrealistic, unfair, and as statistics tell us, unsustainable, to expect that our partner should do all these things right and we don’t have to consider doing them ourselves.
With that said, maturity is a challenging topic for men. In fact so challenging and all encompassing that almost every story you see that men enjoy involve a progression from boyhood to maturity. Whether it be an anime character learning from a sage or father figure, a video game character like Cloud or Link growing and developing from childish whimsy to a realm of conquering and salvation, or a movie character who is awakened by some great event that has thrust him into becoming a man, men vote with their wallet and demonstrate an resonance with the need to grow.
And when growth doesn’t occur the way a man wants, or he doesn’t have the direction he needs, he can fully embrace Peter Pan Syndrome, avoiding responsibility in his life for himself or the things under his care, either isolating himself from the right voices or only surrounding himself with Timon and Pumbaa style friends who never challenge him to grow or to do anything about it.
My absolute favourite book nails this topic in great detail – The Way of the Wild Heart by John Elderedge. In it he charts 6 stages of the masculine journey and highlights where many of us men get lost along the way, either by our own negligence, the fatherlessness in our lives, or even our own self destructive decision to stop growing.
The Hebrew proverbs tells us that poverty and disgrace come to him who ignores instruction, but whoever heeds reproof is honoured. In fact the Jews were even so bold to consider a boy a man at 13 should he decide to do one key thing – to embrace the responsibility of being a man.
We need to be teachable and embracing of our responsibilities to be the men we are called to be.
The boy inside the man
I must say that there is certainly a level of immaturity that never leaves a man, and I can definitely vouch for that in my own life and in the lives of all the men I have known. They say that boys don’t grow up – their toys just get more expensive. Certainly there is a reality that continues as pointed out by TD Jakes in the book He-Motions – that there is a king in every kid, and a kid in every king.
Sure, we are meant to put away the childish things as we embrace adulthood, but the sense of whimsy, fun, and imagination must and does continue as men continue to age. As with women and indeed all people, we all need our escapes, we all need our places of rest and restoration, we all need things and hobbies and talents to help us process and move through some of the larger issues in life.
If you’re calling him immature simply because he enjoys a sport you don’t like, a game you think is for kids, a movie or TV show that is a bit childish, but the rest of what he’s doing is on point, perhaps it’s not worth dismissing his maturity completely.
I think of David, the King of Israel, who found his restoration in a state of worship. Unfortunately for his wife Mical, he would dance in a way that she considered to be after a fashion of the immature fool. And she despised him for it, and ended up cursed herself.
Bitterness has a way of destroying us faster than anyone else – and we want to make sure any of the questions we have about another person are worth getting worked up about before we end up cutting ourselves off for something that maybe is absolutely great about them.
The Gottman Institute is a group that conducts a lot of research in this space, and their research backs up that we must be able to compromise and accept some aspects of our partner that will not change. The reality is that most men need an escape – the issue is of course when they stay escaped. When they always go to golf instead of staying with the kids, when they always play games when they should be paying the bills, when they remain emotionally unavailable and unwilling to participate in the love relationship. Constant escape speaks to a larger problem, but temporary leisure and rest are necessary to live a life on purpose.
Why are men so immature? Well, I would hate for you to think that if it is based on a trivial habit rather than something that really matters. There are so many things that men should be concerned with addressing – destroying and refusing to perpetuate rape culture, avoiding porn addiction, refusing to let mental illness give way to cruelty, loving their wives. And if you have a man who is on point in all those areas but you’re thinking he’s still immature because he does something childish every now and again, you may be missing the true metric of maturity.
The importance of direction and purpose
If I think of a true definition of maturity, two big things come to mind. It isn’t about the way a man dresses, the car he drives, the games and sports he plays, the few hours he spends on leisure – it’s these.
One – servanthood. You need not look any further than the natural growth of a child to demonstrate this. When we are infants, we are completely dependent. As we grow, we learn to do things for ourselves – going to the toilet alone, eating, eventually going to school and study. Then we get a job so we can also support ourselves, we can pay for our own dreams, and we can start giving back to a society that has given so much to us.
Then when a man becomes a husband or a parent, they can absolutely no longer live for themselves – their lives must be about the service of others. In the same way, I look at the life of Jesus and his example of masculinity and see servanthood in every area. That’s the example I want to follow every day of my life.
The second – living on purpose. As I wrote about extensively in Why Men Need Purpose, Direction, and Income, the stats shout at us how devastating and destructive a man without direction or purpose is. Conversely, when a man embraces who he was born to be, he manifests his true self on this earth and could literally be doing nothing better with his life.
I think when we’re assessing a man’s maturity, we shouldn’t just be considering his current location – we should be considering his direction and whether or not he’s moving towards it. A student can be immature if they only ever study and study and never actually do anything, but I have met many students whose hearts are set like flint on their calling and are more mature than men double their age. A man can be immature if he doesn’t progress in his skills or talents, or perhaps he is simply in a season of development for the next level.
That is to say, seeing a man’s potential, but also seeing how willing and active he is in fulfilling it. That will help any woman avoid getting their heart too involved with the man spoken about by Danielle Bradbery in the song Potential – “I’m not in love with you, I’m in love with your potential”. Men need to be more than empty words and pie in the sky ideas and dreams – there needs to be action taking him in the direction of their fulfillment as well.
And men, when we consider our own maturity, I think we need to be considering those things ourselves. Am I living as the servant of others, or demanding them to serve me? And am I living on purpose, on fire, full of life and embracing who I’ve called to be? Or am I still playing games? Wandering the wilderness when I should be conquering the mountain?
Why are men so immature? It’s a layered question. I hope having this revisited look at this one has given you some things to think about, and it’s also been a reminder to me in my next season to maintain a sense of servanthood and purpose in all my ongoing endeavours.
How about you? Do you question why are men so immature? Or do you think otherwise?