Is your guy a Peter Pan?

I held his hand and drew myself in closer, into the warmth of his neck which was wrapped in a wool scarf. It was cold outside, we had just said I love you for the first time, and yet, I could feel his body rigid and retreating away from mine. Within moments he said he needed to go. He needed to get back to work. And in an instant he was gone. Just like the season, I felt the cold slap of a style of rejection that would confuse me for years. Avoidant love. I wouldn’t see him for almost two weeks. Sure, I’d get mushy texts from him and even phone calls that would last past midnight. But, any time I suggested we actually see each other, he’d say no. He was either working, or had to go up to NYC, or something had been planned and he couldn’t change his schedule. It was as if the force that propelled him to confess his love to me had sucked all the life out of him and he needed to withdrawal and recharge for weeks.

Avoidant love is like that. Confusing. There’s loads of mixed messages. But for someone who wants to believe in the fantasy of true love, anything is bearable. Even an unavailable partner. This was the biggest conundrum of my 20’s. Until I learned about avoidant partners and Peter Pan.

Remember Peter Pan, the story of a magical boy who refuses to grow up and, instead, lives on the island of Neverland? Well, that was every guy I ever dated.

I recently saw a high school production of Peter Pan and it hit a little too close to home. At one point, Peter visits the nursery of The Darling children, Wendy, John and Michael, where Wendy takes a liking to him and tries to get a kiss from him. Peter has no clue what a kiss is and so he gives her a thimble instead, for which she takes and puts on her necklace as a keepsake.

This gift of a thimble was the symbolic equivalent of every scrap I ever humbly, gratefully accepted from every bad relationship I found myself in.

And when Peter convinces the children to fly away with him to Neverland, which they do, they determine that Wendy will be their mother (Oh, the codependence!). She agrees, under the condition that Peter be their father. He hesitantly agrees, but only if it’s “pretend.” Not wanting to commit to anything more serious, he humors Wendy, but says he doesn’t like the responsibility of being grown up. At times he even gets angry with her when she imposes too much emotion or responsibility onto him:

Wendy: I daresay you’ve felt it yourself. For something… or… someone?
Peter: Never. Even the sound of it offends me.
[Wendy tries to touch his face, and he jumps away]
Peter: Why do you have to spoil everything? We have fun, don’t we? I taught you to fly and to fight. What more could there be?
Wendy: There is so much more.
Peter: What? What else is there?
Wendy: I don’t know. I guess it becomes clearer when you grow up.
Peter: Well, I will not grow up. You cannot make me!

When she finally asks him about his “feelings” for her he says, “I feel for you like a son feels for his mother…” In the end Wendy chooses to leave Neverland. Sound familiar?

The story of Peter Pan is, of course, that of the love addict and her avoidant boyfriend. The motherly, doting, codependent grown up woman paired with the fun, exciting, but immature “boy” who, when emotions get too serious, tends to run away. In The Break Up Journal I refer to “P” as a Peter Pan; in fact, I chose the letter P for the parallel of my ex to Peter. When I began dating P (who was 40 at the time), he had never had a serious relationship, never been married, no children, still lived at home, could barely pay his bills and would hang out in the basement of his parents’ house and listen to Grateful Dead records as if no time had passed between now and when he was in high school.

P suffered from severely stunted growth, a bit of narcissism and an intimacy disorder which kept him from being able to truly become intimate with people. In retrospect, I couldn’t see him for who he was. I was too wrapped up in how “fun” he was, and how good looking he was. I suffered from a Wendy-syndrome–a desire to attach to Peter Pan and mother him, versus be his equal. Essentially, I had refused to grow up too.

As I sat awkward and uncomfortable at the play, I told my very-grown-up, very-present husband how deeply affected I was by the story. He squeezed my hand, knowing my past, and said, “I bet.”

Love addict-style love is like living in Neverland. And when you finally choose to leave Neverland, it’s about choosing to grow up, whether you want to or not. It’s about recognizing that you cannot change the Peters of the world and letting them remain in their fantasy land while you make a forward leap into reality.


14 thoughts on “Is your guy a Peter Pan?

  1. I actually enjoyed reading this and previous articles, great work! He’ll, I even like this Peter pan character, which I think many men are playing out as are motherly women who love them. The ‘ real’ world has 50 % of marriages failing, and 60% of people who do stay together being unhappy. Depression is at a all time high and the alcohol problems aren’t going away anytime soon. Shall we say ‘growing up’ can’t be said to be such an attractive or even healthy (survival wise) thing to do. In India, for example, people who didn’t want to accept the drudgery of the real world and spend life living to pay bills, would become yogis and trust the divine would provide. Take a good hit of any psychedelic and you may find Peter pan is a baby compared to the infinite possibilities of human nature and consciousness. Don’t be too hard on him, he may well be a natural adaptation trying to find expression to a world of our own creation. And since when was a woman, exhibiting one her most natural traits, to be motherly, such a bad thing? Let’s not shame beings for their current state if evolution, but let’s admire them for their bravery as souls to be utterly human and real in their development. Thanks x


  2. I am new to your website. I love reading your blogs. So beautiful and relatable. I am an addict and my bf is an avoidant. These days I try not be clingy at all, but it has made him more unloving. No more emotional bonding, and he only wants casual sex. Strangely, recently, he has asked me write contents for his website. He has told me that he will pay me as well (though the payment is really small. I would have happily done this for him without money because I want his business to grow successfully. But he wants to pay me though very little). Am I being used or is it common for avoidants to use people for their personal gains?


    1. Trish, remember that you teach people how to treat you. If you allow someone to be in a relationship with you for only sex then that’s what they will give you. Why give you anything more when you will take crumbs? Is it my opinion that this guy is using you? Sadly, yes. I think it’s time to decide what YOU want out of a relationship and if he’s not giving it to you it’s time to move on. I hope this helps.


      1. Thanks for his reply. I want to come out of this relationship but my addiction stops me from doing so. More than an addict, I think I have become a codependent. No matter how much heartbroken I am, I feel sad to even think of breaking his heart. He is a middle child and his family never treats him well (he never told me this but I came to knew from others), his financial condition is not good and I think he cannot afford to hire a content writer for his business, so I can’t even reject his proposal to write for his website. If his business fails, he will be drowned in alcohol (he already is addicted to alcohol). Long time back I loved a guy, but he died. And from that time on, i have got this unbearable fear of losing a loved one to death. Now, Whenever this avodant guy is away, my fear (along with my addiction) overwhelms me and I either go back to him or I accept him back in my life. This fear of death in me is stronger than the realisation of being repeatedly mistreated and disrespected. I am at a mess. I think I need help but I cannot even afford a psychiatrist/therapy on my own.


      2. Love addiction and codependence seem to go hand in hand sometimes. But you recognize it! Which is a great thing. Codependents honestly do feel sorry for people. It is a driving force behind many of us being care takers and humanitarians. But know that much of codependence in romantic relationships is more about control than actual love because we tend to want love and affection in return even if we say we don’t.

        Secondly, in order to get past codependence you have to accept the reality that you are not dating a child. You are dating a grown man, who needs to be taking care of himself. If he’s not capable of taking care of himself, he has to learn. And you are not the person to teach him. The only way you can actually help a man like this is NOT to be his parent, but to be a friend and let him go. He needs to learn to grow up, just like you did!

        In romantic love there needs to be mutuality. When you have a parent-child style relationship you get parent-child style love. Is that what you want? Keep reading. Keep learning. Love addicts like us tend to use “he needs me to take care of him” as an excuse to stay in a relationship. He doesn’t need any one to take care of him. He can probably take care of himself. If he can’t he needs to learn. Period. Hope this helps!


  3. Thank you so much for the reply. Yes, my codependency is pushing us more towards a parent-child type of relationship, where he wants to feel loved unconditionally (even after being so rude towards me) and I want to be accepted , appreciated and loved in return. Thanks again for your encouraging words. Lots of love❤


    1. A love of a parent to a child is definitely unconditional. But two adults, no way. Adult romantic love must have conditions otherwise he could beat you and you’d still be expected to love him. You must set conditions and he must too. “I will love you if you don’t beat me.” Or, “I will love you if you are kind to me…” Etc. To claim to want to be loved unconditionally is a tricky way of trying to get away with virtually any behavior and not being held accountable. It doesn’t work in the adult world.


  4. I find your words really encouraging. I Wish I had found your blog before!
    My avoidant bf has made it clear that he is never gonna marry me, Because there is no financial security in his life. Unfortunately, I had a fiance, whom I dated for years until I met my present bf. He was the most loving and the sweetest person I knew. But may be I was stupid to break up with him because of two reasons, I didn’t like his mom(she is very clingy and dominating) and I started to find him boring..though he loved me a lot. My relationship with my present avoidant bf started with a lot of intense passion. And the passion got me hooked. It turned chaotic after sometime…all those push and pull and craziness. But I still find that all those chaos are still better than my boring life. My mom was always cruel to me, unpredictable, abusive (physically and emotionally) and my dad emotionally unavailable. I was sexually abused in childhood by a relative several times and i could nt tell it to my mom. When my mom found out, she blamed me, not my abuser. I had a disgusting childhood. And, a fantasy of finding true love always gave me a reason to live. I always had depression and anxiety, which turned me into an emotional escapist and I became a chronic daydreamer. I found true love in my ex fiance, but found him boring. I am trying to get love from someone who , I know, will never give it to me. My fiance is still single , sometime I think I should go back to him sometime don’t feel like at all. My life is pure mess. Its absolutely true when you say “love addiction is avoidance of one’s self”.


    1. You’re here now! Better late than never. 🙂

      And one of the hardest things for many people to understand (not just love addicts) is that it is perfectly OK for someone to come out and set strict rules and boundaries: “I never want to get married,” or “I don’t want a commitment…” etc. But, you have to accept and agree to those rules and boundaries. And here’s the thing: IF they mesh with your own personal set of values (“I don’t want to get married or be in a committed relationship either) then this relationship is perfect. HOWEVER, if his boundaries and rules (and values) do not mesh with yours and you want totally different things, then you must understand that this relationship is most likely not going to give you what you want.

      As for the “boring” ex fiancé…You swung in the opposite direction. That’s what love addicts do. We go from one extreme to the other. Healthy relationships are some where in between. Balance. Because Love is neither chaotic nor boring. So, it seems like neither of these gentlemen will suffice 🙂

      In the end, you have a choice. Your past was very traumatic. There is no reason a little girl has to be abused like that. 😦 But, you’re a survivor. And more than anything, you’re no longer a little girl. You had no choice when you were a child. You had to take the abuse. But, you’re an adult now. You can actually CHOOSE to no longer be abused and suffer. Keep reading. Keep learning. Every day you’re one step closer to figuring this out.


  5. Sorry for such a long post. But I am feeling relieved to be able to vent out my pain. I don’t know how to cope with my boring life, hence I cling to such an emotionally abusive relationship with this avoidant guy. And I don’t know how to love myself. I hate myself and I hate my boring life. All I want is to be loved by someone who only uses me. Pity! But I have found your blogs really helpful and encouraging…I wish i had found them long ago..thanks ❤


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