You are here

The Peter Pan dad

Peacelily123's picture

The Peter Pan dad. Trapped into marrying in his early twenties because his one and only girlfriend got accidentally pregnant. He dutifully marries her but knows within the first year that it was a mistake. They go on to have a second child. 

His wife nags him constantly. He complains that it's always "what she wants" and he never gets to decide on anything. But he learns to just let her have her way because it's easier. He tunes out from communicating with her and having an opinion. He has opinions but he keeps them to himself. He becomes unfaithful through his lack of sharing himself in the marriage. Whenever she asks him to make a house repair, he takes weeks to start it. Any DIY job takes months and the wife becomes frustrated. He doesn't consciously know this but his passive aggressive "checking out" is now controlling the pace of things.

He loves his children but doesn't give them any boundaries or rulings. He leaves all the emotional heavy lifting to his wife. He says she "bites first" with the children in telling them off and doesn't always back her up. They're not a team.

They are friends with a married couple who have children the same age as theirs. They go on holidays together, have dinners together. The wife focuses on her work, children and friendships, frustrated by her husband's lack of communication and support. He's there in body but not in spirit.

And so it goes on for twenty years. The children start to make fun of dad because they know he's a pushover. They start calling him his first name not dad. He's lost control of his parenting role. He quietly seethes about his situation but never has the courage to make changes. But his behaviour betrays him. He starts to absorb himself in video games just as the children start university. His wife joins a slimming club and throws herself into losing so much weight, she becomes a woman he doesn't know. But has he ever bothered to really know her?

On a couple's holiday, the friend's husband makes a pass at the wife. She tells her husband what's happened and he does nothing. There's no row, no big conversation. He lets it slide. But the wife ponders on the attentions of the other man and secretly starts an affair. They meet when her husband is on night shifts. They arrange a secret holiday together. The wife announces she has an important work conference to organise and will be away for a week. But she leaves her phone at home one night and the husband checks her texts and discovers the affair.

There's no big row. He asks her if she wants to stay in the marriage or be with this other man. There's no emotion in what he's saying. She has had the affair because she got a taste of being acutely 'wanted' for the first time in her life. She's discovered what passion can be. She's addicted. She asks to leave the marriage. She's so angry with her husband for being lukewarm with her for twenty years, she leaves him with a roof full of her possessions, a wardrobe full of her clothes. She takes the best items and leaves him with all the mess of their twenty years together to sort out. Which he doesn't.

The husband switches from playing video games to cycling. He becomes obsessed. He buys three bikes. The older child has launched but she suffers acute anxiety from her parents breaking up. The younger child stays with daddy, to help look after him. Because he's become a nothing. She assumes the role of protector, buying food, spending time with him, going between the two houses and giving the ex wife updates on how sad dad is. The ex wife feels guilty and keeps going back to the family home to check on her ex husband. He's changed nothing. Family photos of him and his ex wife remain on the walls. Her underwear remains in the wardrobe. He uses the excuse that his daughter would be upset if these things were removed but it's actually that he has no sense of self and no inner direction. He let that happen to him. 

A few years go by and the man develops pains in his armpits. Blood test after blood test shows nothing. He feels sick and tired and the ex wife feels guilty and keeps coming round. But it is his body screaming at him to take some power back. It has no medical causes because it is spiritual. 

He peruses online dating sites. He discovers things he hardly knew about. He finds a nice woman and starts dating her. Everyone in his family is shocked. He's spent years doing nothing but video gaming and cycling and suddenly there's a new woman and god forbid, she looks happy to be dating him.

The ex wife suddenly feels a pang of jealousy. How can this new woman be happy when he gave me so little of himself for twenty years? What did I do wrong? 

The daughter is utterly wounded. How can daddy betray what we have? Why is he spending all of his time with this new woman and I get the scraps?

The ex wife and daughter begin the process of grief. A process that hasn't been seriously challenged until this new woman appeared. They relive many emotions. They project the worst parts of their grief on to this new woman, criticising her home improvements, complaining about her requests to move the ex wife items out of the house she now spends time in. This new woman is appalling. She must be. She's made HIM happy!

But the man hasn't changed. He's done nothing to develop himself and have a voice. This new girlfriend realises quite quickly that she's doing the emotional heavy lifting. He's not protecting her from the ex wife or daughter. He's happy to do nothing and project his passive aggressive fury on to this new woman in an act or revenge he's barely conscious of. This bright, efficient, fun, loving woman is soon reduced to an unstable, nervous, angry wreck. She leaves.

The man tells his ex wife, daughter and family that this new woman was obviously unstable and, "I've got a right one here". The ex wife agrees because it validates her grief. The daughter agrees because she gets daddy back to herself. The ex girlfriend is left to grieve what could have been if he'd bothered to communicate and stand up for himself and her.

And the man goes back to online dating and picks up another bright, nurturing, loving woman and he shows her off to the ex girlfriend to validate himself and clear himself of blame. 

And the ex wife and daughter watch the situation from their distances and bide their time....





JRI's picture

Peacelily, I see you are a "recovering stepmum" so I can guess which part you play here.  A very sad story.  I'm sorry.

The only thing Peter Pan is missing (from my experience with my ex) is either an alcohol or drug problem, or both.

JerseyGirl1970's picture

It sounds a lot like what I walked into12 years ago, down to the ex's clothes still hanging in the closet a decade later...

I got really lucky that my situation ended differently.

I'm rooting for you.✌️

2Tired4Drama's picture

peace.  But you won't be able to while you are still dragging around this mess with you.  No matter how creatively you write about it,

The fact remains that for some reason you have not put this relationship behind you. Just like for some reason you stayed in it far too long. Many/most people would have bailed out of it right at the beginning.  But you didn't.  Why?  I think you mentioned you are in therapy and I hope you continue with it.  To a point.

I see you've been on ST for just a week so I will keep this short.  You need to mentally evict this @sshole from your head. If your current therapist hasn't helped you with this after two years then whatever they are doing isn't working.

It's not fair to you and it's certainly not fair to your current BF to keep wallowing in this sh!thole that is part of your PAST.  In essense, you are doing the same thing to your current mate as your former did to you. Which is, not coming into the relationship with a free and welcoming heart.  Don't do that to someone else. You are better to be alone and deal with your demons.

I wish you luck and ... peace.



Peacelily123's picture

But okay, I get your point. I write these things to heal as I process it. I think you are trying to be kind. Everyone processes things differently. 

futurobrillante99's picture

For some of us, it is very helpful to write down our experiences time and again. It's like examining a rock and finding new facets each time.

My best friend is excellent at compartmentalizing and that's how some people get through life's hardships. They bundled up their thoughts and feelings into a little package and tuck it way back on a shelf somewhere. This is how my BFF describes the way she handles things. Every now and again, she'll take down a little bundle and either work through it, or process a crumb of what's in the bundle, putting the rest back up on that shelf.

That's not me. I'm the type to put the "corpse" up on the slab and perform an ongoing autopsy until there is nothing left and it's time to bury the whole thing 6 feet down. I don't forget, but the healing is more complete.

You do what works for you!!

I have journals that I've considered burning, but I have them locked up in my safe. I revisit them from time to time to remember times when I was at rock bottom, and times when I was happiest. It's all very cathartic and gives me perspective on how far I've come in life.

Silence the critics in your head and on this message board.

Process your stuff in the way that works for you. I come here and post when my anxiety is off the charts and many people correctly sense the danger I feel due to my anxious attachment style. But the danger is a product of my issues and not always based on fact or reality. But, I still post because it helps me (and sometimes it helps others).


2Tired4Drama's picture

If writing gives you catharsis that's a great outlet. Especially for journaling.  But if you are here on the forum because you want some honest input, then I'm going to provide it - unvarnished though it may be. 

You had a bad experience and you suffered because of it.  It is time for the suffering to be over. 

All I am saying, in my "tough love" kind of way, is that perhaps you need to give yourself a mental kick in the pants to say "Enough. I'm not going to focus on this bad chapter of my life. I have a wonderful future filled with all kinds of possibilities and I will not let another second of my precious existence be wasted on this."  

Aside from writing, perhaps you may want to do some reading. One book I always recommend about the importance of attitude, is "Man's Search For Meaning" by Viktor E Frankl.  If you are not familiar, Frankl was a concentration camp survivor. 

I am sorry if you took my input as overly critical. However, I believe we can all learn from well-intended input even if it isn't something we immediately agree with. 

Peacelily123's picture

I actually admire your no frills talk. And you're right. 

I had a thorough reflection based on what you said today and I think this thing is like yeast. You'll get horrid dieback symptoms before it's finally crushed.

It doesn't help that I had a violent father with Asperger's growing up and got caught in a relationship ten years ago with another aspire. I had to get the police to assist me in exiting that one. I started to show symptoms of C-PTSD in the last few years; cope with it remarkably well in day to day life but this last episode took me several steps back. Because this man wasn't violent, more excritiatingly inert, I made do. But making do is not good enough.

Also, I think being with a really loving, caring partner is making me realise just how bad the past was. It's like you have joyful experiences and then you curse yourself for not demanding that before.

And my new partner dances!!! He gets out of his chair and boogies unapologetically! That sad sack of an ex just sat there gormless, refusing to dance. His work colleagues quietly despaired of him.

Yep!! You're right!! I need to boogie well away from Eeyore and be happy with Tigger! ;-D








Rags's picture

But... the adulterous whore is gone.  Good riddance to that.

This guy us so clueless, but.... he gets to do what he wants to do while his X and daughter fawn all over him.  He has played them masterfully.   Definitely a self serving POS.

Sadly, he will victimize a series of healthy dynamic women who may or may not recognize what these three people are.

All three of them make me wanna puke.  

Unsureofthis's picture

I love how you write and it is all so true. I thoroughly enjoyed this analysis of Peter Pan dad. I can relate 100% though things have not gone quite that far yet for me, but it no doubt will. I recognise a lot of what you write.

still learning's picture

This man sounds utterly selfish and like a bull in a china shop when it comes to relationships. He takes no ownership of the fact that HE put his penis in a vagina and surprisingly someone got pregnant. It WAS on purpose if he wasn't using protection.  If he felt his relationship was a mistake why in the world did he go on to have a second child. When men say their wives are nags this is a HUGE red flag to me that they are stubborn a-holes who can't work as a team. Maybe if he'd pulled his weight she wouldn't have had to "nag."  

Sorry it didn't work out between the two of you, but it sounds like he wasn't honest with you and he likely won't be honest with the next doe-eyed woman he woos online. Poor victim male who was done wrong by everyone and takes no responsibility for the train wreck he made.