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In our experience, many marriages today fail because:

a. Men over the past few generations have begun avoiding the need to grow up and become responsible husbands and fathers.

As a direct result of this, more and more men find themselves labelled ‘narcissists’ by their wives.

We believe advertising has a lot to do with this problem and I will talk more about that in a moment, but first;

The realities of life will require most of us eventually become responsible adults. But because women know that their time is short and by 45 their hopes of having children or succeeding in a new career are drawing to a close, many women face their responsibilities and mature much younger than men.

If men don’t learn to become responsible while growing up, first their mothers nag them, then their teachers (if they care) and finally their wives will be left with the seemingly impossible task of trying to induce them to at least pull their own weight.”

Instead of facing the fact that their own immaturity has created the situation where their wives need to pressure them in this way, immature men will often use emotional manipulation (anger) to try and dodge the issue and blame their wives.

Instead of home life becoming the central focus of their life, immature men will base their lives around adolescent pursuits that have few real benefits for themselves or their family.

These may include; computer games, porn, hanging out with their male friends, over indulging in drinking and recreational drugs, seeking female attention (outside their marriage), hobbies, workaholism or wasting family time watching TV.

If men don’t see the real need to leave the world of childhood and adolescence behind – resentment (the nastiest emotion of them all) will eventually creep in and slowly destroy them and the people they are traditionally meant to care for (their family).

This can end up a vicious cycle where, after the marriage fails, the immature man’s next wife soon finds herself in exactly the same impossible role.

b. Women are not learning healthy emotional regulation.

Many women today have been raised with poor emotional regulation and unhealthy expectations about love.

Rather than work to foster healthy emotional connections within their family, which traditionally was seen as a mother’s role, women have been left to founder in a sea of romance novels, soap operas, popular entertainment and unhealthy role modelling in their own homes growing up.

Symptoms of this may include bad habits such as: obsessing about how their partner feels about them (‘does he really love me?’) to the point where it interferes with family life; taking other family members negative emotional states personally (love is keeping everyone happy all the time) and most damaging of all emotional manipulation.

Instead of learning that emotions are personal signals that each of us need space (and sometimes a little coaching) to regulate, women can create an emotionally oppressive environment at home where family members are constantly policed and punished for not feeling the way mother expects everyone should. Negative comments are brushed over or dealt with defensively and no room is left for honest discussion of family members’ genuine needs or goals.

. . .

As mentioned before, it is our belief that advertising has been a significant causative factor in these problems.

Mature men and women who feel confident in their roles in life, do not remain significant consumers. Entertainment and ads aimed at encouraging people to remain in a state of immature identity crisis is a great way to boost sales for a whole range of otherwise useless products.

Rather than recognise this as a problem with sociological causes, the situation is further complicated by psychiatrists medicalising the problem. Selfish immature men are labelled narcissistic while women (if involved with an immature man) are labelled codependent.

Steve and myself continue to use these labels broadly, as they are useful terms, but resist the notion that in most cases these patterns of behaviour are much more than learned stereotypes.

For both women and men, whether possessing narcissistic or codependent traits, resentment and emotional manipulation are common signs of immaturity.

We believe it irresponsible to pathologize immaturity and pretend because it resists ‘standard treatment’ that it is a dysfunction which cannot be ‘cured’.

Further compounding the issue, as traditional roles change (and merge) at home and at work, neither women or men have been left with any idea of how to negotiate what they need from each other in a fair and mature manner.

Men and women both have been left with so few ideas of how to get their emotional needs met that I would suggest a large percentage of chronic disease is now psychosomatic.

Where is the path out of this mess we have found ourselves in?

Here are a few powerful suggestions:

1. Limit your exposure to advertising, TV and social media and involve yourself in real life.
2. Stop complaining and face the ways you need to mature.
3. Understand that you are not the only person suffering or struggling.
4. Allow your immature habits to become part of your history while you invent a new more responsible and realistic you to walk into your future. Write a compelling story line about this for yourself and watch it become real.
5. Surround yourself with mature role models.
6. Take pride in learning to become more emotionally intelligent and responsible.
7. Make yourself useful.
8. Learn to ask questions you don’t know the answers to.
9. Learn to listen to people and get to know them rather than trying to control them.
10. Don’t rely on others for your sense of emotional fulfillment and balance.
11. Implement a decision making policy in your home based on discussion and consensus. (We will have a new book on this coming out very soon)

Suggested resources:

For men:

Emotional Stupidity

Your Blind Spot

Steve’s Leadership Challenge

For women:

10 Steps to Overcome Codependence

The Little Book of Empathy Love and Friendship

For Couples:

The Love Safety Net Workbook

Reconnect 1 & 2

The Love Boat Tour of the Emotions

Are you failing at negotiating with an immature partner?:

Back From the Looking Glass – 13 Steps to a Peaceful Home

Kim Cooper

Kim is the author of seven books on the topic of relationships and emotional intelligence.

A prolific multi-media content innovator, Kim has created and shared a library of articles and multi-media educational tools including radio shows,
movies and poetry on 'The NC Marriage', and 'The Love Safety Net'.

This Post Has 13 Comments

  1. I’ve been battling narcissistic men for the last two decades of my life. It was three relationships back to back and I ended up marrying the last one. I literally tried everything. I followed all the steps from back from the looking glass and took all advice in the support groups and all other material available. It’s my personal belief that a person has to hit total rock bottom before their ever going to think about making constructive changes within. I’m talking getting arrested, getting exposed, almost dying…Otherwise, even you being in their life creates this comfort zone for them that they feel they can continue to do what they always did. I’ve watched my husband treat me as though I am not my own person and my needs simply do not matter. It was his needs over mine. His opinion over mine and his way always over mine. There was no such thing as compromise in his head space. I also believe this is a spiritual battle and not a psychological one. But I will leave that debate for another time…

    1. The problem starts in our childhoods with parents who, for whatever reason, do not supply the love and attention needed by children. Very understandably, we grow up sort of “half baked” and expecting someone else to complete us,whether we are on the narcissistic or codependent side of things. What to do now?
      Looking at the larger, spiritual side of things, I think the Coopers have got the answer! I think we all need to realize this problem is a LOT larger than just our own story, and decide we are going to fight it with our own love and caring for ourselves and for the people we have chosen to live with.
      This is really a societal as well as personal/familial project. Modern life has conspired to take our families away, and some would argue, our individuality away. We fight back through connection and through becoming as mature and capable of caring as we can be.
      Three cheers for the couple leading the way! We MUST pull ourselves together, stop following this spiritually negative message of society that we should throw out less than ideal marriages, (unless absolutely impossible) and in the process start to rejuvenate society, as a whole.

    2. Hi Tracy, I agree that it usually takes a crisis. I also think with men it takes a situation where they see that other men don’t condone their immature behavior. It is my belief most narcissistic men crave a strong make role model (who is mature). It took me a long time to find someone who fit that bill and who had enough in common with Steve that when I introduced them I knew they would become friends. This is what I mean by this being a societal problem. Men need to help other men in their path to maturity. The tide is now starting to turn in this direction thank goodness, there are a lot of men out there turning away from porn and men speaking up on You tube etc. about men needing to grow up.

  2. Great article, Kim! As always it reflects your deep thoughts and insights. Yes, advertising can block this type of processing and, as you eluded to, so does our ‘sound bite’ electronic world focus.
    As a culture, we seem to be increasingly moving away from thought and more toward group acceptance. Thank you for the valuable and refreshing perspective that we best grow and bond…thus helping others grow too…by taking the brave step to look beyond the surface into ourselves and our interactions. Kudos to you!!!

  3. Thank you for the useful article – so helpful for getting a broader understanding of how we undermine ourselves. It is too easy for the woman to ignore her own role in her own oppression – so easy to blame the man – or for an employee to blame a boss, or for a citizen to blame the government. What is our own role in these situations?

  4. Just prior to reading this article, I did not understand my anger(and resentment) over my husband’s addictions to TV and fishing and shopping (for his hobby) and you’ve explained it so clearly. It is immaturity and unwillingness to dedicate time and energy to family. It’s been a heart breaking revelation to realize our family life is not what I had dreamed it would be but as you’ve mentioned in your other posts, I’ve got to do what I can for my family life. Can’t force him but hopefully him seeing the fun the rest of us are having as a family will encourage him to join in 🙂

    1. Fishing, TV and shopping, these are far from ideal pursuits for a family man. Fishing is very popular where we live, I know that many people (men) long for a few sunny hours to get out and throw a line in. Fishing could very well be a conduit for the rest of the family to enjoy the outdoors too. I remember fondly my father fishing, I hated it, but I loved playing in nature, throwing rocks into the water (Dad banned me from that, he said I was scaring the fish away). Nevertheless, we would make a day of it and I remember those fishing spots fondly.
      Unfortunately, I see it like this; for many men, fishing is an excuse to walk out the door before his wife asks him to attend to one of the many responsibilities in the home that more often than not are neglected by him. Sad.
      TV has no redeeming features in my opinion. Even good quality TV is a waste of valuable time. Being responsible is the challenge for us men. To learn to relish the opportunity is to find true happiness and meaning in our lives.

  5. My wife (Patti) and I had 31 years. We married young, and in fact only knew each other for about 6 months before tying the knot. We had two children, and we managed to bring them up okay. They would prefer to owe their success to themselves, however lol. Anyway, Patti and I had our ups and downs, but I did most of the communicating. It could be said that I was the one sharing my feelings, emotions, and it was up to me to say, “I love you.” For I loved her fiercely.
    We married in sickness and in health, for better, worse, etc….all that. I don’t know for sure if I really ever considered the sickness part. There were times when I think I almost hated being married to this woman.
    When she started showing signs of shortness of breath, I really didn’t think much of it, because we were both smokers at the time. To make this story short (because I must) I will tell you that Patti at that time had 10 years left to live. When I called for an ambulance on a nice summer day in June, it was because she all of a sudden seemed to be going into shock. She was in Septic Shock of course with a heart valve infection. They opened her up and replaced the valve. When she got home, I was advised, and instructed (reluctantly)on how to flush her pick line. At first, I was angry that she should need me to do this. I wanted a nurse to come in and do it. I thought, ‘we’re too young for this.’ She shouldn’t be sick.’
    I’ll tell you right now. Within 45 minutes of my denial/attitude, a nurse did come in and show me how to perform the tasks that were required of ME.
    So, she developed other problems… stroke, seizures, she (of course was on coumiden). If she needed general surgery, I’d give her heparin injections (in spite of my fear of injecting anyone, including myself with needles). Eventually she had to be on a ventilator 2 more times, because she developed pulmonary complications due to congestive heart failure.
    One afternoon she felt really weak. The night before I raced to Walgreens to obtain a potassium pill the doctor ordered due to test results indicating very low levels. I don’t know how I made it to the pharmacy in under 5 minutes considering it’s not across the street. I was so glad to get it in her that night, and the next day she was to be seen for a followup visit with her doctor.
    We headed out later the next morning to get her checked out. The Doctor was concerned about a shiny rash on Patti’s leg, so she ordered an ultrasound at the hospital right away to check for a clot. She was admitted because she became so weak following this, that she was admitted. The next evening we had dinner together in her hospital room. My wife told me at this time, that I had surpassed all her expectations of me. She told me that she never thought I would have remained by her side throughout her illness. She even said I saved her life by identifying some of her seizures that would occur while she slept. She expressed a bit of sadness that there were few visitors. I just told her that everyone knows you’ll be okay. We’ve been in this hospital for plenty of tune ups. We’ll be home in a couple days anyway. Our daughter called right at that time, and I have never been more proud of her, for her timing was perfect. It was after midnight, and we thought I’d better head back to the house and spend some time with our dog (Patti loved that dog).
    The next morning, I got a call. Patti was back on a ventilator with bi-lateral pneumonia.
    Two weeks later, she succumbed to ARDS. The dog waited for his mommy to come home for 4 months, and the he joined his mom.
    I think that many people want their mate, spouse, partner to be perfect. When things don’t remain that way, they feel that it’s time to move on. I knew a guy who divorced his wife, while she battled cancer.
    My grief wounded me pretty good. It’s been 2 years without the woman I spent over half my life with, and I really don’t know myself at this time. Like I said, we married young. ‘We’ has become ‘I’ and I shared every aspect of every thought or idea I had with this woman.
    But I am a man who is strong, because I was the husband of the strongest, most extraordinary woman I have ever known. Her illness didn’t make me a man. But fighting it alongside her, made me good at showing my love. We had a perfect marriage in the most honest sense.
    The next morning, Patti had

    1. Thanks for sharing your story John, I am looking after my mother in hospice at the moment and so can relate to some of what you have shared. I cannot imagine your grief however, losing a lifelong partner must be one of the hardest things we can face in life.

  6. Kim, you tell it like it is! Advertising affects people a lot as you describe, but I don’t think it’s the main reason for all this immaturity, however. I think it’s because we’ve “forgotten” that women and men are really quite different, and hence we don’t properly bring children up to develop the differences appropriately. That’s part, and the other part is premarital sexual relationships. They prevent men from developing an unselfish, “I want to care for you” attitude towards their future wives, and they interfere with women maintaining appropriately intimate relationships with friends and family who love them.

  7. I’ve thought a lot about what enables men & women to mature. I think what young women and young men need in order to mature is vastly different, almost opposite. I think women need to feel close to family and friends who love them. I think that is what allows a woman to mature. Everything else will fall into place for her if she has close, positive relationships. I think men need to feel/be competent and confident in their own real abilities, which traditionally meant “striking out on his own to prove himself” or something like that. Knowing he can stand on his own two feet and make a success of whatever he wants to do, because he’s had some successes in his life already. I think these are the two things that women and men, respectively, need before they are able to approach a marital relationship with maturity and a self-giving nature. When a woman feels supported and loved by others, she internalizes that feeling of support and love and can give it out for the rest of her life. When a man feels he can make a success of himself, then and only then does he feel ready and able to carry someone else on his back – to be a support and help to someone else. If he feels unconfident in himself, then when someone else has a need, he will reject their need because it will make him feel inadequate. It will remind him that he is probably inadequate and not up to the task of meeting the need. So other people are not allowed to have needs as far as he is concerned. Or opinions, because that would mean his opinion is inadequate.

  8. How do you know if your dealing with a irreversible “narcissist” or just someone “immature”?
    I do believe that narcissism can be not only caused by environment but also biological make up….
    So, now what, can biology/genetics be changed by environment? I believe so but some changes take longer than others so it’s a matter of what patience or persistence….

    1. We do not agree that this is a psychological disorder that cannot be reversed. People refuse to grow up all the time – but circumstances will sometimes later still force them to. It is my view that time spent trying to diagnose what experts don’t even agree on would be better spent leading by example.

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