Dealing with childish behavior in adult relationships
March 18, 2012 11:11 AM Subscribe
My partner often behaves in a way that I consider to be very childish. How to deal?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (30 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I've been dating a wonderful man for about six months. We're both professionals in successful careers; he's mid-40s, I'm a mid-30s female. We have a fantastic relationship in nearly every respect, with shared interests, common values, fantastic conversation and great sex. I think he's sexy, smart, and overall pretty much my dream man. We've talked of marriage and I'm very keen to build a life with him.
But. (Always the but!) I have one major issue with him. I find that he often behaves somewhat childishly. Meaning: quite a bit of baby talk, pouting, sulking when he doesn't get his way, literally sticking his lower lip out or sticking his tongue out at me as a way of expressing himself. Today we had a disagreement while out and about shopping, and he actually stopped dead in the middle of the sidewalk and crossed his arms across his chest with that classic sulky "toddler refusing to eat his green beans" expression on his face.
I seriously do not know how to deal with this behavior. Most of the time he is a normal, well-adjusted adult, but in our private interactions this sort of weird regressive behavior shows up pretty often. My reaction thus far has been to try to ignore it; when he pulled the stunt in the street today, I just simply told him I wasn't going to deal with that kind of behavior and turned on my heel and walked away. I keep hoping that refusing to engage with the childishness will make him cut it out, but it doesn't seem to have any impact.
I already feel the "see a therapist" comments coming on, but I'd appreciate some practical advice on how to respond to this kind of behavior, as I'd really like to understand why he does it and how to engage in a productive way (and how to talk to him about it in a way that doesn't demean or degrade him.)
Possibly related: he lost a parent recently. Don't know if that's somehow triggering the behavior.