How to Tell If You’re Swiping Right on a Guy With ‘Peter Pan Syndrome’

Here are the warning signs that show you may be dealing with a giant man-child.

“Joe” is 35-years-old, 6’1,” and an avid hiker. He has that dark tousled hair you love to run your fingers through, and piercing, green eyes. His stats stack up, although his profile photos portray him and his buddies giving the camera the middle finger, and posing with attractive women. You wonder at his age why he’s still single. You hold your breath and decide to swipe right anyway.

But, unknowingly, his immature photos could be a huge red flag for something that’s known as ‘Peter Pan Syndrome.’

With the average American swiping on roughly 4,000 profiles before finding a partner, according to a recent survey by Shane Co, in a sea of potential swipes, it could be hard to differentiate a grown-ass man, from a full-grown man-child.

Using dating apps like Hinge and Bumble can be exciting, but also frightening, given that you’re judging solely on first-impressions. And we all know, looks can certainly be deceiving.

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Besides the obvious risks (ending up with a guy who’s a psycho or, at the very least, a jerk), there are some other warning signs that prove you’re treading into non-relationship material territory. Case in point: the risk of swiping right on someone with what’s known as ‘Peter Pan Syndrome.’

What is ‘Peter Pan Syndrome?’

What is ‘Peter Pan Syndrome,’ you ask? Much like its name implies, it’s a man who is an adult, but chooses to stay child-like. Although not an officially diagnosed condition, it’s a popular psychology term that primarily references males.

“Peter Pan syndrome is simply someone’s inability to grow up,” says relationship expert Minaa B., LMSW. “They might come off like they don’t have any manners because they aren’t equipped to build intimacy or connections,” she explains. “They may also be emotionally inept, will express themselves inappropriately, and won’t pick up on social cues.”

What are the signs someone has ‘Peter Pan Syndrome?’

couple arguing
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That boyish charm could be a signal for danger — and plenty of drama — ahead. Like with relationships in general, pinpointing this in a person right off the bat, is about establishing boundaries.

“Pay attention to signs that they are immediately crossing boundaries,” advises Minaa. “Red flags include: asking you for money, asking to move in with you due to their unstable situation, their online profile references gender stereotypes such as ‘expecting his partner to cook and clean,’ chronic job-hopping, or still living at home with a parent,” she explains.

Someone with Peter Pan syndrome may also be extremely self-centered, and the conversation is always “focused on them and their needs,” explains Minaa. “They immediately divert the story back to them when someone else is talking.”

Be on the lookout for not only these warning signs, but the frequency of them, suggests Minaa. “These types of people do not handle conflict well nor are they receptive to any feedback,” she explains. “They may ghost you or do something extreme like block you without explanation.”

Can someone grow out of ‘Peter Pan Syndrome?’

Sadly, Minaa says if they are exhibiting this type of behavior, it’s unlikely they will grow out of it, or rather — grow up. “Some people can, but only if they are committed to doing the work of healing from whatever internal wounds may have caused this behavior in the first place,” she explains. “They need to be ready to be actionable and make changes in their lives to benefit themselves, and the people they love.”

So, next time “Joe” pops up on your Hinge feed surrounded by a bevy of beautiful women, think twice before swiping right — he could be Mr. Wrong.

Jené Luciani Sena
Jené Luciani Sena is an accredited journalist and internationally-renowned bestselling author, regularly seen on national TV outlets such as Access Daily, Today and Dr Oz. Touted as one of Woman’s World Magazine’s “Ultimate Experts,” she’s a TEDTalk speaker and a busy Mom of 4. Read more
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