“Real talk: Am I expecting too much from guys?”

Dear Sarah,

I have finally realized that all of my serious relationships have been with man-children, and what I’m looking for is a real man.

Every one of my exes has had abandonment issues from childhood and is seeking someone to provide motherly, parental love. (Clearly, this also must have something with how they perceive me or how I view myself. . .)

I look around at the guys my age (early- to mid-twenties) and I find that they are all immature and do not have the same goals as I do in life. I want someone who is as sensitive and caring as I am, but who won’t need me to supplement some kind of psychological role that’s lacking for them. I’d like our personalities to be compatible, but not the same. It’s especially important to me that we have good communication.

I have started seeing people who are 4 to 7 years older than me, but it’s no different.  The guy turns out to be a boy who hasn’t grown up yet, or the communication is off, or both. Does this mean that I just haven’t found the right person yet? Or am I asking for too much—everyone comes with baggage, right?


—Jaded in Canada

Dear Jaded,

All you need to do is walk by a playground to see we are in an era of unprecedented “mansition.” Fifteen years ago, when I was toting my toddler to the swingset, basically the only time you would see a dude there with a baby was Saturday morning, “mommy’s special sleep-in day.” Now, its become normal for guys to be super hands-on or the even primary caregiver while their wife brings home the Benjamins. I recently asked a younger acquaintance how it was going for him as a Mr. Mom and he gave me a withering look and said frostily, “We prefer ‘stay-at-home-dad’.” My bad, and I felt about 1000 years old. The point is, gender roles are changing fast and men and women both are having to play catch up emotionally. Women want to forge their own way in the world and then get miffed that their man isn’t making more money; men want an equal partner then feel emasculated when their woman gets an awesome promotion; women want men to be emotionally open and then feel freaked out by their vulnerability. And so on.

We can’t expect men or women to be a certain way anymore—and I think this is a beautiful thing and could lead to more people escaping rigid gender stereotypes and just being whomever they are as a human. But, given that this is pretty uncharted territory, it can be confusing and provoke unmet expectations and messed up communication. Ask yourself, are you attracted to a certain damaged type who is looking to be taken care of in ways that would cripple any relationship OR are you feeling uncomfortable because your dates are sharing more than you expect from a boy. If its the former, that’s on you to why you are drawn to being a Ms. fix-him-upper and then take a chance with a guy you wouldn’t have previously thought of as dating material. If its the latter, realize that guys suffer and feel pain just like gals do, and we don’t need to be scared of that. Being vulnerable does not equal being weak.

It sounds like you are a strong, directed woman and you are looking for an equal partner in life. Watch of few early episodes of “Mad Men” to get a rather queasy reminder that that’s not going to be some old fashioned, hyper-masculine, man’s man type. Meanwhile, some guys do mature more slowly than girls, our brains are wired that way, but if you can be patient, open hearted, and roll with the shifting terrain of Millennial gender roles, you will be able to find someone who is not only a real man but a real person.

Love, Sarah

Have an issue that could use a mom’s-eye-view? Our advice column features a real live mother of three who is ready to discuss any of your burning questions judgment—and baggage—free. Email [email protected] with the subject line “Dear Mom.” Please include your first name or nickname and where you are from. Questions may be edited for clarity and length.

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