Everything You Should Know About Peter Pan Syndrome in Relationships & Divorce 

As your life progresses, it may take some unexpected turns, putting you on courses you didn’t count on. Some of these changes could feel unfair, leaving you with bitter emotions and anger toward people in your life, especially those with Peter Pan syndrome.  However, resentment only impacts your own equanimity and risks damaging relationships with people around you.

In this article we will discuss how Peter Pan syndrome impacts relationships and divorce so you can move on with your life, develop new relationships and set new goals for future happiness.

What is ‘Peter Pan Syndrome?’

Popular culture coined the term “Peter Pan syndrome” to describe the behavior of adults who refuse to grow up, in reference to the character from the famed story “Peter and Wendy” by J.M. Barrie. While their peers accept the gradual process of maturity, Peter Pans shun adult responsibilities in their personal and perhaps professional lives.

It’s important to note that Peter Pan syndrome is not in any way a medical or psychological diagnosis. Rather, it’s a colloquial phrase used by members of the public as a descriptor for a person with the following immature habits.

Peter Pan Syndrome Warning Signs

Rejection of adult norms and responsibilities is the most obvious warning sign of a Peter Pan, someone who refuses to grow up. Neglect of household upkeep, personal grooming or care for one’s health usually indicates an unwillingness to accept the realities of adulthood.

A person who does not take financial responsibility to support their own lifestyle might be considered to have Peter Pan syndrome. While relying on others is a normal part of life, doing so in a burdensome way without regard to other’s needs reflects an immature attitude.

Financial irresponsibility on the part of a Peter Pan kind of person may take the form of continually borrowing money from friends and relatives without paying it back. People with spending habits that exceed their income also possess some financially immature traits.

Someone withPeter Pan syndrome might have a stack of dirty dishes in the kitchen and no food in the refrigerator. They may wear unlaundered clothes, or buy expensive clothing way outside their budget.

Emotional Traits of Someone withPeter Pan Syndrome

In relationships, the immature habits of a Peter Pan person make them almost impossible to deal with when conflict arises. People with this type of personality blame others for their problems and refuse to accept responsibility for their own actions.

During emotional conflict or any type of argument, a Peter Pan person focuses on making their point heard and having the upper hand. Rather than taking time to listen and consider the other person’s point of view, immaturity convinces them it’s more important to be right.

Peter Pan people also tend to be immature and  “fight dirty.” They introduce insults, name-calling, shouting and disdain. Instead of focusing on the issue in a debate, they veer into other emotional territory and reopen past wounds.

The Consequence of Peter Pan Syndrome in a Marriage

Dealing with the immaturity of a Peter Pan-type person isn’t just annoying for others. Their refusal to adapt to adulthood can lead to actions that damage their personal and professional relationships.

When someone with Peter Pan syndrome goes through a divorce, they often negatively affect the proceedings and sometimes even their own standing in the case through immature actions. An immature attitude and lack of cooperation only serve to lengthen the duration of a divorce case and stress everyone involved in the interim.

During a divorce case, parties might be ordered by the court to adhere to certain guidelines or produce relevant evidence. It’s each person’s responsibility to follow court orders, or risk facing consequences. Resist the urge to view these decisions as personal attacks. Comply with the court orders to bring about the swiftest resolution to your case.  After all, the Court does have power over YOU!

After your divorce case is settled and the judge finalizes your divorce decree, it’s time to live up to your responsibilities as set forth in the agreement and/or judgment. Each party had the opportunity to make their case in court, and the Judge used the law to determine the most equitable outcome for both parties.

While it can be emotional and even painful to pay spousal maintenance to your ex-spouse, the law dictates this part of the pact between two people when they get married. Upon divorce, the court uses a calculator to determine which party, if any, must pay spousal maintenance, and how much. The application of this law is equal across every case, and it’s no cause for bitterness. The mature move is to recognize the adult responsibility you made when legally tying your life to another person through marriage, and make the maintenance payments.

Peter Pan Syndrome Has No Place in a Marriage… or Divorce

For parents going through divorce, the most important reason to act with maturity is to provide children with a healthy, responsible adult role model. Like it or not, parents are kids’ preeminent examples of how to act, and bad behaviors you demonstrate could become ingrained in your child’s own personality.

If your divorce decree orders you to pay child support, accept this as part of your parental duty. Regardless of your opinion about the court’s order, it was executed according to the law and it’s your responsibility to fulfill that obligation.

Your children will note the attitude you demonstrate toward paying support on their behalf. If you’re constantly complaining, paying late, or refusing to pay, those immature actions may very well damage your relationship with them.

Immaturity during and after divorce proceedings may also affect the way you’re viewed by family members, friends, and people in your wider social circle. It’s not uncommon for divorce stories to spread, and those who have acted immaturely are remembered and possibly stigmatized by bad behavior.

People with Peter Pan personalities need to come down to Earth, especially during divorce proceedings. Your situation is the result of your own actions as an adult, and the mature path is one of acceptance and responsibility. Moving forward mired in bitterness and childishness only winds up damaging yourself.

If You’re Tired of Immature Behavior and Want a Divorce, Sterk Family Law is Here to Help

The legal team at Sterk Family Law Group will help you understand your options for your individual situation. Call us to set up a free, no-obligation consultation at (815) 600-8950 or complete the form below:


This is a legal advertisement from Sterk Family Law Group. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be construed as such. This article is for informational and educational purposes only.

Recent Posts

Success Will Look Different For All – A Client Story

Our team received the letter below.  At the request of this previous client, we wanted to share their message as words of encouragement.     You represented me in my divorce years ago.  I recently paid my last child support payment and felt the need to reach out to...

Is Adult Guardianship an Option for Your Child?

As a parent, ensuring the well-being of your child is a lifelong commitment. For some parents, this includes making decisions about adult guardianship when their child reaches the age of 18. In Illinois, there are specific laws and guidelines that can help you...