Time to throw the baby out with the bathwater

A friend once suggested that when it comes to marital discord couples fight more over one issue: who is going to play the child in the relationship and who is going to play the responsible parent.

His comment rings true on its face, with men historically being the ones who take on the parental role in marriage. It’s witnessed in the centuries of men taking responsibility for the financial and other security concerns of wives, and also hinted at in the relationship age gap. Males marry younger females — not to control their sexuality (as we are frequently misled to believe), but because women seek an older male to place in the responsible, paternal role, to enhance the child theme they intend to play out in the relationship.

Women collectively spend billions annually to neotenize their appearance, enhancing their efforts to assume the infantilized role.

We see the same theme appear in our language when men are shamed for being ‘Peter Pans’ or ‘man babies’ along with the injunction to ‘man-up’ — which has no counterpart for women; they are phrases intended to jolt men out of any inclination to regress to a childlike state of dependency. Never do we hear women being chastised as immature Wendys, woman babies, nor do we ever hit them with the demand to ‘woman-up.’

To be fair we may see the occasional man playing a full-time child to his female partner, and we can say that all men experience occasional moments of regression to boyhood in their relationships. However, society frowns upon men indulging too much of the child within. And such indulgence is roundly met with sexual rejection by women. The child role is reserved exclusively for women within the relationship context.

The stresses that this dynamic places on relationships and especially on men cannot be overstated; the catering to a child within an adult’s body is exhausting and ultimately demeaning to both the infantilized woman and the parentified man. Standardizing childishness in one partner and hyperagency in the other prohibits any sort of relationship between adult peers. Instead, it breeds contempt and conflict.

The structure of this type of arrangement ultimately results in an assured relationship killer. Hostile dependency. It is impossible for the infantilized partner to maintain respect for, or a healthy emotional connection to, her chief enabler. And it is impossible for the chief enabler to maintain respect or a healthy emotional connection to what amounts to a financial, emotional and familial parasite. Self-respect in both parties is also a casualty of this arrangement.

Before getting more into the dynamics posed by this dysfunctional relationship, we’d like to elaborate a bit more on the concept of the adult child which is something quite different from the literal child we look after when they are small. The ‘child’ is also one of the fundaments of the human psyche, operating equally in biologically mature adults and in children, thus the popular qualifier of ‘the inner child.’

The great 20th century psychologist Carl Jung wrote a paper on the inner child, or what he preferred to call the child archetype,1 where he outlined its main psychological features which include 1. growth toward independence, 2. vulnerability, and 3. a state of innocence.

1. Growth toward independence (but never reached)

This aspect of the child archetype is concerned with futurity, and is captured in the phrase ‘what I want to be when I grow up.’ It reflects the ongoing state of becoming without ever arriving at the destination – it remains an eternal child. In this respect the child archetype differs from the archetype of development, a more heroic path that does eventually culminate in mature autonomy and self-reliance.

The ambition for perpetuated childhood, as we commonly see in modern women (and enabled by men), is the inevitable outcome of the child archetype. As men and women collude to remove the destination of adult autonomy from the life-map, they effectively kill the hero archetype of Jung’s writing, the hero of true potential. And they give birth to the child of static permanency. Individuals dominated by the child archetype will always position themselves as eternally incapable of personal agency, even relying on the chief enabler to help fabricate a web of denial about their true nature.

This is reflected in the spiritual, financial, or relationship ‘growth’ workshops attended largely by women, who appear to pursue adult goals but who are in reality only participating in a charade. The true goal is more dependency and more childhood. These pursuits are often funded through the hard labor of the hopelessly paternalized male.

We also see this acted out in the psychodrama of the modern housewife, “taking charge” of such matters of household finances and other matters of home and hearth, without any responsibility for creating wealth, taking the risks that come with those efforts, or any other matter of real consequence. The perpetuated child chooses the colors but cannot buy the paint or climb the scaffold with brush in hand.

2. Vulnerability

Vulnerability is one of the main guises of the child, and so the woman dominated by this archetype is constantly signalling threats to herself from the surrounding environment. She is in danger of getting lost, hurt, abandoned and frightened, and just like the child of fairy tales she projects herself as lost in the woods with snarling bears and wolves, or afloat on the river Nile in a flimsy basket where she is in danger of getting lost or going under.

She is “at risk” at all times, including the risk of exposure to her chief enabler’s frustrations or his wishes for her to realize adulthood.

The vulnerable, permanent child, communicates with the wider world through these threat narratives2 which most everyone is familiar with through the archetypal damsel in distress — tied to the railway tracks, the locomotive of adult agency barreling down on her, or being held prisoner by a dragon from which she must be freed by your parental, sacrificial rescue.

3. Innocence

The child’s way of defending its perpetual dependency is to project its innocence: “I don’t know”, “I didn’t realize”, “I didn’t mean anything”, “It just happened”, “I got carried away by my feelings.” Yes, her own emotions can be the villain in her threat narrative. And the understanding of a hyper-responsible male is required to save her from it. Because she claims ignorance she divests herself of all responsibility for what happens, leaving others to pick up the tab – most likely her male partner if she has one.

We see this even in women’s general predisposition to gravitate toward victim politics, supporting male candidates who offer enabling paternalism from the state, and the vision of woman as perpetually in distress.

Moving on from Jung, perhaps the best conceptualization of the child archetype comes from Eric Berne, whose transactional analysis shows three possible relationship dynamics:

  • Child relating to a parent
  • Parent relating to a child
  • An adult relating to another adult.

The first of these – child to parent – encompasses all that we’ve said so far about the child archetype and its exploitative style of relating with others. The second – parent to child – represents the parental relationship to a child. And the last one – adult to adult – represents a healthier mode of conducting relationships based on steering a middle path between the more extreme demands of both parent and child. This latter is where we might hope to be along with anyone we might choose for pair bonding.

The perpetual child, however, demands that the default relationship setting be parent to child, an emotionally incestuous arrangement that affords some comfort to the irresponsible child, but that does so at the expense of a healthy adult connection.

Eventually, and we think invariably, this results in the parentified male viewing the infantilized female as inept, incapable and deserving of pity over respect. It can also breed a lot of anger that goes both ways, from the frustrated, overburdened male, and the dependent, irresponsible female whose life is a constant reminder of her lack of meaning.

The parental brain

Juvenile characteristics have long been known to evoke in caretakers a neurological state known as the parental brain. Children’s faces and various other child gestures provoke hormonal changes that prime parents to be more sensitive towards infant cues and needs, resulting in nurturance, caretaking and protectiveness.

Adult women who learn to mimic child features through cosmetics, and the feigning of childlike behaviors of innocence and vulnerability, evoke in their male partners a very similar parental response. Like parents of literal infants men can be seen to respond with care-taking and protection, and if women are skilled at peppering the routine with threat-narratives she gains the ability to prompt him like a philharmonic concert conductor. Such is the obedient, reflexive state of readiness to rescue that defines the lives of so many men.

Readers here are no doubt familiar with this charade being played out between men and women, one which was not lost on Esther Vilar when she gave a sardonic description of it in her 1971 book The Manipulated Man. There she writes:

Woman’s greatest ideal is a life without work or responsibility – yet who leads such a life but a child? A child with appealing eyes, a funny little body with dimples and sweet layers of baby fat and clear, taut skin – that darling minature of an adult. It is a child that woman imitates – its easy laugh, its helplessness, its need for protection. A child must be cared for; it cannot look after itself. And what species does not, by natural instinct, look after its offspring? It must – or the species will die out.

With the aid of skillfully applied cosmetics, designed to preserve that precious baby look; with the aid of helpless exclamations such as ‘Ooh’ and ‘Ah’ to denote astonishment, surprise, and admiration; with inane little bursts of conversation, women have preserved this ‘baby look’ for as long as possible so as to make the world continue to believe in the darling, sweet little girl she once was, and she relies on the protective instinct in man to make him take care of her.”3

Vilar hits the nail right on the head; that many women have been taught they will be protected while having every whim catered for by simply playing the child.

This, perhaps more than any other theme entertained by MRAs and MGTOW, captures the dilemma we are wrestling with under the heading of gynocentrism – that being more than sexual attraction, more than pair bonding, more than romantic love and all the other social mandates. Our biological urge to care for children is king, and it’s also an Achillies’ Heel for those who abide by it unconsciously.

The good news is that our vulnerability to abuse is corrected in one move: by men refusing to play parent, whether indulging or trying to correct women who are perpetual children. Instead we have to insist that our female partners woman-up right alongside us, showing reciprocal responsibility between two adults. Or be prepared to show them the door once it’s apparent that the task is too much for them to take on.

Esther Vilar’s comment that a woman’s greatest ideal is ‘a life without work or responsibility’ requires someone to facilitate it, and that someone is almost always a man. But men need not play the role of parent and we do have the option to seek a relationship between adult peers: two responsible adults supporting each other in the walk through life. Such a woman may be a unicorn but unicorns do exist. And success, if you are lucky enough to get it, will be more likely tied to the women you reject than the woman you seek.


[1] C.G. Jung, ‘The Psychology of the Child Archetype’ in The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious, Princeton University Press (1969)
[2] Alison Tieman, Threat Narrative series
[3] Esther Vilar, The Manipulated Man (1971)

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36 thoughts on “Time to throw the baby out with the bathwater”

  1. Absolutely excellent article. It is these great and nearly unique psychology articles from Peter & Paul that I enjoy most from AVFM, and find the most insightful. Thank you for them.

  2. Right on many aspects, but also wrong in many ways. The keystone aspect of love is admiration. However you order your inner heirarchy of importance will determine what aspects you admire. So someone whose inner subjective heirarchy of admirable traits is improperly structured ( out of synch with the outer objective heirarchy of outer reality) will have bad eyes. There was a comercial in which a man is at a bar and there are some unatractive women there. The more he drinks the more apealing the women look. Not because they change, but because his vision becomes distorted. That’s what it’s like when the inner heirarchy is out of synch. In some way everyone’s inner heirarchy is messed up, but it can improve with time. After western culture adopted a materialistic out look which denied the existance of the objective truth other than the physical, subconsciously the physical aspect became much more highly elevated for men, but especially for women. For some valid reasons physical cues are much better indicators to men for subconsciously understanding if a woman matches what he admires, whereas for women, what we admire in men is based on admirable actions. Both men and women admire traits that are different from their own, therefore men value traits closer to agreeableness, compassion, prudence and women traits like courage, determination, and vision. Through admiration men and women over years of living together in marriage slowly become more like the one the admire. Though they need to be guarded by love and respect. Lack of love leads to depising the other when you begin to see their humanity, ie they have feet of clay. Lack of respect leads to the destruction of the other. Humans must respect untamed beauty or we will either be destroyed or destroy it. Now, the researcher you quote who says women want to be treated as children is wrong. Adults admire children for their helplessness (need for the parent), perfection, and innocence. Children admire adults for their wisdom, intelligence, strength, and (from a child’s perspective) godlike power of self- determination. Boys and girls both want the dignity that comes with the power of self determinatiin , and taking on responsibility. At some point children learn that their parents are human, this is the great letdown. Often the first big disillusionment. And the shock of this betrayal can turn admiration into scorn. And even if or when children get to the point of forgiving their parents and accepting them, they can never look at them the same and begin seriosly seeking admirable people elsewhere. At first usually within ones own sex so that you can embody, closest you can, to the ideal specimen of your sex. The problem is that men and women both have a self interest in keeping women infantilized, men so that women won’t see them use methods like flattery. Women become used to this coddling treatment which gets reinforced by men and fathers and mothers and friends. The fact is that women get lied to an aweful lot, and since its often as common as the air we breath, women are often completly oblivious, pretty women especially get coddled from hard truths, whereas more homely women are made better since reality often doesn’t match the false expectations given by tv, or feminism, or even men and girlfriends. Therefore women often are raised to behave more childishly. However, while this article focuses on the negative of childlike traits, both adult men and women like to be needed and also like to act immature from time to time, so some childish behavior, especially when done jointly or in turns can be ok. Also some “childish” traits that often get shed through the disillusionment phase and are more rare in adults, are very desireable. Humility, wonder, a sense of adventure, confidence, trust, and a belief in a greater vision-something higher than the individual- to name a few. The central one missing from modern materialistic society in the aftermath of the sheding of objective reality, and then the gender wars is trust. When no-fault divorce was implemented men and women, the central thing stolen, though it has taken awhile for the implications to manifest, was the key aspect of trust. Marriage no longer meant what it once did. But before this it was stolen by a materialistic view which, when adapted to feminism resulted in a degradation of the male to merely his physical urges. This sowed the seeds of complete distrust of the male. The men’s movement in response to the feminist movement, though it makes many valid points, turns the distrust back on women. But men and women aren’t designed to distrust one another, so the current situation brought on by just the mere belief in materialism is very unnatural and is reinforced through self fulfilling prophicies and maintained through unjust laws and practices ( like the kangaroo college courts to try those accused of sexual misconduct). But the central problem is that if someone refuses to trust you, it is impossible to convince them. For one more lighthearted example, many women distrust men’s assessment of their physical looks, simply for the fact that most her own view is often completly different. Add to this the knowledge that men often use flattery and women are often expecting to be lied to. Trust reqires faith. And faith is despised in today’s culture. Of course one must be cautious, but at a certain point it is illogical to not trust someone.

    1. Certainly, everyone here understands women lie; and often. I reject outright your innuendo that only ‘men lie to women’ and then women must react accordingly. Lying is the females tool of choice in getting what she wants and stupid men allow it to be so.

      1. She makes a great point though that women get lied to lot by men that want to ass kiss and coddle them. I agree with her 100%. I re-read the paragraph that states this, and I don’t believe she implies that women “must” react this way; I took it as more like that men help create the making of this monster.

        This fits in what you, Bora Bosna, MGTOW man, and Stu, have said all along, that a lot of this shit is partly men’s fault for allowing it to continue by their actions and inactions.

      2. Yup ….

        It works like this ….

        A man goes out and happens to get a shity hair cut and walks into work the next day, his male coworkers look at him and say: “who fucked up your hair !”

        A women goes out and happens to get a shity hair cut and walks into work the next day, her female coworkers look at her and say: “Oooooh, you got a hair cut, it’s beautiful, then behind her back tell the other women how hideous her hair cut is.”

    2. Lot of great insights. I think you are spot on with several things, however I may not agree with you across the board.

      I’m one of those people that have to digest and re-read certain responses that are long and thought out before I offer a rebuttal or fair critique.

      I will get back to you on this.

    3. After reading over your rant its my opinion you’re stating a lot of personal opinions.
      Here’s just one .. .. ..
      QUOTE: “The keystone aspect of love is admiration” negative, I disagree with you.
      There are 3-types of love, learn them and what they mean, they are: Eros, Philos, and Agape.

      1. Yeah that quote about the men’s movement is really fucking problematic. I would say it makes it extremely difficult to automatically trust anyone that is a member of a demographic that gynocentric society frequently rewards for their shitty behavior. It’s human nature that a large number of that demographic will come out of the woodwork to take advantage of this. So automatic trust? Nah, no thank you; trust has to be earned.

        I think she nailed it about men coddling and sucking up to women though. However, after reading through the rest of her missive a few times, I think she was out to lunch regarding several of her observations.

      2. Thank you. I didn’t have time but I wanted to say something similar. She’s not stupid and her heart may be in the right place (or close to it) but her observations seem to come from a very narrow and sheltered world view.

    1. Right. The Marx Bros were so far ahead of their time with all their truly edgy ad lib stuff.

      Even on You Bet Your Life Groucho never took it easy on women that would act like idiots. I remember this one old cranky English broad; she says to Groucho that she was “the royal dresser”, Groucho responds “What, you were a piece of foiniture (furniture)”? Lol

    1. Michael in Pittsburgh

      Or carefully maintain relationship commitment / distance and be ready to walk out just as they are at the drop of a year BS. But independence, and not loosing it is Paramount.

  3. Michael in Pittsburgh

    Possibly the best article I’ve read all year. The only shortcoming is that it hasn’t been repackaged into smaller more easily digested units.

  4. It is not just that women will take on this role, it is that they will take on that role selectively, and then at other times demand to be treated like adults with adult privileges and expectations.
    I have seen it in action, in one moment “Don’t blame me, I am just a girl who doesn’t know about these things”, and the next “How dare you treat me like a child, you sexist pig.”

    1. Ahhh yes, yes.

      What you describe is a close relative to “You DON’T hit girls”, and the next “Women are strong, tough, and can kick ass and hold their with any man” and if you even dare to point out this hypocritical mixed message then you are a misogynist pig.

  5. Arrogant assumptions made in a relationship cause even more damage especially when BOTH partners occaisionally behave like petulant children……two way street

  6. @ Rachel Peake …

    Regarding “Admiration and the 3-types of love”

    I didn’t have time yesterday to fully say what I wanted to, so here is an addition to my response.
    Admiration is a feeling of delighted approval and liking. i.e. I admirer your ability to make the perfect chocolate chip cookie and would be delighted if you baked me a batch !
    pronounced AIR-ose, It expresses sexual, romantic attraction. Eros is sexual desire, physical attraction, and physical love. I don’t see admiration as a keystone in Eros.
    it expresses love based on friendship between two people. Which would be a platonic love, love someone but not in a romantic way. I don’t see admiration as a keystone here either.
    it expresses the highest form of love or charity as the love of God for man and of man for God. It embraces a universal, unconditional love that transcends and persists regardless of circumstance. I
    don’t see admiration as a keystone in agape either, but I see a lot of grace !

    1. There’s another sort of love than the ones you detailed so accurately above – its called narcissistic love. Its that that’s taken with the idea of admiration.

      1. It’s been a very very long time since I took my Greek Mythology class and if I remember correctly I think they had definitions for 6 different types. The three I listed above are the ones I recall best.

        1. I do like these distinctions for love, I often times find people confusing one with the other, saying people feel in love as in Agape, when it’s actually Eros, leaving only Philos to be very distinct from the other 2.

        2. A few others from my rust bucket memory:

          Aphroditic – alluring love (attracts desire)
          Eros – desire
          Anteros – reciprocal or returned love
          Amore – romantic love
          Agape – charitable love
          Narcissistic – self love
          Storge – family love
          Philia – friendship love

          1. is it worth pointing out our derivations.
            The French get their Amore held up as an ideal of love of a partner.
            Whilst the Anglosphere gets ” “philia, used to describe a perversion,
            we chose to trash the long lasting and better form of love.

  7. Hard Little Machine

    There’s an old saying in Arabic “What women want is roasted ice”. She wants to change you and then complains when you change, or when you don’t. Either way she hangs herself on a cross of martyrdom for ‘forcing’ her to do all this work in order to be disappointed by YOUR failure.

    1. Prizm, The Vain Prince

      I have a saying that always goes over my friends’ heads.

      “A woman isn’t happy unless she’s miserable”

      It’s funny, I dropped guilt completely from my life and it helped in my relationships. I’m only responsible for my happiness. I think women’s unhappiness also stems from this “magical thinking” that the universe must bend to them. A lot of times happiness is a conscious effort, not something that just happens

  8. Yeah, I’ve been like that. Being cared for of like a child is comfortable and feels safe, but my boyfriend (and men in general) deserves better than this so I do my best to become an adult.

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