Monday, May 27, 2024

Are you in a Relation with Peter Pan? The Wendy Syndrome

Peter Pan and Wendy 1

Psychologist Dan Kiley, who defined ‘Peter Pan Syndrome’ in 1983, also used the term ‘Wendy Syndrome’ to describe women who act like mothers with their partners or people close to them. Wendy is the woman behind Peter Pan. She is that someone who deals with the things Peter Pan doesn’t do, in order for him to “survive”.

She is the one making every decision, taking on all of “Peter Pan’s” responsibilities, and so, she justifies his unreliability. She is the overprotecting mother prototype. Both “Peter Pan” and “Wendy” do not acknowledge that they are having a problem, they aren’t aware of it. The only solution for it is psychological treatment, not only centered on the person, but also on the partner and the family.

The Wendy Syndrome is about women who are very dependent upon their mates in a special way. They mother their mates, treating them like immature children. These women usually state, “I feel like I have three children, instead of two, because I have my husband, too.” The Wendy woman attempts to control situations with her man through inappropriate mothering. She is a very insecure woman who cannot handle anger, either her own or her partner’s. By taking on a maternal role toward her mate, she feels protected from the possible rejection and abandonment that, in her opinion, inevitably results from exchanges of anger.

According to Dr. Kiley, certain conditions have to exist before a woman is transformed into a Wendy. “She must suffer to some degree from a fear of rejection, perpetuate a negative self image through an inner voice of inferiority, and become so dedicated to her social image that she fails to examine her true personal life”.

Symptoms of the Wendy Syndrome:

- lacking in self-identity;

- missing opinions of their own and being not in touch with their own likes or dislikes;

- basing their security on the approval of others;

- presenting an acceptable social image is of high importance;

Eight typical behaviors of women caught in the so called “Wendy trap”:

1. The woman denies that problems exist.

2. She tends to start believing that her mate cannot survive without her. The truth  is Peter Pan is unwilling, not unable to shoulder the responsibility which is causing problems.

3. Possessiveness – This occurs when “Wendy” starts feeling dependent upon her mate, feeling that she cannot survive emotionally or perhaps financially without him.

4. Complaining – Complaining can be a healthy form of assertiveness, as long as it’s handled appropriately.

5. Guilt inducing – Guilt is a poor motivator. Under such conditions, the subject resents being coerced into a certain behavior. He may do what she wants, but he’ll be mad at her for ‘making’ him do it.

6. She shoulders an enormous degree of responsibility for her husbands and her children, in attempts to minimize her high anxiety level. In the meanwhile, the man’s fear of rejection and habitual guilt feelings have usually led him into a passive “yes, dear” stance where he will superficially agree with his spouse to avoid arguments, but then continues his own behavior without changing, frustrating her more and more. The man engages in a great deal of passive-aggressive behavior, indirectly expressing his pent-up hostility toward his mate.

7. The Wendy woman will begin to vacillate between being a martyr and punishing her man (spending money on things she really doesn’t want and that the family really can’t afford, becoming hypochondriacal, and expecting him to take her to many doctor’s appointments, withholding of sex). There is a high risk for her getting involved in an outside affair where she feels she can obtain the warmth that is missing in her own relationship.

8. The Wendy woman will “hit bottom”. When this occurs, she feels that she has exhausted all of her coping strategies. That is when the Wendy woman usually turns to professional counselors for help. 

In order to help a Wendy woman one has to turn her into a Tinkerbell, or a woman who is willing to grow up and expect both her mate and herself to interact with each other, at least a majority of the time, in a mature manner.

Eight qualities that define “the adult love script”, listed by Dr. Kiley

1. The ability to compromise without pity or regret.

2. Tolerance of being inconvenienced at times, without negative feelings because of one’s empathy for one’s partner.

3. Dependability – “Lovers depend upon each other. They know that if all else fails, the loved one will be there to do whatever he or she can to help”.

4. Freely sharing their thoughts and feelings without fear of criticism.

5. Being realistic.

6. Being intimate with each other, loving to touch, hug, and express sexual satisfaction towards each other.

7. Being playful in their intimacy.

8. “The X factor”. That term describes an unspoken bond, a special feeling of closeness that is difficult to precisely define or identify.



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Comments: 4

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  • This is very interesting! In Transactional Analysis, the process you describe here is called symbiosis. Starting from 2 people with 2 separate sets of ego states (parent, adult, child), the 2 people fuse together and they form only 1 set of ego states, so that one of them will function from the parent and adult ego states and the other only from child, as is the case with the 2 syndromes you talk about. Thank you for sharing these things, they are very useful. :) Keep on writing great stuff!

    • Thanks Criss M for the additional information!

  • Crys Scarlet

    Yes, thanks a lot! I also believe it’s a very useful information, especially if you have to deal with all kinds of people on a daily basis. It might help me for staying out of trouble next time ;)

    • Thank you, Crys! I am glad you liked it!

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