The LATE Man – Adult Men as “Lost Angry Teens”

Why do so many men sabotage relationships and careers? Current cultural stereotypes of men range from bumbling incompetence to aggressive, macho insensitivity. I’ve worked with men in therapy and personal growth workshops for over 25 years, and I’ve identified a type of adult man I call the LATE Men, Lost, Angry Teens, and they are often stuck in an adolescent level of development – literally, LATE to grow into full adult functioning.

We all have four primary internal parts: An Inner Child, a Teenager, an Inner Critic, and a loving, responsible Adult. The Teenager seeks independence, identity, and acceptance with peers. Teens may also become rebellious, angry, confused and withdrawn. Adjustment problems are more likely to occur in distressed or dysfunctional families, where adolescents do not receive the guidance, emotional support, and other resources necessary for healthy maturation and individuation.

The LATE Men develop in an uneven manner. They may become accomplished in some limited areas, such as academics, sports, and even in their roles at work. However, they function only marginally in other roles, and these are the most common problems I see in the men I treat in my practice:

1. Lost Identity – LATE Men generally don’t have a clear picture of themselves. When they first come into therapy, they often say that they’re stuck in a rut and don’t know who they are. They don’t know why they feel the way they do, or they don’t know what they’re feeling at all – they can talk about “stress”, but are often less aware of feeling anxious. Or they’re “frustrated”, but often deny feeling angry. They rarely say they’re sad or depressed – more often they’re “tired” or “out of it”. Many men have told me that they feel like a failure, or just “not doing well” at work or in relationships. These feelings of shame and low self-esteem – not good enough – is a core issue for LATE Men.

In his first therapy session with me, Sam, a reasonably successful attorney in his mid-40’s, told me he’s happy, but wants to be happier. He said he has a good life, but he feels he should appreciate it more. He couldn’t understand why he doesn’t work harder to build his practice, and he wondered if he even wants to be a lawyer. He loves his wife and children, but feels his wife should do more with her life than have lunch and go shopping with friends. For some unknown reason their sex life has deteriorated. During our first 2 sessions he sounded increasingly frustrated – even angry. He often expressed how he “should”, do things differently, sometimes in very contradictory and confusing statements. And he made similar demanding statements about his wife – she should get a job, she should have different friends, and so forth. When I asked him about his feelings he would deny the anger that was becoming increasingly evident, along with the underlying anxiety and fears about himself and his relationship with his wife.

These LATE Men often define themselves by their work roles and by their perceived levels of success at work. And they often don’t know what they want. They tend to under-function and under-achieve, and LATE Men are often dependent on others emotionally and/or financially. Studies indicate that large numbers of young men over the age of 21 still live at home with their parents – many of these are still living at home after age 30.

2. Anger – LATE Men frequently report frustration, irritability, and angry outbursts. Many acknowledge road rage, kicking or punching holes in walls and doors, and verbal aggression or abuse. They tend to be defensive and passive-aggressive. For example, Sam is often withholding with his wife – he shuts down emotionally, shows up late, and he makes promises to do things with her and doesn’t follow through. I’ve found that many LATE Men unconsciously use anger as a defense against underlying fears and shame. Sam is beginning to recognize his fears of losing his wife – she is “finding herself” now that she’s in therapy, and she no longer submits passively to his controlling behavior.

3. Avoidance – LATE Men often report problems with procrastination, work avoidance, emotional distance from others, and evading responsibilities at home. Addictions (to alcohol, drugs, video games, and pornography) are often used to escape from work and relationships, and are used by many LATE Men as a form of self-medication to cope with painful feelings of shame, fear and sadness. Sam told me that he used alcohol excessively in the past, and even developed a cocaine “habit” that scared him. He told me his wife disapproved of the drinking and occasional pot smoking (he never told her about the cocaine), and when they had their first child, he quit using the drugs and significantly reduced his drinking.

4. Relationships – Historically, men were dominant over women. They were larger, stronger, more physically aggressive, and social and political structures tended to be male dominant. The women’s movement and other social and economic forces, has created a crisis in role relationships between men and women. Men are biologically programmed to interact more with the physical environment – we’re hunters and we see our role as provider and protector (not emotionally sensitive communicators). Today’s men are often confused and fearful about intimate relationships. If they are strong, aggressive and commanding – accepted and admired traits in the recent past – they may be viewed as insensitive cavemen. If they are emotionally sensitive and vulnerable they risk being viewed as wimpy or weak. No wonder the LATE Men tend to either avoid intimacy or react with defensiveness or anger when they’re questioned or when they hear complaints or demands from the women in their lives. Sam didn’t get it. He thought his wife had entitlement issues – spoiled by the life style he provides for her. Now he’s beginning to see how she distanced emotionally after years of his controlling, demanding behavior.

The LOST Men come from all walks of life, with all types of family backgrounds. However, it’s no surprise that the majority of LATE Men report absent or emotionally distant, angry fathers, and other distressing family dysfunction. These men rarely had desirable male role models growing up. And their dependency on mothers for emotional and sometimes financial support filled them with an unknown and deep seated sense of shame and self-doubt. How were they to learn how to be a man in a world with few or conflicting guidelines and expectations?

What can be done to help the LATE Men? My work with Sam illustrates the possibilities. He is learning how to see himself and his relationships differently. He’s learning the language of feelings – how he can experience and manage his emotional life effectively and with a sense of masculine strength. And he’s beginning to communicate these feelings effectively with his wife. Every LATE Man I’ve encountered exhibits some level of healthy adult functioning. Individual, group and couples therapy is highly effective in helping men to develop the loving and responsible adult self they aspire to.

© Copyright 2010 by Richard J. Loebl, LCSW, BCD. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Brent

    October 20th, 2010 at 4:41 AM

    Why is it that every young male I meet these days seem to have these traits? Something in the water, or just the way we are raising our young men these days? If that is a case, what a real disservive to them and the rest of the world who then have to live with them!

  • ERJ

    January 3rd, 2018 at 7:24 AM

    There is something in the water all right, and it is the deliberate destruction of the foundational building blocks of society by the left. Militant Feminism, Political Correctness, Diversity, SJW is effectively destroying the natural role of men.

  • BLack Peter

    June 23rd, 2018 at 1:02 PM

    The foundational building blocks? Show me a person who does not carry a wounding deep within the foundations of his being, set in place by the parents but in particular, the father. Everyone seems to be carrying some version of this. It is a violation of the personality at a deep psychophysiological level from before the foundations of the personality were set in place. Antagonistic to life within a family unit is what the male persona appears to be. And this ghost from the past is kept alive by the general penis-worshipping atmosphere in modern society. Especially, I might add, by women themselves, and especially those in Eastern countries. The human race is f*^@ed, for many generations to come.

  • FLINTOFF

    October 20th, 2010 at 9:30 AM

    I do feel this way sometimes but thought this is all a part of maturing and is experienced by almost everyone.Its because our roles and relationships all tend to change over time and we may take a little time to adapt to these changes.

  • emma

    October 20th, 2010 at 12:29 PM

    most men just do not grow up,do they? :P

    and maybe that has to do with the fact that when you take a man and woman of the same age the woman will always be more matured mentally.men are just ‘growing up’ all the time ;)

  • Richard Loebl, LCSW

    October 22nd, 2010 at 8:40 AM

    Thanks to everyone for your comments on The LATE Men. Your questions are so important and relevant. There are some emerging theories about why men are late to mature emotionally. I believe the most compelling theories talk about men from the perspective of human evolution, and modern brain science. Men’s roles and brains were designed for limited purposes – hunting, protecting, and providing for their family and tribe. Life is so much more complicated today! Men’s roles have expanded, and complex emotional communication and behavior is a relatively new expectation for men, from an historical perspective. We need men who have adapted and evolved emotionally to teach and mentor young men today.
    Brent – It does have to do with how we raise men. We need to find more ways to teach men how to evolve emotionally.
    Flintoff – Absolutely! The times have changed, our roles have changed, and we need role models and mentors to help men today.
    Emma – I think there is a lot of truth in what you say. And there’s hope! I’m seeing so many men who want to learn and grow.
    Thanks to everyone for your great input!
    Richard

  • Kent

    October 23rd, 2010 at 7:06 PM

    I’m one of these men whose father died when I was 4. My mom was overwhelmed & unable to nurture me in any way. I hated & loved her.
    At 50 years of age I’ve discovered what made me the way I am. It’s very late in life to discover this. I am trying my best to be a better man, father, ex-husband, employee, co-worker & so on. I have no friends to speak of. I’m feeling needy of my 13 year old daughter.
    I’m broke, work for minimum wage, even though I’m an expert in my field.
    I’m surprised I haven’t eaten a bullet. I have read a thousand self-improvement books. I’m afraid there is no help for me.

  • Richard J. Loebl, LCSW, PA

    October 24th, 2010 at 9:38 AM

    Hello Kent, I’m very sorry to hear about your situation. And I’m concerned about how you’re feeling right now. In response to your statement that there may be no help for you, I want to assure you that help is available. This web site (GoodTherapy.org) is one place to start. You can find someone in or near your geographic area and contact them. Explain your situation, and I’m sure they will help you to locate assistance. Some GoodTherapy therapists will also reduce their fees. Your self-study and understanding of your background, and your desire to to “be a better man” will go a long way in helping you to find support and hope. I’ve worked with many men just like you – often they feel that they are at the end of their rope. They can feel much better and do much better in support groups and professional counseling. I really hope you will make contact with someone in your area – they can help, and there is hope.

  • VJenz

    December 17th, 2010 at 3:58 PM

    What can a wife do if she recognizes these traits in her husband? I know he is unhappy but no matter what I do or don’t do I can’t seem to find any way to break through my husband’s hard shell. I don’t want to leave the situation but sometimes (especially during the angry times) it is unbearable. I know there is a mature, loving man deep inside that wants to be formed, and I know all he needs is a community of other men. But how does one go about encouraging him to find/create such a community without threatening?

  • Richard Loebl, LCSW

    December 18th, 2010 at 1:17 PM

    Dear VJenz, This is such a good question – thank you for your response. It’s so important that you can see and feel the mature, loving man in your husband. There are many things you can do, coming from that place in your heart and your mind – that place that recognizes and cares for that part of your husband. You may want to try several different approaches based on what you already know about him. Perhaps you can start right here! Let him know that you stumbled upon this web site and these blog postings. Maybe he would be interested in reading about men – written from a man’s perspective. Also, you can explore the therapists in your geographic area by using the search area of this web site. See if you can identify some therapists who may be sensitive to these kind of issues with men. Perhaps you will even find some men’s support or therapy groups this way. You can call or email therapists in your local area and ask them if they know about any groups. And I think a good approach to talking with him is to be direct, using your own warmth and loving sensitivity to talk to him about what you see in him. Something like (in your own words) “You know, I love what I see and feel in you. You have so much wisdom, maturity and love in you. Sometimes it feels like you protect that part of you with something like a shell. Is there anything you would like me to do in order for you to let me in?” And when he’s angry, maybe you can simply acknowlege his anger, and suggest that when things cool down, the two of you can talk about it together. My last thought is that it may be helpful for you to talk to a therapist, or join a support group such as Co-dependents Anonymous to find out more ways to connect with that part of him that you care so much for. Good luck with that! Richard

  • Mike

    May 23rd, 2011 at 4:22 PM

    I find myself to be the demographic stated here. At 20, many of my friends have began figured themselves out where as I’m totally lost, and feel stuck and emasculated. Do you have any suggestions for treatment?

  • Dom

    October 13th, 2014 at 9:43 AM

    I’m a 40 year old male who never broke the mold. My father was strict, and I was overly obedient; something I regret now. I never had a chance to play & I wasn’t offered parental advice. I never really made friends, or dated. As a result, as high school ended, I felt embarrassed to let people in. Now thinking “I’m entering a more adult realm”. It got worse when I graduated, and had to be amongst adults in the ‘working’ world. #1 I was afraid to be me (not knowing who that was anyways), and I DIDN’T want to be working for lack of play during my formative years, and for not knowing what I wanted to do. A series of bad jobs in 2 year stints here and there, and then my father becoming ill with alzheimers and then subsequently becoming his care giver, lead me to 37 years of age; living all but 1 year with my parents. At 37, after he went into a nursing home, I applied for a job at a supplement store, and then became manager. 2 years of that, and the sales pressure, I quit, and went into nursing school on the advice of a psychic. My family has all moved to the west coast, while I am still on the east. Alone, with few friends, no girlfriend still, and disliking the program. Us LATEs, I would guess, if there was a trend, maybe didn’t branch out, or get love we wanted, or freedom to explore that we wanted, growing up. Now at 40, out of work and supposedly focusing on school, I’m reverting to a teen, and past memories are being dredged up. My advice: stay working and go back to school at night if you want to switch careers. This way, with no support, is too emotionally (and financially) challenging.

  • Dom

    October 13th, 2014 at 9:49 AM

    I still just want to ‘play’, but feel I have to ‘work’. I have the dating mentality of a 15 year old, even though I’ve experienced other lessons, traumas, etc., throughout life. I can’t seem to resolve the two aspects of myself so that I can provide for myself and be happy, in spite of seeing a psychologist the last 5 or 6 weeks. Mom was everything to me, (mother father and best friend), and she’s moved out west to be with my sister and her family. Now that she’s gone, I’m lost and confused. My self-esteem, I’m realizing, when I stepped out in to the world, stemmed from her. I would engage with people, be friendly, and then return home to mom. Now, I’m struggling to figure out who I am. Still attracted to 20 year olds because dating wise, that’s where I still am… but my looks are starting to catch up with my age.

  • Heather

    June 3rd, 2015 at 7:03 PM

    Is there any more literature that can elaborate on the theory you have discussed here? I feel certain that I am currently married to a late man. I am at the end of my rope coping with the aggression and emotional abuse. How can you convince a man like this that immaturity is a problem?

  • The GoodTherapy.org Team

    June 3rd, 2015 at 8:28 PM

    Thank you for your comment, Heather. We wanted to provide links to some resources that may be relevant to you here. We have more information about emotional abuse at https://www.goodtherapy.org/therapy-for-emotional-abuse.html and additional information about what to do in a crisis at https://www.goodtherapy.org/in-crisis.html

    Warm regards,
    The GoodTherapy.org Team

  • Lisa

    July 24th, 2015 at 9:16 AM

    In another post from 2013, you stated you would write about how to change men’s behavior with LATE syndrome. Where can I find it? Thank you.

  • Lisa

    November 28th, 2015 at 2:27 PM

    Where is your next article on what to do if you’re a LATE man? My son fits the criteria to a T and needs solutions. He has every criterion you mentioned, yet what are the answers? See? I’m doing the work for him; he’s not doing it himself. I emailed you when he was living in the area of your practice, but never got a reply. If he doesn’t change, it will kill me. I can’t take it anymore. He won’t leave home and gets angry at any suggestions on how to take responsibility. He has a lot of medicL and mental issues that need addressing. I can’t do it anymore because I’m in cancer treatment. I need him to live a life. He’s 29 and missing the best years of his life! And I need him out of my house! It went from being clean and organized while he was in Florida to a disaster area. I am becoming like him. I can’t function. I lay in bed all day playing on my iPad, haven’t cleaned the house or done laundry in 6 months. I can’t go on like this and neither can he. HELP US PLEASE!

  • Ebrahim

    March 26th, 2017 at 11:19 AM

    This is a brilliant article. I am looking for guidance to implement training courses in the community

  • Richard Loebl

    March 28th, 2017 at 11:26 AM

    Thank you for your kind words Ebrahim. If you would like further information about training courses in the community, please contact us directly via my profile linked above.

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