Love is arguably the most beautiful emotion felt by humans around the world. It’s an emotion that heals, reconciles, excites, births new relationships, and creates hope for the future — but in my case, it almost destroyed me.
Up until two years ago, I had been in relationships but nothing quite like this. No one is perfect, and some of my exes missed the mark in significant ways, but this guy, my ex, took the cake.
How can someone who presented the picture of the perfect man turn out to be the monster I came to know? What was the purpose of the pain, emotional abuse, and neglect? These were the questions I kept asking myself — why me?
It seems life had to teach me some lessons so that in time I could share my experiences so that no one else would have to go through what I went through.
And so it is settled. Without a doubt, I dated a fuck boy, but how can they be identified before they do more damage?
1. Lack of tact and empathy
Also known as having low emotional intelligence, I discovered this key trait in my ex, which reared its ugly head now and then.
An article from the popular mental health blog, Verywellmind, lists out the characteristics of people who lack empathy as people who say the wrong things at the wrong time, are always critical of others, don’t do well with accepting criticism, are insensitive, and always have to be right.
One example from my experience was when I would have conversations with my ex about how I wanted him to call more often. It was a long-distance relationship, you see. He didn’t take too well to my request and told me he may or may not change, and that was that.
Or the time I stayed over at his place for a week, had some pancakes for breakfast, and he turned to me after I had finished my food and said that I eat fast and that eating fast could be a deal-breaker for him if I don’t learn to eat slower.
All these and many more were key signs of a person who lacked emotional intelligence. Please don’t sleep on this as I did. If you notice this frequent behaviour in your partner, it’s time to sit back and re-evaluate your relationship.
2. Pride and unwillingness to apologize
If you’ve lived long enough to offend people, which I’m sure we all have, you would know that apologizing when you’re wrong can be one of the most humbling experiences. It can be painful and requires a healthy dose of humility.
Notwithstanding, Pride has no place in a relationship because it will soon make the relationship a breeding ground for contempt and resentment.
Research from Hershey H. Friedman (2006) for the Journal of college and character looks into the apologies that show no remorse. Apologies that don’t address the issue, but rather use wordings like ‘If I’ or ‘If you.’ He termed these types of apologies conditional apologies, which do not heal but only make matters worse.
From my experience, my ex hardly apologized, and the few times he did, it was conditional. He used ‘if’ a lot. But I was in love, and because I was so used to him not apologizing, the few times he did, I hung on to it — at least a half-apology was better than nothing.
Looking back, I feel regret for not loving myself enough to realize I deserved better than that. If your partner finds it hard to apologize, it is a red flag that you shouldn’t ignore.
3. Selfish and inconsiderate
Where love dwells, there is a willingness to go out of your way for the ones you love. You don’t think twice before attending to the needs of your partner, family, friends, and those you hold dear.
But when your romantic partner is consistently adamant about doing things for you but has no problem demanding you do stuff for them, it’s another clear sign you are dating a douche.
Since it was a long-distance relationship, I decided to travel to his side of the pond to see him. I made a simple request — that he take me to watch some classical music concert in his city. He refused to do it and didn’t bother to open the link I sent.
When I asked him why? His response was, “I’m a home-body, and I don’t like going out. Concerts are not my thing.”
Or the time I asked him ever so sweetly what we were planning for Valentine’s day, and he immediately got angry telling me that he doesn’t “do” valentine’s day, and he won’t get me anything unless he feels like it.
However, on his end, he would tell me what he liked and didn’t like, and I would comply. It’s no surprise that his selfishness permeated every other aspect of our relationship. I was disappointed on all fronts.
Studies show that selfish people provide a low level of support to their partners, which leads to negative consequences, such as conflict or the end of the relationship.
I was still way in over my head, and this wasn’t enough to end the relationship. But I sincerely hope you walk out faster than the speed of light if you find yourself in a similar position.
4. Withholding affection
It’s common for feelings of love or butterflies to ebb and flow in relationships. However, just because that intense feeling isn’t there doesn’t mean you don’t love the person. Some days the feeling is more heightened than others, but the awareness that love is there is ever-present.
If you love someone, it shouldn’t be a problem telling them ‘I love you.’ Arguments shouldn’t be an opportunity to be unkind or cold, especially if things have been resolved.
One tell-tale sign your partner could be a fuck boy is when he withholds affection from you after an argument. When you feel like you have to work your way back to his love each time there is a misunderstanding — -especially after you’ve tried to make peace.
My ex was an expert at doing that. The words ‘I love you were scarce, and there was always some excuse as to why he couldn’t say it. It’s common sense that he just wasn’t that into me, and I wondered why he dated or initiated contact with me in the first place.
Love isn’t unkind, neither is it cold. If your relationship seems to fall below zero degrees, it’s time to vacate to a warmer place.
5. He treats you better in public than he does in private
This has to be the most sinister thing. Having a partner that treats you a certain way when he is in front of his family and friends can be confusing and keep you trapped in a relationship that isn’t good for you.
I was blindsided by the times we would be with his friends or family, and he would be super affectionate towards me. His friends and family were singing his praises about how much of a great guy he was. But shortly after, when we were away from them, I saw a different side of him.
This dual behavior confused me, and it took me a long time, even after the breakup, to come to terms that who he was in public wasn’t true and that how he treated me in private was all that mattered.
How a person behaves in private is the strongest test of character. It would help if you looked out for inconsistency. If your partner treats you better when you are in public or treats his friends better than he treats you, it’s an indicator that something is wrong.
With so many resources online and awareness around red flags to look out for in relationships, it’s a mystery how we still find ourselves in these situations. It’s easy to beat yourself up for staying longer than you should in a toxic relationship, but it’s important we remember to show ourselves compassion.
After all, human beings are wired for relationships and community. It is never an easy thing to detach oneself from someone with who we have bonded. It is a hard thing as studies from neuroscientists have shown an association with feelings of distress, physical pain, and acute loneliness when we disconnect from people we form relationships with.
But even with the risk of pain, it is far better to leave a bad partner and have peace of mind than to stay and suffer the consequences that come with these types of men.
After I left the relationship, I suffered a near mental breakdown and had to seek help from a therapist. I couldn’t understand what I just went through, but I’m glad I healed, and I’m in a much better place.
If I let fear hold me back, I wouldn’t know the joy I experience now. So if this is your story, take a deep breath and map out your next steps because I promise you it only gets better from here.