A social media friend was having relationship trouble. Biological clock was ticking. She desperately wanted to be a mother. Dude she was with was apparently not interested in that. He wasn’t committing, kind of stringing her along.
We spent a lot of time on messenger. I gave her advice. She followed some of that advice, the stuff that involved reading this dude the riot act. She gave an ultimatum, and he walked.
But then he figured out what he’d lost, smartened right the fuck up, crawled back, and they lived happily ever after. I love seeing pics of their baby. Go me.
I told you this story because the so-called “men’s rights activists” seem to believe I’m a self-loathing man who hates all men and will take any opportunity to shit on us. It’s true that we men do often suck. But despite that, there are still plenty of women who seem to love us, proving that sexuality is not a choice. (Apologies for the heteronormity of this article—I’ve been married to a wonderful woman for 25 years and I write what I know.)
And yeah, there are terrible women too. This piece is about terrible men. You want a piece about how shitty some women are? Go write your own article. I’m sure it will be popular with the incel crowd. Now fuck off.
There are good men. There are men who would like to be better. There are men who can improve. There are men who have the ability to make the women in their lives happy.
I’m a fan of lasting, loving relationships. I’m not an accredited relationship coach, but I’ve talked quite a few friends through tough times. And I always start with the position of “Let’s see if we can save this.”
Because right now, due to COVID-19, you might be isolated with them. It’s a good time to figure out if you really want to stay with this person. Or perhaps your wedding got delayed, and it is going to turn into a blessing in disguise, a bullet dodged. Or maybe social isolation is cooling things off, and this piece will cause you to rethink warming them up again once Mother Abigail and Randall Flagg have their final showdown.
But what the fuck do I know about dating a man? Well, nothing. I only know about being a man and striving to be a better one for the woman I love. To get the details I needed I reached out to the women who follow me on social media and got several hundred comments and messages about deal breakers when it comes to relationships with men.
I read all those stories and compiled them into these twenty categories that warn you it’s time to ditch the douche. FYI, when I first came up with the idea for this article, I figured it would be 10 categories, not 20. But, well, you know. Men.
And you may believe that some are missing. Like “He smokes” or “He drinks too much” or “He does drugs.” It is perfectly fine for you to have these things as deal breakers, but not all people are the same.
People who smoke / drink / do drugs are allowed to have long-term relationships that make each other happy. As long as those in the relationship are cool with it, we have no place in saying they shouldn’t. Don’t be a concern troll. Additionally, people are allowed to say they won’t marry anyone who isn’t Christian, just as atheists are permitted to not want to be with anyone who is a staunch believer. Some people want to spend most of their time with each other, whereas other couples are perfectly happy to have a lot of time apart, doing their own thing. Some couples like to dance the night away, and others want to smoke a joint, destroy a bag of Doritos together, and binge Tiger King.
There are plenty of specific things that are deal breakers to the individual. One friend posted about a man being a slob as a huge turnoff, but if both in the couple are happy being slobs, then that’s their business. Individual turnoffs are not what this piece is about. This article is for analyzing broad-sweeping character flaws that shouldn’t be tolerated by anyone.
This isn’t about preferences, it’s about violations.
1. He’s Violent
One woman responded to my query for this article telling me of how her soon-to-be-ex-husband stabbed her with a knife in front of their children. The blade barely missed her heart and she almost died.
Margaret Atwood said, “Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.” And the statistics bear this out. I wrote a piece about how the vast majority of violence in society is committed by men, then followed it up with a piece that included an analysis of intimate partner violence. (Other pieces of mine regarding horrifying male behavior toward women are here and here.)
Almost 20% of women will be raped at some time in their lives. And for over half of them, it was an intimate partner who did it. And one in six women will be victims of stalking, and two-thirds of those stalkers are a former intimate partner. What’s more, one in four women have experienced “severe physical violence” from an intimate partner.
Violence escalates. It often starts small.
These men don’t get better, they get worse.
At the first sign of violence, throw the whole man out.
2. He Is Critical of Your Body
Haven’t we all had enough of this body shaming bullshit yet? Jesus Muppet Fucking Christ it’s time we got over it. No one looks like the person on the cover of a magazine. Even those models who posed for those pictures don’t look like that.
He wants you to lose weight, grow your hair, wear less makeup, wear more makeup, dress differently, shave this, wax that, go under the knife . . .
Fuck all of that shit. He either loves YOU, or he doesn’t.
Over time, gravity wreaks havoc upon us all. Don’t be with someone who cannot accept this reality.
3. He Doesn’t Respect Boundaries
Everyone has their own kinks and tolerances and pains and pleasures. Some like to do stuff that makes others cringe. You have your boundaries, and while trusting, playful experimentation can be fun, it’s okay for you to nope right the fuck out of stuff that crosses your line. If he doesn’t respect that, if he whines and wheedles and complains, read him the aforementioned riot act. If he swings and misses on that warning, ditch the fucker.
Note that this doesn’t just apply to sex, but any type of personal boundaries.
4. He’s a Pathological Liar
Everyone fibs a little. There is no such thing as a completely honest person. But there are people who have a character flaw that makes being truthful anathema for them.
They’re not worth your time.
5. He’s Unwilling to Improve
“Don’t try to change him” is bullshit advice.
But “change” is a scary word for a lot of people, which is why I prefer “improve.” No one is perfect. Everyone has room for improvement. We should all strive to be better people.
If he thinks he perfectly fine the way he is, he’s not.
6. He Blames Everyone but Himself
You know the guy with the long list of “crazy exes”?
It’s not him who is the dirtbag, it’s them! Everything is always someone else’s fault. He is incapable of taking responsibility for his actions or owning up to his failings.
Fuck that guy. And by that, I recommend that you not ever fuck that guy.
7. He Has No Life
If he has no life, it means he wants to take over yours.
8. He’s Just Mean to You
There is good-natured teasing that couples often playfully engage in, and then there is being mean-spirited. He belittles and insults you and makes you question your worth as a human being.
9. He Acts Like He Owns You
This isn’t the fucking dark ages. You have agency. You don’t need his permission to live your life.
10. He Breaks the Rules
Different couples have different rules. As an example, some are strictly monogamous, whereas others have open relationships. It is important that each couple establish their own rules (and to hell with what society says) and live by them. If you agree that sleeping with other people is a deal breaker, then it is. He needs to abide by that rule if he wants to be with you.
11. It’s All About What He Wants
This runs the gamut.
You don’t get a say in what restaurant you go to. It’s always what he wants to watch on TV. If you are in a crisis and need him but the game is on, you’re out of luck. He never steps up to help you, because he can’t be bothered. He is unreliable, undependable.
And sex? Here’s a quote from one woman who answered my query: “It was always about him. Literally did not care if I orgasmed or not. I felt like I was a vessel for him to jizz in and then he’d go to sleep.”
You want a giving relationship, not a taking one.
12. He Is Looking for Someone to Take Care of Him
You want to be free to look after yourself, not engage in endless labor, emotional or otherwise, to care for him as well.
You don’t want to be constantly compared to his mother because of all the things she did for him.
You want a partner, not another child to look after.
Yours is the only adult ass you should need to wipe.
13. He Doesn’t Respect You
We are talking about potentially the closest relationship you will ever have in your life. You can’t develop that kind of closeness with someone who doesn’t admire and look up to you. Because if they don’t respect you, they won’t strive to be better men themselves in order to earn your ongoing love and appreciation.
On this note, if you’re smarter than him, and he can’t handle that, get the fuck out. Lots of guys say they want a smart woman, but the reality is that many of those men are lying. You shouldn’t need to dumb yourself down for anyone.
14. He’s Incapable of Giving a Sincere Apology
This is related to blaming everyone else for their own failings.
A sincere apology isn’t followed by the word “But.”
A sincere apology comes after careful thought about one’s actions and the consequences of them.
A sincere apology is followed by a concerted effort to make amends.
A sincere apology involves not doing the thing that required the apology over and over again in the future.
15. He is Filled with Hate
You know, I didn’t really want to get into politics on this one, because I suppose it’s somehow possible to be a MAGA-hat-wearing Trumpanzee and also not be a bigoted diaper stain. Maybe.
But if they have hate in their heart for another race, gender, sexuality, religion etc., that’s a toxic personality you’d be better off without.
Hating Nickelback doesn’t count.
16. He Doesn’t Trust You
Assuming you’re actually trustworthy, jealousy is not a good look on anyone. I expect most of us have a little of it, as for many it is just human nature. A little can be tolerated. Possessive and controlling though? Needing to check your phone, track your movements, do the car odometer math? It’s often a harbinger of future violence against you.
17. Your Gut Says It’s Wrong
Women have been gaslighted about their instincts, told that it’s all in their head, since cave drawings were the primary form of entertainment.
I wrote an entire science-based book about the power of the unconscious mind to steer you toward the proper path. If your gut says run, fucking run.
18. He Steals from You
There are many forms that this can take. You need to ask yourself why. Why is he stealing? What is this money for?
Also, why the fuck would you stay with someone who steals from you?
19. He’s a Musician
Okay, not really. But someone left this as a comment, and it made me laugh.
And there were other women who replied to the comment in agreement. So who knows? Maybe there is something to it.
Apologies to the good men who are musicians. I wanted a round number for the list.
20. Your Dog Doesn’t Like Him
The musician one may not have been serious, but this one is.
Listen to the dog. The dog knows.
My new book THE HOLY SH!T MOMENT, is now available. GET IT HERE!
James S. Fell, MA, MBA, has bylines in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, the Guardian, TIME Magazine, and many other publications. His blog has millions of readers and he is the author of two books: The Holy Sh!t Moment: How Lasting Change Can Happen in an Instant (St. Martin’s Press, 2019), and Lose it Right: A Brutally Honest 3-Stage Program to Help You Get Fit and Lose Weight Without Losing Your Mind (Random House Canada, 2014). Order them here.