The best “boyfriend” I ever had never used the label

Or bought me flowers. Or even texted every day.

artist: Urban Cake Lady

We distract ourselves with bullshit.

We make up play-pretend lists of stupid shit we think we need to make a decent partner. But shit’s not real.

Things like texting every day and always texting back, ideally immediately. Flowers, Dates (capital D), emotional and financial security.

Committing formally — having the DTR convo, labeling himself our “bf” and us his “gf,” then introducing us around town accordingly

The problem with all of this is that they are markers, not makers, of a relationship.

Jumping straight to these is a short-sighted short-cut, and missing the point. People look for them as evidence because they’re easy, objective things (he either does or does not do them) to point to, but the issue is that it’s all so fucking easy to fake.

Any number of dudes can run through this list. And in fact, the truly toxic ones have perfected the act.

The most toxic guy I ever dated (who, incidentally, was obsessed with being “the perfect boyfriend” and wanted me to often reaffirm this in words), did everything a “boyfriend” “should”— took me on Dates, bought me flowers and other gifts for no reason, and, yeah, labeled us and always texted back. He swore up and down he’d never loved anyone like me, and went out of his way every day to “show it.”

But guess what? Despite all this, it turned out he was a complete codependent. And all kinds of emotionally-abusive fucked up.


You can build an entire “relationship” buttressed with labels and lovey nicknames, but that doesn’t make the soul of it any stronger.

I can go days without him texting, because I already know he’s thinking about me. And I couldn’t give two shits if he never wants to use the terms “boyfriend” and “girlfriend.”

Because that shit’s all so easily faked, and does not a real relationship make.

Here’s what actually matters in a partner (and what my best — albeit non-labeled — lover actually did):

  • Being secure, reasonable, and straightforward as fuck. The dude had solid self-esteem and emotional stability. He never manipulated — ever — and he was never clingy or whiny; didn’t demand affirmation, make excuses, lie, get defensive, or seek revenge; he never struggled with jealousy or attachment or crippling anxiety. He actually listened when I shared something, took responsibility for his own mistakes and, good god, apologized appropriately, without ever adding “but…” He was above all logical and dependable, which made him rugged and sexy AF. He may not have made grandiose romantic gestures, but he also didn’t fuck with me or fall short. So while he never bought me flowers, he also never bought flowers for the sake of manipulation or easy-outs, and I’ll happily choose fewer flowers in exchange for a solidity I can trust. He had one baseline and he stuck the fuck to it, and that’s worth more than all the romance in the world.
  • Thinking. This guy was nothing if not a critical thinker. He knew facts, sure, but moreover he understood how to problem-solve raw; would approach shit and circle around it like a herd dog on sheep and come away with something within minutes, regardless of his knowledge going in. Totally sexy and refreshing as fuck. I didn’t have to explain shit to this guy over and over, and I never had to worry his views would be skewed. He was incredibly attentive and in tune with all that was me, and yet — see above — balanced enough not to let it all get to him. He figured out on his own how to make me happy and then just went and did it. But — again, see above — never in a way that got grabby.
  • Being a friend. Pretty straightforward. Shit’s kinda nice. 👯 🙌

I would take all of this over any car and any cute gesture any day of the week. I would happily go a lifetime without calling each other “boyfriend” and “girlfriend” as long as I get this shit either way.

Keep your labels and lilies and Louis Vuitton and leave me the shit that actually matter.