Deal Breakers in a Relationship

Published 09/28/2021

Cultivating a healthy connection requires ongoing communication and compromise from both partners throughout the relationship. Start your relationship on a healthy path by discussing your expectations, boundaries, and deal breakers from the start. We all bring our own past experiences, points of view, and desires for our futures into our relationships. Being open and honest from the first date about what you will and won’t tolerate can help to alleviate any negative behaviors before they become entrenched and difficult to change. When you begin a new relationship with authenticity, you set honesty as an expectation for the future of the relationship.

What’s a deal breaker in a relationship?

Deal breakers are behaviors, values, and/or characteristics of a potential long term partner that you fundamentally disagree with. Deal breakers are useful tools to prevent potential unhealthy behaviors, unbalanced relationship roles, or potentially dangerous situations in your relationship. Discussing your dating deal breakers is the first round in vetting out any deviations from you values and intended lifestyles and will bring you and your potential partner closer if your preferences are align.

Immediate Relationship Deal Breakers

While some deal breakers may allow flexibility in compromise, other seriously offending deal breakers are red flags and cannot be endured or overlooked. Any of the following violations, especially in cases that cause harm to our physical, mental, and/or emotional well-being, should be immediately addressed and eradicated by removing yourself from the relationship.

Physical Abuse

Physical abuse should never be tolerated in any relationship and is an immediate deal-breaker. If your partner is physically abusive they are enforcing power, control, and other manipulative tactics to disrespect and harm you. If you can, walk away immediately. If you feel you are unable to do it alone, reach out to a friend, family member, or professional for help. If you are experiencing any abuse and feel unable to safely remove yourself from the relationship, please outreach your local domestic violence hotline for support and safety.

Verbal/Emotional Abuse

Communication is an important tool for understanding your partner. Unfortunately it can also be used as a weapon to harm, demean, threat, and control. If your partner uses language to criticize instead of connect, it is a big red flag. Listed below are some examples of how your partner may be using language against you instead of to work with you. Be aware of the following red flags and leave the relationship as soon as you notice these deal breaking behaviors.

  • Insulting your character, calling you names
  • Yelling, screaming, or threatening to punish or expose you
  • Tries to alter the past to make them look better or using your past as an intention to hurt you
  • Makes you feel that you are always in the wrong or need to make up for hurting them
  • Controlling your actions, attire, routines, or contacts with friends and family

Cheating

There are many different relationship lifestyles and nontraditional relationship formats in the dating world, so it is important to discuss each other’s preferences for romantic and sexual arrangements from the beginning. Whether you choose to be in a monogamous, poly, or other lifestyle, make sure to discuss expectations, boundaries, and agreed-on allowances of how you will navigate romantic and sexual encounters within your relationships. If your partner is breaking the rules on what you have discussed as cheating, it’s a sign that they were not open and honest, which is a top deal breaker and cause for separation.

Substance Abuse

Addictions are historically deeply rooted maladaptive reactions to one’s journey through their life experiences, relationships, and predominantly through traumas. Substance abuse can cause enormous strain to relationships, and can even become the cause for arguments and lack of quality time. If the using partner is not ready to relinquish the hold and seek help towards recovery, the substances will always overpower and win. You do not want to be second to a mind and body altering substance, take this as a red flag and move on.

What is a personal deal breaker?

Personal deal breakers are characteristics and values that you witness in a partner that deviate from your own in a way that you are unable or uncomfortable to live with. Common relationship deal breakers can be desires for or against children, practicing or relinquishing religion, and differences in lifestyle preferences.

19 Common Personal Deal Breakers

Meeting a potential romantic partner provides an opportunity to express your wants, needs, and non-negotiables for the relationship from the start. Listed below are the most common deal breakers that you can bring to your new partner and discuss where each of you stand and if there is availability for compromise or if you need to find someone else that is more compatible.

Wanting / Not Wanting Kids

Children can be a top deal maker or deal breaker for many people looking for a partner. With the rise of acceptance for differing lifestyles and more access to career and educational growth, more and more people are able to choose children rather than it being an expectation. With this new flexibility, it has become even more important to discuss your own choices for or against children at the beginning of a relationship so you know if your pathways will align or separate.

Liking/Disliking Their Friends

Meeting your partner’s friends allows you to get an additional glimpse into your partner’s world. If you like their friends and develop a comfortability around them, you will feel more confident when you meet with them for events and have more trust for your partner is out with them solo. However, if you are unable to connect, respect, or interweave yourself with your partner’s social circles, it can feel frustrating, isolating, and may cause future conflict when they are discussed or when you or your partner meets with them.

Different Saving / Spending Habits

Finances are one of the crucial pillars of our livelihood, and can also be a top deal breaker depending on your preferences. Make sure your financial habits are able to align or complement each other by asking questions about how each other manages their financial responsibilities, fun money, and even what they are saving for. Your partner may be more interested in possessions and you may be more interested in experiences. While differences are natural, it’s important to discuss how your differing lifestyles will work with or against one another.

Different Social, Political, Religious Beliefs

Knowing your partner’s preferences and affiliations can help you to understand how they navigate within their world. What are their individual religious, spiritual, or otherwise beliefs? How important or not important is it to you and to them? How do your political affiliations impact you and your relationships? If you’re looking for a long-term partner, use open questioning to discover if there is compatibility, and remember, strong opposing views without flexibility in these categories could be a recipe for disaster.

Being Needy or Clingy

We need our own individuality, time, and space. If you have a clingy partner, it vastly limits your availability to engage in activities within your own social circle or to find personal alone time. It can also add feelings of pressure, responsibility, and expectations to entertain and be the sole person for your partner. Always having a partner in need is exhausting and is one most common undesirable personality traits to have in a partner.

Lack of Aspiration

Aspirations guide you into your desired direction for a better well-being. When we see our partner move towards their aspirations, we find them more desirable because we witness them being more confident and more assured in their sense of self. It can be very deflating to have a partner that is unable to move towards their independent aspirations or is unable to tap into their own uniqueness. If you’re looking for a go-getting mate, someone without a plan may be a deal breaker for you.

Can’t Trust Them

Trust in the relationship is crucial. It exhibits and provides respect, reliability, and confidence for and with each other. A healthy relationship is nourished by your dependability on your partner to be reasonably accessible, supportive, and present in the relationship. It is a huge warning sign if you can’t trust your partner and can cause future strife and resentment in your relationship.

Stubbornness / Unwilling to Compromise

We all bring our own individuality and preferences into relationships. Take notice if your partner is stubborn, stuck in their ways, or is uninterested in your point of view. If you are met with a partner who is unable or unwilling to compromise, you can anticipate rigid conflict, and that’s a big deal breaker.

Poor Communication

Connection is one of the pivotal advantages of being in a relationship, but if you are unable to communicate, you will definitely be unable to connect. If you are feeling unheard or unable to understand your partner, you will have a hard time discovering each other and planning for your future. Additionally, differing communication styles, such as tone and verbiage, can be hot buttons for re-triggering. Take notice of your behaviors and look for flexibility and compromise, if there is not, find a different mate who will match better with and for you.

Unwilling to Try New Things

We are filled with more and more access to the ever growing world around us, and many of us want to experience it! Couples report that a top quality that they appreciate about their partner is their love for traveling and having new experiences together. If you and your partner share differing views on trying new things, you may be spending a lot of time apart. Evaluate if this is a deal breaker for you or if you don’t mind having mostly solo adventures.

Different Diets / Preferences

Have you ever been stuck in a cycle of looking for restaurants that not only match your dietary needs but also your partners? It can be really difficult to find a place that checks all the boxes, so make sure to discuss your eating habits with your partner to see if you match or if you’ll be endlessly scrolling. It is also important to remember that some food preferences can be immediate deal breakers in a relationship, such as vegan, vegetarian, or carnivorous diets. Check in with your partner to see if there may be any potential sources of contention and complications when viewing the menu.

Too Much Time on Social Media

We want to feel chosen, not just an option but the one who is picked. When we notice our partner spending too much time scrolling through articles, playing mindless games, or even engaging in online arguments, we become second to the electronic. While it can be too much tv, too much Instagram, or too much video games, please remember that you have the time to pause and spend intentional and meaningful moments with each other. Make your time together or make the break to someone who can put the phone down for you.

Long Distance

Sometimes, we need some distance, but too much can create disconnection and falling out. Long distance is not just dating someone in another state, it’s also the availability for your partner to spend time with you. Ask about your potential partner’s routines, if they travel a lot for work., if they spend a lot of time with family or friends, if they can make the time to spend with you. This is especially important to take notice of when finding a partner online or through dating apps. If you know that distance is a deal breaker, find out from the beginning to save yourself from constantly comparing calendars.

Works Too Much

As much as your significant other may say that the money will solve all the issues, the main perpetrator in a partner that works too much is the loss of quality time. We want our partner to want to spend time with us now, and working for a future that is not guaranteed can make us feel set aside, waiting for that ideal moment when there’s “enough” money to relax, which there never will be. If you are looking for adventure, connection, and quality time in your long term relationship, someone who works too much might not be it.

Different Sex Drives

Partners that have mismatched sex drives may find it harder to find appropriate times to be intimate with each other and may need to work smarter to find ways to connect. Asking deliberate questions about preferences, kinks, and styles will help to attune or dissuade you from your potential mate.

Listed below are a few preference questions to ask your potential partner:

  • How often do you like to have sex?
  • How important is frequency and duration?
  • What time of the day do you feel most intimate?
  • Do you enjoy foreplay? Cuddling after?
  • Do you feel comfortable communicating during?

Doesn’t Prioritize You

Feeling special and appreciated are at the top of advantages in being in a romantic relationship. If your partner is putting other needs before your own, that can be a red flag. Let your partner know when and where you’re feeling less important and work towards finding more ways to integrate with each other. If you’re unable to find a way in, you might need to make your way out of the relationship.

Constant Fighting / Unwillingness to Resolve Conflict

Your time is valuable and it shouldn’t be spent constantly arguing with your partner, especially if they fight dirty. When you experience consistent rigidity and an inability to break through with your partner, you won’t be able to feel connection and the space to bring yourself into the relationship.

Uncomfortable Being Yourself

Comfortability is one of the top aspects that people look for when searching for a potential partner. You must be able to feel at ease around your person so that you are able to be your best and most authentic self. Other potential outcomes that can result from uncomfortableness around your significant other can include being in a bad mood, having bad sex, and experiencing rigidity physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Cleanliness

Bad breath? Poor hygiene? Can’t see the floor of their home? Cleanliness can be a hard boundary for some people in their homes, so taking a trip to a potential partner’s pad to check out and compare cleaning styles can save you a lot of time and arguments. Maintaining basic levels of cleanliness improves self-respect and good mental health, both of which are highly valued qualities that people look for in a partner.

Compromise is Key to Avoiding Deal Breakers

A compromise is an act of respect. When it is given and received in the beginning stages of a relationship it can give relief for the long run. Partners that compromise feel more able to adjust and align with one another and report feeling more “on the same page”. If you think your relationship needs more compromise, consider talking to a relationship expert during couples counseling. That can be a great way to introduce the concept on level ground. Make sure you are aware of you areas of flexibility in these deal breakers and be honest with your new partner on where there is room for compromise.

Some Things Will Never Change

It is important to be aware that our deal breakers exist on a spectrum, and that flexibility and compromise are ideal, but not guaranteed. If you are experiencing consistent rigidity, weigh your options to see if the deal breaker or behaviors can be adjusted or move on to the next relationship.

Bonnie Irey, Seattle Therapist

Bonnie Irey, Seattle Therapist

My therapeutic approach involves collaboratively cultivating open and non-judgemental communication with empathetic understanding and empowering active self-work through critical thinking and self-exploration.

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