Deal Breakers In a Relationship

Avoiding the Pitfalls: Understanding and Overcoming Deal Breakers in Relationships

Very few relationships end up successful, and approximately 70% fail before the one-year mark. In many cases, it’s because the partners involved have set deal breakers. You’ll often hear people say that a certain trait is a deal breaker for them, but what does it mean? And is it that serious that it makes a relationship unsustainable? To find out, you have to learn what it is, some of the most common ones, and ways to address them.

What are Deal Breakers In a Relationship?

In a relationship, deal breakers are characteristics, values, or behaviours of the other partner that you disagree with. Having a set of deal breakers can help you avoid unbalanced roles in a relationship, unhealthy behaviours, and potentially dangerous situations. There are some that are considered universal deal breakers, for example abuse or cheating, but surprisingly these are not always true, these are often just personal beliefs.

It prevents people from settling for less and investing their time in a relationship that will make them unhappy. However, not all people have the same deal breakers. Although there are some common ones, like anger issues and physical or sexual abuse, these can depend on what people perceive as the ideal relationship. Now, you’re probably wondering what qualifies as a deal breaker and whether certain aspects are negotiable. To understand the concept better, let’s look at some of the common deal breakers for people.


What Are Some Common Relationship Deal Breakers?

For a relationship to thrive, partners should communicate, show genuine interest in each other, and have similar aspirations. But what if these things are absent? Here are some examples of the most common deal breakers in a relationship.

Cancelling Plans Last-Minute

It can be very upsetting when you make an effort to spend time with your significant other, only to have them cancel plans at the last minute. It’s one of the main reasons people consider ending their relationship and moving on.

Of course, emergencies can indeed come up, but when this becomes a pattern, it can be detrimental to the relationship. In fact, it’s even worse when the other person is indifferent about how it makes you feel. It can feel as if your partner doesn’t value your interests or doesn’t respect your time.

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They Have Different Moral Values

Despite how common the phrase ‘opposites attract’ is, it couldn’t be farther from the truth. This is especially the case for values and morals. It’s why, when choosing a partner, people want to make sure that the other person shares their views on the importance of family, ambition, or integrity.

While it’s great to be attracted to your partner and have chemistry with them, the novelty can wear off quickly. That’s when you discover that a potential partner has strikingly different values, which can lead to many hurdles.

Not Disclosing Finances

Surveys show that partners consider not disclosing one’s finances a red flag. Most people are concerned that if their partners are dishonest or secretive about their finances, they could also hide other things. Consequently, partners who pool their finances together are happier.

At the same time, many people report having separate accounts that their significant other doesn’t know about. This happens when a person wants to maintain control of their money and decides to have a separate account from their partner. However, it can lead to trust issues if a partner doesn’t disclose that they have a separate account.

Poor Money Management

The same applies to poor money management, or at the very least, not being on the same page about where they will spend their money. When looking for a potential partner, most people prefer that their partner shares financial responsibilities with them.

Similarly, they would regard poor money management as a deal breaker, which can prevent them from achieving their shared goals. For example, both of you were saving up to buy a car, but your partner used the money to buy a new TV. This can leave you feeling disappointed and frustrated, so if it becomes a repetitive pattern of behaviour, you may even consider ending the relationship.

Wanting/Not Wanting Children

Besides finances, wanting or not wanting children can be a sensitive discussion for couples, especially if they have entirely different opinions. This is among the most difficult areas to work through because, unlike trust or interest, which you can build over time, wanting to have children is a major part of a person’s personality.

By communicating with your partner, you can mention why you want (or don’t want) children. This can help some partners reach a compromise, but having (or not having) children is a huge change. In some cases, agreeing with your partner and putting aside your differences can lead to resentment in the long term, which is why many people consider it a deal breaker.

Bad Communication Skills

Healthy relationships, whether romantic or not, are built on good communication. So it doesn’t come as a surprise when people name poor communication as one of their deal breakers. But it’s important to remember that healthy communication can mean something entirely different to you and your partner. It’s a lot more than how often you call to check up on them or ask about their day.

In fact, communication includes both what you say and how you say it. Additionally, it covers how you talk about difficult and sensitive topics that you may want to avoid. For instance, how will you divide financial and childcare responsibilities, or how will you cut back on spending to get out of debt? Rather than letting the frustration build up inside you, it helps to speak about things honestly.

A Lack of Interest

This may sound like an odd deal breaker since you can’t expect to be in a relationship if both of you aren’t interested. On the contrary, it can be difficult to see the signs of a one-sided relationship. This is when your partner is showing little interest while you’re putting in all the effort.

This problem can manifest in many ways, like a partner that always talks about themselves and never stops to listen. Similarly, it can certainly feel like a deal breaker when they seem unenthusiastic about your family, friends, job, or interests.

Lack of Trust

Trust is crucial to finding a long-term partner and having a solid relationship. After all, when you don’t trust your partner, it’s not easy to sustain a long-term relationship. Although you can still love your partner, a lack of trust can affect your happiness, and lead you to constantly look for a new relationship.

Certain actions of one or both partners, like infidelity or crossing one’s boundaries, can affect the level of trust in the relationship. Many people report that such incidents are the biggest deal breaker and may cause them to break up.

This list is just the tip of the iceberg, and this list isn’t exhaustive. It can range from things like poor hygiene and low sex drive to problems like substance abuse and not being over one’s ex.

Controlling behaviour

Controlling behaviour is often a deal breaker because it becomes very difficult to relate to each other with this aspect going on. Controlling behaviour is really a sign of insecurity that is being projected onto another person, but it can cause a lot of difficulties.

Career Aspirations

Career aspirations can be a deal breaker in a committed relationship because they often reflect core values, priorities, and life goals that, when misaligned, can create fundamental rifts between partners. For instance, one person’s ambition for a high-flying career may necessitate sacrifices in time and presence, clashing with a partner’s desire for stability and shared moments. Similarly, geographical mobility for career advancement can challenge a relationship’s resilience, forcing choices between love and professional growth.


How to Figure Out Your Deal Breakers in a Relationship?

A common question people have about their standards is whether or not it makes the relationship a non-starter. After all, no one’s perfect, so you have to stop and wonder whether this characteristic or trait is just a flaw or something much more serious. Here’s how to figure out your deal breakers in a relationship:

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It Can Affect Your Ability to Have a Future Together

Any flaw can become a deal breaker if your partner lacks insight and fails to improve. While you can overlook a flaw if it only happens occasionally, a repetitive pattern can make it difficult to see a future together. Let’s say that your partner enjoys watching TV and playing video games. While it’s perfectly normal to spend the occasional Saturday on the couch while watching TV, it can be a problem if these habits get in the way of them fulfilling their responsibilities. Ask yourself if it will get in the way of them maintaining a stable job or taking care of the kids in the future. If that’s the case, their behaviour becomes a relationship deal breaker.

It Affects Other Parts of Your Relationship

While everyone has flaws in their personality or habits, it’s easier to brush them off when they don’t affect other aspects of your relationship. For instance, working late hours or incompatible shifts isn’t a major problem when you can still make time for each other on the weekend.

However, it can be a deal breaker if your partner frequently goes on business trips or has a career that requires them to be on-call. In this case, it will be up to them to set some boundaries at work so they can spend time with you, but if they don’t want to, it can make things difficult in the relationship.

It Conflicts With Your Core Values

When searching for a long-term partner, it’s better to have a set of core values you can’t compromise on. It’s much more objective than a list of deal breakers. Keep in mind that values aren’t the same as a person’s characteristics. For example, being intelligent is characteristic, while being curious is a value. So even if your partner isn’t, let’s say, smart, they can make up for it by being curious and willing to learn.

Ideally, you’ll want to set five core values that you share with your partner. So if one of your values is that you care about fitness and health, it’s not necessary that your potential partner has a toned physique and follows the same meal plan as you. But if he has no interest in it and shows no willingness to try living a healthier lifestyle, a minor flaw becomes a much bigger problem.

unbalanced roles in a relationship

How Deal Breakers Can Work Against You

Having standards as to the kind of person you’ll date or marry is a great way to find a long-term partner, but when in some cases, they can work against you. When you have too many, you create a relationship deal breakers list that sets incredibly high expectations.

Moreover, some deal breakers, like being a certain height or earning within a certain income bracket, can validate you but have little to do with the other person. That’s because factors like height and financial circumstances don’t reflect compatibility or are temporary. Instead, look at their values like honesty, ambition, and generosity. These traits aren’t temporary and can make all the difference between a relationship that lasts and one that fizzles out.

How To Narrow Down Your List of Deal Breakers

Now that we’ve discussed how too many deal breakers can affect your chances at a healthy relationship, you may want to know how to narrow them down. One of the ways is to determine if it really is a deal breaker, as mentioned above. The other way to do that is to reflect on personal deal breakers you practice with yourself.

Evaluate Your Behaviour

To start, think about your behaviour and if you’ve set deal breakers for yourself. After all, you can only hold people up to a standard if you also meet it. For example, do you think it’s unacceptable to lie or cheat? If that’s the case, you likely expect a potential mate to be completely honest with you.

At the same time, consider whether you have any deal breakers. Do you have any flaws you’d like a potential partner to ignore? Are you sloppy, disorganized, or a picky eater? Being aware of your flaws will help you think about deal breakers you’re willing to overlook in a potential partner.


How To Work Around Supposed Deal-Breakers

Relationships are serious business. You invest a lot of time, effort, and money to be together with a person, so breaking up because of a deal breaker can be painful. But it’s important to remember that deal breakers aren’t a signal to end the relationship, nor should they keep you from giving someone a chance. It’s possible to work around some of these, and here’s how you can do it.

Rebuild Trust

Let’s start with one of the biggest deal breakers, a lack of trust. Even if couples go through incidents like keeping secrets from one another, it’s still possible to rebuild broken trust. However, both of you must commit to addressing the issue. If you were hurt by their actions, only you can decide where the limit is. Hence, you must think about it from a place of strength, as opposed to feeling obligated to forgive the other person.

Make Time For Activities Together

If the issue is that one of you doesn’t prioritize the relationship as much as, say, your career or friends, one may be taking the other for granted. If this is the case, it’s easy to develop a pattern of behaviour in which your relationship takes a backseat.

To keep this from happening, ensure that you and your partner spend enough time together. Sure, this is difficult when you have several responsibilities and a busy schedule, but try looking for activities you can engage in together. Similarly, scheduling a date night each week can really make a difference in how happy you feel.

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

While there are plenty of solutions to individually address relationship deal breakers like the ones above, the underlying factor in a healthy relationship is communication. Often, people set silent expectations for their partners and don’t tell them. And when they fail to live up to these expectations of a successful relationship, they feel disappointed and frustrated. To make matters worse, they fail to communicate this disappointment, which continues to build up.

This happens until you have an outburst. That’s when your partner realises that the behaviour they thought was acceptable isn’t so. This can put immense strain on the relationship because the behaviour will likely become a habit by then. Therefore, it’s much better to communicate things from the get-go, even if it feels awkward.

Visit a Relationship Coach

While communication is critical to a successful relationship, it’s not always easy to start. That’s where it helps to see a relationship coach. They use effective techniques to help create communication between both partners. And once you start, you can build off that momentum and use it to discuss more sensitive topics leading towards a healthy and fulfilling relationship. Additionally, they can help guide one partner on how to change their behaviour and the other partner on how they adjust or adapt.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about deal breakers in a romantic relationship.

Can I talk about a deal breaker with my partner?

Yes, it helps to discuss your deal breakers early so you can discuss whether each person is comfortable adapting to the other’s expectations.

What are some deal breakers in a relationship?

Some of the most common ones include cheating, emotional abuse, and being secretive about finances.

How can I address relationship deal breakers?

Going to couples therapy and seeing a relationship coach is an effective way to start communicating with your partner.

Jason Shiers
Hello. My name is Jason Shiers

Certified Transformative Coach with 25 years of experience helping people live a better life.

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