Relationship Deal Breakers

by Nancy Travers,LCSW

When starting a relationship, one often looks for a partner who displays certain traits and behaviors. These are the “must haves.” We also all have personal lists of qualities known as “deal-breakers.” These are characteristics and behaviors which are non-negotiable. Bargaining and compromising are not options. Formulating a list of your personal deal-breakers (boundaries) and sticking to that list can save you the time and pain of entering and exiting the wrong relationship. After you create your list, talk about it with your partner!

Many breakups or divorces occur due to disagreements and misunderstandings between partners. However, there are three main differences which must be discussed and agreed upon from the start:

  • Children-to have or not to have, how many
  • Employment-who will be the major breadwinner and who will stay home with the kids
  • Dishonesty-to include lying and infidelity

Disagreements and dishonesty about finances as well as communication and control issues are also red flags they can turn into deal-breakers. Many of these issues may be resolved if both partners are willing to address them openly and honestly.

Any form of abuse, whether physical, mental, emotional, or substance abuse is a deal-breaker for many. Excessive lying, often called pathological lying, may be a deal-breaker as well. Public criticism or scorn, constant correction and scolding like one may do with a child may also be deal-breakers. If one partner enters a relationship with excessive debt, a lengthy conversation may be required regarding financial issues and money management to avoid a deal-breaker.

Other deal-breakers are more personal on an individual level. Liking and accepting a partner’s family, children and friends is a deal-breaker for some people. Egotism, insecurity, low self esteem and jealousy sometimes go hand in hand and can be deal-breakers for many. Even poor eating habits and no exercise routine are turnoffs for some.

Sometimes, one person’s deal-breaker is tolerable to someone else. Thefrisky.com reports many individuals’ deal-breakers, some of which are contradictory. For some women, men who want too much sex are out, while for others not enough sex or really bad sex is a deal-breaker.

Dates that are overly intellectual are turnoffs for some women while for others, those who are not smart enough don’t make the cut. A date who is too silent or too verbose, an overly dirty talker or just plain gives “too much information” can be a deal breaker. Even a date who says “I love you” too soon or too frequently can be a turnoff.

Criticizing one’s weight, grooming or clothes can be a deal-breaker. Also are tattoos, too many eccentricities or liking Barry Manilow.

The list goes on and on. No two people have the exact same deal breakers. While we know what we want-chemistry, loyalty, good communication, honesty and kindness-the deal breakers are as varied as snowflakes. Exploring, defining and knowing your personal deal breakers can save a lot of wasted time on relationships that may fail in the long run.


Nancy Travers is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She specializes in all types of relationships; We all want them, We all need them; How to get em and Keep them. Nancy’s office is located at 2212 Dupont Dr., Suite I, Irvine, Ca. 92612.

For more information or to make an appointment, call 949-510- 9423 or contact us.
copyright a division of Counseling Corner, Inc.
As seen in The Blade magazine June 2005.

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