Top 7 Deal Breakers in a Romantic Relationship

What are common dealbreakers in relationships?
Read time: 5 mins

From life plans to day-to-day habits, many issues can turn out to be deal breakers in a relationship. Some red flags may be clear on a first date, while others only make themselves known in long-term relationships. 

“As you go through relationships, you gain clarity on what is a dealbreaker for you,” says Moraya Seeger DeGeare, a licensed marriage and family therapist and In-House Relationship Expert at Paired.

“This is not because your past partner was terrible, but because you learn more about yourself and your needs for a fulfilling relationship.” 

Being aware of your personal relationship deal breakers is key to building – or ending – any partnership. So, where do you start? 

What are deal breakers in a relationship? 

Dealbreakers in a relationship refer to the factors or behaviors that an individual considers unacceptable or incompatible with their values, their well-being, or their other needs. 

It is important to define your dealbreakers before entering into a relationship, as identifying what you find non-negotiable, it’s easier to find your perfect partner. 

“There has been a recent rise in people using social media, particularly TikTok, to identify warning signs in relationships,” says Seeger DeGeare. 

“This trend is not due to an increase in problematic behavior among humans, but rather a growing appreciation for our own values. Rather than simply seeking a partner to settle down with, we are now emphasizing the importance of identifying dealbreakers that are rooted in our personal value systems. By doing so, we can avoid a lot of heartbreak down the road.”

Dealbreakers vary from person to person but they should reflect your core values, beliefs, and what you want from a romantic relationship. 

What are common deal breakers in a relationship?

The most common deal breakers in a relationship run the gamut from major lifestyle decisions to mundane habits. Certain sticking points could indicate serious problems, such as emotional abuse.

Others may reflect different perspectives which are fundamentally incompatible. Keeping an eye out for early warning signs and maintaining open, honest communication throughout your relationship can help identify potential deal breakers.

1. Finances

From savings to debt to daily expenses, money can be a big deal. It can also take time to gain an understanding of a potential partner’s attitude to money. A big spender might be obvious on the first date, but not how much they save, rely on credit cards, plan to earn in the future, or use to gamble.

It’s not necessary – and may not be sensible – to combine all finances with a partner, but lack of financial alignment can cause severe problems for any couple.

2. Core values and beliefs

While opposites can attract, strong disagreements on religious, political, or social beliefs may cause significant tension. A different faith or perspective can be informative and refreshing. However, some beliefs are ultimately incompatible and can’t be compromised on.

These issues can become particularly acute if children are involved: an omnivorous partner might be compatible with a vegan, but both may feel much more strongly about what their children will eat. Beliefs surrounding monogamy, marriage, and other relationship styles should also be explored before committing.

3. Children

Whether to have children is one of the biggest deal-breakers in any committed relationship. Some people make their desires clear on dating app profiles, removing doubt before they even match.

For others, opinions may change over the course of a long-term relationship, depending on financial considerations and other factors.

“When you enter a relationship not being able to imagine yourself raising children, and then you change your mind it is often because you can now see yourself parenting with your partner,” says Seeger DeGeare. 

“Perhaps before the idea of raising children alone felt scary, or you experienced your parents fighting often during your childhood. The key is, if someone changes their mind around kids, make sure they are doing it because they now desire it — not just to keep you happy.” 

 The important thing is honesty and openness to make sure your views align: this is one area where compromise isn’t possible. 

4. Lifestyle

There are many habits and goals which may make potential romantic partners incompatible. These can be serious and damaging, such as substance abuse, poor hygiene, or other risky behaviors. Priorities and free time are also possible deal breakers: are you active or a homebody, a workaholic, or more family-oriented?

These are all valid but may not mix well. Where a potential partner lives can also be just as important as how they live. Is long distance a factor? Do you crave the countryside, while they are committed to urban apartment living? The answer to these questions can make or break any potential relationship.

5. Personality traits

Everyone has non-negotiable traits they want in a significant other. A compatible sense of humor, similar attitudes to spending time with loved ones, and aligned communication styles all play a huge role in a successful relationship.

Pay attention to negative personality traits as well as positive ones when weighing up deal breakers. Any couple will experience disagreements, but if a partner demonstrates anger issues, or a tendency to withdraw or lash out in difficult situations, these should be viewed as red flags.

6. Relationship behaviors

Certain relationship behaviors are a matter of taste: what registers as clingy to one potential mate is welcome attention to another. Some people like to text all day; others prefer digital alone time between dates. These may reflect no-fault personal deal breakers.

Similarly, sex drives or preferences can be important, from frequency to different kinks or dynamics. If you know you have a non-negotiable romantic or sexual need, be upfront about it as soon as possible. Also consider your relationship deal makers, such as a sense of trust, security, or strong communication.

Other behaviors may cross the line from incompatibility to emotional abuse. This can include gaslighting, disrespectful communication or controlling your time with friends and family, finances, or social media use. It's important to prioritize your mental health and well-being, and any behavior that has a negative impact on them should be a non-negotiable deal breaker.

7. Different Life Goals

If partners have fundamentally different life aspirations and life goals that are incompatible, it can create long-term challenges. 

For example, if career aspirations and desired lifestyle diverge significantly, it can be difficult to find a compromise that satisfies both individuals. It is also important to consider what things you are willing to compromise on in your relationship, or if you may come to regret giving up your dreams for the sake of your loved one. 

How to figure out your deal breakers in a relationship

The first step in discussing deal breakers in a relationship is identifying your own. This may depend on whether you’re looking for a short-term fling or a long-term partner. Some factors are only relevant to a committed relationship; others could be a turn-off no matter what. Consider which behaviors and traits you need in a significant other to make you feel secure in a romantic relationship.

Some deal breakers may become clear so early on that they don’t need more than a cursory discussion. Others may appear once you’ve established a connection with your romantic partner. In this case, communicating openly and honestly could help reach a compromise.

According to Seeger DeGeare, you should consider these questions to help you identify your dealbreakers. 

What behaviors in friends or loved ones do you find difficult to ignore or forget?
In what ways do you actively try not to hurt your friends?
When someone you care about discusses their relationship and you feel alarmed, what specific behavior are they describing?

“It’s important to identify your deal breakers by maintaining a logical approach to defining what is healthy and what is not,” says Seeger DeGeare. 

“Additionally, it’s crucial to pay attention to your body’s reactions to behaviors that fall into a gray area. If something makes you feel uneasy, it may be considered a dealbreaker.” 

Avoid issuing ultimatums and instead, focus on boundaries and mutual goals. For more complex issues, such as conflicting views on having children, a professional therapist or counselor may help resolve things constructively. 

“Your dealbreakers are unique to you and don’t have to align with those of your friends or parents. They should be personal to your preferences and values,” says Seeger DeGeare. 

Whether deal breakers can ultimately be overcome or not, any healthy relationship thrives on trust, respect, and communication.

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