Top 30 Deal Breakers in a Romantic Relationship

What are common dealbreakers in relationships?
on June 10, 2024
Read time: 5 mins
by Moraya Seeger DeGeare

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 deal breaker 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? 

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

It is important to define your deal breakers 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 increased problematic behavior among humans, but rather a growing appreciation for our values. Rather than simply seeking a partner to settle down with, we now emphasize the importance of identifying deal breakers rooted in our personal value systems. By doing so, we can avoid a lot of heartbreak down the road.”

Deal breakers vary from person to person but they should reflect your core values, beliefs, and what you want from a romantic relationship. There are so many examples of deal breakers in a relationship, but it’s important to remember what might be a deal breaker for one wouldn’t be for someone else! 

What are the top deal breakers in a relationship? 

You should never compromise on certain deal breakers in a relationship, no matter what. This is the list of deal breakers in a relationship that you shouldn’t forget. 

1. 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 or values in a relationship are ultimately incompatible and can’t be compromised.

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.

2. Trust 

Trust forms the foundation of any strong relationship. 

Without it, a partnership is built on shaky ground, prone to suspicion and insecurity. Both partners need to have faith in each other's words and actions. When trust is absent, even minor misunderstandings can escalate into major conflicts. 

A history of lying, whether about small details or significant matters, erodes this trust, making it difficult to believe in the partner's commitment and honesty. This lack of trust can manifest in constant questioning, the need for reassurance, and an inability to feel secure in the relationship.

3. Poor communication 

Effective communication is the cornerstone of understanding and intimacy in a relationship. 

When communication breaks down, it can lead to misunderstandings, resentment, and emotional distance. 

Poor communication might manifest as avoiding difficult conversations, failing to express needs and feelings, or consistently misinterpreting each other's intentions.

Relationships thrive on open and honest dialogue where both partners feel heard and understood. 

When communication breaks down, individuals may feel isolated and unsupported, making it difficult to move forward as a team. 

4. Infidelity 

Infidelity can be a devastating blow to any relationship, often resulting in an immediate and irreversible breakdown of trust. 

While some couples attempt to recover from infidelity through counseling and rebuilding trust, for many, it’s an automatic deal breaker. 

5. Emotional abuse

Emotional abuse, characterized by manipulation, constant criticism, gaslighting, and control, is a significant deal breaker. 

It erodes self-esteem and can have long-lasting psychological effects on the victim. If you’re a victim of emotional abuse, it should be a sign to leave your relationship — as you can’t underestimate the long-term effects this can have on your self-worth and self-esteem. 

6. Physical abuse 

Physical abuse is an unequivocal deal breaker in any relationship. It involves any form of violence, from hitting and shoving to more severe acts that threaten a partner's physical well-being.

Victims of physical abuse are encouraged to seek help immediately and remove themselves from the dangerous situation, as the cycle of violence often escalates and can have tragic outcomes.

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. 

Others may reflect different perspectives that 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. 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 throughout 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. 

3. Lifestyle

Some habits and goals 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.

4. 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.

5. 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 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.

6. 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. 

7. Long-distance 

Long-distance relationships face unique challenges that can test the strength and durability of the partnership. The physical separation can lead to feelings of loneliness, a disconnect in emotional intimacy, and difficulties in maintaining trust.

While some couples resolve to make long-distance relationships work, for some, the strain of being apart for extended periods can outweigh the moments spent together, leading to a reassessment of the relationship's viability.

8. Opposing sex drive 

A mismatch in sexual desire is a common but often unspoken deal breaker. Differences in libido can lead to frustration, feelings of rejection, or inadequacy, and can significantly impact the intimacy within the relationship. 

Open, honest discussions about sexual needs and compromises can help, but if the gap is too wide, it may lead to dissatisfaction that affects the relationship's overall health.

9. Different priorities 

When partners have significantly different priorities, it can create friction and a sense of misalignment in the relationship. This might involve divergent views on career importance, lifestyle choices, or the allocation of time and resources. 

For instance, one partner may prioritize career advancement while the other values family time above all else. If couples can’t find common ground, such discrepancies can lead to feelings of neglect or resentment, making it challenging to build a shared future together.

10. Unreliability 

One of the basic requirements in a partner is feeling like you can rely on them, and depend on them to show up for you when you need them. 

Suppose your partner is constantly letting you down. In that case, this pattern of behavior can signal a lack of respect or investment in the relationship, leading to feelings of being undervalued and feeling like you’re being taken for granted! 

11. Emotional baggage 

Past traumas, unresolved conflicts, or lingering attachments can manifest in insecurities, trust issues, or destructive patterns within the relationship. 

While it's natural for individuals to bring their histories into a relationship, the unwillingness or inability to address and work through emotional baggage can burden the partnership.

Even though it’s often frowned upon to discuss your relationship’s past, it’s essential to work through your past to foster a healthy future. 

12. Substance abuse 

Substance abuse not only affects the individual but can also have a devastating impact on their relationships. 

The behaviors associated with addiction, such as secrecy, unreliability, financial instability, and neglect, can create a toxic environment for both partners. While many side effects of substance abuse can be worked through with professional help, these tendencies can often lead to the prioritization of the addiction over the relationship, resulting in emotional distance and conflict. 

13. Inability to compromise

Whether you like it or not, relationships are all about compromise. Without that give-and-take, it’s impossible to move forward as a team. 

When one partner consistently prioritizes their own needs and desires over the relationship's well-being, it can lead to feelings of resentment that erode the couple’s connection over time. From the simple things to the bigger life decisions, you have to be able to consider your partner’s needs, or else it could be a big deal breaker for your future. 

14. Walking on eggshells 

Relationships should be a safe space for both partners. 

If you feel like you’re constantly walking on eggshells, it should be a huge deal breaker in your relationship. This situation often stems from one partner's emotional volatility, unpredictability, or critical nature, leading the other to suppress their true feelings and desires in an attempt to maintain peace. 

Such an environment stifles genuine communication and emotional intimacy, leaving one feeling trapped and unable to express themselves freely. This kind of environment can escalate quickly, so it’s best to step away safely before things get worse. 

15. Uncomfortable being yourself 

Feeling like you can be authentically yourself is a key part of any relationship. 

If your partner is making you feel uncomfortable just for being you, or that you have to change just to make them happy — this isn’t the foundation for a healthy relationship. Your partner should want to celebrate every weird and wonderful aspect of who you are, not stifle that side of you!

16. Cleanliness

It may seem trivial but differing standards of cleanliness and organization can lead to ongoing frustration and conflict in a relationship.

If compromises cannot be reached or one partner feels perpetually disregarded, it can sour the relationship's day-to-day interactions — making it difficult to move forward. 

17. Introvert vs extrovert 

The dynamic between introverts and extroverts can enrich a relationship through complementary perspectives and energies. 

However, it can also pose challenges if there is a lack of understanding or willingness to accommodate each other's social needs. Without an effort to compromise, the gap between introvert and extrovert preferences can become a significant strain on the relationship.

18. Political views

Differing political views don’t have to be an immediate deal breaker, but politics can be a reflection of core values and beliefs.

While some minor disagreements can be resolved with mutual understanding and respect if couples disagree on issues like human rights, it could spell the end of a relationship. 

19. Unwillingness to introduce you to friends or family 

A partner's reluctance to introduce you to their friends or family can raise questions about the seriousness and future of the relationship. While there may be valid reasons for delay, consistent avoidance can signal a lack of commitment or underlying issues within the relationship that you can’t simply ignore. 

It's important for both partners to feel valued and integrated into each other's lives. Without this inclusion, one may feel sidelined or uncertain about the relationship's standing.

20. Selfishness 

Selfishness in a relationship manifests through a consistent prioritization of one's own needs and desires at the expense of the partner's well-being.

Relationships are about teamwork, and the willingness to put another person’s needs above one’s own. If your partner can’t put aside your own needs for the sake of others, it indicates selfishness that isn’t compatible with a long-term relationship. 

21. Constant conflict 

While disagreements are a normal part of any relationship, constant conflict can be exhausting and indicative of deeper incompatibilities. 

Frequent arguments, especially over trivial or small matters, can erode the love and respect between partners, leading to resentment and emotional distance. If conflicts cannot be resolved healthily, it may be a sign that the relationship is not sustainable.

22. Clinginess 

According to a recent study, women ranked being clingy as one of the biggest red flags in a relationship — with clingy behaviors often pushing people away. 

For example, if you’re constantly blowing up your phone or constantly demanding their attention, this can be a huge deal breaker. However, it’s important to consider these behaviors might be linked to their attachment style — so you should try and be mindful of this before you write them off. 

23. Apathy 

Being ambitious and goal-driven is considered very attractive in a relationship, so it makes sense that apathy is considered one of the greatest deal-breakers. 

If your partner is just drifting through the relationship, this can trigger a lot of frustration and can lead to the breakdown of the relationship — especially if one partner wants to reach for the stars!

24. Wandering eye 

While infidelity should make everyone’s relationship deal-breakers list, it doesn’t have to be actual cheating to count as a deal-breaker. 

If you’re constantly worried that your partner is looking at other people, or is liking other people’s Instagram posts, it can put a lot of strain on a relationship. Even though they might be able to defend it as harmless fun, it’s a common deal breaker if this behavior doesn’t stop. 

How do you figure out what your deal breakers are?

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 deal breakers. 

  • 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 deal breaker.” 

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 deal breakers 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.

How to bring up deal breakers in a relationship 

Once you’ve identified your own deal breakers, it can be tricky to articulate them to your partner — with fears of seeming demanding usually holding them back. 

However, every healthy relationship should have boundaries or non-negotiables, and it shouldn’t be something you feel like you have to shy away from. 

A good way to bring up this topic is to simply ask them ‘What is your biggest deal breaker in a relationship?’ and open up the conversation from there. Ensure you lead a very open conversation, so it doesn’t feel like an attack on your partner! 

By being open about your deal breakers, it’s easier to implement clear boundaries and facilitate a healthy relationship from the outset. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is lying a dealbreaker in a relationship?

    Lying can indeed be a dealbreaker in a relationship, depending on the severity and context of the lies. The impact of lying on a relationship hinges on factors such as the nature of the lie, the reasons behind it, and its effects on trust between partners. If your partner is consistently lying to you, then it should be a dealbreaker — without trust or respect, you can’t expect to move forward.
  • What is the biggest deal breaker in a relationship?

    Dealbreakers are completely personal to you, as they reflect what you want from a relationship. Some dealbreakers should never be ignored, like abuse or a lack of respect. However, when it comes to your biggest dealbreaker, this is something that you have to reflect and decide upon — ideally before you enter into a romantic relationship.
  • What are some reasons why people break up?

    We’re pretty sure that anything can be used as a reason for a break-up! However, the most common reasons for a breakup are infidelity, dishonesty, lack of communication, or different expectations.
  • What is a deal breaker in a relationship for a girl?

    Deal breakers are completely personal to each individual, but a recent study showed that women had a certain number of deal breakers that ranked higher than others. The biggest deal breakers from women include apathy, hygiene, clinginess, lack of motivation, and promiscuity.
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