in: dating + single

Neat-Freak or Slob? Rock & Roll or Country? How to Decide What Your Deal Breakers Are

There are times to compromise and there are times to run for the hills. Let’s talk non-negotiables. What are your no-way-no-how dealbreakers?


It can feel like a fine line sometimes when it comes to dating: finding the balance between not settling just to be with someone and being so choosy that we end up alone. It can help if we have a close friend who knows us well and truly has our best interests in mind. They may be better able to see what we cannot, when our expectations are too high. A good friend will also never let us settle for less than we deserve.

Unfortunately, all too often it’s our casual acquaintances who are quick to offer an opinion on which way we’ve drifted. People who don’t know us well are likely to project their own experiences on us, simply because they don’t know who we are. A better, more mindful approach to resolve this dilemma and find the middle ground is to identify our personal deal breakers, those non-negotiables that we just cannot abide in a partner—and should not, for our own well-being.

But how do we recognize these deal breakers for ourselves?

In our parents’ day, differences in socio economic identifiers such as religion, race, economic status or education were common deal breakers. Today behaviors many singles often reject when dating include substance abuse, bigotry, lying, infidelity or a tendency towards violence or abusiveness.

Beyond these more obvious deal breakers are a host of things some singles will not tolerate from a partner such as poor hygiene, a sloppy or unattractive appearance, neediness or possessiveness, jealousy, smoking, a lack of social skills, bad sex or a lack of affection, a poor sense of humor, or an unhealthy lifestyle. If that’s not enough, we also would do well to examine our tolerance of a potential partner’s poor health, financial instability, family ties and cultural expectations or physical distance from us.

Clearly, the more deal breakers we have, the narrower our pool of potential dates will be. Keep in mind, however, that having no date is usually preferable to a being on a bad date, so the self-examination is worth the effort.

Try one of these methods to discover what’s most important to you:

  • Examine the deal breakers you have for your own behavior. What conduct will you not engage in? If you find it unacceptable to lie or engage in a half-truth, then you’re likely to find it intolerable if your partner were to be dishonest with you.
  • Consider how you spend your time and money, as these are frequently indicators of a person’s values. If you work hard to manage your finances well, you may find it too difficult to be with someone who is more carefree with their money. If spending time with your kids is a priority for you, a partner who values family relationships would be a must. 
  • Make a list of the people with whom you have the longest and strongest relationships of all types: friends, family members, co-workers and so forth. What qualities do these individuals have that keep you in a relationship with them? Failure to demonstrate these attributes, or the presence of their opposite, is likely to be a deal breaker for you. If open-mindedness and tolerance appear often on your list, then intolerance may well be one of your deal breakers.
  • Pay attention when you’re immediately turned off or repulsed by someone. What is it that repels you?

As you start to compile your list, don’t dismiss little things because they appear minor. Only you know how important something is to you, and this list is all about you, not your best friend. In addition, avoid judging yourself harshly because you find some things unacceptable. If being in a cluttered environment is stressful for you, accept it, and trust that you can find someone who has the order that enables you to be relaxed and peaceful. 

Once you have your initial list of deal breakers, apply these tests to each item:

  • Get a clear picture of your ideal mate. Then imagine them with the possible deal breaker. If smoking is the deal breaker, can you see yourself with your ideal partner as a smoker? Are you still attracted to them?
  • Imagine having to put up with the deal breaker in the long run. Most of us can handle discomfort for a little while. How long can you see yourself putting up with it?
  • Is there anything you can imagine that would make up for the deal breaker? For instance, is the 90 minute drive to see them worth it, if they live in a fabulous city you love?

At this point, you should have a workable list. Honor yourself as you go forward, and keep in mind that although you cannot change anyone, they can make a change if they choose to. People have been known to quit smoking or relocate for the right relationship. Be honest if a deal breaker is preventing you from continuing a relationship. It may be the deal breaker, not the relationship, which gets dismissed.

[image: via dana robinson on flickr]

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About the Author:

Joanne Deck

Joanne M. Deck is an author, success coach, and speaker, with expertise in dating, education, and New Thought concepts. She is the author of Sane Sex for Singles , a three-time winning dating guide for the new millennium. As a certified coach, Joanne has supported hundreds of people in changing their lives to look, feel, and be their very best. She has been featured on Lifetime Television’s The Balancing Act and appears frequently on radio interviews and as speaker for singles groups. Joanne is currently working on her next book, Learning to Receive with Grace and Ease, aimed at helping people become more comfortable and skillful receivers. Her observation is that most people have the giving side of the equation down, but struggle with receiving. Learn more about Joanne’s coaching and speaking at Nurture You .

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