by: E.B. Johnson
Having deal breakers is a healthy part of setting our boundary lines. We all have to understand that there are some lines that can’t be crossed, yet we allow people that we care for to abuse us day-in and day-out. Why? Because we fail to realize the depth of our needs, and we fail to prioritize them appropriately too. Stop allowing your “better half” to push you over again and again. Figure out how to stand up for yourself and stop accepting deal-breaking behavior.
The deal-breakers no relationship can survive.
There are some behaviors, attitudes, and beliefs that no relationship can (or should) survive. Some breaches are just too big. While every relationship has its own unique dynamics, these are some core deal-breakers you should never tolerate in your romantic partnerships. These are the divides that could be impossible to overcome without honesty and action.
Is your partner always cancelling plans? Or refusing to make any with you at all? This indicates that they’re making you the lowest priority and doing whatever they can to keep you at a distance. While this might indicate that there is something in their life that they are trying to hide, it certainly also means that they don’t care for you and respect you as deeply as they promise to. When you love someone, you don’t avoid them.
Abuse (of any kind)
Abuse — of any kind — is a deal breaker that should not be accepted. It does not matter if your partner hits you, scares you, or keeps you tied to them with emotional manipulation and threats. All of these are forms of abuse meant to deny your autonomy and keep you bound to the abuser. The only way to escape the clutches of an abuser is to leave them. They don’t change, and they certainly don’t do so for other people.
Failing to commit
Defying labels is a deal breaker, and this is because we all need to know where we stand in each other’s lives. When they refuse to “put a name on it” (aka make a commitment) despite how important that act of public commitment might be to you — they are disrespecting you and doing it publicly. The level of commitment doesn’t matter. When we’re special to one another, there should be no problem communicating that or our expectations.
Gamut of infidelity
Faithfulness is an important part of every romantic relationship, no matter what unique terms that partnership might have. A partner who strays outside the terms of your relationship is one who betrays trust and shows a complete lack of respect and consideration. For some, this may not be a deal breaker, but to many it is. We need to know that we can trust our partners, and trust them with others when we aren’t around.
If you and your partner have a complete mismatch in goals, it’s going to result in a lot of complicated emotions — high among them disappointment and resentment. Building relationships that last comes down to making sure we are building them with people who have the same objectives for their lives and their partnerships. Failing to align these things always results in a divide that can’t be overcome. Do you want kids, but they hate them? The story isn’t going to have a happy ending.
Selfish and self-centered partners are often deal breakers by themselves as people. These can be narcissists, and those who are obsessed with their own needs, or their own perspectives. To this partner, you only exist when it’s convenient and your feelings rarely come into play. It’s all about them, what they want, what they need. Your existence becomes one of servitude in their presence.
Constant drama and conflict has to become a deal breaker at some point, especially if you’re trying to build more mature habits and partnerships. Does your partner always turn everything into a fight? Do they love to use threats? Do they turn the smallest thing into a personal affront? This constant conflict isn’t healthy for you…or them. Something has to give.
How to handle deal breakers in your relationship.
Has your partner crossed the line? You have to get clear on what you want and then get a handle on your feelings. This life is yours and you have a right to live it with dignity and respect. This includes your romantic partnerships. Take action to protect your wellbeing before it’s too late to get out. No one has to settle for deal breakers - and that includes you.
1. Clarify your feelings
Before taking any dramatic action or reacting emotionally and without thought, you need to consider how you really feel and how you really want to handle it. There are pros and cons to every approach, and there are a million different ways we can about reconciling these assaults on our boundaries. Allow your thoughts to clear and allow yourself to consider your full scope of options first.
Get clear on your end — both on the facts of what happened, and how you feel. Look at the actions that were taken, and how those compare against the actions of someone with the same depth of love, character and values as you.
Is this a behavior you’re willing to tolerate? Is this behavior an issue that has been addressed before? If it is, what strategies have you used in the past to resolve this issue — and why have they failed? Question every inch of who you are and what you want, then question your partner in your own mind. Can their mistakes be forgiven? Will they ever work to change themselves? Are they truly sorry? These are all answers you need for what comes next.
2. Open up communication channels
Whatever you decide to do with your deal breaker moving forward, you’re going to have to have multiple tough conversations along the way. These conversations will encompass everything from your feelings to their motivations. They might encompass topics like who is getting the house and who is getting the kids. They’re important, though, and they must stay honest. Without these tough conversations, our deal breakers go unaddressed.
Only after spending some time getting clarity on what you want and need from your relationship (and your feelings) should you open up to your partner or spouse. Find a safe time and space in which you both can sit down and exchange ideas as equals, without fear of judgment.
No matter what they did — avoid blaming them directly. Blaming language only inflames the dialogue and makes it harder to connect. Stick to the facts. “You did this behavior, then I felt a certain way. That’s unacceptable to me, and I’ve communicated this boundary before.” You can allow others to take responsibility without personally drilling home the hurt. Stick to the facts and be clear, honest and candid about what you’re doing and why.
3. Be honest with yourself
Above and before anything else — you need to be true to your values and your authentic self. Stop trying to force a partnership to work when it’s always in the red zone. End the constant battle of trying to make someone into something that they aren’t. Deal breakers are deal breakers for a reason. Have enough self-respect to be true to your most basic needs above all else in this world.
You cannot be the best mother, the best friend, the best spouse if you aren’t taking care of yourself. You can’t be a happy partner if you aren’t leading a happy life. Align your behaviors, your social circles, everything with your values and that deep, authentic sense of purpose that guides you and propels you forward.
Have enough courage to know that you are enough, exactly as you are, and that each and everything that you want from this life holds value…just like you. Stop holding yourself back by hoping someone else will change. Change yourself. Live in the best possible version of your truth. Don’t limit yourself based on someone else’s behavior or their catastrophic choices for self. You are responsible for your journey and your journey alone. Make the most of it.
Putting it all together…
Sometimes, our partners cross the line and in those moments it is up to us to decide how to respond. While some behaviors might be worth forgiving, other lines can’t be crossed. Be clear on your deal breakers and know when it’s time for you to reconsider your relationship.
Get clear on all your thoughts and feelings before you approach your partner or make any dramatic moves. Pinpoint precisely what you expect from a partner and what you want from your life, and then compare it against what you are and aren’t willing to accept. Figure out if it’s time to leave and then have the tough conversations the right way. Don’t hold back and don’t accept excuses. Maybe in the end you’ll find that dialogue and compromise allow you to negotiate your way back to a happy ending. You never know. What is known, however, is that you have a responsibility to protect your wellbeing and stick up for your boundaries. Find the courage to do that by becoming the best possible version of yourself and aligning your life (and your relationships) with your ultimate truth.
- Rakovec-Felser, Z. (2014). Domestic violence and abuse in intimate relationship from public health perspective. Health Psychology Research, 2(3). doi: 10.4081/hpr.2014.1821
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