Do You Know Your Non-Negotiables? Here Are 9 Common Deal Breakers In A Relationship
Long term relationships are full of ups and downs, but when you choose the right person for you from the get-go, those downs aren't so bad. When you encounter a deal breaker, however, you tend to get a gut feeling that a relationship with this person just won't work.
And while we all have our own unique deal breakers, there are a handful that tend to be pretty universal.
What are deal breakers in a relationship?
Deal breakers in a relationship are the long term qualities, behaviors, and values someone displays that do not align with your own views, values, and long term desires, according to licensed psychotherapist Babita Spinelli. In other words, she says, they're our "non-negotiables," or the specific things we absolutely will not tolerate in a relationship.
"There are an individual’s unique dealbreakers that are specific to what you want personally, and there are red flag dealbreakers that are violations, such as physical abuse, verbal and emotional abuse, and substance abuse," Spinelli adds.
Typically, though, the most common deal breakers fall within the categories of finances, children, roles in the relationship, beliefs, communication patterns, sex drives, career aspirations, and location, Spinelli tells mindbodygreen.
And it's essential to get clear on what your deal breakers are before you commit to someone, because while all relationships require some compromise, "it’s important to understand whether the compromise feels mutual or could lead to resentment," Spinelli notes.
9 common deal breakers in a relationship
Abuse of any kind
Abuse of any kind is at the top of the list here, and is absolutely a red flag deal breaker, according to Spinelli. “If [they] violate your physical and emotional boundaries in ways that make you feel unsettled or unsafe,” notes licensed marriage therapist Weena Cullins, LCMFT, that's all the reason you need to walk away.
Money can be a big deal breaker for a lot of people, whether you disagree on how much you should both be contributing to the household budget, how much you spend versus save, or what you spend your money on at all.
One person might prefer to save as much as possible, while the other really wants to go on an all-inclusive 14-day cruise. One person might be financially irresponsible, while the other tries to control all the spending. In any case, Spinelli says, disagreeing about money is a deal breaker to watch out for—because money will always be a part of the equation.
Opposing goals, priorities, and core values
Is one of you super ambitious while the other is content without future aspirations? Or perhaps one of you really prioritizes cleanliness while the other is unfazed about that pile of laundry or their own body odor.
Whatever it is, Spinelli says, if their view of the world, beliefs, or lifestyle is directly contradictory to your own views, beliefs, and lifestyle, it's going to be very difficult to find common ground.
Speaking of incompatible lifestyles, what if your lifestyles are super similar—but your personalities aren't? According to research, that can still be a dealbreaker. Namely, research published in the journal Nature Human Behaviour1 found that across 130+ traits, couples typically had around 82% to 89% traits in common, with only 3% of traits differing on average.
So it's not actually true that opposites attract, and if your personality is completely different from another person's, that can definitely be a deal breaker. To that end, Cullins says, it comes down to whether you respect, value, and accept this person as they are. If not, she says, that's a deal breaker.
Sex is a big part of what sets romantic relationships apart from platonic ones, and if you don't have that sexual chemistry, Spinelli says, that can definitely be a deal breaker.
It's important to note that it's normal for your sex life to change and evolve over time, with some inevitable "dry spells" in the mix once in a while. However, Spinelli tells mindbodygreen, if you have opposing sex drives, or even different sexual needs, and finding a sexual groove seems to be impossible, that would be a deal breaker for a lot of people.
Different relationship values
We all have different reasons for being in relationships, and in a healthy partnership, both people are generally on the same page about what they are getting (and giving) in the relationship, and they're in it for the right reasons. Similarly, there are clearly defined terms about commitment and fidelity—or ethical non-monogamy.
But if you have different relationship values, Spinelli says, such as one of you favoring monogamy while the other favors polyamory—or even one person being reluctant to commit while the other wants to define the relationship, that spells trouble.
Different family values
According to Spinelli, children can be a big deal breaker for a lot of people, whether you're in the camp who wants them, or the camp who's sworn them off forever. In either case, pairing up with someone who has different ideas about kids than you is eventually going to come up down the line, even if it doesn't seem like a big deal in the beginning.
Further, how you want to raise kids is just as important of a factor. One person might want their children to go to church every Sunday and attend a Catholic school, for instance, while the other wants to let their kids figure out their own spiritual paths. The possibilities here are endless, so beyond just knowing whether you want kids, you also want to be on the same page about what kind of parents you'd be.
And if your ideas don't seem to align, that's absolutely a deal breaker.
Lack of trust
Trust is a cornerstone for any healthy relationship, and if that trust is lacking, you can't expect the relationship to go anywhere positive. Therefore, Spinelli says, it's a definite deal breaker if you feel you can't trust this person. This could look like not following through on promises, a consistent lack of transparency, or of course, outright lies, deception, or infidelity.
Lack of caring & connection
Last but not least, it's a deal breaker if this person simply doesn't make you feel good. Again, every relationship has ups and downs, but if someone is consistently controlling, manipulative, dismissive, or otherwise negatively impacts your self-esteem and self-worth, Spinelli says you're better off breaking things off.
To that end, as therapist Megan Bruneau, M.A., previously told mindbodygreen, it's important not to hold out in the hopes of change. “Many people believe their partners will change—for example, become more committed, understanding, or affectionate—when they hit a milestone or when some external stressor is reduced."
This can happen sometimes, she says, but it's not a guarantee, so she recommends asking yourself whether you would stay if you knew they'd never change. If not, consider it a deal breaker.
How to figure out your own deal breakers
In order to figure out your own deal breakers, you'll want to start by doing an inventory of your own core values, beliefs, and goals. Write them down if it helps you keep all your thoughts straight, and narrow down your list to a handful of 100% non-negotiable standards—the things you require from a relationship and the things you will not tolerate.
As Spinelli tells mindbodygreen, it's essential to understand your own deal breakers because without them, we're more likely to get into relationship dynamics that don't align with who we really are.
“While all intimate relationships are subject to experiencing rough patches at different times, choosing to remain in a relationship that consistently causes you stress or compromises your physical, emotional, or mental health isn’t the best choice,” Cullins adds. But knowing your deal breakers from the start can help you avoid that.
"Deal breakers work alongside our expectations and boundaries. They're also part of how we value ourselves and honor what is important to us," Spinelli says.
What are common deal breakers in a relationship?
The most common deal breakers fall within the categories of finances, children, roles in the relationship, beliefs, communication patterns, sex drives, career aspirations, and location.
What are valid dealbreakers?
Any deal breaker is "valid" if it's meaningful enough to you in a relationship, but some common ones include different views about children, money, career aspirations, sex, or core values in general.
Some deal breakers are more obvious than others, while more subtle things may never come up until you're already committed and realize the relationship might not work. In either case, go with your gut and pay attention to those glaring red flags as they pop up. The quicker you can recognize a deal breaker, the sooner you can get out of a relationship dynamic that won't work out long term.
Sarah Regan is a Spirituality & Relationships Editor, a registered yoga instructor, and an avid astrologer and tarot reader. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from State University of New York at Oswego, and lives in Buffalo, New York.