It's always an exciting feeling to get that knot of anticipation in your tummy before a first date. Part of that is because there's always the chance that this will be the one -- the person you've been waiting for to share your life, to be your true partner. Part of it is that most people seem to be optimistic about the future -- their future, when it comes to love. And dating is a prelude to true love (at least that's what the movies tell us).
In a Psychology Today article posted 3-19-14, "Deal Breakers in Dating," Frederic Neuman, M.D. makes the point that what is a deal-breaker for one person may not be that big a deal for someone else. Maybe he doesn't close the toothpaste tube, and you make sure it's perfect every time. Is this worth casting him aside? Probably not. Maybe he snores, and you can't sleep with all that noise. While this is a real problem, there are things available to fix it. He's really outgoing and loves to party and you'd rather stay home with a book and you don't usually talk to strangers. This might be a bit more of a problem, but again, there are ways to compromise and keep the relationship.
In another Psychology Today article posted 5-30-14, "The Pros and Cons of Dating Deal Breakers," Mark White, Ph.D. tells us that he thinks that deal-breakers often prevent us from evaluating a person overall. Instead, we focus on one of two flaws and toss out someone who otherwise might be great.
Bad Relationship Signs in Oprah.com has an article titled "Dating Deal Breakers: 8 signs We All Overlook." The author, psychologist Terri Orbuch, wrote a book called "5 Simple Steps to Take Your Marriage From Good to Great." While I don't agree with all her eight signs as being deal-breakers, I do agree with one.
In my over 30 years working as a marriage and family therapist with couples, I have found that if couples don't listen to each other, and really hear what their partner is saying, it is a prelude for disaster.
Many men will hear a woman complain about some problem she's having, perhaps at work, and rather than showing empathy for how she's feeling about it, they just want to quickly come up with a solution to fix it. While well-meaning, this is not helpful and not a good pattern to start off with in a relationship. If a guy is doing this on the first few dates, it's probably not going to get better.
We all want and need to feel listened to and our feelings understood. Make sure you are getting that even in the first few dates.
On my list of deal-breakers, as a therapist, number two would be respect.
Even after two or three dates, if you are really communicating with each other, you should be able to tell if you're being shown respect. This might take the form of her telling you that she is fine with you going to a baseball game on a Sunday even thought she doesn't like the game. Maybe you are OK with her going to a Methodist church even though you go to a Catholic one. While I strongly believe you need to discuss these kinds of differences very carefully before committing completely to each other, it is possible with mutual respect to have differences. This goes for different values (as long as they're not too great) and ideas.
My final deal-breaker for my clients is Appreciation. If I had a dollar for every time a man or woman has told me he or she doesn't feel appreciated I would truly be very rich. No matter how terrific we are, and how much we are told that by colleagues or employers or friends, we still need to hear it from our significant other. Knowing that the special pastries you brought home for him have made him very happy, or that picking up the kids from soccer so you could go to the gym because he knows how important staying in shape is to you are the kinds of basic appreciations that keep a relationship connected and can help get a marriage through rough spots.
So while compromise is really essential if you want to have a marriage work, and you need to start that compromise when you're dating, I believe the above three deal-breakers are good reasons to end it quickly if they're missing.
Of course, it goes without saying that any kind of abuse, physical, emotional or psychological, is reason to end a relationship immediately. At the first sign of abuse, stop it dead in its tracks. Men and Women, you deserve better!