You've finally met someone who seems to be the partner of your dreams. You are very attracted to each other, you like many of the same things and you can spend hours talking. Everything is going great, until you run up against one or more of these deal-breakers.
While many relationship issues can be healed within the relationship, there are some that are definite red flags. Below are the major dating deal-breakers that I've found in my 45 years of counseling individuals and couples.
1. Smoking, Drinking, Drugs
Sometimes you can tell right away whether someone smokes or drinks a lot or does drugs, but sometimes, this information takes time to emerge. Or, you might know about it but think it will be okay, only to discover that it is getting in the way of the relationship.
If you are a non-smoker, it's important to be honest with yourself about whether it's OK with you if your partner smokes. If not, you may need to walk away, since you can never be certain whether he or she will stop. It's the same with alcohol and drugs. If these behaviors are not OK with you, it is unlikely that the relationship will work. Remember, you get what you see -- not what the person tells you will happen in the future. Don't base a relationship on what MIGHT be.
If both of you have jobs that are very important to you, what would happen if one of you got a great job offer in another city? For example, Robert and Celia fell in love in their late 30s. Each had jobs that they loved and that were very important to them. Robert was the vice-president of a large company, while Celia had a flourishing practice as an attorney. They both lived in New York. All seemed fine until an incredible opportunity opened up for Robert -- one that he had always dreamed of. The problem was that it meant moving to Los Angeles. Robert's work became a deal-breaker.
Some people can commute and maintain a relationship, but this was not realistic for Robert and Celia, since they both wanted to have children. They realized that if either of them gave up the work they loved, they would feel very resentful. They had no choice but to end the relationship. Even though they loved each other, they recognized that their relationship would soon erode if one of them gave themselves up.
The issue of having children needs to be dealt with early in a relationship. If you really want children and your partner says he or she doesn't, do not count on this changing. Too many people I've worked with end up divorcing over this issue because they believed that their partner would change his or her mind. Again, don't count on change -- you get what you see! Of course people can change when they want to, but counting on it can lead to much disappointment. And don't tell yourself that your love will conquer all. It just doesn't work that way.
If you discover that your partner has cheated in his or her previous relationships, you might want to move on. Don't fool yourself by telling yourself that you are different than all the others and that he or she would never do this to you. I suggest you that move on if you find out that your partner is currently cheating on you -- unless you both go into counseling and do the deep work necessary to heal the underlying issues.
If one of you is a saver and one is a spender, this can cause many relationship problems. Sometimes this can be solved ahead of time when the spender agrees to let the saver manage the money. But if the spender is addicted to spending as a way of self-soothing, this isn't going to work.
If one of you earns much more than the other, this can also cause problems -- or if one of you doesn't want to work and the other doesn't like that. These are the kinds of issues that need to be resolved BEFORE marriage.
Trust is an important issue in relationships, and if you realize you are being frequently lied to, you might want to reconsider the relationship. While we all lie occasionally, frequent lying is a sign of fear and insecurity. Again, this can be resolved with counseling, but the person lying needs to be willing to do the deep inner work necessary to heal this addiction.
7. Neatness or Messiness
If you are neat and your partner is messy, or vise-versa, then you either need to have enough money to hire someone to clean up every day, or you need to reconsider the relationship. People who are neat generally can't tolerate messiness, and people who are messy feel controlled and restricted by people who are neat. If you are a neat person and you don't mind cleaning up after a messy person, then it might not be a problem, but you need to be honest with yourself about whether you can keep this up for the whole relationship. If you are a neat person, don't count on a messy person becoming neat, and if you are a messy person, don't count on the neat person relaxing their standards in this area.
8. Lack of Commitment
Relationships can be challenging. No matter how in love you are at the beginning, inevitably fears will emerge, such as fear of rejection/abandonment, and fear of engulfment/losing yourself. One person's protective, controlling behavior sets off the other's protective, controlling behavior, and it isn't long before the in-love feelings start to diminish. If both people are not deeply committed to their own learning and healing, one or both might run from the conflicts. Before moving into committed relationship, it's a good idea to find out if your partner is a runner.
9. It's All About Me - Not Listening
It generally doesn't take long to determine if someone is a good listener, or if their conversation is always about them. If you feel that you are not being listened to or heard, or that your partner is not interested in what you feel and say, be cautious. It can get very lonely in a relationship if you are with someone who is not interested is listening to you.
These are the main deal-breakers I see in dating relationships. I'd love to hear from you about other deal-breakers you have experienced.
Margaret Paul, Ph.D. is a relationship expert, best-selling author, and co-creator of the powerful Inner Bonding® self-healing process, recommended by actress Lindsay Wagner and singer Alanis Morissette, and featured on Oprah. To begin learning how to love and connect with yourself so that you can connect with others, take advantage of our free Inner Bonding eCourse, receive Free Help, and take our 12-Week eCourse, "The Intimate Relationship Toolbox" - the first two weeks are free! Discover SelfQuest®, a transformational self-healing/conflict resolution computer program. Phone or Skype sessions with Dr. Margaret Paul.