Whether you are just starting a relationship with someone new, or you have been involved with them for years, it's important to constantly be aware of, reassess, and reaffirm your boundaries in intimate relationships. Knowing your deal breakers in a relationship is an important way of protecting yourself and fostering a strong connection based on understanding and support.
Important Deal Breakers to Look Out For
A deal breaker is an important line or boundary you have set in a relationship, where, if it is crossed, the relationship cannot continue. There are some deal breakers that apply to people across the board, such as any type of abuse, and others that can vary from person to person depending on your own values and needs in a relationship and from a partner. Keep the following deal breakers in mind to help you successfully navigate dating and relationships.
You Want Different Futures
If you and your partner want different things from each other or for your lives in the future, then that may be a deal breaker for your relationship. It can be difficult to see or plan a future with someone when you both seem to be taking different paths. Sure, there are some minor aspects of the future that may not make or break a relationship, but there are also important things to discuss. Some things you may want to discuss with your partner that could potentially be deal-breakers for your future are:
- Whether or not you want to have children
- Thoughts on marriage
- Where you see yourself living
- Where you hope to be at financially
- Religious background and practices
There's a Lack of Trust
It may come as no surprise to you, but trust plays an important role in relationships. Research from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has found that a lack of trust in intimate relationships exacerbates conflict, causes emotional instability, and may lead to the intention to break up. Trust refers to one's belief in "the reliability, truth, and ability or strength of someone or something" and can be impacted or lost for a variety of reasons. You may need to assess the level of trust you have in your relationship, especially if:
- You or your partner have been unfaithful in your relationship or in a past relationship
- You or your partner constantly worry about where your partner is when you aren't together
- You or your partner find yourselves looking through each other's phones when they aren't looking
- You or your partner question many of each other's decisions
They Don't Respect Your Boundaries
If a partner repeatedly crosses boundaries you have put in place, it can show that they don't respect your needs, wishes, or self in general. If you have made it clear to your partner what your boundaries are, and they continue to push against them, it can negatively impact your mental health and sense of safety, and may be a deal breaker for your relationship. Your boundaries should be respected, and you should not feel like you need to change them in order to accommodate a partner who constantly crosses them. This can look like:
- They tell you that your boundaries are unnecessary.
- They continuously say that they don't remember your boundaries, and that's why they crossed them.
- They promise to try harder at respecting your boundaries, but don't make any effort to back up their words.
- They tell you that you need to change or shift your boundaries to accommodate them.
They Don't Make You Feel Cared For
Having a partner who understands your mental, physical, and emotional needs is important in order to maintain a healthy and happy relationship. Being in a relationship with someone should make you feel cared for and understood, and allow you to be vulnerable with your partner in order to deepen your connection. If your partner isn't supporting you in those ways, or even causing you to feel like your basic needs aren't being met, then the relationship may not align with your values. Some ways your partner may not meet your needs are:
- They don't give you the amount of physical intimacy you desire.
- They don't support you in pursuing your interests.
- They refuse to engage in your preferred activities with you, especially if they have never tried them yet.
- They don't seem to take you, your career, or your interests seriously.
- They don't take your feelings into account during conflict or when making plans.
There's Constant Conflict
There is going to be conflict in every relationship, and definitely in more than one instance. That's normal for most relationships; however, if the conflict becomes so constant that tensions seem to be raised all the time, past issues haven't been resolved before new ones arise, and you start to feel overwhelmed by the arguments, then it may be a deal breaker. Constant conflict can increase your stress levels, according to the NIH, and negatively impact both your mental and physical health. Some signs of constant conflict are:
- You feel overwhelmed and emotionally exhausted from constantly arguing.
- You avoid conversation or talking about certain topics to prevent a conflict from occurring.
- The tension of your intimate relationship begins to affect your relationships with other loved ones and at work.
They Don't Respond to Conflict Appropriately
As previously mentioned, conflict is bound to arise in any relationship, and it doesn't always have to be negative or a deal breaker. The way your partner responds to conflict can be just as important as the fact that there is too much conflict. Some ways of responding to conflict that may be deal breakers are:
- They refuse to have a conversation about the topic and dance around the issue.
- They use your secrets and vulnerabilities that you have shared with them against you.
- They can't have a discussion about a conflict without yelling.
- They aren't willing to see your side of any argument.
- They do something to retaliate against you for bringing up the issue, such as leaving to hang out with friends or cheating.
You Want Different Things Out of the Relationship
The longer you have been in a relationship, the more you may get to know about what your partner wants in a relationship or expects from it. You may come to find that you and your partner want different things out of the relationship, which can lead to conflict and leave you both feeling unhappy, or as though your needs aren't being met. Some differences in relationship expectations may revolve around:
- The amount of time you spend with one another
- The 'seriousness' of the relationship
- Whether to introduce family members
- Expectations for partners
They Don't Treat Your Friends or Family with Respect
Family members and friends may not always get along with your partner, and that's okay. People have different interests and personalities, and your partner doesn't have to 'click' with your inner circle the way that you do, even if it would make things easier. However, if a partner constantly disrespects, belittles, or shows any other signs of disregard toward your loved ones, then the relationship may not be serving your emotional needs. This can look like:
- Your partner saying rude comments to your family members.
- Your partner talking badly about your loved ones to their friends.
- Your partner saying disrespectful things about your family to you under their breath.
- Your partner ignoring your friends/family members whenever they are around.
They Show Abusive Behavior
Abusive behavior includes any physical, mental, emotional, sexual, and financial abuse and should not be tolerated in any of your relationships. Typically, perpetrators of abuse enter into relationships as charming, sociable individuals. They will, however, show changes in their behavior prior to escalating to more dangerous abuse. Look out for:
- Inappropriate jokes centered on themes like harm, pain, death, and objectification
- Manipulative behavior, like testing your loyalty, pressuring you to change your opinions and finding ways to make you prove how much you like them
- Gaslighting, a form of manipulation that involves telling someone false information, which can cause them to question their reality
- Isolating you from important people in your life slowly over time, or turning you against people who really care about you
- Verbal abuse, a form of abuse where someone is constantly criticizing or threatening another in order to demean or frighten them
- Attempting to control your finances as a way of isolating you from other opportunities, people, or ways of escape
They Are Co-Dependent
According to the American Psychological Association (APA) co-dependency is a "dysfunctional relationship pattern in which an individual is psychologically dependent on (or controlled by) a person who has a pathological addiction." A co-dependent relationship is one where both parties are reliant on each other for both emotional and other types of support, which can make it difficult for either member to function independently and experience personal growth. These types of relationships are often one-sided and emotionally destructive, according to Mental Health America. Some signs of co-dependency in a relationship are:
- Your partner doesn't feel comfortable doing activities or errands on their own and doesn't want you to do them alone, either.
- You let go of your own wants and needs in order to please a partner and ensure that they won't end the relationship.
- Your partner struggles to make important decisions on their own and can't make one without your input/support.
- You have an intense need to seek approval from your partner and feel a lack of self-esteem whenever you feel as though you aren't impressing them.
Something Feels Off
Something may just feel 'off' in your relationship with your partner, which can sometimes fade away as time goes on. If this feeling of strangeness or unease remains or even builds, then it may be a red flag in your relationship. It's okay if you can't explain it in words, or give clear explanations to friends or family members about why something feels off, because the truth is, you don't have to. Trust your gut, because if some aspects of your relationship are making you feel uncomfortable, then it may not be serving your best interests. Some examples of this are:
- You feel uncomfortable around them but you're unsure why.
- Something is keeping you from being vulnerable around them.
- Something isn't 'clicking' between you and your partner.
Navigating Deal Breakers in Your Relationship
There are many potential deal breakers that may help you navigate your current or future relationships to ensure that you have a supportive partner who enhances your life. At the end of the day, if you feel as though your partner isn't respecting your boundaries, doesn't make you feel cared for, and is a source of constant conflict and stress in your life, then you may need to end the relationship in order to protect yourself and your mental health.