By Linne Halpern
How do you determine what behaviors should be labeled “dealbreakers” in a healthy relationship? There are clear ones (abuse of any kind) and less clear ones (trust issues and disagreeing on core values, for instance). And sometimes, those less obvious actions can be tricky to name. If you find yourself questioning where to draw that line, we’re here to help. We spoke with three experts and developed a list of behaviors that should always be relationship dealbreakers.
Refusal to accept responsibility
When it comes to arguments, taking ownership of past faults is crucial for forgiveness and moving on. Relationship expert Susan Winter says that you’re probably being manipulated if you find yourself in a situation where, “no matter what your partner does to hurt you, it’s not their fault. It’s your fault for being sensitive and reactive.” Your partner’s failure to accept reality and accountability will create a hamster wheel effect, leaving you feeling unbalanced and in an unsustainable relationship.
Controlling behavior can present itself in many forms, says psychologist and relationship expert Dr. Vijayeta Sinh. Demanding access to text messages, suggesting changes to physical appearance, and limiting social relationships are all examples of a partner’s unhealthy assertion of control over your personal life. If your partner can’t respect that you’re your own person, the relationship won’t be healthy or happy.
Abuse of any kind
New York-based psychologist Dr. Rebeca Scherman reminds us that abuse of any kind (physical, sexual, or emotional) should always be a deal breaker. “Unfortunately,” says Dr. Scherman, “because of complex histories of trauma, people can have trouble clarifying what constitutes abuse.” If you’re questioning if a situation is abusive or how to exit it, love is respect, a project of the National Domestic Violence Hotline, has online resources and a hotline with trained experts available 24/7. You can call 1-866-331-9474 or text “LOVEIS” to 22522.
Patterns of dishonesty
Dr. Sinh counts dishonesty as another frequent dealbreaking behavior. Cheating is a big one, but dishonesty can manifest in other ways too. Lies about where your partner has been, withholding financial information, bending the truth about their past, and even seemingly small things like lying about completing a task are all cause for concern. A foundation of trust is essential for building a mutually caring and beneficial partnership.
Inability to resolve conflict
Winter advises that you’re probably in a destructive cycle if “your partner enjoys drama and fighting, and refuses to look for healthy solutions to issues.” Temper tantrums and a romanticization of emotional instability are signs of immaturity that won’t bode well for long-term partnership. Winter adds, “If there’s no conflict resolution, resentments will grow, which will erode any love that was there in the beginning.”
Chronic lack of support
Feeling like your partner doesn’t have your back is a tell-tale dealbreaker according to Dr. Sinh. Your relationship should be a loving, caring, empathetic additive to your life. Whether your partner graciously intuits your needs or obliges after being asked for help, they should understand that you don’t always have the bandwidth to be giving support without receiving it as well. If you’re continually lacking support, it might be time to leave.
Failure to grow
The desire for growth is underratedly important in a relationship. “If a partner seeks to stifle your growth due to their own insecurities, the relationship will end,” explains Winter. Your partner should want to see you striving for your potential, achieving career goals, making new friends, and learning new things. If they feel threatened by your growth or are unwilling to grow alongside you, problems will arise. Working together to bring out the best possible version of each other is a huge factor for a relationship’s ultimate success.
Lastly, identify your triggers
Because some dealbreakers are individual, what counts as a hard “no” can vary from person to person. For some, differences in religious beliefs or sexual preferences can be considered dealbreakers. In other cases, aligning on the desire to start a family may be non-negotiable. Dr. Scherman suggests beginning to identify your own hard lines by asking yourself: “How do I want to be treated? How do I not want to be treated? How do I want to feel in a relationship?”
If one or more of these dealbreakers comes up in your relationship, Winter suggests “clearly explaining to your partner the consequences of their actions and how they directly affect you.” If they aren’t willing to work on changing their behavior, don’t shy away from setting up boundaries or reconsidering the partnership. You deserve the relationship that you want and need.