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Five Dating Deal Breakers That Actually Matter

They’re not your typical make-it-or-break-its, but they’re incredibly significant.
Photo Credit: Jennifer Trahan

Photo Credit: Jennifer Trahan

If I asked you to tell me what you want in the person you’re going to spend the rest of your life with, would you be able to give me a list of qualities and characteristics?

The interesting thing about this question is that our answer is usually “yes”—yet the relationships we are in suggest otherwise. As a licensed professional counselor specializing in relationships, I have worked with countless women who have known what their dating deal breakers are yet followed their hearts into the wrong relationships. Many women made excuses, gave second (third, fourth, and fifth) chances, and sacrificed too much just to try and “make it work.”

Whether driven by the fear of starting over, feelings of desperation, or fear of being alone, many times we ignore our needs and desires and continue moving forward in relationships that are unhealthy and—at the end of the day—not at all what we want.

Whether you’re in a dating relationship or not, it’s crucial to start thinking about what kind of person will make a good spouse for you, as well as what kind of person won’t. In my book, True Love Dates, I talk about the importance of creating a “Green, Yellow, and Red” list of desired and deal-breaking attributes long before you enter a dating relationship. It’s one thing to have vague criteria in your mind, but it’s a whole other thing to actually take the time to put it on paper. Distinguish among the things that are most important to you (greens), the things that you prefer (yellows), and the things that are definite deal breakers (reds).

When we think of make-it-or-break-its, our mind might quickly go to more obvious characteristics, such as drug abuse or a violent temper. While these things are absolutely harmful and important to identify, know that sometimes our dating deal breakers can reveal themselves in little ways and are easy to overlook. Do yourself a huge favor by making yourself aware of the following traits, and then move away from people who have them before you’re in too deep.

01. Dishonesty

If you don’t have honesty in a relationship, you don’t have trust. And if you don’t have trust, you don’t have a healthy relationship. It’s important to be in a relationship in which you can share your heart openly and expect the same in return.

We’re not just talking about deep, dark secrets here; we’re also talking about little white lies. Is he honest about where he’s going or why he’s late? Is he quick to take responsibility for his mistakes, or does he falsely blame others? Is he genuine about who he is and what he’s all about? Healthy relationships are built on authenticity, transparency, and honesty. If you’re seeing a pattern of deceit and dishonesty, it’s time to do yourself a favor and move on.

02. Unavailability

Dr. Judith Orloff, psychiatrist and author of The Ecstasy of Surrender: 12 Surprising Ways Letting Go Can Empower Your Life, tells eHarmony that in order to be with someone, he “must be willing and available to have a relationship with you.” Emotionally unavailable people are not involved, connected, or engaged in the relationship. Usually, they are distracted by other things. Something else (or someone else) is taking their attention away from the relationship.

This could be someone as obvious as the alcoholic who is always looking for the next opportunity to have a drink or someone as socially accepted as the workaholic who prioritizes his work above all else—but they all have this one thing in common: They’re not fully invested in you or in the relationship. So many times, men and women stick around in these empty relationships, waiting for things to change. But a one-sided dating relationship will always equal a one-sided marriage. What you see in dating won’t change just because you say “I do.” Save yourself heartache and grief by choosing better for your life.

03. Self-Absorption

A person who is self-centered is someone who is so concerned with himself that he doesn’t have the capacity—or even the desire—to focus on someone else. He’s the kind of person who lives with the mentality of “it’s all about me.”

You’ll recognize him because he tends to live his life as “a party of one” even when he’s in a committed relationship. He makes choices, decisions, and plans based on what’s best for only him rather than taking you and your needs into consideration. From something as simple as where you’re going out to eat to something as important as how you communicate, a self-absorbed person defaults to what works for him, and he’s usually unwilling to change. If you’re naturally a “giver,” this dynamic may not seem like a bad fit, but overlooking this deal breaker can make for a life of neglect and dissatisfaction.

04. Lack of Respect

I recently got an email from a concerned woman whose boyfriend was constantly pushing the limits with her physically. They had discussed the level of physical intimacy that she was comfortable with, but time and time again, he would try to convince her to give more than she was ready to give. He would say things like, “We’ve been dating for so long,” or, “We’re ready for this,” and it was becoming a constant part of their interactions. She was worried that their relationship was becoming all about the physical aspect, and she was feeling disrespected.

Maybe you can relate to this scenario. When your limits are pushed, requests are not heard, or boundaries are ignored, you are experiencing a lack of respect. If you find that you must repeat yourself or constantly argue your case when it comes to physical or emotional boundaries, then it’s time to really consider where you fall on your significant other’s priority list. If there are signs of disrespect in your current relationship, you better believe those will only be magnified when you enter into a marriage.

05. Overly Critical

In any relationship, the longer you’ve been with someone, the more you see him for who he really is—faults and all. We’re all human; therefore, we always have areas in our life where we need to grow, mature, and change. But a critical person will fixate on the negatives and call them out any chance he gets. He’ll be quick to point out your weakness rather than your strength. He’ll be quickest to point the finger toward what you’re doing wrong rather than the things you’re doing right.

In healthy relationships, there’s always a time for important conversations in which we challenge and encourage one another to become the best versions of ourselves. But a critical person is never satisfied with who you are because he’s always focused on who he wants you to be instead. If you’re in a relationship like this long enough, you can be made to feel you’re not good enough.

But the truth is, you are absolutely good enough—right here, right now, standing alone. You will always attract the kind of person you believe you deserve. So it’s time to believe you deserve better!