4 Potential Deal-Breakers to Be Aware of When Considering a Long-Term Relationship.

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vintage couple sharing milkshakes

There’s a popular link being shared on various social media sites called “30 Things That Will (Probably) Happen in Your 30s.”

It’s a funny, fairly spot-on list.

One thing that struck me, however, was this one:

If you’re still single, you’ll re-think some of those deal-breakers that were so important in your 20s. (You’ll also re-think your profile on OK Cupid. Again and again.)

While the overall tone of the post made it clear that it wasn’t to be taken too seriously, I kept returning to the following question over and over again: Are there some deal-breakers that we should keep no matter how old we get and no matter how eager we are to settle down?

I believe the answer to that question is an unequivocal, “Yes, there are.”

I am not talking about superficial things like height, the sort of car they drive, etc. (Hopefully, we see past these things by the time we are in our 20s.) Rather, I am referring to those things that in those first flushes of love we may chose to ignore or believe may change in the future and become serious issues over time.

Speaking from personal experience, I am always amazed how the “little things” or things that were “no big deal” in the beginning often do become very big things that may eventually end a relationship.

Therefore, it’s helpful to be aware of the following potential red flags that may arise when we meet someone we are considering to be our spouse or long-term partner. While the things below are not necessarily relationship-breakers, it’s nonetheless a good idea to discuss these things or try to come to some sort of resolution earlier rather than later:

1. One party wants kids and the other does not.

Many of us in our early 20s are ambivalent about wanting kids. (I certainly was.)

However, by the mid-to-late 20s and especially by the 30s, most of us have matured and know with some certainty  if we want to be parents or not.

If you happen to meet your dream girl or guy who feels the opposite way that you do, take what they say seriously. Please do not think they may change their mind in the future.

Personally, I know more than a few couples who were in this situation and thought that the other party would change their mind once they were living together or married. In one case, there was even a “surprise” pregnancy that had been planned by the wife who mistakenly thought her husband would change his tune once he became a dad. Without going into lengthy detail, none of these cases ended well.

If having a child or not having one is something we strongly feel that we want or do not want, then it may be better to let go of our partner even if we really believe they are the one and would otherwise be perfect if not for differences on this issue.

This is one difference where the potential for heartache is far too huge to ignore.

2. There is a large discrepancy in your respective incomes.

The late, great Adrienne Riche nailed it in her poem “Living in Sin” where she points out that in those first crazy, early times of love we don’t notice notice the little things like the furniture needs dusting.

Sometimes we even ignore far bigger things.

One thing that comes to mind is differences in income. While our knee-jerk reaction may be to say that even thinking about money is tacky when it comes to love and love conquers all, the truth remains that money is important.

As someone who has been on both sides of the coin—i.e., wined and dined as a struggling graduate student in my 20s by a wealthy man and much later on, in a relationship where I picked up the tab the majority of the time—I can say that after awhile, even the most seemingly generous, I-don’t-care-about-money sort may get resentful of always being the one who’s paying the bills.

Also, even if it’s a case where one party truly seems okay with paying most of the expenses, circumstances changes.

While it may have been okay to be paying most of the rent for a studio apartment suddenly, it is not okay to be paying for the entire mortgage each month for new starter home in surburbia.

Much like #1, it’s better to think about the long-term effects of such a situation rather than be all Scarlett O’Hara about it and say you’ll think about it tomorrow. Often, tomorrow comes sooner than any of us realize.

3. There are extreme differences in ideology.

We’ve all heard opposites attract. Sometimes they do. As political pundits James Carville and Mary Matalin have proven, sometimes these sorts of partnership work out quite well.

However, sometimes they end very badly.

While the initial novelty of being attracted to someone so different from us can be thrilling at first and even sexually attractive, once the novelty wears off we have to deal with the practical issues.

This is especially true once families are blended or children come into the picture.

For example, say you happen to be an atheist that found your partner’s deep religious beliefs or spirituality tolerable but not for you. However, once a child or children enters the picture and your partner wants to raise them in their belief you suddenly find that you can no longer ignore or just write off that difference.

Or say that you can tolerate your partner’s divergent political beliefs but not his parents’ and/or siblings or friends but suddenly, you are having to spend time with them. Can you really do this or is this your idea of hell?

(Also, it isn’t just deep differences in religious or political beliefs that can get in the way of a relationship. I know of at least one couple who split because the man, an avowed animal right’s activist and vegan, could not get over the fact that his partner was a meat-loving, leather-wearing girl who wasn’t going to change.)

In some cases, even love may not be enough to overcome these things.

4. One of us is extremely social while the other is not.

Once the hot sex wears off and we’ve spent all time we should getting to know each other better, we are going to want to re-connect with others.

For some, that may mean going to parties, concerts, events or hanging out with large groups of people while for others, it may mean doing little or none of that and preferring instead the company of only a few.

While it’s great for couples to have different interests and friends, a social butterfly paired up with a recluse may run into problems.

Anecdotally, I know more than one affair that started because of this. Usually, it was the one who was the more social of the two who happened to meet someone else via a social activity and suddenly found that it really did bother them that their partner did not want to go out and do things.

Of course, this doesn’t mean all these sorts are pairings are doomed to end in affairs, but it certainly can be a problem if one of the parties feels they are sacrificing what they want and who they are for the sake of the other. (The same can be said for a homebody who feels they are always being dragged to social events they don’t want to attend.)

Therefore, speak up if it feels that the above is happening. Don’t wait for months or years to say something because chances are, it’s going to be said in a tirade of hysteria or with a lot of resentment behind it.

In closing, while none of the above need be kiss of death for potential long-term relationships, it is nonetheless a good idea to keep these mind especially if they come up early on.

The sooner we discuss them and try to come to an understanding, the better we may be able to tell if our new relationship has a chance of lasting. And while the relationship may end regardless because of something else entirely different, it’s still good to try and resolve these potential stumbling blocks sooner rather than later when we are more open to compromise.

In the end, sometimes we can compromise on some things, and other times we cannot. Falling into the latter doesn’t make us a bad person nor does it mean we are unworthy of a partner. Rather, it just may mean we haven’t found the right match for us yet.



Don’t Miss Your Soul Mate Flags. 

When Deal-Breakers Deserve a Second Chance 



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Editor: Renée Picard

Photo: elephant archives


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Kimberly Lo

Kimberly Lo is a yoga instructor and freelance editor & writer based in Charlottesville, VA. In her spare time, she enjoys needlework, travel, and photography. Connect with her on Facebook.

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anonymous Apr 15, 2015 10:46am

Thus, the need for equal pay for equal work. At least its a place to start.

anonymous Jan 24, 2015 6:48pm

I believe this article is true to a large extent. Of course, two people who love each other always make compromises. However, money is security and when one person feels the other is being taken advantage of due to paying everything it does lead to resentment. Love should conquer all, but we all live in the real world and I believe one person paying for everything does lead to resentment in most marriages or relationships. Number one is especially true, and not only the issue of one person wanting children and the other one doesn’t, but also the number of children should also be agreed upon before entering marriage.

anonymous Aug 19, 2014 5:16pm

I lived #4 for 20 years. Introverts and extroverts may be able to do well together but i suspect it would depend on how extreme the cases. We managed 20 years but it's sad how much of ourselves we both gave up.

anonymous Aug 15, 2014 3:35pm

5. Huge discrepancy in sex drive

anonymous Aug 14, 2014 10:05am

This article needed proofreading.

anonymous Aug 14, 2014 2:18am

Wow… I am very, very surprised to find number 2 on elephant journal. That is ridiculously shallow advice. It’s treating a relationship like a score card where everyone has to pull their own weight equally, regardless of whether one person is not contributing as much because they are being selfish, or if it’s because the unfair, inequitable capitalist system doesn’t value their societal contribution enough to pay them well. A relationship is a collaboration, and it should be based on a principle of ‘from each according to their own abilities, to each according to their own needs.’

If having both partners paying the same rent /mortgage/whatever is such a big issue, then don’t go for that luxurious two story house right near the city centre that noone needs. Go for something your partner can afford. Or better yet, buck the trend, go build a cheap micro home or earth ship, save the environment and your pocket.

Placing money matters above matters of the heart is giving in to the very system that we spiritual people yearn to be free of.

    anonymous Aug 14, 2014 10:23am

    I think you misread the article or the point of that. I am not saying that "everyone has to pull their weight equally". As someone who was a SAHM for 2.5 years, I was in a situation where my husband paid all the mortgage, the household expenses, etc.

    However, I also have seen and been in a relationship where one person was picking up most of the tab and after awhile, the other grew to resent it. More often than not, it was thrown in the other's face.

    As far as your advice about building a cheap micro home or earth ship goes, 1. I don't know where you would get the idea that I was referring to luxury homes or a "big" mortgage or rent in general 2. even if that is an option, it still costs money to build one of these things not to mention renting or buying land and even if it one can afford it outright, then there is still money needed to maintain these places, pay taxes, etc . Again, I knew a couple who lived in modest cabin and there were still disagreement over fiances because the woman was the one paying nearly all the bills.

    Yes, love should come first, but money plays in big a role in the vast majority of people's lives.

anonymous Aug 13, 2014 8:15pm

Number 4 ended two people's marriage in my circle of friends. That is a VERY real issue.

    anonymous Aug 14, 2014 11:36am

    Thanks for commenting. Yes, it is and not one that many think a lot about esp. early on in a relationship.

anonymous Aug 12, 2014 11:36am

I agree that these are all challenging issues. Of course 2-4 can be negotiated with honest, open conversations. But the first one is almost impossible to get around. Sadly too many people stay in relationships where there's a discrepancy re:kids, thinking they can somehow make things work, rather than ending the relationship and looking for someone who wants the same thing as they do.