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.
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Editor: Renée Picard
Photo: elephant archives