Relationships can be a lot of work. Sometimes you just want to pack it in and call it a day, but there doesn’t seem to be any basis for doing so. It may not be clicking, but you’ve got yourself a seemingly wonderful woman and you don’t want to deal with the guilt of breaking up over superficial or self-centered, irrational reasons.
Sometimes you get lucky. There are those times when you’re entirely justified in calling it quits. There are certain one-off things women can do that give you an immediate, iron-clad and guilt-free out. Call it rationalization, call it a free pass, whatever you call it, this deal breaker means you can walk away with a clear conscience.
These relationship deal breakers essentially nullify the understanding you shared, and give you carte blanche when it comes to a breakup. Here are 10 deal breakers to keep your frustrated eyes peeled for.
1. Your crush is still flirting with other people.
If you’ve defined your relationship as something more than a one-time fling or a casual romance that neither of you should be actively flirting with others. Keep your guard up if you notice your crush checking out other people, laughing and flirting while out, or not wanting to commit to being exclusive. If you want to make things official and they dodge the questions or still want to play the field, move on to avoid being hurt.
2. Physical turn-offs
These aren’t always major issues like the above-mentioned wee willy; another friend of mine categorically ruled a guy out over his feet (she wasn’t weird about feet, just found them unattractive—and his gnarly toes and peeling soles creeped her out). I once broke up with a guy after he informed me that his family’s teeth “went south on them” and dentures were in his immediate future. Color me shallow—you have to have teeth. Is the problem something that can be fixed? (Sorry, fake teeth don’t count with me.) If not, is it something you can get over and even learn to find adorable? (Watching him take his dentures out every night and looking at his naked gums? Nope.) Two “no” answers here mean you’re probably looking at a real deal breaker.
3. Your significant other ignores you in public.
Run into a group of your significant other’s friends while out in public and get introduced as “a friend?” This doesn’t bode well for a relationship and is definitely a red flag. The person that you’re with should be proud to be seen with you, and eager to introduce you to their friends and family. If you’ve kept a secret, it’s time to find someone that appreciates you and isn’t afraid to show it.
4. Major behavioral turn-offs
Is he a chintzy tipper? Does he smack-talk his exes, his friends, his family? Is his laugh like the sound souls make when they’re sucked into the bowels of hell? Does he flirt with anything with a uterus, even if you’re right next to him? Sure, you could probably address some of these issues (e.g., “Let’s just enjoy this stand-up comedian in silence”), but are you looking for a prospect or a project? And some of these behaviors say something deeper about someone—a person who bad-mouths alleged friends behind their backs is revealing something about her loyalty and sincerity. And you can bet a guy who can’t stop bashing his ex still has some pretty strong feelings for her.
5. Getting caught in a lie.
Starting a relationship off with lies is never a good thing. If you catch your soon-to-be partner in a lie, run for the hills. Even if the lie is small or seems insignificant in the grand scheme of things, it could mean potential larger problems in the future. Someone who lies about minor things is also likely to lie about bigger situations. Save yourself the trouble of determining what’s the truth and what’s a lie by getting out of the relationship early.
6. Lifestyle turn-offs
I used to think drug use was a deal breaker for me until I fell for a guy who enjoyed the occasional doob. I figured it was something I could live with after all—till I found the enormous tub of weed stashed in the back of his fridge. Turned out he liked to sell it even more than smoke it. For me, drug dealer = deal breaker. For some their nonnegotiable is smoking; or alcohol or drug use (or abuse…or as in my case, trafficking). For some it’s sexual habits—a woman I know was approached by her husband several years into the marriage about whether she’d consider an open relationship. Though her initial reaction was a categorical no, he persuaded her to try it, and now they happily share the love. Only you know what you can handle and what you’ll never be able to get past. If someone is dedicated to lifestyle choices you know are firm deal breakers for you, don’t even try to overcome them; just cut your losses.
7. Your crush puts everything else but you first.
It’s great to have hobbies and interests outside of the relationship, but if your crush consistently puts everything but you first, it could be time to call it quits. Someone who doesn’t make time for you in the beginning of a relationship isn’t likely to change that habit, so it’s better to get out of the relationship early if you are someone that likes plenty of time with your significant other. Ask your crush to compromise and spend more time together before pulling the plug, however, as he or she might not even realize that you have a problem with a behavior until you point it out.
8. Core traits
In my shallow youth, I went out with a man so beautiful that I regularly wanted to go places where we might be photographed together, just so everyone could see this beefcake on my arm. He was also tons of fun—but unfortunately dumb as a bag of hair. As much as I genuinely liked him (and liked looking at him), ultimately I knew things were going nowhere because one of my ironclad deal breakers is intelligence. Core personality traits—humor, sincerity, ideology, energy level, introvert/extrovert, laziness, negativity, etc.—can’t really be changed. If you’re contemplating a relationship with someone whose political leanings make you stabby, consider how it will feel after ten, twenty, or fifty years. The courtship phase is when everything is seen through candy-colored glasses. Clashing core values are never going to seem more charming as time goes on.
9. Disappearing acts.
If you’re seeing someone on a consistent basis, they owe it to you to tell you when they’ll be out of town for an extended period of time. Whether it’s vacation, a work trip, or something else, you deserve to know that you’ll be flying solo for a little while. Someone that disappears for a week or two without giving you a heads-up isn’t respectful of your feelings and isn’t worth your time.
This one gets a category all its own because it’s the biggest dividing line of deal breakers. Some women (and men) can forgive, even if they don’t forget (a certain presidential candidate—or twelve—comes to mind). For others, there’s no going back (as Robin Thicke will sorrowfully tell you). This is one you can’t really know till it happens to you—but if you’re dating someone who’s in another relationship, remember the wise words of my mother: If he’ll cheat with you, he’ll probably cheat on you. If you already know you’re dating someone with fidelity issues, is it really worth taking the chance that it’s a one-off?
11. Your significant other is abusive.
Whether verbal or physical, no form of abuse is acceptable. Everyone deserves to feel safe and comfortable in a relationship, without the threat of physical or emotional violence. Abuse is a major red flag and should never be tolerated. Someone who can’t manage their temper will only cause more problems down the road, so get out of the relationship immediately.
12. Superiority complex.
If your girlfriend or boyfriend is constantly trying to correct your behavior or tell you “the right way” to do things, this should raise a red flag. A healthy relationship is made up of two people that are equals, not one person who feels superior and scolds the other. They could be trying to establish superiority over you, or just be the type of person that needs to be the best at everything. No matter the reason, it’s a deal breaker if you don’t feel like an equal in the relationship.
13. Extended unemployment.
While it’s important to be understanding of someone’s employment situation or financial standing, dating someone who is unemployed, lives at home, or has substantial debt could be a major deal breaker for some. If your significant other is constantly sending out resumes, interviewing for jobs, looking for a new place or actively trying to get out of debt, an exception could be made. However, if their daily activities consist of napping, having mom do the laundry and playing video games, it’s probably time to move on.
This is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of relationship deal breakers, but these ten red flags are arguably the most important things to consider when embarking on a new relationship. Other deal breakers, like being vain or obsessing over hobbies, could potentially be overlooked if no other red flags are raised. And of course, what is a deal breaker to one person might not be to another. Date smart, everyone.
Have you ever overcome a deal breaker—or tried and failed? What are your non-negotiable deal breakers?