You keep kissing frogs for a reason.
It's not that having relationship deal breakers is bad, but our approach to upholding them is flawed.
Here are 3 misconceptions about deal breakers we need to clear up right away:
Misconception #1: Dating Deal Breakers Help Us Sort The Princes From The Frogs
If only this were true! In theory, our dating deal breakers exist to help us recognize the difference between a warty frog and a handsome prince. But research reveals a shocking truth: it's often easy to ignore your own relationship deal breakers.
It turns out, we're all talk and no follow-through when it comes to honoring our own line in the sand. Across the board, most of us fail to choose dating partners based on the preferences and deal breakers we swore to uphold. The result?
We keep kissing frogs and our prince charming is nowhere on the horizon.
Why, you ask? Research suggests that we may ignore our deal breakers in order to avoid inflicting rejection on someone else. As we grow closer to that hottie we're dating, our growing empathy for them clouds our objectivity. Maybe that's why we say that love is blind.
Our deal breakers quickly take a backseat to the glorious potential we see in a dating partner. And then, love blooms within a very narrow field of vision. In short, we see what we want to see. And by the time our blinders come off, we're knee deep in commitment and reluctant to pull out.
Reality Check: If you're dating, take off the blinders! Whip out your deal breakers list and use it as a measuring stick for the men you're dating. Are you sitting across from a frog? Let him hop away. Are you looking at a prince?
That's great, but look closer — is he is truly your prince? If you spot a deal breaker in his royal persona, and neither one of you is willing to negotiate, walk away, princess! You deserve better, and your Prince Charming is elsewhere.
Misconception #2: In Committed Relationships, Deal Breakers Help Control Our Partners' Behavior
You know how this power trip goes — you drop out your deal breakers in the form of ultimatums, letting your partner know, "You better mind your P's and Q's, and avoid all suspicion and slip-ups if you want to stay with me." But that approach is exactly where we get it wrong.
Deal breakers aren't meant to function as behavioral constraints used to control our partner.
In that scenario, we use deal breakers to relieve our own anxiety. We pull them out like big, blazing guns, threatening, "You cross this line, and I'll kick you to the curb." Only once the deal breaker line IS crossed, the heavy artillery remains strangely silent. We may fuss and make a bunch of noise. But we don't kick our man to the curb. Instead, we're all talk and no action. But now we're also filled with hurt.
Reality Check: Our deal breakers can't control someone else's behavior (and they're not meant to). We define our deal breakers to guide our own choices and behaviors. That list of no-nos describes what we refuse to tolerate in a relationship.
So quit making idle threats to others. If someone crosses your boundaries, simply adjust your behavior immediately. You are the one who makes the changes (about how you interact with that person from now on or whether you want to interact with them at all).
Misconception #3: When A Deal Breaker Is Violated, The Relationship Must End
How many deal breakers has your partner violated already? Are you really ready to call it quits? If so, maybe it's time to rethink your perception of deal breakers. What if your partner is genuinely repentant and sincerely eager to work towards reconciliation?
I'm not suggesting that your deal breakers are unimportant. What I am suggesting is that a deal breaker isn't necessarily a relationship ender.
If the odds between you are truly irreconcilable, by all means, it's time for the relationship to end.
But if you're each willing to explore what needs to change, and work to repair what's been lost, solid hope exists. Rather than using your deal breakers like a secret weapon, perhaps it's time that you and your partner share your list of forbidden behaviors respectfully.
Reality Check: Relationship boundaries are important. But your response when they are violated is even more important. If you walk away, then it was, indeed, a deal breaker. But if you decide to look deeper, perhaps meet with a counselor, and work toward rebuilding long time trust, that response can open the door to something new.
In the end, nothing is a deal breaker until you actually walk away, so choose your response carefully.
Communicate Instead Of Trying To Control
Don't use deal breakers as weapons, but do use them as great conversation starters. Pull out your list and clearly discuss them with your partner. Of course, if your boundaries are violated, you must act. But before kicking a spouse or partner to the curb, first assess their willingness, their ability, and their commitment to change.
Everyone makes mistakes. If they're willing, able and committed to change, why end a relationship? But if they're unwilling, unable, or uncommitted — and you can't tolerate it — there is no point in staying together.
Have you been hurt by a deal breaking partner? A relationship counselor can help you explore your joint willingness, ability and commitment to change. If you're in Northern VA, contact me. I understand the problem and I’m here to help. Need instant help to jump start relationship change? Grab my FREE guide, "How To Make Your Relationship Work."