This article is sponsored by RSVP.
Rough patches arise in all relationships. However, there is a line between behaviour that can be improved and behaviour that one might render completely unacceptable.
When these types of behaviours — or deal-breakers — arise, it can leave individuals questioning whether their relationship is worth pursuing.
Working through problems and growing with your partner is an essential element of a healthy relationship, but things can get more difficult when it comes to deal-breaker type behaviour.
In a recent study conducted by RSVP, it was found that daters connected with those who listed both traits they found desirable and undesirable on their profiles equally. Considering those ‘preferences’ were mostly genetic (66%), it’s clear that deeper psychological connection and values are the most important elements in fruitful relationships.
To gain further insight into how to know when to work through a deal-breaker, we spoke to Ilona Gaudin, a psychologist at clinic RewireMe, about approaching these situations.
What is a deal-breaker?
According to Ilona, a deal-breaker is “an intolerable behaviour or difference between people in a relationship that both will not compromise on. Usually, a deal-breaker can lead to the end of the relationship.”
Ilona noted that deal-breakers are uniquely personal, and what may be a deal-breaker for one may not register as an issue for another. For example, differences in morals, standards, values, religion, lifestyle can all be deal-breakers.
“Major differences in future hopes and dreams of life direction such as whether to have children or where to live are also common deal-breakers. Other deal-breakers are intolerable behaviours such as physical or psychological abuse”, added Ilona.
What are common dealbreakers?
During her work as a psychologist, Ilona has noticed various patterns that occur with deal-breaker behaviours.
“In my practise, timing and whether to have children is the most common deal-breaker that I see. Another one is when difficulty with anger management and conflict resolutions has resulted in physical or emotional abuse,” she said.
“Also often just differences in personality traits that may have been attractive in the beginning can start to become intolerable when the pressures of life build up and the couple does not have the communication skills to navigate their differences.”
Ilona noted that due to the personal nature of deal-breakers, there are no ‘blanket’ deal-breakers.
“There are two parts to a deal-breaker. First, the behaviour and difference, and second, the person’s willingness to work on the behaviour or compromise on the difference,” noted Ilona.
“There are many examples of people staying in violent or abusive relationships, for example. That said, there are some behaviours that psychologists almost always advise to be considered deal-breakers, such as physical or emotional abuse, severe drug addiction, severe mental health problems.”
What are the signs a behaviour is worth ending a relationship over?
Ilona said a certain level of self-awareness is required to understand when a relationship is worth ending. She recommended reflective practices, like journaling, which can help individuals gain a greater understanding of whether there’s a serious deal-breaker at play or just a minor boundary violation.
“The uncomfortable truth is your psychologist, family, and friends don’t actually have the answer – you do. So be prepared to sit with yourself and get brutally honest,” said Ilona.
“Indecision makes perfect sense when we are afraid of change, love our partner, or don’t know much about our own patterns, wants or needs. But the answer is actually still with you.”
Ilona also noted that it’s essential for couples to vocalise what is or is not okay for you, even if the conversations are initially difficult to have.
“Be specific with naming the behaviour you don’t want rather than criticising your partner, and use those ever-useful ‘I’ statements like, ‘I feel’, ‘I want’ and ‘I need’. If your boundaries are still getting violated, even after you have communicated with them, it is time to think about whether the relationship is right for you,” she added.
“Boundary violations can be physical, emotional, intellectual, sexual, material and time. Ongoing severe boundary violations often lead to erosion of self-worth and self-esteem. Eventually, it results in the person needing to choose themselves over the relationship to maintain their own psychological or physical wellbeing.”
When are deal-breakers worth fixing?
According to Ilona, deal-breakers are worth fixing if there’s a genuine willingness by the person to work on their behaviour. She also recommends seeking professional support to navigate these problems too.
“However, if the person with the behaviour has no intention of altering the behaviour, or working on the relationship, then there is no point in the affected person continuing to work on their own. They are better off leaving the relationship,” she added.
Overall, ensuring your relationship is based on mutual respect and common ground is the most important factor. While some behaviours can be worked on, having similar intrinsic values and life goals is the most pivotal element of a healthy relationship.
Services like RSVP are founded on matching people with those deeper levels of common ground, to ensure behavioural similarities and real connections are forged. While love, at first sight, might not exist, finding that common ground right off the bat is easier when you’ve already laid out your boundaries and best qualities up front.