Relationship Deal Breakers [Interview]
Valentine's Day comes around every year, and whether you get really excited about the holiday, or absolutely loathe the holiday, usually depends on whether or not you have a significant other on February 14. Sometimes relationships end for very good reasons, sometimes they end for very bad reasons, and sometimes they end for totally absurd reasons! Dr. LeslieBeth Wish is an award-winning, nationally honored psychotherapist and author of the research-based book, Smart Relationships: How Successful Women Can Find True Love. She took some time to answer a few questions regarding relationship "deal breakers," ranging from the serious to the laughable.
What are the most common deal breakers in relationships?
Relationship deal breakers are highly personal. What one person will tolerate, another person will not. A November 3, 2016 Wall St Journal article discusses findings from several different studies about couples' most common deal breakers.The studies reported similar, top deal breakers:
What does this "mean?" A disheveled appearance often conveys an inner sense of insecurity and low self-worth. The person who shows up with mussed up hair, unkempt fingernails or wrinkled or stained clothing may be broadcasting: "I don't really care about myself." The messiness can serve as a rationalization for being rejected: "Oh the person was just too picky and stuffy." Or, similarly, the person might be communicating: "Take me the way I am." This seeming defiance of social norms is also a thin disguise for low sense of self-worth.
What does this "mean?" Laziness can signal unreliability and fear of confrontations and decision-making. Mutually happy couples in long-term relationships report that one of the main things that keeps them happily together is their shared trust and reliance on their partner. Each person served as the other's "wing-man/woman."
Being too needy
What does this "mean?" Neediness can suck the air out of relationships. The needy person often feels chronically unloved, and to manage their feelings they criticize their partner for not caring enough. But, most often, there is rarely enough that the partner can do since the neediness stems from deep childhood losses.
Not having a good sense of humor
And what does this "mean?" This deal breaker is a real sleeper. It "speaks" to so much that is important in a relationship: Shared values and bond; mental and emotional flexibility; and ability to laugh at yourself!
Other than the lack of a sense of humor, I was actually surprised at these findings until I continued reading and learned that many of these studies offered a pre-selected checklist of deal breakers. My research with thousands of women and couples, as well as the solid research of other experts such as John Gottman, found different deal breakers. Here are a few of the top ones: infidelity, domestic violence, absconding with the finances, and pornography addiction.
What are some of the most outrageous deal breakers you’ve heard about in relationships?
I had one couple break up because they could not agree on how to decorate their home. He liked traditional, she liked contemporary. They bickered for years until she left him. The real problems, of course, were lack of good problem-solving skills and inability to incorporate in some way the other person's needs.
In another couple the same lack of problem-solving skills and refusal to honor the partner's needs led to a break up because they could not agree on what breed of puppy to buy.
What are some relationship issues men find more important than women?
In general, men and women can often have different sexual needs. Men's most common complaint is that sex is too infrequent. Why is this important to men? Often, for men, sex provides both tension-release and feelings of being accepted and approved.
When I was in my three-year post-graduate program in marriage, couples and family, the faculty repeatedly reminded us that there are three things that men fear most in intimate relationships: "Rejection, rejection and rejection."
Happy couples report that their sexual needs and preferences match. When the man feels cut off from sex he feels rejected, judged, unloved and pushed away.
What are some relationship issues women find more important than men?
Again, in general, women want to feel some of the same things sexually from their partner, but they tend to place less emphasis on frequency and more emphasis on quality. They want to cuddle, talk and experience passion and desire from their partner. These experiences can make the woman feel "special" and desirable.
How often do couples think that an issue is a deal breaker, but are actually able to come to terms with it and save their relationship?
Even long-term, happily married couples can experience years of unresolved issues. Just think of all the important decisions that most couples face: Should we have children? If so, how many? How do we please each of our families at holiday time? Where should we live? How much money do we really need? And what should we spend it on? Should Mom live with us--or nearby?
Some of these issues are not easily answered with just a Yes or a No. Most solutions are in the gray area in between yes and no. As a result, couples can go round and round on these issues, and when other problems arise, one of the partners might really want to bolt. Most often, they come to their senses and make some kind of decision.
It sounds strange, but happy, long-term couples report gray, acceptable-enough "truces" about key issues! They learn to live with them--and they learn to develop a sense of humor about them as well.
How often do couples stay together too long when there is an obvious deal breaker in their relationship?
Many couples agree--often silently--to stay together until the kids are gone or launched in their lives. These marriages and couples are often living one year at a time. The emotional and financial cost of breaking up is often too steep.
This "sticking it out" until death do us part can also happen when one of the partners cannot support him or herself financially--or when neither partner wants to give up his or her lifestyle.
Overall, I've learned from my clients that love and happiness with one's partner are quirky, often unpredictable, and unique to each couple. Just sit in a chair at a mall and watch all the couples who seem like a mismatch to you!
Yet, the benefits of taking a chance on love and building a rich partnership offer many, many important advantages. Having a good mate can improve your health, boost your mood and immune system, reduce stress and the risk of heart disease and cancer, and make you feel less alone in the world.