Lucas Wall: I’m not sure there’s a natural point to address them. As I get to know somebody, I go through deal breakers in my head. If I discover somebody doesn’t match up, I red-flag that pretty quickly. Some things are behavior-based, such as smoking, and are evident quickly; others are harder to ascertain, such as whether he wants to have children, and require the right moment to address. You don’t want to ask somebody on the third date if he’s looking to have kids or not—that’s really deep too early. But at the same time, you want to clear all the deal breakers before you commit to a relationship, lest you learn of one after you’ve already entered the boyfriend stage.
My deal breakers are someone who wants to have children, goes to church, smokes or uses drugs, doesn’t like my cats and/or has a pet dog or bird, wants to live in the suburbs, and doesn’t like to travel.
Dana Neil: I think you continually address your deal breakers from the beginning to whenever. There are the big deal breakers that you have to think about in the beginning such as religion, if you want children, and if smoking is okay. Once you get the big ones out of the way, as the relationship continues you start to learn more about the person. Do they sing and have a horrible voice? Will you be able to stand this for years to come? Or you can get all Seinfeld and break up with someone because they eat their peas one at a time. Personally, my deal breakers are selfishness and being unkind to others.
Michael Amesquita: After a relationship ensues, one would have to take that imaginary but very real checklist, and see what items are real deal breakers. I know that to date someone, they have to be a nonsmoker and not have cats. Also they have to be a Christian. I guess when it comes down to it, if she’s not a Latter-day Saint, she’d have to be okay with me being one and raising our kids that way. Also, she couldn’t be a slob, and she’d have to treat her body with respect. She’d have to be of the mindset that a relationship/marriage is something you never quit working on.
Sally Colson Cline: Deal breakers should come up before the “are we seeing each other exclusively?” conversation. If something is a real deal breaker, you probably should never even get to that conversation. Smoking is a deal breaker for a lot of people, but it isn’t fair to get into a relationship with a smoker and then demand he or she quit. If you knew what you were getting into, you don’t have any business complaining.
On the other hand, some deal breakers are not as obvious and might not crop up until later. For example, say you embark on a relationship with a hot girl who proceeds to gain an ungodly amount of weight, or a vegetarian who decides to start eating meat, or whatever. These are the deal breakers (not mine, necessarily) that have to be dealt with as they happen.
The problem with deal breakers is that people change. An ideal companion now might take on some unseemly habits in five years. Things that aren’t important to you in the moment might be critical to you in the future. I don’t have any hard-core deal breakers now, but who’s to say what will matter down the road?
Max Schwartz: A lot of things I thought of originally weren’t really long-term-relationship deal breakers as much as they were “why would I go on another date with you?” deal breakers. So this was a little tough. I guess you probably start evaluating the more long-term ones in the range of two to three months, probably closer to three.
I guess a big deal breaker for me is people who don’t care about what kind of shape they’re in. I’m not saying that I’m only attracted to one kind of body type, or some sort of “no fatties” frat-boy misogyny, but it matters to me that people care about being active and really enjoy working out, being outdoors, being athletic. I’m a little bit of a gym rat—more of a running rat—and if someone I dated didn’t share at least some of my enthusiasm, I’m not sure it’d work out.
I love food. I love to cook. I love being adventurous with food. I don’t care if you eat meat, but if you have no interest in trying new restaurants or going out of your way eat something new or you’re really picky about the food you eat, then that isn’t going to work.
I guess the last one has to do with the downside to the DC dorky/passionate trend—oversincerity. I want somebody who’s passionate about something, but if they take themselves or the thing they work on too seriously, that’s a problem.
Jenn Heilman: There’s not a straightforward timetable in my opinion for discussing long-term deal breakers. I find that this sort of information naturally comes up in a relationship as it progresses. If it doesn’t, I think they should be discussed if you see the relationship possibly moving toward a long-term commitment.
I think my biggest long-term-relationship deal breaker would involve starting a family and having kids. I always thought it wouldn’t be a big deal either way, but now that I know people who are married and having kids, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want at least one. I think that feeling will only become stronger once I’m in their shoes. Other than that, I wouldn’t call the lifestyle decisions and expectations that come from being parents or from one another as a couple deal breakers. It’s more a give-and-take with compromise. Will religion be a part of your family life? Will you both continue to work full-time, or will one of you be a stay-at-home parent? What type of relationship will you continue to have with your own families? You need to be on the same page with one another as to where you see yourself in the future rather than waiting to cross that bridge when you get there.
What are your deal breakers, readers? What would cause you to break up with somebody? Let us know in the comments below.