Let’s get clear about what a deal breaker is and what it isn’t. It is any condition that is unacceptable to one or both partners. Everyone’s willingness to tolerate adverse behaviors can vary enormously; there are no conditions that are fundamentally deal-breakers.
What is intolerable to one person, such as a partner with a different religious orientation, differing political views, different values in regard to monogamy or polyamory, or recreational drug use might be within acceptable limits. This does not mean that some conditions are not more likely to become deal-breakers, especially if they continue over time. Most of us can live for a short time with undesirable conditions if we have hope that things will change in the not-too-distant future.
If one partner chooses a job that requires him or her to temporarily relocate to another state and the other is unwilling to move, it’s possible that this situation can be tolerated if there is an agreement about the amount of time of the separation and how to maintain contact during that time.
Consider when one of the partners is an active alcoholic whose behavior has become intolerable to the other. If there is a commitment on the part of the alcoholic to take steps to end their addiction, this situation may stay out of the deal-breaker category. If there is no intention to keep their promise to stop drinking, it can become a deal-breaker. It depends upon the other partner’s capacity to continue to tolerate these circumstances.
The more confidence each partner has in the other’s trustworthiness, the more likely it is that the deal will not be broken. Deal breakers have more to do with each partner’s intentions than they do with their behavior. Many situations seem unresolvable, yet couples manage to work them out. Not every potential deal-breaker should be worked out; some relationships are simply not meant to be. But when the foundation of a partnership is sufficiently strong, even seemingly insurmountable obstacles can be overcome.
Most of the conditions that are in the deal-breaker category are not the source of the problem, but rather are symptoms of an underlying destructive issue: trust. According to Webster, trust is grounded in a sense of confidence that we can rely on another to be there for and with us, and to provide “safety, protection, and support.” Trust means that we can depend on our partner to be honest, to care about us, to do things that contribute to us, and to want to make our life easier. These expectations work both ways. Trust requires mutuality and reciprocity.