Anatomy of a Dealbreaker
The Dealbreaker Experience
Dealbreakers are as empowering as they are terrifying. If you know what yours are you’re in good shape. You can ask about them casually upon meeting someone or ask them bluntly (job interview style) over coffee. At this point, hearing the relationship equivalent of nails on a chalkboard isn’t going to be the end of the world. You’ll probably talk for another 30 minutes about how you could still maybe be friends and then walk away knowing that you’ll both send each other a couple more fleeting text messages and move on to that awkward stage where you pretend not to know each other in the grocery store.
Coming across a dealbreaker while you’re on a fourth date in the middle of a moderately expensive dinner isn’t even that bad. Your heart might be sprained at the thoughts of losing what could have been. Then, all that potential bliss escapes in one depressingly uncontrollable sigh. Overall you’re glad it happened, but that doesn’t make it feel good in the moment.
The alternative to those two scenarios can be pretty damn soul crushing. It’s when you’re one, three, five, or seven years into a mostly amazing relationship with the person(s) of your dreams and you discover a dealbreaker that you never knew existed. Nobody wants to be here. The next couple weeks or months are going to be like a stroll through a field of heartbreak filled land mines. This is the place where you question your understanding of everything you ever needed or wanted from your relationships and barter and negotiate with your partner and yourself in an attempt to find a way to continue.
So, What is a Dealbreaker?
That’s really what we’re talking about when we describe a dealbreaker. It’s a need, a big need, that’s going to go seriously unfulfilled if you give in to whatever thing you’ve decided is too much iceberg for your unsinkable cruise ship of a love life, but at least you’re not asleep at the wheel. For some people it’s the absence of a promising career path, which means they probably need financial stability. For others it’s the presence of tattoos or piercings, which mean they probably have very specific needs about their image and how they appear to others. You might be saying to yourself, “those aren’t real needs”, and that’s where things get tricky.
A need, by definition, is something that you can’t go without. Our basic survival needs are obvious. Relationship needs are necessary for the survival or the relationship, except the line between needs and wants when it comes to relationships is incredibly hard to define. Nobody tells you (outside of professional therapy) that you need to grab a magnifying glass and look long and hard for that line, especially if you want to have healthy loving relationships.
Here’s what I know. A missing need will make you miserable in a relationship relatively quickly, with some exceptions. When you pretend that need is not a need, then it will make you miserable very very slowly. I can’t really say which is better or worse, but misery sucks. You can keep that shit. Also, the more wants that you have in your life, the happier you are. I’m not talking about stupid material wants either. I’m talking about things that bring you actual joy. We’re all constantly working toward our individual needs and wants. There are plenty of other things and people in the way of getting those. It’s worth noting that if you can’t respect the needs and wants of others and their ethical attempts to get those things, you might be a terrible person…Just saying.
With this extremely limited knowledge, I started writing a list. Needs on one side and wants on the other. It’s not easy. It’s seriously difficult. 75% of the things I listed could go one way or the other depending on how I’m feeling that day and which Adele song I listened to most recently. I’ve convinced myself that that means they must be wants, but some aren’t content with being on that side of the line. Regardless of how difficult it is, you should probably give it a shot. I discovered some really cool things about myself. I confirmed some things about myself that I already knew. I’m way more equipped to handle some of the difficult situations that test those needs. I’m more willing to sacrifice the things that I know for sure are wants. I connected it some other awesome people by talking about the process with them. The best part is I feel like a better human than I was yesterday just because I took the time to figure this stuff out and that’s why I’m alive.