Relationship deal-breakers, Part II
I'm not endorsing the idea that any of the above-illustrated possibilities should actually go on anyone's list of deal-breakers, by the way. Oh, except maybe...
Okay, in all seriousness. Let’s say you’re in the beginnings of a relationship with someone. The two of you are becoming a Thing, whatever that means for you these days. You’re pretty sure you know what’s really important to you in a romantic partner, and you’re pretty sure that this person meets most of those criteria. And they’re also wonderful in ways you never could have anticipated or dreamed up.
You really like them.
Except… they have one questionable quality that you’re not sure about. Or maybe a few attributes that you’re not thrilled with. And you don’t really know how to make sense of your likes and dislikes.
Are you compromising the ideals you worked so hard to clarify, and the boundaries you worked so hard to establish if you keep them around, despite their imperfections? Or is the fact that you’re even questioning their wonderfulness a not-so-subtle reflection of the fact that you have, admittedly, bought into the idea that a romantic partner should be “perfect” for you? Even though, now that you think about it, you’re not really sure what “perfect” could possibly mean?
Sometimes this stuff gets really confusing. For so many reasons.
If you’re on the fence about continuing a relationship with someone you’re dating or sort-of dating or maybe-dating or whatever, my advice is to:
Get really clear on what you’re thinking about your Person, and then question/examine those thoughts.
Open yourself up to sources of information other than the thoughts in your head, like the signals that come to you from your physical body.
Let’s get started. Ask yourself the following questions:
What exactly is the problem? Get specific. Sometimes, for all kinds of reasons, we develop vague ideas about things we don’t like in other people. Try to spell it all out and see what happens. Maybe, given this opportunity to get really honest with yourself, the problem will be worse than you thought, and if so, this is good information! But maybe you won’t even be able to put a whole sentence together about what’s so wrong with them, and that’s good information too.
Sometimes we’re too eager to deny problems or incompatibilities that are meaningful and serious… and sometimes we’re too eager to find and focus on faults or flaws. Sometimes we get really stuck on our ideas of what type of person reflects well upon us.
So if there is indeed a problem that you can articulate and identify (and that still seems like a potentially deal-breaking issue) ask yourself why it’s bad. This might sound ridiculously simple, but try it out and see what you get. This is your opportunity to explore your thoughts and challenge your assumptions. For instance, if you’re Sweet New Human smokes, and you think smoking is bad, it’s pretty easy to find justification for your way of thinking because there is so much anti-smoking fervor out there in the world these days. And I’m not arguing with all of the research that shows that smoking is bad for your health and all of that. Yeah, yeah. But people do plenty of things that are bad for their health – does the fact that this person smokes really mean you shouldn’t be with them? Maybe the answer is yes. But maybe it isn’t.
If you seem to have identified a problem that seems “real,” is there any room for negotiation or working around it? The first person who needs to answer this question is you. If, for instance, your non-religious Person respects your religious practices, is that enough for you? Or do you need them to convert to your faith for you to be happy? (Or will it never be enough that they weren’t born into the same faith that you were?) If you don’t want to compromise, that’s your prerogative! But for the sake of respecting yourself and your Person and the whole entire universe, get clear with yourself about What You Really Want And Be Honest About It. On the other hand, if you’re up for finding a way to work through the issue, talk to your Person. Maybe you can come to an arrangement that accommodates both of your needs in a way that creates something better than the sum of its parts. If it’s worth a try, give it a good try! Perhaps the worst thing that will happen is that you’ll learn a lot from the experience of being honest with yourself and honest with them.
Here comes the (potentially) weird part. What do your gut feelings tell you? For some of us, it’s so easy to get lost in our thoughts, remain stuck in “paralysis through analysis,” and endlessly try to intellectualize our feelings. Totally understandable – we live in a world that prioritizes rationality and scarcely recognizes sources of knowing aside from the brain, or the thinking mind. But the mind can lie to us in a million ways the body can’t. Gut feelings are really a Thing.
So if you find yourself itching in weird places or twitching strangely when you try to tell yourself, “Oh, I really like so and so, the fact that they ______ [insert potential deal-breaker here] isn’t that big a deal given all of their good qualities,” it might be time to ask yourself if there’s anything getting in the way of you telling yourself the truth. On the other hand, if you think about your Person, potentially concerning qualities and all, and get nothing but good feelings in your body, that could be strong encouragement to put your reservations to rest.
Maybe this little exercise answered every question you’ve been entertaining about the viability of your relationship. If so, great! Please share this post with anyone else you think might benefit from it. But if not, let’s talk! Book a free consultation with me today to see if I can help you sort your stuff out.