Friday, December 18, 2009

What are your big issue dealbreakers?

All this preparation for pregnancy has gotten me thinking about how lucky Torsten and I are that we are so compatible and have such similar outlooks. Love is important, of course, but as far as I'm concerned, love alone is not enough to make a marriage and a shared life work. It's not that you have to be clones of each other and of one mind about anything. But there are certain things that you need to have in common, or at the very least learn to respect and tolerate about each other.

I'm not talking about those hypothetical dealbreakers, like not dating a guy shorter than you. I'm not even talking about things like politics and religion--while I know that those can be Big Issues for some, for me, it's more about respect, reason, and open-mindedness. I have a problem with politicians who seem to be making decisions that are bad for the country but good for them personally, but I don't have a problem with people who disagree with me politically, but still have the good of the people at heart.

For me it's more about goals, ambitions, lifestyle preferences, priorities. How do we want to spend our money? What things are we willing to sacrifice and compromise on, and what things are set in stone for us? Where are our sore points, our sources of disagreement, and how can we resolve them?

For us, these sore points have been minimal, and easily resolved. We have been lucky in this regard. But the whole thing leads me to wonder... what do you do when you fall in love, really deeply in love, with someone who isn't compatible with you in some crucial way?

For example, what would I do if Torsten were dead set against having children? On Friends, Monica broke up with Richard because he didn't want kids. Would I have done that with Torsten? I don't think it's a good idea to plow into a marriage assuming you'll work out Big Issues like this down the road. But how could I give up Torsten ever, under any circumstances? I can't fathom it, I literally can't wrap my head around the idea of it. But what would I do if being with him required one of us giving up something else so important to us that we couldn't conceive of our future without it?

I want kids. I want them so badly. I really cannot imagine what I would do if Torsten didn't want them too. I wouldn't leave him--I know that. But would I have let things get this far with him to begin with? Because say I decided that being with him was more important than having kids, that I knew I wanted to spend my life with him, and that was more important than kids to me. And I think that would be the decision that I would have made, because how could I not be with him?

But then doesn't that affect the relationship? Wouldn't I develop negativity and resentment toward him for essentially preventing me from having something that I desperately desired and even needed? But on the reverse side, if he did agree to have kids because I wanted them, wouldn't he resent me for so fundamentally changing our lives and shifting our priorities? And wouldn't it be unfair to the kids to have a parent who merely gave in to having them, instead of actively wanting them?

What do you do in this sort of situation? Do you just move ahead, make a decision that satisfies one person but not the other, and hope that it doesn't lead to conflict down the line? Or, if you need to deal with it ahead of time... how do you do that? How do you address an issue like this, where one person has to win and one person has to lose, and still preserve your relationship going forward?

Honestly, I don't know. And I feel very lucky that I don't have to find out, that this is a huge issue that we don't have to deal with. That we do have similar goals, and that every disagreement we've had has been a small issue, something that allowed for compromise, something that didn't leave anyone feeling fundamentally dissatisfied.

What would you do? Have you ever broken up with someone you otherwise could have seen spending your life with due to an issue like this? Or, have you ever decided to stay with someone despite an issue like this? What issues do you not think you could compromise on?


  1. No kids would have been a dealbreaker for me. It's not something I could have worked through or lived without, no matter how much I loved my partner.

  2. I don't ever envision myself having children so that would be a deal breaker for me. I am entirely ok with a man who has children from a previous relationship, but if he really wants more than I'm not the woman for him. Getting married and have him try to change my mind wouldn't result in a better relationship, I imagine it would be a bone of contention and just not work out.

  3. For me personally, I dated someone who didn't want kids. It was at that time that I searched deeply within myself to figure out if I could live without ever becoming a mother. The answer was yes. It never phased me in future relationships - and in some ways has taken any real or perceived social pressures off my relationship with Sweets.

    I have a very good friend who got deeply involved with someone who differed dramatically from her on some of the big issues - politics, religion, homosexuality, military, etc. I was surprised she got so serious with him given how strongly each of them felt about their respective opinions. Eventually, it took a toll on their relationship and she moved on.

    I think it really depends on each couple, each individual, regarding whether the big issues become deal breakers or not.

  4. I broke up with my high school boyfriend, whom I loved very much, because we just didn't want the same things from life. He was a great guy, but if I had stayed with him, we would have gotten married really early and I might or might not have followed through with college and my career choice.

  5. Kids are a dealbreaker for me -- I wouldn't be with someone who didn't want children...I have also been really upfront about that in the past and haven't gone on more than a few dates with someone who didn't want kids.

  6. Yep, those big life changers - desire for family, general treatment of others, money philosophy, honestly even things like where people want to live. B and I are of the "We'll go where we have to go to provide for our family" mindset, but there are a lot of people who would not be okay with moving away from their family in the long run - and I think that can be a dealbreaker.

    I read about a lot of women who marry "no kids" guys when they're in a "no kids" stage themselves, and then they change their mind and the husband doesn't. Doesn't sound like it ever works out too well.

  7. My brother's wife did not want kids. She was pretty emphatic (and RUDE!) about it, too. My brother quietly said, "I figure she'll change her mind eventually."

    17 years later, they still do not have kids. And he was "mostly" OK with that. But! Recently they informed the family that they have decided to adopt an older child (8-9-10?)--maybe even siblings! brother is so excited! And I'm so happy they figured out a way to compromise about this. (One of her BIG issues was the pregnancy thing--she did NOT want to get pregnant. And frankly, I can't imagine her taking care of a newborn, either.)

    Kids would have been a dealbreaker for me. I never had that issue--most anyone I ever dated wanted kids. IF I met someone who didn't, and I truly loved him, I think I would have had to break my heart and break up with him.

    ...I'm still somewhat sad that my husband and I originally talked of having four kids, and he cut me off at three.... But just a little. Obviously, I'm grateful for the wonderful kids I have!

  8. All through college I dated someone whose needs/wants were VERY different from mine. I wanted a stable life and career in one place where I could put down roots (and hopefully be close to my family). He was in Air Force ROTC and was going to be forced to move around the country every two years for the next decade. And he was totally ok with it. This lack of control thing and inability to plan the future at all was really hard for me and a big part of the reason that we eventually broke up. From then on, when I started dating someone new (has happened twice now) I'm much more up front about what's important to me. It makes it a lot easier. I wouldn't want to fall head-over-heels in love with someone too fundamentally different from me. Seems like unnecessary pain and heartache.

  9. I think kids can definitely be a deal breaker. It would have been for me.
    I think that if Torsten hadn't wanted children it would have been harder for you to fall as in love with him as you are. That's my personal theory. He would be a different person than he is, and it would have been easier for you to make the choice. Luckily, he's not that different person.

  10. So interesting to hear about dealbreakers. I think kids is pretty universal, one way or the other. I wouldn't have married someone who didn't want kids, but now that I have one, even though I would like more, I'm flexible.

    I'm with you on politics/religion. I don't consider those dealbreakers, as long as there is respect. I've dated lots of guys who were DRAMATICALLY different from me in these areas, and that was never the reason we broke up.

    You always hear money and sex and are two highest conflict areas in marriage, and I can see how it would be very hard to make it work with someone who differed strongly in those areas.

  11. i was in a similar situation and went the route of cutting things short before falling deeper into the relationship when i knew it would have been much, much harder, but still necessary. this guy and i were great together - still are, actually, as friends! - but we both knew that due to pretty heavy issues like morality and religion we could never, say, raise a kid together. so we cut it off and amazingly, preserved a friendship out of it. i doubt it would have gone so well if we'd have let things get to the point of real seriousness and THEN tried to break things off.

  12. I agree with Becky - if Torsten didn't want kids, I think you wouldn't have gotten to the point where you can't fathom being without him and having to make that decision - if there was a huge fundamental dealbreaker issue that you differed on, I don't think you would love him as much as you do and therefore would be able to fathom being without him (eg, part of what you love about him is thinking about how he'll be as a father - if he didn't want kids, you certainly wouldn't love that thought!). And I think your other comments support that - even those who said they would break up with someone or had broken up with someone, it doesn't seem to have broken their hearts or been a terrible heart wrenching decision (though maybe they just didn't explain all those details :-).

  13. If T hadn't wanted kids that would have been a deal breaker. But we made sure to be honest about big things like that early on in our relationship. Neither of us would have let it get too far without talking about things like that as we already cared enough about each other when we got together to be very wary of hurting each other.

    I know you said religious differences wouldn't be a big deal for you and I can get that but for me I wouldn't even have considered dating a non-Christian. My faith is way too important to me, it's totally integral to who I am and how I chose to live my life so I would hate to have a partner I couldn't share that with, who didn't get that. In each of our lives our own relationship with God comes before our marriage. It's the only thing that does but I think a non-Christian might find that hard to deal with.

    I think in the end though, these things have to be figured out by each couple (or person) individually. I have Christian friends who have and would date non-Christians although only if the partner in question was supportive of their faith. Equally, I have friends who have become Christian since marrying and I can see how they struggle when their partners are hostile to it.

  14. For me, the kid's thing wouldn't have been a dealbreaker in the past. Mainly because I wasn't sure whether or not I wanted to have children. I didn't feel very strongly one way or the other. When I started dating the man who is now my husband, he pretty much felt the same way: neither here nor there. Now we've grown (together) to realize we don't really want to have children. I guess I was lucky in this regard to have met someone who was on the same wavelength as me and then we both "grew" toward the same decision. Obviously our opinions about the situation affected the other's views, but I feel lucky to have the situation turn out as well as it did.

    Politics, religion (or lack thereof in my case), money are big dealbreakers for me too. As an atheist I think I could have married someone who believed in a god. But since I feel religious views are so intrinsic to who we all are, it would have really depended on a number of factors. Also, I wouldn't have done well to marry someone who had a different philosophy about money than myself. Also, I don't think it would have been great for me to marry someone who didn't like to talk and discuss things (marriage issues or just general thoughts on life, movies, hypothetical situations).

  15. Politics are a dealbreaker for me. I can't date a right winger. I discovered this after trying. Oh, and religion. Can't date anyone who follows one religion to the T. Tried that one, too. Hmm, what else? Oh, I could NEVER date someone who used racial slurs or cracked racial jokes.

    You know what I just realized? The guy I tried all these things with is THE SAME dude.

  16. No kids is a dealbreaker for me hands down. And at my decrepit age, I don't have time to wait around for someone to change their mind.

    I also had a social justice dealbreaker once. I just plain couldn't tolerate staying with a guy who started out fairly liberal and then started sliding racist comments in over dinner. I kept thinking that those ideals would be shared with any kids we had in the future and lost all respect for him.

  17. I faced that situation in my last relationship, which ended for other reasons. We both fully expected to get married, we both wanted to for the longest time, but he had a child and didn't want more. I have always wanted to adopt, have always seen myself as a mother. And while I stayed in the relationship knowing it would mean giving up that dream, I did mourn it. I didn't resent least not yet...but I also didn't want to force a child on him that he wouldn't want. That wasn't fair to the child. When the relationship ended, it was a shock to me that one of the first things I started dreaming about was being a mother. Apparently that desire was stronger than I realized, and it helped me have perspective on losing a relationship that had meant so much.

  18. Thankfully, both A. and I don't want kids.

    I could MAYBE have/adopt a child if my partner was going to be 110% involved in raising the kid.

    If the partner wanted LOTS of kids, and for me to stay home with them, DEAL BREAKER.

  19. My brother wants kids. His wife doesn't. They got married at 26 and 24, respectively. They were both fairly young and my brother figured that his new wife would come around and warm up to the idea of having kids. She hasn't. My brother is now 31, my sister-in-law is 29. They've had a wonderful marriage thus far, but I really worry that in a few years this issue is going to put a big strain on them.

  20. For me, Religion is a big issue. I wasn't raised with any particular religion, so I can't (nor do I want to) get married in any specific house of worship. Additionally, I can't commit myself to raising a child to a religion that I don't agree with. Thankfully, Achoo is very supportive of this.

    I think big dealbreakers for me would be (and I think online dating helps you know this answer, by the way they make your fill out your profile):

    Someone who is blatantly racist
    Someone who is financially irresponsible
    Someone who doesn't want children
    Someone who doesn't like my family

    Although, sometimes I don't like my family, lol.

    But seriously, I think everyone has dealbreakers. It's all about communication, as I always say. Talking about these important issues early on is key.

  21. I can think of a few dealbreakers -

    * Wanting kids - since I strongly DON'T want them
    * Loss of ambition in their profession
    * Demands we move out of New England
    * Becoming devoutly Christian
    * Not trusting enough to share financial decisions
    * Bigots, racists, homophobes, small-thinkers

    I'm lucky - D. and I don't struggle with any of these issues. If he was insistent that we move to his home state of NJ, we might have an issue, because that's a No Way In Hell thing for me.

  22. The first night I met Martin, he and I stayed up until 6 in the morning talking. I KNOW. I was 19, and had been in a relationship at age 17 for nine months -- but that was my only previous relationship. Between that break-up and heading off to University, I learned what it was I wanted and didn't want in my next boyfriend.

    Martin ticked off all of the boxes in that one, long-night conversation (and heavy make-out session BUT WHATEVER, lol). I was very, very clear on things -- I want children, many (so did he), I cannot be with a smoker or someone who does drugs (he's never touched pot since despite having done it recreationally in high school, it was out of his life after that first night of us together), we talked about everything in that first night, and that's how I knew it was okay that I was falling for him.

    Now it's been five years. We're finally moving on to the 'career' stage of life, and I'm sure we'll soon move on to marriage, living together, etc... and over these five years we've only confirmed our similar ideas. It doesn't mean we don't have our little tiffs and differing opinions (oh, we do have those sometimes!) ... but where it matters, we're in synch and we can make decisions together; or compromise when necessary.

  23. I've used online dating a lot, which means that it's easy to screen out a lot of dealbreakers. For me, they include: people a lot older or younger than me, smokers and drug users, people who are polyamorous or into BDSM, bad spellers, those who actively dislike/are allergic to cats (since I have one), men, people who don't want kids, people who haven't graduated from college (unless they're currently attending or did some sort of other specialized training), and people who actively practice a religion other than my own (agnostics are fine, though).

    Wow, when I put that all out there it's a wonder I ever date at all. And, now I'm dating someone wonderful and am deliberately overlooking what would otherwise be a huge dealbreaker: the fact that she will very likely move out of my city soon and if we continue the relationship it'll be a long-distance one for about 18 months.

  24. no kids = deal breaker. I would have eventually ended things if he didn't want kids. There are not a lot of other things that are deal breakers for me!

  25. It's surprising what you can and can't learn to love/live with but like most people, the kids thing is the one unchanging dealbreaker in my life. TT was never sure whether he wanted kids and a few years ago I told him he had to think hard about it because I definitely do. Thankfully since then he has gone from saying he probably wants them to gushing over his nephews and niece and getting excited over buying a house big enough to have kids in, so I'm fairly sure we're okay there now!

    But people do change their views on these big things. I know a few couples who've said one or both of them didn't want children until suddenly in their mid-30s the need descended. I also know people who were adamantly anti-marriage who got married and people who were devout celibate (until marriage) Christians who suddenly, well, weren't any more.

  26. If someone does not want kids they should not be sleeping with me in the first place.

    I am a lets wait and see what happens type of person and I have very effective birth control, but I can't imagine that someone I would want to spend a long term relationship with would be against having a child.

    Then again, I have heard stories of women getting sterilized and then their husband leaving them for some younger woman who could have kids. Its not out of the ordinary for that to happen, and its not a happy thing, but relationships evolve sometimes.

  27. When I was single, the biggest dealbreaker was kids.

    I didn't want them and basically refused to date anyone that wanted them. Several guys tried to get me to change my mind (they always seem to think that I'll 'get over it')

    Would also not date smokers, drug users, felons or cat-owners.

    I got to be great at being friends with guys before I'd let things get serious. The end result was being friends with a lot of guys and marrying one guy that fit all my important must-haves.

  28. I have broken up with exes over these types of dealbreakers before, and I would do it again if it came to that. It's very unromantic of me, but I do not believe that there's just one match out there for me - I think I could be happy with any number of different guys, and I therefore believe that lovers are replaceable. So if I fell in love with one that turned out not to want kids, for example, well then I'd break up with them. Sure, it would suck in the moment, but I know I would move on and I know I will find someone who I love and who *does* want kids. To settle for less is just that... settling. Even if you're in love.

  29. Mr. A and I pretty unsettled on the kids issue. Can see ourselves without them for sure, wouldn't die if I accidentally got knocked up. It's tougher when you are leaning towards NO kids because no kids people are probably more likely to change their minds. I could deal if he suddenty wanted ONE. But 3 or 4? DEAL BREAKER.

  30. I have a few. Kids is the number one. Even thinking about my husband who I love beyond all reason, if he'd said no to kids and was really set in that decision, there is no way I could have moved forward in that relationship.

    The second is faith. I am a non believer and I need to be with a fellow non believer. That kind of goes along with the kid thing though. With religion as a couple you can do your thing and he can do his, but once you have children, suddenly you have conflict. And that conflict can be HUGE when you're talking about how you're going to raise your children (with faith or without). I know a lot of people can work this out easily, but for me, it's such a fundamental part of who I am and I feel so strongly about the fact that I want to raise my children as free thinkers, a religious husband would be a dealbreaker for me.

  31. I broke up with the guy I'm now married to because of deal breakers. What I realized when we were apart was that him with his 'flaws' (as I perceived them to be) was better than me being without him. Luckily he took me back. One of the supposed flaws has sort of turned out to be the best thing ever, enabling a side of him to exist that wouldn't exist if he were the career over achiever I originally wanted him to be.

    Deal breaker now? I think financial irresponsibility. Joining finances, reaching for mutual goals, planning for retirement and children involves a lot of trust and vulnerability. If he were to break that? Damn.

  32. My wasband changing his mind on children (not having them after 4 years of marriage when we had already started to plan to have them, literally and of course it was talked about prior to marriage too) was the beginning of the end of our marriage. Of course there were a ton of other things wrong...his "switch" in desire to have kids caused me to take a good long look at what we had. A brutally honest one.
    When he said to me "I don't think I still want kids", I started sobbing and eventually brought out the words "You know what that means. I am going to have to leave you." At the time I couldn't fathom, because I did love and adore him much...still did when I left him, but I realized our life goals weren't compatible anymore.

  33. I think that big issue dealbreakers are ones that usually cause people to break up. One of mine was that my boyfriend at the time was never going to settle down. He always wanted to be whirling around the world, which makes it difficult to raise a family and have a normal life. We obviously broke up.

  34. I loved this post! You amaze me with your awareness of the world and yourself at such a young age. When I was your age I got married, and it has turned out great, but I admit I was just lucky -- I didn't give any of this any kind of thought in advance.

    It's so important to a marriage to have similar views on how to spend your money, how your kids should be raised, and what kinds of things you care about (as you so wisely said) -- but I never would have realized all that back in my 20s. Back then it was all about Love! Conquers! All!

    So just wanted to say you are awesome :).

  35. I think it depends. You have to ask yourself if you want to be his wife (or her husband) more than you want to be a parent.

    Being a parent can be a wonderful experience, I'm sure, but I believe that love - real love, chemistry, having someone who understands you and supports you and cheers for you - is hard to find. Period.

    If I were in a situation with a man I loved who REALLY wanted kids or REALLY didn't, I'd probably choose to be a partner over my desire to be a mother or not be a mother.

    I'd totally be open to adoption. probably more open to adoption than having a baby.