Deal breakers in relationships? Where shall we start?
it’s the toilet seat, however cliché. Maybe it’s the nasal register of her voice, or the way he clears his throat. Maybe it’s something more substantive like the way she seems to bend the truth a little too easily, and a little too often.
Maybe it’s his insistence on always being right, on refusing to talk once he’s made up his mind, and what seemed manly when you were dating now resembles bullying.
It’s five years later, the blinders are off, and you’re honest with yourself.
Maybe it has to do with character – the way she blows off her commitments, the way he scams his customers – only slightly, you tell yourself. Maybe it’s a habit or a physical change that you’d like to be able to dismiss, but no matter how hard you try – and you have tried – you can’t.
Hang in because of history? Hang in because of love? Hang in because you honor your word? What if he or she doesn’t do the same?
Looking for Love
And what if you’re looking for love? Do you feel entitled to hold fast to your expectations? Do you know what the deal breakers are, and are they reasonable?
Oh, we fashion ourselves quite a list at times, especially when we’re young. He must be tall, make a good living, not be bald, not have a paunch, be a skillful lover and yes, funny! Or she must be blond, she cannot be fat, she shouldn’t be loud, she must make good money, but not be too independent. And it goes without saying – she should be younger, and fantastic in bed.
And if the person of the perfect height, weight, age, hair coloring, income, and sexual maneuvers is boring? If his humor is hurtful? If he has no humility? If she has no heart? If the object of your Perfection-Affection is unlikely to allow you to change, to be imperfect, to be loved as you are?
Is it time to revisit what makes for a good partner? Can you allow your experience of the world and other people to guide you away from ineffective specifications toward something more fluid and perhaps altogether better?
Deal Breakers in Parenting
We love our children unconditionally, don’t we? At least, we’re convinced that’s the case. And yet parents and children sometimes break ties – for brief periods, for decades, and occasionally, for a lifetime.
At this stage, I cannot imagine anything my sons might do that would cause me to turn my back on them. Perhaps it is because I’ve raised them, and the way that I’ve raised them. Or, it’s a matter of the blinders that all parents wear to some degree.
I will say that I won’t tolerate disrespect or dishonesty. That there are tenets of behavior – our value system – that I consider essential to the way our family machinery works.
As for parents walking away from children in various ways, we know it happens. Are they choosing for themselves out of utter selfishness, or some degree of survival that the rest of us just can’t fathom?
Our Lives, Ourselves
Sometimes we stumble over our own obstacles and find we can no longer tolerate them. They may surprise us; we’ve grown older, more fearful, more judgmental. We say no more often than yes. We’ve changed, and not for the better.
Perhaps it’s at midlife. Perhaps it’s before, or after, because an event has caused us hurt.
Then again, the unexpected happenings in life may kick us back into high gear. We pick up steam again. We take on new challenges, heading in new directions.
Those old deal breakers? Vanished! We want something different – more substantive, more forgiving, simpler. We may not recognize ourselves in the way we’re living; we may need freedoms, movement, excitement. We may realize the rigidity of our youthful perceptions, the fragility of our bodies, the brevity of time that may remain.
We want the opportunity to reflect on the voice we no longer recognize, the resistance to change that seems so removed from the person we once were, the face that stares back in the morning mirror we’ve allowed to grow cloudy.
We may sense that change is salvation – or survival – even as we begin wriggling out of one skin and nakedly searching for another. Our deal breakers are shifting. Our deal breakers in ourselves.
Change – a Deal Breaker?
Some of us are receptive to change, and others, less so. At times, change is forced on us and we never recover. When a marriage ends, for example, to death or divorce. Or, when illness cripples our lives unexpectedly. Yes, we survive and do our best, but we may not thrive.
Some of us are better at picking ourselves up, and getting on with the matters at hand. Is it luck? Is it character? Is it passion for life that makes the difference?
Sometimes, we are the change seekers. It may happen upon us gradually, or be the result of an unanticipated event. And I look at my own writing in recent months and I begin to see clearly: I am contemplating change, anticipating change, preparing for change, initiating change, fearing change, resisting change; I am opening myself up to positive change.
There were times in my life when I said no to specific changes, and with good reason. I was right to do so, clinging to a routine that I knew was the only way to make it through the days and nights. A matter of necessity; the backbone of a hectic schedule and significant responsibilities. A framework for my orientation, my purpose, my effective functioning.
Mixing It Up
I’m no longer 18, or 25, or even 40. Reinvention is harder, but not impossible. Yet as my life is changing whether I like it or not – as any life will change, no matter how we attempt to stop time – I find myself thinking of deal breakers. Of the knee-jerk “no” response I’ve had for years that I might be able to discard. Of the “yes” I always assumed, that may no longer fit.
I am a proponent of change, but realistic about what’s possible. I need to re-examine my obstacles, come to terms with new ones, and possibly, the realization that for me, there are truly few deal breakers.
- What if we attempted to pare our issues to the bare minimum?
- Do you know your must-haves when it comes to friendship?
- What about relationship? Location? Career?
- Do you know what you expect of family, of children, of yourself?
- Are the confines of the life you imagined more adaptable than you realize?