The Crossroads of Deal Breakers and Settling

” He was tall, handsome, a pilot…and he talked through every movie we went to. I just couldn’t do it anymore.”
– Lisa Hachey


After just writing about this not long ago on Expat Village, imagine my inner giggle when I opened up the next question in the queue of questions that I’ve been answering to find “What’s Your Deal Breaker?” Recently, I wrote about how dating my Husband helped me to get past deal breakers, alluding to the idea that if we make everything a deal breaker we might miss something truly special. When a reader commented on how her sister’s ever-rising deal breaker mountain is contributing to her struggle with the dating scene, I revisited the idea of deal breakers in connection to settling. You have to know where your line is drawn; some things you just. can’t. live. with. Right? When it comes to relationships when does getting past a deal breaker mean you’re settling?

Line in the Sand Deal Breaker
I used to think they were the same thing. If I looked past these things that I didn’t like then I was settling. If  I got over that Mr. Teacher ate sushi with his hands; I was settling myself to a life of Ewww. If I got over that Mr. Baseball had a name I didn’t like than I was conceding. The truth is I probably could have gotten past his name. I probably could have had a little more acceptance  because while deal breakers could be a good thing, a flare signal that illuminates the obvious, most of what we call deal breakers are actually not deal breakers but rather a Preference Fence we subconsciously erect to protect ourselves. By propping up this fence with our dislikes we tell ourselves we are being selective and refusing to settle, when in fact we’re just being picky. Mr. Baseball’s name wasn’t a deal breaker, it was a preference.


And at the core, a deal breaker is not some wobbly fence of a choice that you can climb over with minimal effort. a deal breaker is an infinite mountain of absolute that there is no circumventing and no way of climbing; something you positively can’t get around without leaving entirely too much behind. 

When I think about it like that, I realize how many things actually fall off the “deal breaker” list. Guy Sushi Hands? … total wobbly fence. Having kids? …no way around it – giving that up would have cost too much and haunted me forever. Absolute mountain. There was no way of attempting to make a home with anyone who didn’t want children because how do you build a home with a mountain in the middle? And this is where settling comes in.


Preference is one thing, a thing you could learn to accept. A deal breaker is something you could never accept. And settling is what happens when you accept what’s unacceptable.


I used to think it was all the same thing.


It’s not at all the same thing.


In April’s issue of O Magazine was a feature titled 20 Questions Every Woman Should Ask Themselves. I’ve decided to ask myself these questions and give a sincere try in answering them. This is question 4 of 20: What are your deal breakers?


I’d love to know some of the deal breakers out there? What are YOUR infinite mountains of absolute?

If you’re interested, here are my deal breakers circa 2015:

Must like dogs. If you don’t have a dog that’s fine, but if you don’t like them, we have fundamental differences and I’ve got my eye on you.
Mean / abrasive people. You don’t have to like everyone but don’t be a dick either. There’s a difference between messing around and being a sharp-tongued jerk.
Back Pedaling. It drives me bonkers when someone says something offensive and then says, “Juuuust kidding.” No you’re not. You know it. I know it. If you’re going to say it, say it. Defend it. And then be ready if / when someone calls you on it.


Photo Credit:
Lars Plougmann – Line in the Sand
Miguel Seco – Mountain

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