From the Magazine: Relationship deal breakers – The (non)sense in having them

by Enkay

Take a second look at those mental reminders of self designated boundaries.

Some time ago, I was in what I referred to as a subpar relationship; one with someone who was a great match in many areas but one: his genotype. Oddly enough, we did not discuss the topic until many months after we started dating. When I shared my persistent fears with my sister, she was sympathetic, realistic, spiritual in her counsel, “Tell God exactly what you want. Write them down and keep them in your prayers,.” she said.

We eventually parted ways. Some may call my decision “the absence of faith”. I call it, the use of common God-given sense.

My sister’s advice initiated serious thoughts on what my deal makers were. Back then, I had some ideas floating in my head on what my deal makers were for a long term commitment. But I never gave them deep deliberate thought. Making a list forced a sharper focus.

I allowed my personal unscripted experiences determine my deal breakers. I didn’t want to end up like some folks who would swear off some attributes and end up marrying people oozing of those very traits they said they abhor.

There is no sense in having deal breakers if you can adhere to your own rules in the first place. Your deal breakers should not be duplications of your wise or fabulous friends’ checklists; neither should they contain catchy quotes from a random ‘Top 20 relationship deal breakers’ web link, speaking of which Google has your research cut out for you with approximately 11.2 million results.

It is nobody’s place to another what should or should not grace their deal breaker checklist. However, let me share some basic yet frequently overlooked guidelines to have in mind when (re)creating your list.

Personalise your checklist

Although your deal breakers do not have to come from only your personal experiences, that is still undoubtedly the best place to start. In your past relationships, what was it about your partners that totally ticked you off? What were those habits that even their positive attributes could not overshadow?

For example, it is one thing for you and your buddies to unanimously agree that bad breath is a total no-no, but it is a more compelling deal breaker when you actually understand your personal limits on the problem.

Your fixated emphasis on dental hygiene may not automatically mean that bad breath is a deal breaker for you. After all, there is Listerine, right? Regardless of which side you take on an issue, be certain it is your call and yours alone.

Identify which Deal Breakers are non-negotiable

Almost everyone swears they will never stay with an abusive partner, especially before marriage. We know statistical results beg to differ. Love is a drug that suppresses rational thinking; same with infatuation. When obsessed with someone who treats you badly, by default you want to ‘fix the situation’ or change the person. Maybe you are concerned about being perceived as problematic with “your latest commitment drama”, or you are worried that you might never find love elsewhere. My dear, that’s all baloney and bull dung. Once you’ve figured out what your non-negotiable deal breakers are, be prepared to take flight at the appearance of that unnecessary ‘evil’. You owe that to yourself.

Case in point: I met Chezi through a mutual friend at Uju’s wedding. We hit it off immediately. The more I got to know him, the more he seemed like the total package. Sense of humor? Check. Confidence? Check. Good looks? Check. Engaging? Check. Intellectual prowess? Check! Check!! Check!!! Such a smart ambitious cookie I tell you.

One evening, as Chezi drove me home after dinner, we waited for oncoming traffic to pass by before making a left-turn into my neighborhood. Suddenly the car launched forward and halted again almost immediately. It all happened quickly but struck such an unsettling nerve in me that I forgot what I was saying to him before that moment.

Just before I got out of his car, I asked him,

“What happened back there when the car suddenly jacked forward”?

He replied, “Nothing really… just a random thought”.

He paused again, and then continued.

“I was just thinking that if we start dating and you ever cheat on me, I’ll drive the car into the other lane with your side facing oncoming traffic.”

I became numb but I gave him a chance to clear the foul air and laugh at my reaction to his very expensive joke.

He kept a straight face.

I forced a smile while saying goodnight and walked away very quickly, consciously looking over my shoulders. I was terribly shaken. That was a perfect line for a movie! That was a deal breaker gold for me. We were done!

Be flexible

Deal breakers are not the beginning or end of anything, not even relationships strategies. They are simply guides. This would appear to be a rule to break the rules, not at all. It allows room for future deviations from their celebrated standards.

I’m not implying that you settled for less. I’m saying that people mature with time, gain new experiences and knowledge and so do your lists evolve too.

It may be necessary to re-order your list, delist some attributes, and probably add new ones. Your deal breakers at age twenty will, to some degree, differ from those made at age twenty-eight.

Evaluate yourself

Look at the person in the mirror. Before wishing for a man with a selfless heart and the tantalizing looks of John Legend *speaking of whom I have exclusive day dreaming rights to*, first assess yourself.

While you may feel deserving of a near-flawless king or a “domestically well-rounded woman”, I suggest you follow up your deal makers and deal breakers with a list of traits describing the kind of wife or husband you will work towards becoming. In order words, be very aware that great men and women have deal makers and breakers too. Abi who no like beta tin?

There you have it. The sense in having deal breakers lies in your ability to realistically select your battles based on whatever positive or negative precursors you personally identify with.

That marvelous vision of a tall, dark and handsome gentleman remains likely as long as you realise that, like you, he has evolved with time, wisdom and age. His height may mock the existence of scales measuring over 5 feet and then there is that mouth odour to address. But when your most crucial priorities are well aligned, his steadfast love and respect for you, amongst all other acceptable traits he has going for him, might make him the gem worth camping with.

Okay, okay… that’s right after we address that nkwo-obi breath issue. Y!

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