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What is a Dealbreaker?

Mary McMahon
Updated Jan 25, 2024
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The term “dealbreaker” is used in a number of contexts, from the dating world to the halls of finance. In all cases, it is an issue which is so important that it cannot be overlooked when negotiating a deal. If the dealbreaker is not satisfied, “the deal” will be called off, whether it's a trip to the Bahamas or a corporate merger. Identifying dealbreakers is very important, as it is a good idea to know where you are willing to negotiate and where you cannot back down.

In some cases, a dealbreaker is an issue at the outset. For example, someone looking for a new partner might decide that he or she does not want to date someone who does drugs, making drugs a dealbreaker when evaluating someone. Or a company considering a merger might think that it was extremely important to keep certain staff members employed, stipulating that their inclusion in the future of the company is a dealbreaker.

In the context of romantic relationships, a dealbreaker can also emerge in an established relationship. In some cases, one partner simply grows irritated by something which wasn't an issue before, and in other instances, people overlook an issue in the hopes that they can get used to it or reform the other person. As the relationship progresses, the dealbreaker can become a larger and larger problem, eventually spelling the end of the partnership.

Having dealbreakers is not a bad thing. By being clear about things you will and will not tolerate, you can probably establish more successful relationships and financial deals. If you know, for example, that you cannot stand people who jog, you probably shouldn't date someone who expresses a fondness for jogging. You can find plenty of other non-jogging partners in the world, rather than constantly doing battle with your partner and yourself over the issue. Or, if you're a vegetarian, you might want to think about the ramifications of dating someone who eats meat, which might not seem like a major issue in the beginning, but could develop into a dealbreaker.

It is also a good idea to discuss potential dealbreakers with people at the early stages of a relationship. A dealbreaker might not come up immediately, causing all the more disruption when it emerges in an established relationship. This is one instance in which personal ads can be extremely useful, because they allow you to clearly list your dealbreakers to potential partners from the outset.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By sunshine31 — On Jun 03, 2011

@Crispety - That is so true. I also think that whether or not to have children is another deal breaker among a lot of couples especially when there is a big difference in age.

The older person in the relationship may have raised their children and not interested in doing this again, while the younger person in the relationship is just getting started in life and looking to have a family. This is what happened to my brother in law and his second wife.

She was a lot younger than him and she wanted kids, but he had grown children a little younger than his wife and he was not interested in starting a family.

They were married for twelve years and eventually divorced. She is now too old to have children, but she can always adopt. This is why I think that something like this should be discussed when the relationship begins to become serious so that you don’t waste so much time with someone that does not have the same life goals that you do.

I think that if you want kids and your partner doesn’t that’s a deal breaker.

By Crispety — On Jun 02, 2011

@BrickBack - I agree and I also think that it is important to seek people that have similar interests and values because it makes the relationship smoother.

For example, if one person is a spendthrift and the other is thrifty their personal spending patterns might make the relationship end and essentially become a deal breaker because a person that has worked hard to save money is not going to want to deal with someone that has a lot of credit card debt.

They say that money is one of the biggest reasons why marriages break up because the stress of not being on the same page financially is a deal breaker for many couples.

By BrickBack — On Jun 01, 2011

I think that it is healthy having deal breakers because you have to have limits in life especially when dealing with relationships. For example, for most people in a committed relationship might have a deal breaker be infidelity because that lack of trust that develops afterward might not make the relationship worthwhile.

I think that it is important to value yourself enough to be able to walk away from situations that are toxic to your life because you will never be truly happy. People that hope that bad situations will get better and never develop deal breakers really become codependent and even contribute to their own unhappiness.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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