Are deal-breakers always deal-breakers?

quirkJanuary 10, 2009

Would you ever consider compromising on a "deal-breaker" behavior wrt a mate? I am not talking about some romantic high-school fairy-tale fantasy of who your future spouse will be, but a realistic values-based I will not have a relationship with someone who deal breaker.

If so, what kinds of things would you consider in making that determination? If it were in the past? How far in the past? One time vs. repetive? Intent to harm vs. stupidity and bad judgment? Amount of harm actually done? Level of regret? What else you know about the personÂs character? How you found out about the thing?

Lets say for example (this is not the real thing) that your deal breaker was drug use and you found out your currently drug free and happily sober SO had used in the past. Lets say your objection is partly the damage that drugs can do to the user and those around him, but also you feel that the choice to use drugs is a (poor) reflection on the character of the person who makes that choice. How much weight do you give, variously, the fact that he did something inexcusable and what that says about who he is/was, the fact that it was in the past, how extensive the bad behavior was, how long ago it stopped, why it stopped, the fact that you canÂt imagine the person you know today doing it now, the fact that we all have pasts that include things we might not be so proud of? What else?

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This doesn't sound like the post of someone with a problem--more like someone doing research--and it's too complicated. Makes me feel tired just to think of answering. Why do you want to know, anyway?

    Bookmark   January 11, 2009 at 12:52AM
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"Are deal-breakers always deal-breakers?"

Well, yes, by definition!

Either something is a deal breaker or it is not.

    Bookmark   January 11, 2009 at 9:12AM
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Well, yes, by definition! So if your husband told you something about his past that is something you've always considered a deal-breaker, you would head straight to the divorce attorney, no question?

Would it help if I asked if you would ever reconsider something you've always previously defined as a deal-breaker?

I'm asking because my BF told me something about his past that I would have always considered a deal-breaker. I am actually not going to just blithely say, oh, sorry, deal-breaker, buh-bye. I've known this man for a long time, and he is more than this one thing from his past, and it is in the past. He also didn't have to tell me about it, doing so was a conscious decision on his part that he wants me to know and trusts me with the truth. I actually feel pretty good about that part of it. But it is something that is serious enough in my mind that it is going to take some thought and soul-searching to figure out what to do with this knowledge or how it will or should affect the future of our relationship. I'm experiencing some major cognitive dissonance right now and trying to figure out how to process and evaluate this information. I can't, and don't want to, just ignore it, but also don't want to ignore everything else I already know about him. Although we are not married, I was thinking that people on the marriage forum might have some experience from the getting-to-know you phase, or even after marriage, of finding out things about your spouse's past, and have some insight on how to work through it.

And no I am not going to publicly discuss (anonymously or not) the specifics, although I do recognize that I could get more informed advice if I did. It is simply not my personal information to choose to publicly air, and I am not going to betray his trust by doing so.

    Bookmark   January 11, 2009 at 11:18AM
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Are deal-breakers always deal-breakers?

I'd have to say No. And based on exactly the experience you're describing Quirk.
After I had come to know and love my husband, in the course of one of our many long discussions, he revealed a past action that -- had I known about it before I knew him deeply and intimately -- I would have considered a deal-breaker. But knowing him as well as I do, I knew that this one past action was not indicative of who he really is as a person. Everybody makes mistakes. He made one, but that mistake doesn't define him. He is the cumulative result of ALL of his actions, not just that one bad one.

Who among us can say they'd never, under any circumstances, do something others would consider a deal-breaker? Even killing someone isn't murder if it's self-defense or defense of others. There are always extenuating circumstances -- even if they're no better than "it was a really bad day" or "I was young and stupid."

    Bookmark   January 11, 2009 at 1:36PM
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"I'm asking because my BF told me something about his past that I would have always considered a deal-breaker. I am actually not going to just blithely say, oh, sorry, deal-breaker, buh-bye."

Okay, so when YOU said you have deal-breakers, that's not true; you in reality do not.

I personally don't believe in deal-breakers....

    Bookmark   January 11, 2009 at 7:30PM
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I do believe in deal-breakers, only they are not rigidly defined ahead of time. As some have pointed out, it would make a difference how many times the person did the bad thing, his or her motive, youth, and perhaps many other considerations. I think you have to take the totality of a person into consideration. But if I decided not to marry someone because of "X," I might say, after the fact, "X was a deal-breaker."

If I were engaged to marry, it could be a deal-breaker if I found out something terrible about his character--for example, if I found out that he was a clever and frequent liar who had managed to pull the wool over my eyes for months. This sort of deal-breaker would most likely NOT be a matter of one act the person had done and now admitted and was sorry for, or even a series of acts, such as taking drugs or having multiple lovers, if done when he was young and foolish.

I think you have expressed what would be key in my decision:
"the fact that it was in the past, how extensive the bad behavior was, how long ago it stopped, why it stopped, the fact that you canÂt imagine the person you know today doing it now," especially that last point.

If, after careful thought, I decided to go ahead with the wedding, I would do my best to forget whatever the bad action was, if possible.

    Bookmark   January 11, 2009 at 10:30PM
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Thank you for the thoughts. ItÂs not like I have some list IÂm checking off as we go along:

- Ax murderer? No? Check.
- Child molester? No? Check.
- Anal-retentive neat freak? No? Check.

What IÂm talking about it more along the lines of having the self-awareness to know that these are things I can live with and those are things I canÂt. Sweeby, you expressed almost perfectly how I feel about HIM. What IÂm realizing as IÂve thought about it is that my discomfort was more about how I see myself than any significant change in how I see him. When I quit smoking, one of the most difficult things was learning to see myself as a non/ex-smoker, rather than a smoker. It *sounds* ridiculous -if you donÂt smoke, youÂre not a smoker, right?- but it is disconcerting when objectively reality suddenly pops up and contradicts your perception of yourself, which I think is basically what happened to me here. But IÂm adjusting, and it was helpful to see some other thoughts on the subject.

    Bookmark   January 13, 2009 at 11:25AM
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There are so many things that could be deal breakers if they happened now, but not if my dh was to tell me that they happened in the past. But there are also things that if I was to find out happened in his past I would not be able to continue our future together.

If he told me he raped or killed someone in the past we would be divorcing! If he told me he experimented with drugs before he met me then that is just in the past (as long as he is not wanting to try drugs again!)

So I guess some deal breakers can be overlooked if they are in the past.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2009 at 9:17PM
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Past drug by a partner use can be a deal breaker for me.

I once dated a man I met through work. A co-worker. Once day through casual converstaion between the two of us, he just happened to mention that he at one time in his past used heroin. Deal breaker!

From what I have read about heroin, is that heroin users NEVER are cured. Maybe I am right believing that, and maybe I am wrong. I felt there would always be a chance he would go back. That is a deal breaker.

There was also the concern I had about being with someone who was an intravenous drug user regarding AIDS and HepC. Drug use in the past can cause current health problems and can be passed on.

After he confessed this I began to remember some "odd" behavior on his part and I believe that he may have been still using drugs. I think he may have been testing my reaction to "past" drug use before he came clean about current drug use.

I'm glad I dumped him. He ended up dating another co-worker and then being diagnosed with Hepatitis. He is very sick right now and is on a long waiting list for a liver transplant.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2009 at 7:34PM
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Depends on "where you are" with that person at the time of the Deal-breaker. A lot is in the details...if you don't care about that person-yet they provide a benefit for you-probably not...If it hurts your spirit day after day=yes! I stayed and finished my education because it didn't hurt anymore and I knew I needed a degree to "make it" on my own...but everyone is different and besides we discussed it so no more surprises.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2009 at 7:06AM
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there are things that are deal-breakers no matter what. but usually it depends...

if your BF told you he smoked pot in 11th grade, then not a deal breaker. If he told you he raped a girl in 11th grade, then yes it is a deal breaker.

If he's been to jail, depends what for.

Worked as male escort or exotic dancer-stripper? not my cup of tea but maybe I could tolerate striper (if it was in his young years) but escort would be a deal-breaker.

he revealed he is bisexual? i have nothing against bisexual men (as friends) but don't want bisexual man as a partner. so it would be a deal breaker but would not mind remaining friends.

he told you he is gay and uses women to cover Oh i don't know. My point is it depends.

gave children for adoption? not the type of guy I want but how old was he? 15? parents convinced him it is for the best and his children ended up in good hands? then maybe not a deal breaker.

Killed in a fight in self-defence and served his sentence. Don't want killers, but soldiers kill in defence. Maybe not a deal breaker.

Killed his girlfriend because she cheated. Deal Breaker.

belonged to Communist party? not a deal breaker. Belong (now or in the past)to Nazi party? White supremacy? Deal breaker.

believes in polygamy? Deal breaker (will try to bring 2nd wife lol).

Did group sex or threesomes? Gross. If one time deal as an experiment not a deal breaker. Regular passtime: deal breaker.

what else? robbed old ladies? hahah Did I try everything?

It all depends. Give us a hint how bad is his sharing?
PS OHHHH ONE MORE!!! He WAS A WOMAN IN THE PAST! I don't know about that one....

    Bookmark   January 20, 2009 at 8:09PM
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When we were dating (I was 19 and he was my first boyfriend), I lied about staying home when I really was going to the movies with my friends. For some reason, I thought if I told him I was going out, he'd be angry (extremely stupid on my part).

Fast forward 34 years (married for 32 of them); we fight a lot now about the same things. I try and deal with the situation at hand; he always brings up the past because he feels it's indicative of my current behavior.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2009 at 10:17AM
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No, fine, it's not so serious as rape or being a nazi. It does involve a criminal record but not something he could get in further trouble for now i just don't want my mother maybe to stumble across it while borrowing my computer hey, what is this gardenweb site my daughter posts to, it is public, what harm can it be to have a look at what she's written? and then personal information becomes no longer personal. But it is in the past so I'm just letting it be; not that it doesn't matter, but has to be looked at in context and I also do not walk around with a pristine past and a halo over my head.

But thanks to you now I can't stop picturing him as a stripper. It is too hilarious. If that were it I would probably have hurt his feelings by laughing so hard trying to picture him doing the stripper dance moves.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2009 at 5:57PM
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I think to some extent, absolutes are silly, perhaps except for the obvious ones - and even then, it depends on a) how you feel about the person and how realistic you are being and b) what sort of a person they are now.

Nothing is that black and white, almost everything is grey.

I am also a big believer in trusting your gut instinct, provided you have also used your reason as well.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2009 at 11:25PM
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unless you live with your mother, why would she borrow your computer? But even if she would, delete this link from your history and she won't see it.

as about jail sentence, my dad's been in prison- (for politics, not in the US). he was rehabiliated and has no criminal record anymore, but still. Prison is prison. Scars a person for life.

Whatever your BF had to serve his sentence for, find out how it effected him in a long run. Sometimes long time effect is worse than the actual crime they are sentenced for. My dad served 6 years, 5 of which were in solitary confinement. Effected him pretty bad. Took long time to recover emotionally. So find out how is your BF effected. It might be more important than to know what was his crime.

Abnd don't blame him for not telling. It is not somehting easy to share.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2009 at 9:38PM
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