The Surprising Truth About ‘Dealbreakers’ in Relationships


There are serious risks that couples take in trying for too long to tolerate circumstances that are causing extreme suffering for one or both partners. There are serious risks that couples take in trying for too long to tolerate circumstances that are causing extreme suffering for one or both partners.

Living in hope or denial or distracting ourselves with through unhealthy behaviors or relationships, only serves to cause greater suffering in situations that are inherently intolerable. While facing the truth can be difficult and painful, in the long run, it is the most direct path out of our suffering.

With very few exceptions, most situations don’t begin as deal-breakers, they become deal-breakers when they are ignored or inadequately addressed over a long period of time. Not infrequently misguided efforts that one partner make attempting to tolerate their pain and frustration, add to the entrenched nature to the problem.

While there is no way (nor is it necessary) to assess what percentage of the problem is due to each person, it is generally the case that there is more that both partners have perceptual filters that prevent them from seeing the full range of options available to them. This is where help from a trusted friend or professional can illuminate possibilities that may previously have gone unrecognized.

The earlier on we acknowledge and respond to entrenched relationship differences, the more likely it is that they will not deteriorate to the point of becoming deal-breakers. Still, sometimes despite our best efforts, we can be faced with true deal-breakers.

In cases where it is clear that fundamental differences are too great to bridge the gap between us, then it is wise to acknowledge this reality and if possible to respectfully end the relationship in its present form, and move on, separately or in a different form of relationship.

Commitment doesn’t necessarily mean that we stay together forever, no matter what, but that we stay engaged in the process of honoring, respecting and loving another as best we can, and in the process becoming a more loving and lovable person ourselves.

Sometimes the best way that we can express our love is by refusing to tolerate something in another that is causing harm or doing damage to herself, to ourselves, or to others. Sometimes the best thing that we can do is to try to become more accepting of them or their behavior.

There is no generic answer to the question of which is right for me now, in this situation, in this relationship.

But staying present and deeply connected to ourselves rather than focusing on our partner, can sometimes can be the best way to find the answer to what may be the most important question of the moment. “What is my next step?”

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Written by Linda and Charlie Bloom
Originally appeared in

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The Surprising Truth About ‘Dealbreakers’ in Relationships The Surprising Truth About ‘Dealbreakers’ in Relationships


Linda Bloom, LCSW and Charlie Bloom, MSW have been trained as psychotherapists and relationship counselors and have worked with individuals, couples, groups, and organizations since 1975. They have lectured and taught at universities and learning institutes throughout the USA, including the Esalen Institute, the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, 1440 Multiversity, and many others.  They have taught seminars in many countries throughout the world. They have co-authored four books, 101 Things I Wish I Knew When I Got Married: Simple Lessons to Make Love Last, Secrets of Great Marriages: Real Truth From Real Couples About Lasting Love, Happily Ever After And 39 Other Myths About Love, and That Which Doesn't Kill Us: How One Couple Became Stronger at the Broken Places. They have been married since 1972 and are the parents of two adult children and three grandsons. Linda and Charlie live in Santa Cruz, California. Their website is