May 2009

He Says - She Says: The Deal Breakers

Author: Keith Kelson & Jean Wharton | Photographer: photography by anne

Under what circumstances do you decide “enough is enough” and break up with someone? What are the deal breakers? Can it be something totally frivolous like she sounds like a wounded goose when she laughs? Maybe she eats off your plate without asking first? Should it be something serious like infidelity? Maybe the guy never tips the waiter, or maybe he can’t stop watching other women as they walk by.

Truthfully, what’s on your deal breaker list is a personal choice, and you’re entitled to, as the old fast food commercial used to say, “Have it your way,” even if it sounds unreasonable to some. Just be careful that your list doesn’t become more important than establishing an actual relationship and you should be fine. In other words, don’t go overboard with the minutiae, and make sure that you can live with your decisions.

Now, that means you don’t come right out and say what your deal breakers are on the first date. That comes under the heading of “TMI”—too much information. No, when you’re dealing with deal breakers, the less said, the better. In fact, unless you’re married with children and a mortgage, you don’t tell the object of your desire your deal breakers. Don’t do it. Ever.

Deal breakers are about observing and then reacting. They don’t need to be verbalized; a person should know when the deal has been broken. If they can’t figure it out for themselves, perhaps one of their friends will be kind enough to help them. It’s okay to be selfish—you have to look out for your best interests. You’ve got to be a keen observer during the early and middle stages of a relationship to make sure you don’t waste too much time dealing with a person who could be wrong for you. I’m a big fan of love but I’m also a big fan of pulling the trigger if any warning signs of disaster start to appear.

Should a person ask what went wrong and he or she is not crazier than a sack of wet cats, feel free to politely say what it was that caused you to pull the trigger. If they understand and appreciate your decision, fine. If they don’t, tell them there are plenty of fish in the sea and they should cast their net elsewhere. Trust me when I say that there’s some loony tune out there willing to put up with their shenanigans.

Back in my college days, I broke up with a young lady because her flirt switch didn’t have an “off” setting. She was very attractive and funny, but she would actually vanish for large chunks of time and be flirting with other guys. More than once I had to hunt her down. I’m a baseball fan, so I always give a woman three strikes; after her third flirting episode, I ended our brief relationship. She was shocked and told her friends that I wasn’t secure enough to handle her outgoing personality. I immediately began asking out other cute girls who weren’t attention junkies, and I haven’t looked back. The lesson for me? Never date someone who makes Paris Hilton look like a shy school girl, and I tell all my friends to avoid women who need that much attention.

Why do you need a boyfriend if you find every man walking around town so fascinating? Stay single and flirt to your heart’s content is what I say. I’ll find the girl that actually wants to be in a relationship with one guy and likes my company. Most women who are addicted to flirting with every breathing male will eventually cheat on you. While it’s entirely possible to redeem a cheating man, you can’t do the same with a cheating woman. Don’t listen to folks who’ll tell you to give her another chance. Nope, send her on her way and don’t feel one drop of remorse. Unless she was really hot. Then it’s okay to feel a little remorse; but women who are willing to cheat are just too much trouble. Show me a man willing to tolerate a cheating woman and I’ll show you a Cleveland Browns fan. I’m kidding, but not about how a man should deal with a woman who cheats. If you want to forgive and forget, remember I told you to cut your losses.

Healthy relationships are about love, of course, but balance is also very important. Yin and yang. Sonny and Cher. There should also be a large heaping helping of respect. If your partner is inconsiderate of your feelings in the early stages of a relationship, do you think that the situation will improve over time? There are exceptions to every rule, but the rule is there for a reason.

What you see is often what you get, and it’s not fair or even practical to try to change someone. That’s a situation that calls for a pre-emptive first-strike deal breaker. Nipping it in the bud is what they used to call it. Like most things, bud nipping can be an art form in the hands of a master. Sometimes all it takes is a glance. She’s wearing flip flops? No, she’s not the one. She’s got no female friends? Next. She actually likes cubic zirconia? Run for the hills, man.

A young woman told me recently that she needs a man who’s able to deal with the fact that she makes a lot of money. I was going to fix her up with a friend of mine, but I happen to know one of his deal breakers and hearing her deal breaker, I decided not to. Like a lot of men, he likes women that are soft and feminine. Women who trumpet their net worth aren’t soft and feminine to majority of men. You see, being driven and competitive are good qualities to have, but most guys don’t want to compete with women they’re involved with romantically. Ladies, men want to hug and kiss you—not compare stock portfolios. One of the main reason there are so many single career women is that they fail to realize that men want women who know to leave all the high-powered wheeling and dealing at the office.
Regrettably, I had to nip their relationship in the bud. She’s the high-powered attorney with a condo and all the material trappings, and he’s a struggling blues guitarist. I’m pretty sure it would not have ended well. Now, if I had let them meet, who knows? Maybe they date for a while, which would lead to a stormy relationship and then a spectacular break up. Broken hearted, my friend would then write a chart topping song. The Blues is about pain, after all, and many great blues musicians have written great songs after being in stormy relationships with a woman.

Heck, BB King became famous after he named his guitar after a woman two other guys were fighting over. But he’s better off not having gone through all that drama. He’s also better off finding a woman who will make him happy. You only go around once, so you’re entitled to want what you want.
But don’t despair ladies. If you’re the type of woman a man is willing to bring home to his mother, you’re in. That type of woman doesn’t have to worry too much about deal breakers. The rest of you ladies? Well, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get to work.

What? You are driven and competitive and like challenges, right? Here’s another challenge for you to conquer. Sexist? Who’s being sexist?
See, now I’ve got to tell the guys to add another deal breaker to their lists: No argumentative women.

I was driving down 278 on one of the first nice days of the season when a motorcycle sped past me with alarming acceleration and a frighteningly loud rev of the engine. Startled, I tapped the brakes, turned down the music and gasped, at the sight of an enormous female posterior propped up on the back of the swiftly traveling Japanese- made motor bike, clutching the driver around his waist, both riders sans-helmet. I thought to myself, “That’s a deal breaker!”

Let’s define a “deal breaker.” This is an attribute, action or idiosyncrasy put forth by your partner that you simply cannot live with, ignore or get past. For me, motorcycle riding without a helmet, especially on a Japanese-style bike that does not highlight my rear end in a flattering way, is a deal breaker.

There are some clear deal breaking actions that most women consider un-mendable offenses in a relationship, such as cheating, battery or lying. That’s not to say that a relationship cannot be made anew after one of these deal-breaking transgressions; depending on the parties involved, many survive and I’m sure we all have friends, family or even the person in the mirror who has made it work in the aftermath of indiscretion. But this is SHE SAYS, and I’m the “she,” and in my opinion you hit me, DEAL BREAKER. You cheat on me, DEAL BREAKER. You lie to me concerning a non-trivial matter, DEAL BREAKER.

There are millions of less obvious offenses (such as motorcycle riding) that can end a relationship with equal swiftness and ease. I have a friend who, in her early 20s, swears that she broke up with a guy because he breathed through his nose funny. She simply couldn’t get over the fact that when they were all cozy on the sofa together, curled up for a movie, his nose would produce a white noise in the background that distracted her enough that the relationship came to its inevitable end.

Deal breakers are irrational and, in many cases, very shallow. Eyes too close together or too far apart. Back hair

(’nough said)… Oddly placed stray hairs that go ungroomed. Lips that are too thin or too plump. These types of superficial judgments certainly make me come off as frivolous and two-dimensional. But when a relationship isn’t going as well as one would have hoped upon its inception, these types of deal breakers become a point of obsession. What could be overlooked as the relationship started to ramp up become unavoidable distractions when things start to take a turn for the worse.
It’s not just superficial characteristics that become deal breaker when things aren’t going well; it’s all those traits, nuances and habits that once seemed cute, interesting and funny and no longer hold their charm. He’s a sexy musician turns into he’s unemployed with no motivation. He’s really close with his family morphs into he’s a momma’s boy. I love his beat-up old truck—it has character…translates to I’m so sick of driving his broke ass around.

Characteristics on the deal-breaking spectrum are as diverse as body types seen on the beach at the Tiki Hut and often times equally offensive. Since men and women do look at things so radically differently, it’s important to identify your deal breakers upfront so that when your partner digresses from his original presentation of himself, you can quickly redirect him or end things. Here are my deal breakers:

1. Abuse, cheating, lying, stealing, sadistic behavior (the obvious ethical deal breakers)
2. Loud, fast, Japanese-style motorcycles (for lack of a better term, crotch rockets)
3. Spiky, gelled hair, circa 1997, inspired by the boy bands of that era
4. Tiny dogs, especially ones that require a sweater or bedazzlement
5. Lack of sense of humor for the sarcastic and sardonic (Basically if you don’t think Seinfeld, Bottle Rocket, David Sardis, Flight of the Concords or How I Met Your Mother are funny, it’s a deal breaker for Jean.)
6. Chronically unchecked and unregulated bad breath and/or body odor
7. A generally unclean home, especially a nasty bathroom (I’m not talking about mild disorder or untidiness; I mean mold growing on a dust bunny farm.)
8. Unhealthily relationship with family and refusal to mend said relationship
9. Refusal to cry and/or uncomfortable when I cry
10. Impatient and anxious (If you can’t tolerate traffic, small children or the post office without using a swear word or raising your blood pressure, deal breaker.)

So all you potential suitors, check yourself before bombarding me the next time you see me. I know I’m not alone in having a list of deal breakers… Don’t be shy; share yours today with someone you love (or think you love).

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