Understanding Relationship Dynamics: Navigating Deal Breakers and Non-Deal Breakers

People in bed fighting

I’m wondering if your partner does anything that irritates you. Maybe they are really messy or they play golf too much, they won’t go to church with you, they are overweight, they want more or less sex than you, they spend too much money, they drink too much, they cheated on you and now you can’t trust them, or they don’t listen to you and you don’t feel important to them. All of these are real issues in relationships. 

We all encounter moments when our partner's actions trigger powerful emotions, making us question the foundation of our relationship. In today's episode, we'll explore the difference between genuine deal breakers and those situations where personal growth, transformation, and understanding can mend the connection between partners.



Understanding Deal Breakers

Deal Breakers:

Deal breakers are actions or behaviors that breach our core values, boundaries, and principles, creating an irreparable crack in the relationship. These non-negotiable issues include:

  1. Abuse of Any Kind: Any form of abuse, such as physical, emotional, or verbal, is an undeniable deal breaker. It demands swift action to protect yourself.
  2. Opposing Goals, Priorities, and Core Values: Fundamental differences in life goals, priorities, or core values can lead to insurmountable conflicts, jeopardizing the relationship. This also includes substance abuse.
  3. Financial Disagreements: Money matters can trigger intense emotions. Ongoing financial disagreements, especially concerning shared finances, can lead to the deterioration of the relationship.
  4. Sexual Incompatibility: Sexual compatibility is vital for a healthy relationship. Ongoing sexual incompatibility can cause emotional distance and dissatisfaction.
  5. Lack of Trust, Including Affairs: Trust is the cornerstone of a thriving partnership. Betrayal or a lack of trust, particularly in the form of affairs, is often the ultimate deal breaker.
  6. Different Relationship and Family Values: Misalignment in relationship and family values can lead to significant clashes. The inability to find common ground in these areas can jeopardize the partnership.
  7. Lack of Empathy and Connection: A relationship without empathy and connection can feel emotionally barren. If these qualities are consistently absent, it's a serious concern.


Non-Deal Breakers

Non-deal breakers are all the things that annoy you about your partner but aren’t in the category of things that would cause you to end the relationship.

Some common examples of non-deal breakers include:

  • Different tastes in music or hobbies
  • Different dietary preferences
  • Varying opinions on decorating or home organization
  • Disagreements on movie or TV show choices
  • Personal quirks or habits that don't infringe on core values
  • Differing political beliefs


Common Examples of Non-Deal breakers

Let's delve into a two common examples of non-deal breakers to illustrate how personal growth and understanding can make a difference.

1. Neatnik vs. Messy: Meet Sarah and Alex, a couple deeply in love but with vastly different approaches to tidiness. Sarah is a neatnik who thrives in an organized and clean environment, while Alex is a bit messy and relaxed about clutter. At first, this discrepancy triggered irritation in Sarah, but they decided to address it together. Through open communication and understanding, they set boundaries for shared spaces, allowing Sarah to maintain her order while giving Alex space to be himself. This transformed what once could have been a deal breaker into an opportunity for compromise, empathy, and growth.

2. Challenging Weight Gain and Body Image: In this example, we have Emily and Mark, who have been together for years. Emily has experienced significant weight gain during their relationship, and Mark has found himself less sexually attracted to her as a result. Instead of making this a deal breaker, Mark chose to address the issue with compassion. He recognized that Emily's worth was not defined by her weight and that he needed to change his mindset about this. Mark understood that loving Emily for who she is, rather than the vision he had for her body, was the key to a healthier relationship. Together, they embarked on a journey of self-acceptance, understanding, and love, emphasizing the value of the individual over physical appearance.


Managing Non-Deal Breakers

For situations that do not fall under these deal breakers, we have an opportunity for personal growth and transformation. Here's how:

Processing Your Feelings:

When your partner's actions trigger strong emotions, take time to understand why. Is it tied to past experiences or unresolved issues? Processing your feelings is the first step in managing your reactions.

Changing Your Mindset:

Adopting a growth mindset can reshape how you perceive and react to your partner's actions. Consider these moments as opportunities for personal growth and connection, rather than threats to the relationship.

Practicing Gratitude:

In moments of annoyance, reflect on the qualities and cherished memories within your relationship. Focusing on the positives can help you see the bigger picture.

Finding Compassion:

Understand that your partner, like you, has their history, wounds, and vulnerabilities. Practicing empathy and attempting to see from their perspective can foster compassion and connection.

Agreeing to Disagree:

Not every difference of opinion needs to escalate. Sometimes, agreeing to disagree can be a way to maintain individuality while preserving harmony in the relationship.

Learning to Compromise:

In certain cases, compromise is necessary to maintain a healthy partnership. Finding middle ground on non-deal breaker issues is a testament to your commitment to each other.

Being Curious:

Rather than jumping to conclusions, approach your partner's behavior with curiosity. Ask questions, seek understanding, and engage in open, honest conversations. This can uncover deeper motivations and fears, fostering a sense of connection.



In our journey of love, sexual intimacy, and relationships, it's crucial to differentiate between true deal breakers and issues that can be resolved through personal growth and transformation. By understanding the nuances of triggers and beliefs, we create space for connection, empathy, and love to flourish.

I’d like to challenge you to think about something that is a non-deal breaker for you and what you could do differently to better handle it. This is an opportunity for personal growth, not only to strengthen your relationship but also to grow as an individual.

Remember that relationships are an ongoing process, requiring effort, patience, and compassion.

Thank you for joining us on "Great Sex." Until next time, my wish for you is to create opportunities to nurture your love and friendship with your partner.



In this episode, Dr. Heather discusses the difference between deal breakers and non-deal breakers in relationships. Deal breakers are actions or behaviors that breach core values and create irreparable cracks in the relationship, while non-deal breakers are annoyances that do not warrant ending the relationship. Dr. Heather provides examples of both deal breakers and non-deal breakers, such as abuse, opposing goals, financial disagreements, and differing tastes in music or hobbies. She also offers strategies for managing non-deal breakers, including processing feelings, changing mindset, practicing gratitude, showing compassion, and being curious. Dr. Heather emphasizes the importance of personal growth and transformation in strengthening relationships.



  • Differentiate between deal breakers and non-deal breakers in your relationship.
  • Deal breakers breach core values and create irreparable cracks in the relationship.
  • Non-deal breakers are annoyances that can be managed through personal growth and understanding.
  • Strategies for managing non-deal breakers include processing feelings, changing mindset, practicing gratitude, showing compassion, and being curious.

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