10 worst deal breakers in relationships, according to the latest research

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We typically choose our partners based on a list of qualities we want – our dealmakers. Things like trustworthiness, a sense of humor, intellect, stability, and many more positive traits. 

But equally important as these great qualities are the deal breakers – things that we just won’t tolerate in a partner. 

This may vary from person to person, but researchers have now narrowed down some undesirable traits that are pretty common across a wide range of people. 

What are these worst deal breakers? Join me as I tackle what research has to say about it. Let’s dive in!

1) Apathy

A new study in Personality and Individual Differences focused on relationship deal breakers and found that this trait tops the list, especially in long-term relationships. 

It’s easy to see why. No one wants to be with a partner who doesn’t make them feel valued or understood. 

The problem with a partner who doesn’t care very much is that it would be difficult to get them to address the issues you present. 

They won’t make much of an effort to make you feel special – not in terms of affection, support, or communication. They likely won’t be that involved in your life. 

So what does all of that lead to? A lack of emotional connection, which then leaves you feeling lonely and isolated.

And if you’re feeling that way, there’s no reason to stay with that person, is there? 

2) Clinginess

Now, what if your partner is on the opposite end of the spectrum? What if instead of being apathetic, they are overly clingy? Instead of a lack of concern, you have too much of it?

Apparently, that’s also a top dealbreaker.

In fact, in the context of long-term relationships, it’s one of the top repellents for women with higher mating value (translation: higher self-esteem). 

If you’ve ever had a clingy partner, you probably know how suffocating it can feel. I had a boyfriend who was ultra-clingy, and it really put out the spark I felt for him in a matter of months. 

At first, I appreciated the constant company, but over time, I started losing my independence because he wouldn’t let me do anything on my own. 

The constant seeking of attention and reassurance made it so difficult for me to have my own space and me-time. And those two things are non-negotiables for me. 

It drove me up the wall that I couldn’t have my precious space.

So, what I learned from that experience is that, yes, clinginess is a dealbreaker for me. 

And based on the research, lots of people agree!

3) Being gross

Ah, grossness. Being disheveled or unclean apparently matters a lot. 

I mean, it matters so much that it landed on the list of deal breakers for both short- and long-term relationships and for both men and women!

I get it. Fortunately, I’ve never had a partner with issues around grooming, but I can very well imagine how it would feel to sleep beside someone who doesn’t smell good. 

Or to keep a home well-maintained with someone who’s okay with leaving dishes piled up in the sink. 

I bet that would feel disgusting and unacceptable – you’d be living in constant fear of germs and pathogens! Which is why it is indeed a dealbreaker. 

So take your cue from that – practice good hygiene and keep yourself well-groomed. You don’t want poor hygiene habits to keep you from sharing a life with a great person! 

4) Addiction

The study did not dwell much on why addiction is a common dealbreaker, but it’s also understandable given the complexities of the disease. 

Although research has already shed light on the nature of addiction as a disease, many people still see it as a character flaw or weakness. 

The stigma attached to addiction persists to this day despite advancements in our understanding of addiction (and mental illness as well).  

5) Promiscuity

Here’s another dealbreaker with a lot of assumptions attached to it. The number of a person’s past sexual partners apparently affects their perceived level of attractiveness. 

According to a study in the Journal of Sex Research, both men and women find a person less attractive if they’ve had a more colorful sexual history. 

The tricky thing is – people want a partner with a bit of a past, but not too much. 

Obviously, other factors do affect this, such as age. For example, a 35-year-old would typically have had more past sexual partners than a 21-year-old. 

But generally, it seems that the magic number is three. More than that and people would begin wondering if it’s worth pursuing a relationship. 

This may be due to issues like fear of STDs, trust issues, concerns about emotional attachment, or simply different values. 

6) Lack of ambition/motivation

Why is lack of motivation such an issue for many people? 

Well, because, like promiscuity, it highlights a mismatch of values. 

When you’re looking for a potential life partner, you want someone to plan a future with. You want someone with the same capacity for growth, both personally and professionally.

And if your partner lacks ambition and drive, you’ll likely end up doing double the work to meet your financial goals. 

The thought of having to carry someone else’s dead weight is enough to scare people away. 

7) Abuse and anger issues

According to studies led by psychologist Peter Jonason, a partner who is abusive or has anger issues is a top dealbreaker when it comes to long-term relationships. 

First off, what exactly does abuse involve? It’s not just about physical abuse; it could also include emotional, verbal, or even financial abuse. 

Needless to say, it can be incredibly damaging to a relationship. It can cause the victim to feel unsafe, unloved, and unimportant, and it can lead to long-term emotional scars.

And let’s not forget about anger issues. Everyone gets angry from time to time, but if someone has ongoing anger issues, it can be a major problem in a relationship. 

It can lead to frequent arguments, emotional outbursts, and an overall feeling of unease and tension in the relationship.

So, for most people, these two are flashing red flags that tell them to walk away. 

8) Being slimy

This one’s another flashing red flag you should heed, although it’s largely in the context of flirting and short-term relationships. 

“Having a slimy approach” showed up in a Greek sampling study by Menelaos Apostolou and Chrysovalanto Eleftheriou as a dealbreaker factor in flirting situations. 

What exactly does being slimy mean? 

Well, you know those people who give you a feeling of unease? They give off an aura or dishonesty, insincerity, or manipulative-ness. 

It’s a real turn-off in the context of flirting and dating because people generally want to feel that the person they’re interacting with is genuine. They want to be treated with respect and consideration. 

In contrast, a slimy approach does the opposite – it makes you feel confused and uncertain about the person’s intentions.  You may even feel disrespected and violated

9) Unattractiveness

A 2022 study in Hungary listed a lack of physical attraction as a dealbreaker for the subjects. 

That’s quite understandable because, of course, we gravitate towards people we find attractive. 

But the interesting thing about this dealbreaker is that it can be overridden if the person has a lot of dealmaker qualities. 

For example, there may not be a strong physical attraction, but if the person is smart or funny or trustworthy, that hurdle might be easier to overcome.

Instead of being a dealbreaker, it becomes a “dealbender” – a term coined by psychologists Nicole Charlot and Samantha Joel. It refers to an issue normally considered a dealbreaker but may not actually make people exit relationships right away

10) Not on the same page on values

This last section covers a lot of ground because of the complexities of both individuals and relationships. 

I’ve touched on it a bit in the discussions about promiscuity and motivation, but there are many other areas a couple could find themselves completely incompatible

It’s a type of dealbreaker that is truly personal and varies from person to person. Here are some examples:

  • Finances (different saving and spending habits)
  • Kids (one partner wants to have kids; the other doesn’t)
  • Social/political/religious values
  • Unwillingness to compromise
  • Work-life balance
  • Different sex drives
  • Different social circles

This is by no means an exhaustive list; as I’ve said, values are intensely personal. What might be unacceptable to you might be acceptable to others. 

Conclusion

After decades of research on the positive traits people look for in partners, it’s good to know that more attention is now being given to deal breakers. 

Because, as the researchers say, it’s just as important to know people’s negative mate preferences to understand relationships better. 

And as you can see, deal breakers are multidimensional and highly variable. So, how do you use all of this information to your advantage?

Simple – sit down and make your own dealbreaker list! That way, you’ll have a clearer vision going into a relationship, and it will be easier to spot red flags.

Roselle Umlas

I am a freelance writer with a lifelong interest in helping people become more reflective and self-aware so that they can communicate better and enjoy meaningful relationships.

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