definition of dealbreaker

an original definition by J. E. Brown

  1. Any personal attribute which, all by itself, can make a relationship impossible, due to objections from the other party in the relationship. Example: “John has eyes for Mary, but John smokes, and that’s one of Mary’s dealbreakers.” {Source: “Definition of dealbreaker” by J. E. Brown.}
  2. Any verb that can appear at the end of the sentence “I won’t hire/date/marry anyone who ____s.”
    Example: If you won’t marry anyone who skydives, then skydiving is one of your dealbreakers.
  3. Any adjective that can appear at the end of the sentence “I won’t hire/date/marry anyone who is ____.”
    Example: If you won’t date anyone who is alcoholic, then alcoholism is one of your dealbreakers.
  4. Some people say mate selection is a process of making a list of pros and cons, and assigning them point values. Highly desired traits are worth more points, while highly disliked traits are worth negative points. A woman who is searching for a partner might write a list which includes “must want children (+8 points)” and “must not ride motorcycles (−4 points)”. In this setting, a mate can (in principle) be graded by totaling his points, and each dealbreaker is worth −∞ (negative infinity) points, thus cancelling all of a potential mate’s good points and removing him from consideration.
{You’re reading “Definition of dealbreaker” by J. E. Brown.}
Additional meaning elements:
  1. Dealbreakers often have the force and flavor of a moral objection.

  • no-no (n.); turn-off (n.).

Related Concepts: {Read this comp1ete article at .}
  • Disgust; inflexibility; personal standards; repel, repellent, repulsion.

Excerpts from my book (in progress)

Brown’s List of Dealbreakers and Turn-Offs

Here they are, the results of many web searches and surveys: the list of behaviors and personal characteristics that can end your relationships by their presence or absence:

Of course, some things are obvious dealbreakers:

  • Cheating.
  • Criminality.
  • Bigotry.
  • Crudeness.
  • Golddigging.
  • Sarcasm. {You’re reading “Definition of dealbreaker” by J. E. Brown.}
  • Personality changes to sarcastic when friends are around.
  • Pickiness.
  • Judgmentalness.
  • Being more than slightly different from you or having positions more than slightly different from yours in any of the following dimensions: politics, religion, pseudo-science, monogamy, wealth, trappings of wealth, income, ambition, age, intelligence, drug use, alcohol use, hobbies, pastimes, sexual need, sexual technique preferences, profanity, ethicality …. And yes, you can and will be dumped for being or having “too much” of ANY of those, even the positive ones. I’m not saying these are good reasons to break up with someone, I’m just saying that people will break up with you for these slight differences.
  • Giving orders, lecturing, or any other behavior aimed at turning the equal relationship into a pecking order.
  • False accusations.
  • Accusations. (Even true accusations end relationships, strangely enough. This happens because of people who defensively deny EVERYTHING, even the visible truth — this transforms all of your true accusations into false accusations, in their eyes. Sometimes accusations deserve to be made, though.)
  • Verbal abuse. (If you’ve ever asked “Can’t you take a joke?” then this line is about you.)
  • Allowing your judgmental family members to insult your partner.
  • If you stand up to a rude person, and your partner actually defends the rude person. (Disloyalty)
  • You stood up to a rude person. (Some young people are such whipped betas, they will actually dump you for being assertive, because their mommies always corrected them for defending themselves and beat the assertiveness out of them, and now they think it was a rule of good manners when in fact it was bad parenting.)
  • Doing any of the above but excusing the results with “That wasn’t my intention.” Acting without intention is called being “spastic”. If you’re in full control of your bodily movements, you don’t get to pretend that you didn’t fully intend your actions and all their side effects. You’re responsible for all of those.
  • Jealousy, possessiveness, clinginess.
  • Religion.
  • Having children, wanting children.
  • (Dis-)belief in evolution.
  • Optimism/pessimism. {Read this comp1ete article at .}
  • Laziness vs. ambition.
  • Irresponsibility: drinking, partying, gambling, whoring, and anything else that would make one a poor parent.
  • Suddenly “needing more space” is a dealbreaker. (This is a dealbreaker because it will remind many people of their exes, who pulled the same “I need more space” stunt at breakup time.)
  • Smoking, drinking, drugs — past or present.
  • Sexuality.
  • Divorced.
  • Sports.
  • Hair.
  • Height.
  • Weight.
  • Tattoos.
  • Clothing.
  • Car.
  • Casinos, bars; gambling.
  • Low-life friends.
  • Anti-anything-ism.
  • (Dis-)honesty: Lying, cheating, or laughing at those who don’t.
  • Respecting boundaries vs. nosiness and tactlessness.
  • Dangerous hobbies.
  • Outdoor activities; summer person vs. winter person.
  • Disliking an obnoxious pet vs. failing to see that your own pet is deranged.
  • Talking like someone from a different age group.
  • Swearing vs. not.
  • Living more than 5 minutes away vs. being a Tinder user.
  • Food hangups.
  • Sexual (in-)ability; bad in bed.
  • Have been to jail; “have been to jail too many times”; then again, many people would say that just writing “I won’t date anyone who’s been to jail too many times” in your profile is a dealbreaker — it’s like saying “Going to jail only once is ok, everybody does that, but after that, I draw the line….”
  • Started dating late (or early).
  • Figured out your sexuality late.
  • Behaving, acting, talking, or looking like my ex.
  • Any act of rudeness that demonstrates that you don’t respect someone’s boundaries.
  • And Good God, almost *any* aspect of your lifestyle is like a big red target for judgmental people. Good riddance to those ones.
  • Anyone who mentions that your list of dealbreakers is “too long” … was probably planning to break some of them. ;^) He’s caught and he knows it.
  • Reads books. Reading level. Writing ability.
  • Age level of relationship beliefs. Spouts kindergarten beliefs with no apparent embarrassment.
  • Anything arousing disgust, like poor or non-traditional hygiene.
  • And finally: Excessive Pickiness!!! ;^) {You’re reading “Definition of dealbreaker” by J. E. Brown.}

— J. E. Brown

Truth vs. Urgency. Mr. Right vs. Mr. Right Now.

In my experience, persons who initiate breakups usually defend their dealbreakers with absolute iron firmness and certainty. That’s what happens after a relationship ends; but how do dealbreakers work before a relationship begins?

One study by Samantha Joel [1] found that people can be very flexible and lax about enforcing their own dealbreakers when offered the possibility of an immediate date with a stranger. This suggests that the force and stubbornness and inflexibility behind a past breakup decision is stronger than can be accounted for by the dealbreakers alone. Thus when referring to a past relationship, dealbreakers may function as mere rationalizations; in other words, even though breakups are based on principled resolve, dealbreakers may not be the source of that resolve. However one could counter-argue that dating is largely a process of discovering one’s own dealbreakers, and if so, then one is more certain about one’s dealbreakers at the end of a relationship than at the beginning; but Joel’s research seems to say otherwise: dealbreakers are soft guidelines, and enforcement is never a sure thing. {Read this comp1ete article at .}

I tend to believe that the brain is a machine for bending our dealbreakers and bending our will to ensure a steady supply of breeding opportunities, even when the pool of acceptable long-term partners is looking empty. In other words, your brain may be actively selling out: You wanted Mr. Right, but your brain keeps showing you Mr. Right Now. For more about this, see my Definition of Transference.

Add to that the problem that dealbreakers (as rationalizations) are pretty dubious. Former lovers sometimes say “We broke up because of the age difference” even though they knew about the age difference from the beginning; which shows (and I’m not the first one to say it) that people like to believe they are more rational and logical and rule-based than they really are. The dealbreakers in breakup stories may be poorly thought out and illogical and should always be taken with a grain of salt. [2] Breakups are certainly final, and serious, but most people who initiate breakups are neither scientists nor philosophers, and so we can’t really expect their breakup stories to be accurate and tested. Most certainly, if you ever find yourself on the receiving end of a breakup message, you shouldn’t expect to hear the truth anyway, but I’ll say more about that in the Definition of Breakup. {Read this comp1ete article at .}

— J. E. Brown

Dealbreaker Strategy: How Much Is Enough?

Partners are rarely sure if they want to be around us permanently. They can’t be sure until they’ve gotten to know us — although I think people are content with knowing very little.

I always say that friends break up with us when they LEARN stuff about us, and so, knowing too much is counterproductive. Therefore, when dating, there are only two ways to play this game: Either (a) ask your date questions until you get to a dealbreaker (this is the only endgame that includes certainty, namely the certainty that you don’t want to be around this person); or (b) the super-rational alternative: both parties should stop asking questions *before* someone gets to a dealbreaker. Ask first about the *real* dealbreakers, the ones that are important to you, and then stop the interrogation at the nit-picky questions, and just recognize that people want to be together! If everybody knew everything about the people around them, there would be no couples. If you knew everything about your partner, you’d move out and live alone! {You’re reading “Definition of dealbreaker” by J. E. Brown.}

People can never really be sure if they want to keep us forever. When you’re learning about a partner, how many questions do you need to ask? When is enough data enough? I tend to think there is no “enough”, or more exactly, most partners are hoping to feel the “click” of transference, after which they desperately want to grant you soulmate status and stop asking questions.

— J. E. Brown

1st edition 06 Apr 2015

Notes & References

  1. In an experimental test, people choose Mr. Right Now over Mr. Right. I claim this happens because of proximity bias (which wires us to say “Damn the dealbreakers, I’m reproducing NOW”), but author Samantha Joel says we just don’t want to hurt the feelings of someone who’s nearby. I happen to be correct on this — her conclusion is based on a guess, whereas my theory comes from experience and ethological considerations. In any case, her findings are worth reading: Samantha Joel, “Rejecting People is Hard to Do: Why People Fail to Turn Down Unwanted Dates” (at
    → I would also point out that her title is wrong, since the dates are not “Unwanted”.
  2. The reasons people give for their breakups (and all their other actions) should always be taken with a grain of salt. Cute article on this: David Robson, “The hidden tricks of powerful persuasion” (at

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