Dr. Marshall says that all relationships are deals, and that much like a business deal, women need to define the terms of their relationship. Perhaps part of the deal is getting married, having kids or adhering to a work ethic that suits your personality.
According to Dr. Marshall, a deal breaker is the quality or stance that undermines the deal. "A deal breaker is that one thing that grates on you, but it symbolizes everything else that's wrong in a relationship," she says. Everybody has different deal breakers, Dr. Marshall says, but they are not minor, annoying habits. Rather, she says it's "a character flaw or emotional stance that significantly deteriorates the quality of your relationship." So if your guy forgets to pick up his dirty socks, it's not a deal breaker. But if he's a self-absorbed narcissist, more than likely, that's a deal breaker, Dr. Marshall says.
Dr. Marshall offers this deal breaker cheat sheet:
- You work harder than he does to fix his problems or to make the relationship better.
- You keep asking yourself, "Is it him or is it me?" especially when you don't feel it's you.
- You and only you are unhappy.
Other deal breakers are a man who can't get along with your friends, family or community. "Maybe he's the kind of guy that can't share you with other people," Dr. Marshall says. If you don't like his friends, that could be a deal breaker, too. "You then have to ask yourself, 'Are you seeing who he is clearly?'—because his friendships will be reflective of his personality," she says.
Deal breakers aside, Dr. Marshall says the most important thing to remember when considering a mate is that all healthy relationships are built on reciprocity—mutual give and take. She says to look for a man who is equally invested in the relationship. "He may not give back to you the exact same thing you give to him, but he gives things that are of equal value … because of that, every time you're with him there's progress and not degeneration, there's a new solution, a new experience, a new understanding, and it gets better with time," she says.