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The Deal Breakers

A relationship death toll has an undeniable ring. One event sparks the beginning of the end and signs of incompatibility start showing up everywhere. That little feeling that things are just a little bit “off” in your relationship culminates into a playback of all those little notes-to-self about her that made you cringe. Whether she can’t get along with other women, hates your friends, or redefines “ultra-high maintenance”—every man’s got his list of deal breakers.

It doesn’t always start out that way, of course, but over time, what began as a beautiful thing can degrade itself into sheer ugliness. You may realize that you feel trapped, like you can’t be yourself or advance in some way towards the personal goals you want to accomplish. Or maybe she wants more that you can give right now. Or maybe you’re both just too different from one another—maybe all of the above. Whatever the reason, every relationship-gone-bad starts with a gradual buildup of and comes to an end when it’s apparent that the relationship isn’t going to go anywhere.

What went wrong?
When the deal breakers start surfacing, broad-based incompatibility is to blame. Into every relationship a little compromise must fall, but true deal breakers are no mere tolerance to small behaviors and opinions that differ from your own. They are aspects of your partner’s core values and they speak to the mechanics how you interact with each other.

You may share a few things in common, but not enough. After the newness of your relationship fades, serious incompatibilities will become what you think about and discuss all of the time. Little by little, each partner compromises their comfort levels until it is almost unbearable to be in the relationship.

It can be disappointing when you’re faced with a list of deal breakers, but you’ve got to ask yourself the tough question of where you see the relationship going. Too many incompatibilities make for a tough road to walk in a relationship. If you’re not sure, take some time to think about it, but make sure that a fear of confrontation with your partner isn’t speaking more loudly than your rational mind. Breaking up doesn’t make anybody “bad,” it just means that two good people are incompatible with each other.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
No one like to be the “bad guy” responsible for breaking someone’s heart, but in the end when someone likes you more than you like them it’s an unbalanced relationship, and one in which you or your partner can never be truly satisfied. So should you decide that it’s best to move on, be the good guy and make a clean break as soon as you can.

Dragging on in a relationship while injecting increasing amounts of space is not only cruel and unusual punishment for her, but it’s also recipe for absolute ugliness when the final breakup goes down (think uncomfortable phone calls, e-mails and possible public run-ins that may or may not involve shouting, crying, name-calling and other unpleasantries). There’s no guarantee that any of those things won’t happen if today’s the special day, but the more time that passes the worse it will be.

And do follow the good-guy rules: break up in person, not over an answering machine, via SMS text message, and definitely not by e-mail. Sometimes things are left better unsaid, but not when you’re breaking up with someone. She needs direct, in-person communication that is strong and unwavering as to your decision, with no mixed messages in there. In other words, don’t soften the blow by sort of pretending that maybe there might be a future for you after you’ve had some space . . . Wrong answer.

Despite the tears and possible accusations, she’ll appreciate your maturity in the long run. You’re going to cause some sadness, and that’s okay; it’s expected. Breakups are not easy, but in the long run they are easier than staying in the wrong relationship. And having been freed of an incompatible relationship, you’ll be in a much better position to trade your deal breaking moments for deal-making moments with someone who is just perfect for you.