What’s your relationship deal breaker?


In a recent interview, when asked if she would tolerate being cheated on, Gwyneth Paltrow answered, “I would like to think that I would be forgiving and/or forgiven, but I can’t give an honest answer as I haven’t really experienced that.” Unsurprisingly this relatively juicy quote was picked up, repackaged and sold by the media as Gwyneth not seeing infidelity as a relationship ‘deal breaker’.

While we can skip past the fact that GP is not going to reveal her true feelings to an interviewer and that the quote was linked to a film she’s in about sex addiction (so her thoughts can be taken with a pinch of promotional salt), the idea of relationship ‘deal breakers’ is an interesting one. A serious relationship, in particular a marriage or civil partnership where in the cold, hard light of legality a ‘deal’ has been made, has terms and conditions. You expect to be treated and to treat your partner in a certain way and if those expectations aren’t met then your relationship can certainly be threatened.

“What can be an absolute at the beginning of a relationship changes as you go on,” says Catherine who has been married to her husband Ed for seven years. “You learn that marriage isn’t a boxed affair but something that is fluid and reactive, and that needs work to succeed and be healthy.  That said, being married doesn’t mean you become one person and sacrifice your own moral standpoints. To ignore something which I feel is a dealbreaker would be to deny who I am. To sacrifice that in order to save a marriage is not a healthy way to move forward.”

“I always thought that infidelity would be a deal breaker for me,” adds Lucy, who has been married to Joe for eight years. “But since having children my thoughts on that have changed – not that I’ve really ever thought about it, you kind of hope it won’t happen to you, don’t you? I now know that there would be so much to lose and I couldn’t bear to bring up my children without their father around, so I would hope that I could forgive him for cheating and I would at least give it a go. Although, God, it would be hard wouldn’t it?”

Having spoken to several friends about relationship dealbreakers, two things become clear. Firstly, what constitutes as a dealbreaker changes when young children are involved. No longer do you only have your feelings (and pride) to consider, but you have to think of the others who would be seriously affected and perhaps even damaged by your decision. “I absolutely think that deal breakers change when you have children,” agrees Susie, married for five years with one daughter. “I would hate to deprive my child of her father and the family unit.”

Secondly, that the most common dealbreaker (apart from abuse of you or your children) would be infidelity. “I’d like to think I’d be the bigger person, but I seriously don’t think I could ever forget and therefore forgiving would be impossible,” says Catherine. “That said, I can appreciate how affairs can happen, but at the same time there is an intrinsic part of me that feels if it had got that far, then he (or I) should have owned up to it before committing it. The whole thing boils down to respect and if our relationship was in that zone then we’d owe it to each other to come clean and either work to fix it or not.”

Milly, married with three children, is equally unshakeable on the subject of infidelity. “I am far too jealous a person and it would eat me up,” she explains. “I wouldn’t be able to forget it and I would worry every time my husband so much as looked in another woman’s direction. And, most damagingly, I think it would come up every single time we had a row, even about something minor.”

Of course, every relationship and situation is different. While some women would pointblank not accept infidelity in any form, others have more of a fluid reaction. “I think I could forgive infidelity in the form of a lapse and a one night stand, but not if the heart was engaged,” muses Susie. “If I found Tom had slept with another woman the way he sleeps with me…I am not sure I could bear that – knowing he loved someone else. I think it would haunt me too much even if I wanted to forgive and move on. And I do forgive but I don’t forget, it’s a curse. A weakness, if you like. I think it would hurt too much.”

And yet, not everyone sees infidelity as necessarily a bad thing. “I do think infidelity makes some marriages work,” says Rachel. “I have a friend who had a bad patch in her marriage (an 8 year long patch) and had a few affairs along the way. She now seems to be happily married with two kids. Her husband doesn’t know about the affairs – perhaps if he did, it would be different.” She continues, “I have another friend who found out his wife was having an affair and it shocked him into being a better husband. So the infidelity helped them sort out things for the better. Although, saying that, I also know a lot of instances where infidelity ended in divorce.”

Claire is another one who has witnessed the effects of infidelity and how close to being a deal breaker it can be. “We have some friends who have just gone through hell and have come out the other side. The husband had a pretty major affair and having discovered it, she ending up throwing him out. It was really hard on her, and she even went to a solicitor to file for divorce. But, it had a massive affect on their son and and was very tough on her. She said she spent 6 months going to parties, kids parties, weddings etc by herself, and was really lonely and struggled to be a single mum. They decided for their son’s sake to make a go of it. The husband is apparently reformed although she is a shadow of what she used to be. She is also too scared to have another baby, which she desperately wants… in case he can’t handle it.”

Obviously, the success and failuire of a relationship doesn’t just come down to infidelity, there are other potential dealbreakers out there. The majority of women we asked felt that a drug or alcohol addiction could be worked through. “I see addiction as an illness and would find it easy to forgive and help my partner through it,” says Rachel. “However, I’d find it hard to forgive if he couldn’t stop the problem or wasn’t prepared to try.”

Catherine agrees, “I could live with an addiction if they sought help to stop, but not if it was endless and detrimental to the health and wellbeing of me and my children.  My respect for “them” would be destroyed and with no respect there would be no attraction and if they were doing it despite  an obvious negative effect on us then he wouldn’t be the person I married.”

“Addiction is a very hard one and I am not too sure I know the answer,” says Roz. “I fear that an addiction would alter the person you love and often it is hard to come back from addictions without an altered personality.  Given I have children I would be very cross if drugs were in our house and used in the house.”

Away from addiction and infidelity, it seems that gambling could be a dealbreaker. “I think lying about money would be very difficult to get over,” says Roz. “If for instance your partner had gambled money away or for some reason lost it and didn’t tell you this would be difficult.”

“I would find it hard to forgive gambling,” agrees Rachel. “Especially if he lost a lot of our money and he wasn’t able to get himself sorted. I think that’s incredibly selfish especially when children are involved.”

Ultimately, for the majority of women it seems that there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to deal breakers. What would end one couple’s relationship would not necessarily end another’s. Similarily, what might end your relationship at one juncture, could perhaps be worked through at a different time in your life. As Dani puts it, “I think it’s just impossible to know how you’d act until you’re in that situation. And even then, you’d probably never be sure. One thing I am certain about though is that children change everything. What you’d do before you had them, or after they’d grown up and left home, might be very different to when you need both hands on deck to bring them up.”

The final word goes to Roz who sums up just how difficult it is to have a set in stone deal breaker. “A relationship is about communication, trust, support and ultimately this is united by love.  Infidelity and addiction test the boundaries of relationships and a blanket response is just too hard for me.  I used to think that I was rather black and white however I am more grey now. I think I would always try and make a relationship work for me and also for the children.”

Do you have a relationship deal breaker? If so, feel free to comment below, tweet (@WearandWhereUK) or email us ( and let us know…

IMAGE: Conde Nast

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  • Reply
    November 4, 2013 at 4:49 pm

    My husband and I realized that cheating was not a dealbreaker for us. We’ve been together for more than a decade and have a toddler son. He has been a supportive partner and friend and a involved, loving coparent. At this point, I doubt anything he could do in one night could erase all of that.

  • Reply
    Daniel Moser
    March 3, 2014 at 12:36 am

    For me the deal breaker would be about kids. If the other person wants kids, it’s game over. I don’t want kids, and I certainly don’t like the idea of raising another man’s kids.
    Any woman who wants or has kids is off my dating radar for life.
    The other deal breaker would be poor history. Being in a number of relationships in a short period of time, which would suggest that we won’t last very long.

    Those are the top two I guess.

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