The Top Relationship Deal Breakers, Based on Our Data
Falling in love is one thing, but maintaining a healthy relationship is a totally different experience. While love certainly is the backbone of a fulfilling partnership, it can't exist on that alone. The definition of a good relationship differs among everyone; for example, what you consider a non-negotiable in a significant other may not be considered the same by someone else. That said, there are a few universal green flags most can agree on—things like trust, healthy communication, a sense of humor, and respect are elements everyone wants in a relationship. This, of course, means that there are universal relationship deal breakers as well.
While love takes many forms, certain deal breakers in relationships are simply unjustifiable. And if you're curious to know the most common relationship deal breakers, we've got the answers for you, thanks to The Knot Financial Survey 2022. In our latest study, we surveyed 1,000 people, including those who are dating, engaged, and married, to learn their thoughts on finances and relationships. We also gathered information on the most common deal breakers in relationships—and the answers might surprise you. Read on to discover the top eight relationship deal breakers according to data, along with expert-driven tips on how to handle these red flags if you encounter them in real life.
Meet the Pros:
1. Infidelity and Lack of Trust
It may come as no surprise that infidelity and lack of trust top our relationship deal breakers list. According to The Knot Financial Survey 2022, 51% of respondents said they consider infidelity/cheating to be a deal breaker—and lack of trust/honesty followed closely behind, with 48% selecting this choice. The reason for these two deal breakers taking the top spots is quite simple: it's challenging to have a long-term relationship if you don't trust your partner. "Trust is one of the foundational pillars of a successful relationship," Stockard explains. "While you can still be happy and in love with your partner, not having trust in the relationship seriously diminishes the level of happiness in the relationship."
While it's certainly possible to rebuild broken trust, it requires both partners to fully commit to resolving these issues, along with the willingness to try. In some instances, Brown notes, you need to determine if lack of trust is a relationship deal breaker you're open to working through. "If your trust is broken in your current relationship, through infidelity or your boundaries being crossed, it's up to you to decide if you want to try to work through it with your partner," she tells us. "Only you can decide where your limits are, and the goal is to determine that from a place of strength, rather than feeling trapped or obligated to forgive. Therapy or trusted friends and family can help you figure out if you want to work with your partner to heal and rebuild trust, or if your trust with your partner was broken beyond repair."
2. Poor Communication
Our data indicates that poor communication is the second most common relationship deal breaker, according to 37% of respondents. What "good" communication means to you is incredibly personal—but it goes deeper than how often you and your S.O. text throughout the day or what your conversations consist of. Communication is the sum of what you talk about and how you talk about it. It also includes how you approach those tough conversations you may want to avoid, like how you want to tackle debt or how it bothers you when your partner always checks their phone on date night. Instead of brushing frustrations aside or approaching conversations with anger or hostility, it's vital to communicate honestly and transparently. Plus, in order to make your partner feel understood and supported, maintaining an open mind (and being willing to compromise) are key pillars of healthy communication. Your partner can't read your mind, after all, so prioritizing communication is vital for long-term success.
3. Opposing Morals and Values
Finding a partner with compatible morals and values is a considerably important quality. In fact, according to our survey, 30% of respondents said that having a partner with different morals or values is a relationship deal breaker. At a glance, this may seem like a no-brainer. After all, if you and your S.O. have fundamentally different beliefs, it's impossible to be happy in a relationship, right?
According to Brown, this isn't always the case, and it may not mean you and your partner are doomed from the start. "While this can be a valid deal breaker for some people, it is absolutely possible to have a healthy and happy relationship when you have different values and beliefs." If you have differing religious beliefs, for example, you'll have to either come to terms with your partner not seeing eye to eye with your beliefs or be open to viewing things from their perspective. "If your partner is happy for you to experience your religion to the full extent that you want, and it doesn't matter to you what your partner does, then having different beliefs can work very well," she explains further. "But if you feel pressure from your partner to change what you believe or how you practice your customs, or it's important to you that your partner joins you in your beliefs or practices and your partner doesn't want to, then there can be challenges."
Differing political views may pose a bigger challenge, particularly for those who correlate politics with core values. "If one person's beliefs have implications that affect the other person's rights or well-being, that would be a harder issue to work through than if you disagree on points that are more distanced or less consequential," Brown adds, noting that communication and respect are needed to work through these differences. "If you don't feel heard, are not willing to hear your partner's side, or you don't respect each other's perspectives, then you can choose to work through those issues together, or decide that your differences are insurmountable."
4. Being Secretive About Finances
Finances can also be a major red flag for many, as our data indicates that 24% of respondents consider poor finances/financial management to be a relationship deal breaker. Beyond that, 43% of people would break up with someone for being secretive about money spent or being dishonest about money habits. Despite that tidbit, our survey also found that 15% of people have separate money accounts their partner doesn't know about.
The concept of a "secret stash" isn't necessarily new. In an effort to maintain privacy or control over money, some may want to reserve a separate account without telling their S.O. While this may sound like a good idea, Stockard notes that this can lead to further trust issues down the line—and, as our survey indicates, it may turn out to be a deal breaker too big to resolve. "I think it's more than okay to have a separate account from your partner, but keeping one a secret can absolutely lead to trust issues," she suggests. "If one person believes you are on the same page financially, and it turns out you are not, this kind of omission can lead to suspicions of other secrets in the relationship."
That's not to say you can't have separate monetary accounts. In fact, our data shows that over 6 in 10 respondents either already have or expect to have a separate account that their partner knows about. Having separate monetary accounts may be the right choice for your relationship, though you should always talk about these decisions with your partner to avoid secrecy and mistrust. "It's very important for couples to be aligned on one another's financial habits," she adds. "This doesn't necessarily mean that all couples need to be fully transparent about their financial habits or debt, but couples should be in agreement in their relationship on what needs to be disclosed."
5. Inability to Share Financial Responsibilities
In addition to secrecy about money, the inability to share financial responsibilities is another top deal breaker in a relationship. For context, 31% of people said they would break up with someone over their inability to share financial responsibilities. Of course, how you decide to divvy up these responsibilities comes down to the preferences you and your partner have—but you can't determine what they are without communication… even if it feels awkward. "If talking about money feels awkward to you, I recommend beginning a conversation with your partner about the ways you're feeling, and explore with one another why finances feel like a tricky topic," Stockard recommends.
Although there isn't an exact timeline to begin talking about money, it's one conversation you'll definitely need to have before getting married. "If there's something about your finances that feels important to disclose, or it would be disingenuous to not bring it up, start the conversation earlier," Brown says. "If you're not worried about the role finances will play in the early days of your relationship, take your time, and start the conversations about finances whenever they feel relevant down the road."
6. Unhealthy Money Habits
Your own financial habits are nuanced and highly personal, but they'll eventually impact your partner, especially if you're preparing for marriage. It's for this reason that unhealthy money habits are a common relationship deal breaker. We found that 29% of people would end a relationship because of overspending, and 26% would break up over high debt.
The boundaries you set for monetary habits are highly personal and need to stem from conversations with your partner about your goals and expectations. From there, you'll set your relationship up for success when you've come to a mutual understanding of "healthy" money habits mean to you. "Explore with your partner how you would like to proceed with finances in the future," Stockard suggests. "Whatever choice you make regarding openness with finances, it is important to make sure to have continued conversations throughout the relationship, to assure that you are still on the same page after time has passed. If this is assumed, and not disclosed, you may find yourself taking on the financial burden of your partner, which can lead to additional issues such as resentment."
7. Different Views on Children
Finances aside, the subject of children can be a polarizing topic. Based on our data, 21% of people consider different views on having kids to be a relationship deal breaker. And according to experts, this is one area that can be challenging to work through. "The possibility of a successful relationship when you are on different pages about children is not highly likely," Stockard says. "For example, trust is something that can be built, but the decision of having children is not built. Through the power of conversation, you can outline the reasons for your line of thinking, which may lead to compromising on the idea of having children or creating new ideas in this area that neither partner has thought about. However, if one person really wants children, and the other does not, there is not much way to work through this."
If you are in this tricky situation and are looking for support, couples therapy is a good place to start. "If disagreement about children is the main or only roadblock in a relationship, it could definitely be worth pursuing therapy or other support," Brown says. "There might be cultural, religious or familial pressures that can be addressed, along with underlying reasons for feeling the way you do (like financial concerns, questions about your relationship, implications for your lifestyle, or doubts that you'll be a good parent). Therapy can help you navigate your disagreement, or break up in a healthy way."
8. Separate Long-Term Goals and Aspirations
Closing out our list of top relationship deal breakers are separate long-term goals and aspirations. We found that 19% of people consider long distance to be a deal breaker, while 17% said the same for lack of career aspirations. Simply being in different life stages very well may be enough to go separate ways.
The relationship your S.O. has with your friends and family is also a major consideration, as we found that 16% and 11%, respectively, consider this to be a deal breaker. "If your parents don't think your partner is right for you, or your friends don't get a good vibe from the partner, you might choose to trust those opinions to the point of ending the relationship," Brown says. "Or, if you're thinking about a long-term relationship with someone, but you find their family to be unbearable and your partner wants to see them all the time, you might feel that you won't be able to last in the relationship."
Although these are the most common relationship deal breakers, it's crucial to reflect on your own values and boundaries for romantic relationships. Before committing to a long-term partnership with a significant other, make sure that your needs and wants are met—because doing so is the best way to ensure a healthy and fulfilling relationship for years to come.
Please note: The Knot and the materials and information it contains are not intended to, and do not constitute, financial or tax advice and should not be used as such. You should always consult with your financial and tax advisors about your specific circumstances.