In recent research published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, experts from five American and European universities conducted six separate studies, surveying more than 6,500 people total, about relationship “deal breakers”—traits or habits that would cause them to stop seeing someone.
The study is unique for a couple of reasons. First, while many studies have focused on partner preferences—that is, the positive traits that men and women value in each other, the present research centered on undesirable traits, and the power that these characteristics have to break up relationships.
And perhaps more importantly, the current study speculates that the so-called deal breakers have a bigger impact on the future of a relationship than positive traits, or deal makers.
In one of the studies, scientists gave 5,541 single adults a list of 17 negative traits and asked each of them this question: “When considering a committed relationship with someone, which of the following would be deal breakers to you? (select all that apply).”
So, What Were the Worst Deal Breakers?
Overall, a disheveled or unclean appearance was the top-ranking deal breaker, though women ranked laziness slightly higher. Other top deal breakers included a partner who was too needy, lacked a sense of humor, lived more than three hours away, or lacked self confidence.
For women, concern about a potential partner watching too much TV or playing video games too often appeared in the top ten.
Men found “low sex drive” and “talks too much” to be bigger deal breakers. But more women rated “bad sex” as a nonstarter than men did.
Overall, the study concludes that having deal breakers in place is a good thing:
“It’s likely that deal breakers function as efficient, cost-sensitive cognitive mechanisms designed to cull inappropriate potential patterns, allowing mating preferences to operate within a reduced target of desirable mates,” the authors write.
In other words, when deciding on a long-term partner, use “deal breakers” to narrow down the pool of potential mates. Then, focus on their positive traits!