What Are Your Marriage Deal Breakers?


Brock asked me once if I would have given my first marriage a chance if my ex had come to me instead of disappearing.

“It depends,” was my response. By the time the end was imminent, there had been so many lies and so much betrayal that I don’t think we could have moved beyond it. But if had approached me earlier?


One of the reasons I married Brock was for his, “Hard work can fix anything” atittude. He’s not one to easily give up on anything. I like that. And for the most part, I share that attitude.

But I’ve also experienced enough to know that effort can’t fix everything. Especially if the effort is one-sided.

From Til Death Do You Part:

I see the vows as like the wheels on a bicycle. Ideally, both are fully functioning and working in concert. If one tire is a little flat, the other can help support the weight for a time until the tire is re-inflated. If one wheel is bent, the ride may not be over as long as the metal is hammered back into shape. Yet if one wheel is removed, the bicycle is useless no matter how hard the remaining wheel works. And it’s time to either find a new wheel or learn how to ride a unicycle.

There are certain dire situations where my reaction would be to immediately end a marriage instead of staying and working to fix it.

The following are my marriage deal breakers:

Reoccuring Infidelity or Infidelity Without Accepting Responsibility

I don’t believe that the occurance of infidelity should automatically result in a marital split. I have heard of so many cases where the crisis, once the underlying issues have been confronted and addressed, has made a couple closer in the end. Yet in order for the marriage to have a chance, the cheater has to take responsibility for their actions and make the necessary changes so that it doesn’t happen again.

It’s hard work. It’s messy work. And it’s work that has do be undertaken by both spouses. If the infidelity became a pattern or the responsibility was shrugged off, I would walk.


The need to feel physically safe is a basic one. And in a relationship, a physical reaction to a disagreement or frustration is never okay. I can’t imagine ever feeling safe again (much less acttracted to) somebody who had struck me.

Maybe it was a one-time thing. An overreaction while being emotionally consumed. But that’s not a chance I would want to take.

Habitual Lying

Much like with infidelity, I don’t believe that a single (or occasional) lie is a reason to hire a lawyer. Even if it’s a major lie, I would try to understand the motivation behind the untruth before calling it quits. But if the lies overlapped like shingles on a roof keeping the truth out, my inclination towards sympathy would be erased. Once somebody has allowed lying and deceiving to be their way of interacting with the world, they have a hard time living in truth.

They may tell you they’ll stop lying. But history proves that’s a lie as well. I refuse to ever again live in a land of make believe that somebody is projecting for me. Especially if it involves my financial security!


It seems self-explanatory, doesn’t it? Yet I had people question my decision to divorce my ex – who disappeared, married somebody else and refused contact. I mean, really? I guess I can kind of see it if the marriage provides insurance benefits or something (I’ve met people where this is the case and they stay married for a long period of time in name only).

Even with the definitions of marriage changing, it still takes (at least) two to make it work. When one goes, it’s gone.

And then there’s the ones that may reach deal breaker status – addiction and mental illness.

After my ex left, I learned he had been struggling with both of these. And not handling either well. I don’t see addiction or mental illness as automatic deal breakers. In fact, I view them more as a time to increase effort (both in self-care and support for the spouse)  than calling it quits. Of course, in order for that to happen, the struggling partner has to be open enough to reveal their struggles. If it’s hidden, the combined efforts can’t happen.

These two issues can be devastating – both for the affected one and for the impacted loved ones. And that’s why it’s a murky area. If the addict or mentally ill person consistently refuses to get help and continually acts in ways that threaten the well-being of the family, there may come a time when distance is the best option for all involved.


So, back to Brock’s question – Would I have tried to work through the issues in my first marriage?

Yes, if he had come to me about his battle with depression and drinking before the lies overwhelmed our lives. Yes, if he was ready to accept responsbility for his actions and willing to accept help. Yes, if he was wanting to increase effort rather than run away. Yes, if we would have been fighting together for a shared goal.

But I refuse to fight alone.

And so I chose a spouse the next time around that isn’t prone to those dealbreakers. That isn’t afraid of hard work. That doesn’t mind getting messy. That fights with me for our marriage.

And I’m glad that most stressors in a marriage are not of the deal breaking  variety.  I hope to never see those again.

Those are my marriage deal breakers. What are yours?


Thank you for sharing!

13 thoughts on “What Are Your Marriage Deal Breakers?

  1. watchmesurvive – I am a strong woman in my 50s going through the breakup of a long marriage, I never imagined I would be in. My age does not define me, who I become through this time will. I am in a journey of self discovery. When looking in the mirror I want to see the change in myself. The pain of this journey wont be in vain, I will transform into the woman, friend, mother, and lover I aspire to be. I am taking it a day at a time, and as I embrace a wholehearted life I am happy and grateful for this painful process because the rest of my days on this earth will be more fulfilled than I ever expected.
    watchmesurvive says:

    Great post, and such words of wisdom. I never want to fight alone and if it feels that way I believe it is because the love is dying or has been gone for some time. Thank you. HUGS, m

  2. ijustlookbadonpaper – In spite of my very Bilbo-esque attitude, ("Sorry, I don't want any adventures, thank you. Not today.") I've managed to find myself face to face with some dragons. This is my unfiltered version of identifying, escaping and sometimes accepting those dragons. My tale begins in a dark and unknown cavern of discovering my husband's sex addiction but occasionally emerges for some grand adventures. This is my journey to find love and healing, starting with me. But the already cool parts of me love both the chaos and the calm with my littles; finding new ways to love and improve my physical self that don't include my eating disorder; strengthening my soul with meditation and service and doing the Tao/Dao; and whenever possible, I love reading and ghost stories and rollerblading, I love hiking and biking and writing; and because I'm all about our mother earth, I sometimes paint empty liquor bottles. And finally, I believe that there is precious little that cannot be made better with a bit of Harry Potter. "It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to." - Bilbo Baggins. Cheers to the times I've stumbled down the road and to the steps that lay before me.
    ijustlookbadonpaper says:

    So much wisdom. I love reading your posts.

  3. Strong bicycle metaphor you shared there. That’s the first time I’ve seen that. Thank you for sharing, because I think that’s the best visual metaphor I’ve seen to date to really capture the Marriage is One Thing Made of Two Parts reality. And that if one of those two parts fails or vanishes, the One Thing ceases to be, even though only part of it broke.

    It’s true. A bicycle is rendered useless if you remove a wheel. It just lies there. Broken and sad.

    I hope you’re very well, Lisa.

    1. Thanks! I came up with that one after a frustrating Twitter convo. Frustrating because it seemed like the guy was determined to keep trying to ride his one-wheeled bicycle. The other wheel had long since moved on. Sad.

  4. Tikeetha T – A mother to a beautiful boy and a businesswoman. I am divorced and dating and I talk about everything from parenting,co-parenting, relationships, dating and social issues. Follow my blog at https://athomaspointofview.com/
    Tikeetha T says:

    Same as yours. Totally agree.

  5. This article reaffirms that I have done the 100% absolute right thing by ending my marriage. As if there was ever a doubt.

  6. JustAgal – Just a gal, on a journey of re-discovery. Moving on from years of living with emotional incompetence and allowing others to heavily influence my decisions. I'm discovering what to let go of and what makes me happy; you know-makes my soul dance, heart sing, and a smile naturally come to my face.
    vjalexander says:

    Excellent bicycle metaphor. It really resonates with me and how I felt my marriage should have been working (and also gives me a sense of peace for my decision to leave the marriage).

    IMO, one deal breaker isn’t enough to call it quits (not that you implied it only takes one deal breaker). At least for me it wasn’t. My marriage deal breakers resemble yours; although abandonment is probably #1. There are other forms of abandonment-not just physically leaving the relationship/household. I dealt with emotional/mental abandonment for years. I don’t know what’s worse though-just up and leaving, never to look back or having him come home every night to live like a roommate rather than lover/spouse/best-friend/confidant. Couple abandonment with #2 habitual lies/misrepresentation of self and #3 struggling with illness and not allowing your spouse to be part of the solution.

    Oh well, live and learn right….

  7. My ex-wife has mental health issues that are untreated. I was doing all I could to help, but when she filed for a divorce and continued to lie, that was the deal breaker. Even with a significant cut to my income, spousal support and my ex’s income, I’m saving money for the first time in 30 years.

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