Deal Breakers

When I got married I did so with the belief that that was it, it’s over, amen.  And we were going to live happily ever after of course.

Well, ten and a half years later we’re still kickin’ and that is an accomplishment in and of itself (although whether we’re kicking each other or kicking together against the world depends on the day) but it has required a lot of compromise and possibly even more of just letting things go.

Case in point: I hate Sean’s hair.  It’s not just that it’s long, I don’t mind a little extra length, but it’s way too long.  I think it makes him look like a guy who graduated from high school in the early 90’s and never really got over it.  (There may be some argument there that that’s exactly what he is, but that’s not who he is to me, and don’t I know him better than anyone?)  Regardless of the reason for the hair he likes it so he keeps it.  And what am I going to do?  Divorce him over it?  How stupid would that be?  And unless I’m really willing to go there I don’t see the point of taking some kind of a stand.

I have a friend who got a job somewhere int he pacific northwest (I don’t even remember where, we’re not that close.) So he packed up his young bride and they moved.  She wasn’t happy there.  About six months into it she came back to Utah to visit her mother.  And refused to leave.  That’s it, the end, she was not going back so if he wanted to be with her he’d better find a way to move back.  He did, but unsurprisingly, their marriage didn’t see the end of that year.  When one member of that union is willing to throw their weight around like that (or is willing to risk their marriage on getting what they want) it just can’t last long can it?

So what is a deal breaker?  I have some thoughts on this topic but I’m not going to go into it yet (because obviously, I would state my arguments so eloquently that you’d all just agree with me and then this couldn’t be a discussion) but I’d like to hear what you think.

Would you leave over hair length?  Over where you lived?  How about cheating?  Always or are there cases of cheating that you could work through?  Does cheating just mean sex?  How about a little making out?  Would you leave over his (or her) leaving the church (whatever church you belong to)?  Joining another church?  Drinking?  Social drinking when out with friends?  Drinking in your home?  Smoking? Socially?  At home?  Around the kids?

Where do you draw that line?  Do you even know?

Really, I’m interested.

23 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. LisAway
    Mar 23, 2009 @ 13:37:26

    WOW. What a lot to think about. I would have a really hard time with cheating, but I think it would depend entirely on how he felt about the cheating (not on what he saidabout it).

    Sometimes it is SO FREAKIN’ hard to let things go. But you do. And most of the time it doesn’t even bother you. (but when it does. . .Oh man.) But I think almost everything is worth letting go (in the sense of forgiving or dealing with, and not letting yourself go to another country away from him).

    Because of our upbringing and the importance of an eternal family etc. I think all of those covenant/commandment breaking ones are the hardest, but it has to be a personal thing. I’m sure that there are many women that have to put up with a husband who lives a life very different from the one she thought they’d raise their kids to know.


  2. Annette
    Mar 23, 2009 @ 13:45:54

    Like Lisa said–whoa. Deep stuff. Fortunately, we haven’t run into anything deal-breakery. One thing that would totally be a deal breaker is abuse–physical abuse toward me or abuse toward my children.

    A bit off topic here, but years ago a very successful writer read a draft of one of my books and thought it needed more conflict at a certain point. She suggested the wife moving out to shake up the guy and wake him up. I was stunned–what kind of idiot woman uses that kind of ploy to wake up her husband? You don’t do ultimatums unless you’re willing to carry them out, and the fictional situation certainly didn’t warrant an ultimatum. The story about your NW friend refusing to move reminded me of that kind of manipulation.

  3. bythelbs
    Mar 23, 2009 @ 14:35:25

    I don’t know that you ever really know what you would do until you’re there.

    I know someone whose husband cheated on her with a woman AND the woman’s teenage daughter. He served time in jail. She stuck with him through his jail time, his probation, his excommunication. He’s been rebaptized now, they just had their temple blessing reinstated and were sealed to their two children that have been born since. They are happy. She just decided that she still loved him and she wanted to keep her family together and she forgave. I can’t imagine being able to do that, but I’d like to think I would try. What is the atonement for if we can’t forgive?

    For me, the only deal breaker I think I’m certain of is abuse (phsyical, emotional, sexual) of me or my children.

  4. Helen
    Mar 23, 2009 @ 14:56:17

    This is a good one. I have been in situations where boyfriends have cheated (not just kissing) and because I am kind of a sucker for punishment, I still wanted to be with them…. sooo I kind of feel that should my husband do the same thing (seeing as though I love him more than I loved those boyfriends), I think I would try and work through it.

    I am with the ladies who have already commented. At this point in my marriage, I would say that abuse would be a deal breaker. But then I think, what if I am just not as in love with my husband at some point… will it take less for me to break the deal?

  5. Alison Wonderland
    Mar 23, 2009 @ 15:08:17

    Wow, good point Helen. I think so, although that probably isn’t a good thing.

  6. s'mee
    Mar 23, 2009 @ 15:31:46

    The Atonement does indeed work for everyone, however there are some instances where -in this life- I think things can and do become deal breakers.

    Abuse in *all* it forms. Usually abuse is a trait that escalates rather than fades away after one or two “mistakes”. Escalation usually involves children and even other family members. So for me, abuse is a deal breaker. If the spouse truly repents and makes a life change, then you can always remarry; to wait is to put yourself and your children in harms way. (Although experts on the subject remind us it is a slow to boil situation wherein most victims are “trained” to take the abuse for quite some time. It takes a lot for someone in this situation to have the power to leave. We can’t judge someone for staying.)

    Substance abuse, porn, power, control, physical, emotional and mental, bullying, and others = abuse.

    Infidelity is a tough one. As a young married I would have killed him, as I have grown older (and hopefully wiser) I would *hope* to work it out, although it does take two. No matter who forgives whom, everyone has to want to make it work. Work being a key word.

    I think the biggest thing in marriage is commitment. If one goes in thinking they can get out at any moment, then good luck! Being committed even through the hard stuff is what makes a long lasting marriage. Committed to staying when you don’t feel like it, don’t love as much, have biffed it good time, or just plain don’t care anymore. Committing to the marriage if not each other I guess. The whole fake it till you make it idea.

  7. cheryl
    Mar 23, 2009 @ 19:16:20

    I’m with what other have said –hands down? Abuse. But I honestly don’t think I could call it quits completely with infidelity…I’d be devestated and humiliated (and in need of much more therapy), of course, but I’d like to think I would work it out.

    Of course, that’s saying the spouse WANTS to work it out. I mean, sometimes, the spouse doing all the infidelity and what-not actually WANTS to leave the marriage. Then that leaves the victim-party-spouse with not much of a choice, eh?

    And yeah, deal breakers –to me –have to be HUGE. I just feel lucky I haven’t had to face something like that (or even remotely close to it!), yet. Knock on wood and all that jazz…

  8. Melanie J
    Mar 23, 2009 @ 19:17:27

    Hm. I’d have to say I’m with Annette. The only one hundred percent for sure deal breaker that I would without a doubt walk away for is abuse, me or the kids. Beyond that, I have a hard time imagining my husband even doing something that would make me think about dealbreakers, so I guess it would all depend on the situation.

  9. Julie
    Mar 23, 2009 @ 19:38:26

    I wanted to comment before reading everyone else’s comments so I’d be unbiased.

    For me, there are two instances that would be a deal breaker. One is abuse — physical or sexual in particular. Emotional in many cases. If my guy hit me, that would be the end.

    The other is adultery. Sex, yes. Making out, yes. BUT, I think this one is definitely not a no questions asked deal-breaker. I think I’d try counseling and other options before divorce, but who knows?

    I agree with you that it’s best not to “go there” with threats about splitting up unless you’re really and truly serious about it. It’s just not fair on either side.

    Now off to read everyone else’s comments.

  10. Mother of the Wild Boys
    Mar 23, 2009 @ 19:50:03

    I’m interested to hear your opinions on this Al. It’s hard for me to say where my “line” is…it has definitely changed over time. During the course of our 9 years of marriage I’ve had to ask myself, “How much of this is too much?” and “When does this become ‘abuse’?” Blessedly, the Hubby and I have been able to work through many things. One or both of us have had to change our habits of treatment toward each other at one time or another. Some lines have been crossed. And there have been a few times in which we almost called it quits. But so far, the miracles of repentance and forgiveness have saved our marriage.

    One of my favorite hymns talks about how no man will be forced to heaven…that even Heavenly Father won’t take anyone’s free agency away. That helps me stay when times get tough. Sometimes I wonder if perhaps this challenging marriage might be the trial that Hubby & I volunteered for in the pre-mortal life. 🙂

    To answer your questions specifically:
    Hair length-no,
    Where we lived-no,
    Any form of cheating (which I profess includes p*rn)- no, as long as he stopped and wanted to work it out with me
    Leaving the church/joining another church- personally, yes…what is our marriage without our covenants?
    Word of Wisdom stuff- sort of like the cheating stuff, I’d stay if he stopped the behavior and wanted to work it out…but if he’s unashamedly breaking those commandments, why would I submit myself & the kids to that?

    I can say that it’s much easier for me to stay when the lines being crossed are mostly only affecting me…once they start to affect my kids, I’m not so patient. My therapist wonders why I don’t have the same standards/expectations of treatment for myself as I do for my kids…I don’t really have an answer for that other than: I’m a grown up, I married this guy, and I can take care of myself. Hmm…okay, I could go on all day, but I want to hear what you’re gonna say.

  11. Jen
    Mar 23, 2009 @ 20:32:46

    Gee, I’m late to the party…

    But after watching my friends go through divorces/blend families, I’ve decided it would have to be bad. Like major drug use that was ruining us financially, a serious affair – like he couldn’t stop, or some kind of physical or emotional abuse. Anything else, for the sake of my kids, I’d probably do my best to cope with till they were all out of the house.

    I could see taking an extended vacay to help him get his head on straight – but divorce? Not unless it was super bad.

  12. merrychris
    Mar 24, 2009 @ 06:49:16

    I don’t believe there is anything my wife could do that would cause me to divorce her. There are things that would cause me to leave – physical or persistent psychological abuse of the kids being the only one that I’m sure would do it – but I don’t think there is anything she could do that would break the marriage. She is my life and my soul, and she always will be, no matter what she does.

    I have the sense that she feels the same way, though I’ve never asked her.

  13. Susan M
    Mar 24, 2009 @ 07:22:52

    Great post and comments.

  14. Jami
    Mar 24, 2009 @ 09:29:40

    Alcohol use would be a deal breaker. I’ve got too much emotional baggage on the subject.

    Probably not adultery, but possibly if the cheating put our family in financial jeopardy. But he would be on restriction until the end of time.

    Abusing the kids. Bye-bye.

    Abusing me. Separation, but probably not divorce.

    Insanity. Separation.

    Complete inactivity, loss of faith? That would be a toughie, but if it didn’t come with any of the above I would probably just stick it out unless he went all anti on me.

  15. cheryl
    Mar 24, 2009 @ 10:04:12

    I wasn’t going to say this, but I feel I should, and it’s about leaving the church:

    My aunt and uncle married in the Temple. Shortly after their second child was born (they have three), he decided he didn’t want to go to church anymore. He was never disfellowshipped or ex’ed –he just left. Inactivity, I guess. Their second child is now 24 years old and he’s never been back.
    He drinks socially –and in the house.
    For a time he would buy his wife clothes he knew she couldn’t wear because of garments.
    But –she said, “Just because he broke his covenants, doesn’t mean I’ll break mine.” and she stuck with him.
    Their oldest son served a mission and married in the Temple, and my uncle still doesn’t go to church.

    The blessing through all of this is that he’s not hostile towards it and supports his kids in it. Had it been different and he had been hostile? I don’t know. But he’s a faithful hubby, fabulous father, and amazing provider. The fact that he’s not active is just something we all pray about all the time, hoping he’ll come back one day. But it wasn’t a deal-breaker.

    So, personally, because of this example, I’d have a really tough time justifying leaving my husband because he leaves the church, you know? But who knows…

  16. madhousewife
    Mar 24, 2009 @ 11:59:20

    As a general rule, I say abuse is a deal breaker–at least cause to separate, while the abuser gets some therapy and stuff, if you’re thinking you can work through it. Sexual abuse, specifically abuse of children–I could never get past that. Ever.

    Addiction is also a deal breaker. Addictions can be worked through, obviously, but in the event that they are being destructive to the family, threatening safety and security, etc., I can totally understand leaving over that. Certainly if the person refuses to get help–no one can be expected to live with that.

    Adultery seems like small potatoes in comparison. If it were adultery with prostitutes, that would be a deal-breaker. Ha.

  17. Susan M
    Mar 24, 2009 @ 12:31:05

    Particularly male prostitutes.

  18. Julie
    Mar 24, 2009 @ 13:50:46

    LOLing even as I type, Susan.

  19. cheryl
    Mar 24, 2009 @ 14:04:23

    Susan –I actually know someone who caught her husband in bed with another man. I mean, if it was a woman? They might be able to work it out –but how do you compete with THAT? She couldn’t, and they divorced (although he wasn’t too upset by it, for obvious reasons).

  20. robyn
    Mar 24, 2009 @ 22:02:26

    After successfully navigating the shark infested waters for 35 years now… I can only tell you there are no absolutes. We have weathered more than one storm and we’re still together. Time, give everything time. Except one thing.

    I was a child of violence. I think that is the only deal breaker there is for me. The other stuff works it way out over time. Perspective really makes things more able to sort out.

    Hehehehe long hair. Just before we got married his hair was longer than mine. It has been that way off and on through the years. The mullet phase drove me wild!!!! He finally got over the hair thing, his isn’t falling out and he’s just glad for that at this point. Hair was never a deal breaker. It was more of the yeah, Ive got a husband with long hair. Deal.

  21. Evitafjord
    Mar 25, 2009 @ 05:34:24

    I typed up a comment and then it crashed.

    The gist is, we’ve been through most and more of your list and I’m glad I stuck around. Hub asks sometimes if I’d known before we got married all that we’d go through, would I still have said yes. The answer is nope, unless I also knew what I know now.

    I was going to say the hair thing wasn’t a deal breaker, but I didn’t think about a mullet. Also, he had to grow a mustache for a play once and that was so gross (he has it in the labor pictures from my third baby, but got to shave it that night after the show and I was so relieved).

  22. Jaime
    Mar 25, 2009 @ 14:58:33

    I used to be a person who would make blanket statements about relationships and things that I would and wouldn’t put up with. Dealbreakers. But as I’ve watched relationship after relationship crumble and be tested around me I think I’ve learned that it’s not black and white.

    I don’t think you know what you can deal with, what you can put up with until it happens to you. I’ve been with my Sean for over 10 years now, as well and I’ve put up with things I may not have thought I would have and plenty of hard times, but here we are still together and I still smile when he comes in a room and I still miss him when he leaves.

  23. marivic
    Mar 30, 2009 @ 18:18:03

    I’m glad I didn’t miss this one, even though I’m days late. This is deep. Very hard to answer but must think about. I guess, I would not really know unless something happens and I’m confronted with it. We’ve gone through and survived the loss of our first born son, and we were told marriages break up over tragedy that intense. That experience changed the whole dynamics of our “deal” so I think we’ll survive anything knowing that even that didn’t break us up.

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