Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

Topic of the Day: What Deal-Breakers Did You Not Know You Had Until You Experienced Them?

Years ago I had a friend whose rich parents still partially supported her (we were in our mid- and late-20s at the time). That in itself would never have ended the friendship, but as I discovered how materialistic and braggy and patronizing about money this woman turned out to be, I quickly became turned off. It began subtly enough – off-the-cuff remarks about an expensive handbag she found on eBay and how I “might be able to find a knock-off at Target” and a snarky admission that she could never work for below a certain salary (which was about twice what I was making at the time). It got worse over the year or so that we were friends until I could take it no longer, and I haven’t spoken to her in nearly 15 years. I realized I had a deal-breaker when it came to friendships: uber materialism/bragging about money. Any hint of that BS in a new acquaintance now and I put the brakes on getting closer.

One thing I’ve been hearing a lot over the past year and a half is how some friendships – and romantic relationships, of course – have met similar endings. The pandemic has brought a lot of things into sharp focus that were previously a little murky, including what we can and cannot tolerate in those we choose to spend time with. So, I posed the question on my Instagram stories yesterday (What Deal-Breakers Did You Not Know You Had Until You Experienced Them?) and I got some great replies. Here are a few of them:

How about you? Are there any dealbreakers you have when it comes to friendships and romantic relationships that you didn’t know you had until you experienced them?

21 comments… add one
  • Fyodor August 23, 2021, 8:57 am

    I will say that the experiences of the last year when we’ve all been vulernable on everyone else’s shared committment (or lack thereof ) to the common good that there are some people I just don’t want in my life because of their character and values. We had friends who we knew through SOFs school who we had shared experiences with and enjoyed hanging out with but they’re kind of selfish entitled people and I don’t want them in my life.

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    • LisforLeslie August 23, 2021, 12:21 pm

      This is a good one. I’ve mentioned before I have two relatives that have yet to get vaccinated. One is definitely mentally ill, so I’m going to give her some leeway, but the other is not the crispiest french fry. His daughter in law has cancer and his grandchild is too young for the vaccine and he remains steadfast that he doesn’t need to vaccinate.

      I’ll add that I had to really look at the people in my life who voted for Trump because it was clear to me that racism, sexism, ableism, xenophobia, all of the bad traits were not deal breakers to them. That they could justify voting for someone who was so awful really made me see them in a different light.

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  • A Simple Narwhal August 23, 2021, 9:05 am

    With friendships, I can’t stand someone who makes their own problems.

    I used to have a friend that I thought had the worst luck in the world. No matter what, things always seemed to go wrong for her, usually at the worst possible time. I had a lot of sympathy for her, and a lot of our time together was spent discussing all the unfairness in her life. But I eventually realized that a lotttt of it was of her own doing, and when I didn’t want to talk only about the avoidable problems she had created for herself, our friendship fizzled out.

    I’m wary now of people who claim to just have bad luck, especially if it keeps appearing in the same specific ways.

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  • Copa August 23, 2021, 11:51 am

    This was pre-pandemic, but a few years ago I faded out a friend who was absolutely horrible to her then-boyfriend. We were pretty good friends despite having some mismatched values. The final straw was the day she told me casually that she thought she’d get on a sugar baby website/cheat on her boyfriend, but planned to keep him around for several months because she wanted to be able to say she’d had a year-long relationship. I told her directly that she should break up with him instead. They never seemed compatible to me and neither brought out the best in the other, but I remember thinking in that moment that I didn’t want to stay close to someone who treated others with THAT much disregard.

    I also have a long-time friend who spends more time complaining about problems than it would take to find a solution. I no longer live near her so it’s not an issue, I haven’t cut her off, but don’t know how her boyfriend deals. Anytime I meet someone who acts like the world is out to get them in the same way as this friend, I bolt.

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  • LisforLeslie August 23, 2021, 12:12 pm

    Relationship deal breakers (platonic/romantic) lying and theft. I went on a date with someone and he was just bragging how he got one over on a company and was getting free stuff. I know adults now – 50’s 60’s 70’s who are so proud when they talk about cheating on their taxes or scammed a company. Ew. Just ew.

    Oh and being shitty to servers, waitstaff, janitors, etc. Went on a date and it was the first time I had seen someone really get snippy with the servers. And we were in a freaking chinese food restaurant within a bowling alley. This was not some high falutin’ place where you expect some crazy level of service. Made an instant bad impression. There was nothing this guy could do to change my mind after that.

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  • Cleopatra_30 August 23, 2021, 3:01 pm

    For friendships I find it is the effort put forth to stay in touch. I have lived across a few cities over different provinces since I was 19, and while I do take some responsibility for keeping in touch long distance, I have noticed only a small number of my friends make the effort to keep in touch as well. I have gotten to the point where I won’t reach out for a while and as a result don’t hear from them.

    As an adult making friends is much harder, we all have lives and live in different places, but I do hope that there is a general etiquette of keeping in touch with friends you genuinely want to hear from. While I don’t expect to be friends with everyone, or have the same kind of friendship due to changing lives and or general growth of ones self, I have seen friends with whom I have 15 years of ‘friendship’ essentially take the backseat of communication and now only chat when it is with a group call every few months. As a result the connection and friendship is very surficial as the communication is left to such a low frequency that those once previous deeper conversations, or sharing things like dating, friends, daily experiences are no longer discussed. Just banal updates on what is happening generally reserved for new people you meet at a gathering.

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    • Copa August 23, 2021, 4:55 pm

      Oh, I feel you on this! I’ve also moved around a bit and think I’m pretty good at keeping in touch, but there have been friendships where I’ve quietly pulled back in my outreach or plans to visit because it feels one-sided. I’ve been surprised and even hurt sometimes by friends who didn’t care to pick up the communication when I’d pull back. Haven’t totally cut anyone off over this so I guess it’s not a dealbreaker of mine. I’ve accepted friendships can and do change and that close friends can sometimes become not much more than old friends. But it’s frustrating for sure. On the flip side, few things make me happier than reuniting with the friends I can’t see often due to distance and feeling like we didn’t miss a beat.

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  • ron August 23, 2021, 3:59 pm

    Those who spend half their lives listening to and totally believing conservative media as well as those very into conservative religious denominations. Over the past few years, even those who previously had a sense of humor and could discuss an issue rationally have vanished beyond the pale. There is just no talking to them, so why bother?

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  • Ange August 23, 2021, 4:45 pm

    For a friendship mine it’s people who are inconsiderate of my time and emotional investment. At uni I had two friends who were like that; one would call me at all hours of the night to keep me on the phone for hours about her life and her problems with barely a cursory check into how I was going. She did have a rough trot there for a bit but when she was ringing me at 11pm to vent about those same issues years later I had to cut her away. Who keeps banging on about uni drama when you’re in your 30s?

    The other one would always have me drive places and never offer to reimburse fuel (I ended up teaching her how to drive just so I could get a break and she was older than me!), she’d also catch up with me when she had an issue but never ask how I was going and would disappear the second she got a boyfriend. The reason I don’t talk to her now is because she got a husband.

    Both women were also chronically late, to the point both needed to be told a fake time to arrive… So there’s that.

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    • LisforLeslie August 24, 2021, 7:50 am

      In my early 20’s I had a friend-of-a-friend who just wanted to be in a relationship. When she wasn’t paired up, she just talked about finding a boyfriend. Once she had a boyfriend, plans were cancelled blah blah blah. You know the story. I was thrilled when she got a serious boyfriend because I knew that I wouldn’t have to deal with her anymore and that because I wasn’t dating anyone, there would be no couple dates, which were the only times she’d see friends -because she couldn’t possibly do anything without the guy.

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  • golfer.gal August 23, 2021, 8:42 pm

    I had a friend once, who I trusted with some really personal and distressing information, and I found out later she told all of our mutual friends and a number of people I didn’t even know. I immediately ended the friendship and have been friendly-but-not-friends ever since due to numerous mutual friends.

    A few years later the ex friend did the same to another close friend of ours, and spread around something so private and personal it’s actually disturbing. It was so distressing to hear that I didn’t have the heart to tell my friend that she’d been betrayed, because it would devastate her to know. Thus my biggest friendship deal breaker is hearing someone gossip needlessly or spread hurtful things about a friend. It’s a hard no for me.

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    • LisforLeslie August 24, 2021, 7:51 am

      That is truly heartbreaking. I’m sorry you had to go through that.

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  • Meghan August 23, 2021, 10:09 pm

    Not putting a shopping cart back in one of the corrals. It’s such a seemingly small thing, but spoke volumes to me about doing the bare minimum and not being considerate.

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    • Dear Wendy August 24, 2021, 7:16 am

      That would definitely be a red flag in my book, too.

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  • allathian August 26, 2021, 3:26 am

    The ex I had the longest relationship with before I met my husband was so conflict avoidant that he refused to argue. I preferred to discuss things we disagree on before they got completely out of control. I’d start raving and he’d give me the silent treatment, sometimes for days, and it was a vicious circle. His refusal to argue made me even more ragey and my anger and frustration made him withdraw even more. We never lived together, though, so I’d just leave, or tell him to leave, sometimes in the middle of the night, if that happened. This went on for more than 2 years, and if I’d been more experienced, I would’ve broken it off much earlier. This bad relationship made me so depressed that I had to seek therapy through my college to avoid dropping out. As it is, it postponed my graduation by at least a year. I realize I’m very privileged compared to most readers of this blog because I’m in a country where tuition is free up to and including a master’s degree.

    Granted, I’m not looking for a new relationship now, but one thing I really appreciate about my husband is that we can disagree in a constructive manner.

    With friends I have a few deal breakers. I’ve intentionally broken up a friendship with a former college friend who was so wealthy that she never needed to work for her living, so she’d rage quit for things like being told to do something by her boss that she didn’t feel like doing but was a part of her job, and then she’d use her parents’ networks to get another job when she felt like it. It really showed me that money can’t buy genuine happiness. Then she started drinking too much and calling me at night, crying and so drunk that the next day she had no idea she’d called me, to the point that I had to disconnect my landline phone at night so she couldn’t get through. I realize she was having problems, but they weren’t the sort I would’ve been able to solve no matter how much I wanted to help. This friendship was also very one-sided, with her doing almost all of the talking. There’s no way she’d been willing to listen to my troubles. I kept in touch with her for as long as I did out of gratitude, because she helped me reconnect with a mutual friend. If this drunk calling thing ever happens with anyone else again, I’m going to be a lot more proactive about shutting it down.

    I had a friend who was always late to everything. She was a good friend and helped me with my resume and cover letters when I was unemployed for a while, and I was really grateful for that. But when I met my husband, and especially when we had a child, it felt like we simply grew apart. At some point I realized that I got very little enjoyment out of our friendship, and when we’d grown apart a bit as well, the friendship that remained was no longer enough to compensate for my annoyance with her chronic lateness. She visited our home one day when my husband was on a business trip and I was at home with our son. The visit didn’t start off so well because she was more than an hour late, and when she finally showed up my son had just woken up from his nap and was hungry, so I was a bit distracted. He was 7 months old at the time and had just learned to crawl, and I think my friend got a bit annoyed that I focused more on making sure my kid didn’t hurt himself and on feeding him, than on her conversation. I had scheduled her arrival so that we’d have some time to talk before my son woke up from his nap, but she lost the opportunity by being late. I’d somehow forgotten that she’d invariably be late when we arranged the meeting… At the time, my son was on a reasonably stable schedule and he’d taken his nap at about the same time for a few weeks. She’d lost her long-term SO to suicide a few years before, and I think she realized that having a kid was an unlikely proposition for her because she was single, pushing 40, and morbidly obese. I only mention the last one because most fertility treatment clinics here won’t even attempt to give treatments to people over a certain age and over a certain BMI, because the success rates drop so sharply that it could scare off potential clients. It’s certainly impossible to get treatments through our National Health Service if you’re past 40 and have a BMI higher than 35. I haven’t heard from her since that visit 12 years ago… Granted, I’m equally to blame because I haven’t attempted to contact her, either.

    I can’t tolerate chronic lateness at all. I have no sympathy for it, and no matter how nice a person is otherwise, I absolutely refuse to put up with it any longer. I honestly don’t care if they do it because they think their time is more valuable than mine, or if they are time optimists due to some sort of neurodivergence.

    Sure, there are other deal breakers just as bad if not worse than chronic lateness or extreme conflict aversion, it’s just that these are the ones I’ve experienced myself. I’m just grateful that I’ve never had to live or attempt to maintain a friendship with a person with narcissistic personality disorder, a sociopath, or an abuser.

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    • Kate August 26, 2021, 5:02 am

      Interesting. I’m never late to things, usually early, but I can tolerate chronic lateness. I have a friend who’s always late, and it’s because she procrastinates and it’s this whole thing. I worked with her, and she’d pull all-nighters to finally get the report done. The first time I worked with her on a project, I asked her to put a project timeline together. I was like, here you go, fill this out with real dates. A whole day went by, and I was like hey I need that timeline because I have to send the proposal. Instead of just looking at a calendar and filling in dates, she had been going around the office and talking to everyone involved, asking them how long it would take to do each step, and then chatting. I was like, don’t do that again, just use the template. I had to be really direct with her, and she drove me nuts but she did good work. When we’d meet for dinner or drinks, I just started telling her 5:30 and expecting 6:30. That worked pretty well. I’d manage my time accordingly. Sometimes she even gets there before me. She’s definitely not a selfish or uncaring person, she just has issues.

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      • Kate August 26, 2021, 5:11 am

        But actually with her, what pushed me too far was her need to give advice when you’re just venting, or you’re not even being that serious but just like, “ugh, so-and-so is acting bonkers!” She’d take it seriously turn it into this whole thing, it’s hard to describe. Basically she decides you need help with something and she’s the person to help, inserts herself into the situation and tries to take control. One night I was hangry and she pushed me too far and I yelled at her. I was just trying to tell a wacky story about work and she turned it into this whole thing about how the business was being run. We haven’t been as close since. She means well, but she’s super messy.

      • allathian August 31, 2021, 2:07 am

        Yeah, it’s a bit different when you’re working together, sometimes you just have to deal. That said, a part of the problem is that I feel like I’m late if I’m on time, and my ideal is to be at least 5 minutes early to everything, except parties at someone else’s house when it’s just as impolite to arrive too early. If I have an important meeting, like a job interview, I usually have to take a walk around the block to avoid looking too anxious by being too early (in my case, 15 minutes or more too early).

        So my annoyance with those who are always late is at least partly due to my own issues about being on time. It’s just an incompatibility I’ve learned to recognize. These days, given the choice, I won’t get close to people who can’t be on time. It helps that I’m in a culture where being on time is considered to be a virtue, and many people here think that being always late is a moral failing rather than a personality trait. I wouldn’t go quite that far myself…

        I dealt with it as a minor annoyance for a very long time because I valued her friendship so much. But when we started growing apart because life happened, and particularly because my life got busier with a new job, my boyfriend/husband, and later my son, her inability to be on time when we got together started annoying me more and more, especially when I’d accepted her invitations. Sure, she was busy at work, and sometimes life just happens and you have to cancel at the last minute because something really urgent comes up and you have to work later than you planned, but that excuse starts to wear thin very quickly when it happens every. single. time. I just started feeling very disrespected and like she didn’t value our friendship as much as I did. After all, she was never late for work meetings, doctor’s appointments, job interviews…

  • Kate August 26, 2021, 5:41 am

    I don’t have specific deal-breakers, but thinking about the people I’ve been friends with for ~20 years, it’s because we have the same values and appreciate and accept each other. I don’t feel any urge to try to change them or get them to knock something off, and in return I feel appreciated for who I am.

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    • allathian August 31, 2021, 2:26 am

      This is a great point, and I agree. I stayed in my hometown when I went to college after moving around a lot as a kid and never having any close friends until my teens. As a consequence, I’ve lost touch with all of my childhood playmates and classmates that I called friends for the lack of a better name. I’ve known my best friends since middle school, although we didn’t become true friends until high school. They also went to the same college, and that only solidified our friendship. Don’t get me wrong, I had lots of friends and friendly acquaintances in college, but those were situational friendships and I’ve lost touch with almost all of them (including the former friend who was always late and the rich drunk) in the 20+ years since graduation.

      My friends have similar life situations (late 40s to early 50s), mostly married cis-het professional women, most with children) and very similar values, and we appreciate and accept each other as we are. It’s a lovely feeling. No doubt it would be beneficial to have a circle of acquaintances (or even friends) from more diverse backgrounds, but it is as it is, and if I’m honest, I don’t feel any urge to change it, or to seek new friends I have less in common with.

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  • Jolie Moore September 5, 2021, 4:53 pm

    This is an interesting question. I feel like I didn’t know things *were* deal breakers until they happened.
    1. Lying/cheating – once my former FIL was complaining he couldn’t get a payout from his homeowner’s insurance for his camera because the ins. company suspected he was lying. The rub, he *was* lying. He’d left it in a cab in Manhattan but was upset that he couldn’t get reimbursed for theft. Another was a guy I dated who was upset because he’d been audited after claiming a home office. He used it for everything except work – but he was upset because the IRS wasn’t fair and everyone cheats on their taxes, why was *he* singled out.

    2. Latecomers. I think what I realized is that anyone I’ve known who is chronically late also disregarded me in other ways.

    3. Gossipers/betrayers. I don’t gossip myself. (Saw some Oprah show many years ago where she talked about the insidiousness of it and I stopped cold turkey). But I had a couple of friends who shared all the intimate details of people in our circle. I didn’t think much of it (kind of tuned it out), but of course got burned by it when I shared some very personal info about leaving my marriage (before I’d told my spouse I was leaving). Now I walk away from people who gossip because I know I can’t trust them.

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