Scientists Asked 5,500 Americans To Reveal Their 'Relationship Deal Breakers' — Here's What They Learned

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Lauren F Friedman

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Do you have a secret list of things that would disqualify someone from being your significant other?

Apparently, many people do — and now those lists are not so secret anymore.


A series of studies on "relationship deal breakers," published last year in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, represents "the first systematic and comprehensive attempt to understand the traits that people avoid in their partners," the team of social scientists behind the studies writes.

In one of those studies, the researchers asked a nationally representative sample of 5,541 single Americans to reveal which in a list of 17 things would be a "deal breaker" when considering a "committed relationship" with someone.

The top three deal breakers for men and women were "disheveled or unclean appearance," "lazy," and "too needy." Here's the full list:

TI_Graphics_long term relationship dealbreakersSkye Gould/Tech Insider


People reported an average of six deal breakers out of the 17 on the list. Men were more likely than women to say "having kids, living too far away, talks too much, and a low sex drive" were deal breakers, while women were more likely to say "lacking self-confidence, being too lazy, being too needy, and engaging too often in television/playing video games" were deal breakers.

Respondents ranged in age from 21 to 76; older people tended to have more deal breakers than younger ones, and women tended to have more deal breakers than men.

Differences between the answers from men and women "were modest," the researchers noted, "which may be unsurprising given that men and women are more alike than different."

While the study was large, it relied on self-reports; people's deal breakers may not always be what they say they are, since some may not be willing to admit their actual deal breakers or even be aware of them. There are also likely many qualities people avoid that are not on the researchers' list of 17.


This is an updated version of a story that originally appeared in October 2015.


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