Deal Breakers

Do you know what your non-negotiables are? What are your deal-breakers when it comes to relationships?

I got an email this week from someone who asked me what she could do to be rest assured that she wouldn’t get into any more relationships with narcissists or psychos,  and while that’s a pretty tall order, I got to thinking that there are some things I have to share that will definitely be helpful. 

If there’s one thing you can do to be sure you don’t get into another relationship with a narc or a psycho, it’s learning how to set and express your personal boundaries. 

Our personal boundaries and how healthy they are, really do dictate how healthy all of our relationships are. 

In this week’s episode, I’m breaking down boundaries to help you learn how to communicate your preferences and desires early and often in a relationship and (most importantly) how to identify your non-negotiable deal-breakers.

Personal boundaries encompass a wide spectrum of the kind of internal experiences we have. Our internal experiences are what inform what kind of external boundary is appropriate, or what kind of action to take in every situation. 

So how do we begin to establish those personal boundaries? It starts with learning how to negotiate for our preferences and desires. What’s required to do this? You need to understand the differences between: 

> A preference…

> A demand… 

> A judgment and, perhaps the most importantly…

> A non-negotiable deal-breaker. 

Knowing these differences gives you the ability to be rooted in your truth and to know what is and isn’t ok with you. This is invaluable in the early stages of meeting and dating someone, because if you assert yourself in a relationship with someone who is unhealthy, how they respond or react to your boundaries will be incredibly telling.

If you’ve ever been in a relationship with a narcissist, you know how terrifying that experience is and how difficult it can be to break away from that kind of dysfunctional dynamic. I have other resources for you in this week’s cheat sheet if you’re currently in this kind of painful situation, and you can download that here now.   

So what do we need to do in order NOT to get into a relationship with a person like this, to begin with?

We need to know how to express our boundaries early and often with ease and grace. This is what creates the foundation for more satisfaction in a relationship AND for more harmony in your life.  

If you have the disease to please, if you’re a high-functioning co-dependent if you come from a long line of people pleasers…I want to make sure you have a way to avoid unhealthy relationships. Don’t confuse compliance with compatibility. 

So many of us were raised to be “the good girl, to “do the right thing” and not to make waves. This “blueprint” might be unconsciously at play and might be affecting how you show up in your relationships. You might say yes when you’d rather say no, or not tell someone what you really want in order to avoid conflict or to be “nice”.

Let me ask you: do you want to be compliant or do you want to build true compatibility in your relationships? True compatibility can only come from who you actually are, from the things you actually like and from what your preferences and desires are. If not, you could end up in a one-sided relationship that ends up being all about the other person (and that’s a literal breeding ground for narcissists and psychos). 

So let’s break all this down a bit:

A Preference

It is SO ok to have a preference. In fact, it’s necessary to healthy relationships to know what your preferences are and how to speak up and express them.

So what is a preference? It’s simply liking one alternative over another. Learning how to make a simple request around your preference, especially early on in a relationship, is laying the groundwork for healthy communication, honesty and mutual satisfaction. 

It doesn’t have to be a big deal. It doesn’t have to be charged with emotion. Making a request doesn’t guarantee that it will be granted because relationships are and should be collaborative after all, but…pay attention to how someone responds to your request for your preferences. If they interpret you voicing your preference as a demand, that could be a red flag. 

A Demand

Having a preference does not make you demanding. A demand is defined as making a request as if it’s your right as if it’s due or owed to you. The bottom line is that demanding things from others is a very ineffective strategy for fostering cooperation, collaboration, or for actually getting your real needs met. 

Most people don’t respond well to demands and that’s why learning how to communicate your preferences by making simple requests with clear and concise language is such an essential skill for any and all relationships. 

A Judgment

Let’s talk about judgment and discernment. A lot of times when we’re judging people (and I myself have been guilty of this), we’re not correct in our assessment. It’s human for most of our opinions and judgments to be a projection of ourselves and our own internal experiences. Judgments, without open, direct communication, can lead to incorrect assumptions about another person’s character or motivation. It can really lead us down the wrong path…especially in relationships. 

The thing is: you can choose discernment over judgment. Discernment is utilizing knowledge and insight to form an opinion. It is considered an act of evaluating all of the information and lived experience before making a conscious decision. If we don’t learn to communicate our boundaries, if we don’t learn to express our preferences, needs or wants, then we won’t have the necessary experience or information required to discern. Can you see how NOT communicating what we want or what we actually think could hinder our ability to discern when it comes to relationships? 

A Non-Negotiable Deal-Breaker

This is really the one that will give you the power to not get into a relationship with a narc or a psycho or any other flavor of a legit unhealthy individual. You must know your non-negotiables in relationships, in life, in work, and in your friendships. Everyone is different, and so your non-negotiables are unique to you. And that’s ok.

That fact means that YOU get do decide what they are for you. So what’s a non-negotiable? If you grew up in a family culture of dysfunction, abuse or addiction, sometimes it can be hard to discern what is or isn’t “normal” or “ok” for you. In very broad strokes, below I’ve listed a few categories to think through what might be your true deal-breakers. Take your time as you explore this. The more specific you can get, the better. 

Physical violence. 

Emotional abuse. 

Recreational or excessive drug or alcohol use or any addiction.  

Infidelity or other breaks of trust. 

In the video, I give you more examples of real-life non-negotiable deal-breakers so be sure to watch it here. 

You have to have the courage to express your preferences early and often. 

It can be very painful to wait to start to be honest with someone. I know that you have the ability to learn the skills you need to have the best possible relationships and really, the best possible life. 

I want you to ask yourself: 

What do you want? How do you want to feel? How do you want to live your life? Do you want to be authentically known, authentically seen and authentically heard? Because that can only happen if you’re willing to be voluntarily vulnerable enough to speak your personal boundaries into being in your life. 

I’ve taught thousands of people how to do this, so I know you can do it too. It’s not impossible, but it does take you valuing yourself enough to want to be known.

You are making the rules of your life. And you are so capable. 

If you liked this episode of the Terri Cole Show, please share it. I love that you care about your relationships and about your life and about your own mental health. I feel so privileged and honored to guide you in any way that I can.

So whether you’re listening, watching or reading– thank you, thank you, thank you. I hope you have an amazing week and as always, take care of you.

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  1. Good stuff. Thank you for making it easy to understand. We all need to feel that whatever our boundaries are, if we have taken the time to know ourselves and what we value in life and relationships, it doesn't matter if those boundaries, preferences, and deal-breakers make sense to someone else. This is autonomy. If someone else or a group of someones makes me feel less-than, or stupid, or anything other than seen and respected, then I am prepared to walk away. I have learned that, for me, it's better to be alone than to accept behaviors from others toward me that cause me to feel disregarded and/or disrespected.

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