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Relationship Deal Breakers, Then And Now

The naïveté of youth

A couple of decades later, some of those deal breakers would still be important (were I in the market for a mate again), while others, frankly, seem rather silly. I couldn't date anyone who was an addict of any kind, though casual drinking is just fine; I do it myself (though I still have never been drunk). As for being Catholic, I don't even go to church anymore, much to my mother's gnashing of teeth. A sense of humor is still good to have, but couples don't have to find the exact same things funny. Since I've become a bit of a health nut, smoking would still be tough, but perhaps not quite deal-breaker status. I'd still include “couch potato” on the list. Music and dancing have become less important as I've gotten older.

What strikes me now - after spending many years building a career, raising a family, and co-running a household - is the lack of any practical deal breakers I would have had back then. Specifically, there's nothing about the management of money. Of course, in my early 20s I was still in that “save the world” phase. I had been in a seminary, then chose a pre-med degree so I could be a doctor for underprivileged populations; but instead of going to medical school, I became a volunteer teacher in inner-city schools (though my specific school ending up not being so inner-city). To have put something about money on the deal-breaker list would have seemed shallow and materialistic.

But I've since grown up. If I were to make that list now, it would have something about the management of money. It wouldn't be as strict as “A woman with more than $10,000 in credit card debt and carries a balance” because I've known so many good people who have been in that situation. But I've also seen so much marital strife caused by financial difficulties and mismatched priorities. My wife, who's a mental-health therapist, has plenty of examples of her own, from her many years of  helping people get their lives together.

It's not that two people have to be perfectly matched. When my wife and I first met, she was much more comfortable with a low bank account than I was. It was understandable, given the way she grew up. But she recognized that it wasn't ideal, and I relaxed a bit, too; we got each other to compromise. She's been fabulous about setting up various accounts for our financial goals, and I've relaxed about spending a bit more for things like family vacations.

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