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Communication Advice: How to Know When It Truly Is
By Susie and Otto Collins
There might come a time in your marriage when
your deeply-held beliefs seem to be threatened
by your partner's actions or words.
It may involve a core agreement the two of you
made or it could be your newly developed
convictions just don't match up with those of
Either way, you might find yourself asking if
this issue is a "dealbreaker" for your marriage.
Is this something that you would consider ending
the marriage over if it's not resolved to your
Dealbreakers can occur in more subtle forms as
well. You may not see this agreement violation
or conflict as something you'd end your marriage
over, but a severing of some aspect of your
connection might result nonetheless.
On a recent episode of the comedy sitcom "30
Rock," lead character Liz became an overnight
sensation giving relationship advice. Her
catch-phrase is "That's a dealbreaker."
When troubled women and men come to her upset
and angry about something their partners are
doing--or are not doing-- more often than not,
Liz advises them to take a stand and not put up
with the offending behavior.
A kind of "it's my way or the highway" pattern
is set up on the show and, as you might expect,
Liz's advice backfires and causes more hurt and
pain in the relationships she was only trying to
Of course, there are times when it's completely
appropriate and advisable to set a strong
boundary in a love relationship or marriage.
The challenge arises when more and more
situations between you and your spouse turn into
dealbreakers. This isn't about who is right and
who is wrong.
It's about you and your mate feeling like you
can come together and make agreements about how
you each want to live-- and then follow through
on those agreements.
When just about everything feels like a
dealbreaker, there is probably an environment of
One or both of you might be so entrenched in
your own life rules that you are unwilling or
unable to listen to try to understand where your
partner is coming from.
But it is also possible-- and prevalent-- for
you to go
along with your spouse and not speak up when
agreements or your deeply held convictions are
In cases like these, the intention is usually to
keep the peace, at all costs.
And the costs are often the trust and connection
between you and your mate-- not to mention your
own sense of self-empowerment.
Get clear about your priorities.
When you come up against a situation that feels
inappropriate, offensive, or just "off" in your
marriage, take some time to go within before
to talk with your partner about it.
Take some deep breaths and set aside your
assumptions about this particular situation.
Instead, ask yourself what your priorities are
in relation to what's currently going on.
*What is most important to you?
*What are you willing to be flexible about?
*What is non-negotiable?
In other words, get really clear about what is a
dealbreaker for you and to what extent. This is
important to know before you decide what to say
to your mate and how to say it.
Be willing to follow through.
As you communicate with your mate about this
issue and your feelings, make it your intention
to follow through on what you say.
We've probably all witnessed (or been involved)
with someone setting a boundary and then not
It might be the mother who gives her child
throwing a fit the candy bar even after she
promised him or her she wouldn't do that.
Your sense of credibility and trust in general
is undercut when you don't follow through on
what you say.
This applies to dealbreakers as well.
We encourage you to create agreements with your
spouse that help you feel at ease with the
We also advise you to actually do what you're
saying. This means that you hold up your end of
And it might also mean that you consider walking
away if you decide you can't be in a
relationship where your deeply-held beliefs are
somehow being violated.
We want you to set boundaries when you need to.
We also want you to be clear about your
priorities and listen to those of your spouse.
When it's a dealbreaker for you, be clear and
See if your mate is willing to make changes with
and, if not, consider what your next follow
through move will be.
For more communication tips to help you create
great relationships, visit