You’ve been dating for a while. The online profiles have come down…a “clear” indication that this thing is going somewhere, that you’re not looking for anyone else, and neither are they, and maybe that you’re both… exclusive (???). The anxiety sets in about whether to ask those deal-breaker questions or not – how to approach the subject because ultimately, you’re into them, they’re into you, and you kinda want to know where this goes from here, you know, be on the same page. Makes sense, and if clarity is what you want, clarity is what you should find.
So, what happens if they don’t respond in the way that you were expecting… or worse… don’t respond at all? Is it a deal-breaker?
Asking Deal-Breaker Questions: Think about what you want first
Before asking (potentially) deal-breaking questions of your partner, the first step would be to start asking those questions to yourself, look within, and have clarity about your own feelings and responses about what you are about to ask. One of those questions to ask yourself and then of your partner might be “What is it that you like most about you and me?”.
This is a question that focuses on wanting to know what the other person enjoys about the relationship, without necessarily asking what the person likes or enjoys about you directly (which can feel a bit pressured and even manipulative).
Asking a question like this can be a playful, non-confrontational way of asking “so, do you like being together?” and allows the person to think in terms of the two of you together and what is working for them about the relationship. If your relationship is at an early stage and you don’t yet feel comfortable being super direct about what you want to know, this might be a way of being playfully curious about finding out.
Another question that takes a more honest and direct approach is simply asking “You know, I’ve been thinking about how our relationship makes me feel, and I really like what I feel. I’m wondering how you feel when you think about our relationship because honestly, I would like to see where this goes. How are you feeling about our relationship these days?”.
Hesitation may not mean ‘no’
A partner who is clear on their feelings for you may have less hesitation in answering this question, however, hesitation does not necessarily mean that there is a lack of interest in moving forward. If you are being upfront about what you want, keep in mind that this may be the first time that anyone has ever asked them what they actually feel or expressed what they want, and it can catch someone off guard.
You may need to give them some time and/or reassurance that this is not an ultimatum moment. Ironically, practicing empathy in these moments is important, as it can help you get through the doubt that may come over you as you watch your partner potentially freeze in light of the question. A partner who is clear on their feelings for you may have less hesitation in answering this question, however, hesitation does not necessarily mean that there is a lack of interest in moving forward.
Relationships are complicated and complex. Our childhood histories and past relationships weave into the fabric of how we interact and respond to the perceived joy- or threat- of love in our lives, so there is no simple answer to that question. If your partner won’t answer the question, it is ultimately up to you whether it is a deal-breaker or not, but before asking the questions, check-in with your feelings about getting a response… or not.
Asking deal-breaker questions can be intimidating and overwhelming. You may still be lacking the confidence you need to cross that bridge. Speaking with one of our licensed therapists about couples therapy or interracial couples therapy can help.
About the author(s)
Karen is the founder and Clinical Director of Cohesive Therapy NYC. She earned a Masters in Social Work from New York University and has extensive training in Hypnosis, Anxiety, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Brainspotting, and DGBI. She is a member of the Institute of Certified Anxiety Treatment Professionals, The Rome Foundation, the National Association of Social Workers, The Crohn's and Colitis Foundation, and the American Social of Clinical Hypnosis.