Yet nothing can to nothing fall,
Nor any place be empty quite;
Therefore I think my breast hath all
Those pieces still, though they be not unite;
And now, as broken glasses show
A hundred lesser faces, so
My rags of heart can like, wish, and adore,
But after one such love, can love no more.
—John Donne, “The Broken Heart”
We’ve all got one in our past: an unbelievably handsome man or jaw-droppingly sexy woman that we’d have given an arm and a leg to date. That is, until a crucial detail comes out. Perhaps it’s a superficial judgment: She’s annoying when she brushes her teeth, he’s not polite to strangers. Or it could be more substantial: He’s an atheist and you’re not, she’s a compulsive liar. In modern parlance, ladies and gentlemen, these off-putting traits are called “dealbreakers.”
For the past few months, Good has been publishing an ingenious series of essays called “Dealbreakers” in which writers talk about all of the reasons—petty, prudish, or quaint—that ushered in the demise of an otherwise healthy relationship. Some are funny, some are sad. Often they’re both in the way that breakups can retrospectively be. I enjoy the wide variety of complaints that people have of their prospective mates—from “He’s Got an Asian Fetish” to “She Was Too Freaky” to “I Couldn’t Handle Her Food Issues” to “He’s in Love With Jesus.” Mostly, though, I love the humanity that shines through the prose.