Everyone's got dealbreakers in a relationship. Evolution might be to blame.

How many times has this happened to you? You're dating someone you really like. You've been out a few times. You're absolutely hitting it off. But there's that one thing you just can't quite get over.

Maybe they have bad breath? Or a messy apartment? Or a collection of tiny fiberglass unicorn figurines that's just a little ... too large?



Their sweet precious baby. Photo by rsteve254/Pixabay.

Some dealbreakers are obvious, like if the person lives eight hours away and doesn't own a phone and plays polka music constantly. No one would blame you for ending it over even one of those things.

Other dealbreakers, though? They might make you feel like maybe you're being a little petty. I mean, you could learn to live with those unicorn figurines, couldn't you? There are perfectly logical reasons why they might have so many. In the right light, they're almost ... classy.

And yet, deep in your heart, you know — the relationship ain't goin' anywhere. And it makes you feel like a hateful superficial love ogre.

Good news! You should stop worrying about being a bad person because of your weird or irrational dealbreakers.

"Smells bad" is a common dealbreaker. Photo via iStock.

Believe it or not, science is on your side!

And science wants you to know that not only are you far from alone, your dealbreakers are valuable tools for avoiding disaster.

When it comes to dating, “avoiding negative traits [in other words, dealbreakers] is probably more important than optimizing ideal traits," University of Florida Professor Gregory Webster told Upworthy.

Webster recently published a study looking at the power of these dealbreakers, along with colleagues from America, Australia, and Singapore. The researchers conducted six different studies, mostly through anonymous surveys, to learn the dating preferences of 6,000 people.

What they found was that people tend to give more weight to negative qualities than positive ones. Think of dating like a game: If each good quality is worth two points, each bad one is worth ... more like a whopping negative 17 points.

The game is unbalanced.

Webster and his colleagues found that dealbreakers were stronger for people looking for long-term relationships than short-term, for romantic relationships than for friendships, and a bit stronger for women than men in the short-term.

While it can feel bad to break-up with someone over one or two negative traits, studies suggest that our brain's focus on those bad things might be designed to protect us.

Let's say there's a person you're interested in, but they only eat processed cheese.

Not saying this person is me. Image by PeRshGo/Wikimedia Commons.

If you break up, sure, you might miss out on some good stuff. Fun romantic adventures. Potentially incredible sex. A lifetime of pure companionate bliss. But hey, they're not the only person on Earth. Literally millions of other humans could give you those things.

On the other hand, if you decide to stay with Mr./Ms./Mx. Cheez Whiz, you might end up in a horrible, cheesy explosion while taking the Polly-O factory tour because that's what you do for fun now. Or maybe, upon hitting puberty, your children will end up smelling vaguely, but relentlessly — tragically — like Velveeta.

Very specific bad things can happen.

So why does our brain work this way? It might be an evolutionary defense mechanism.

A pair of gibbons. Image from MatthiasKabel/Wikimedia Commons.

"The study's findings support adaptive attentional biases in human social cognition, which suggests that focusing on the negative serves as a survival function," the researchers wrote in a press release.

In other words, way back before we were modern humans, back when we were little more than apes, it was really important that we pay attention to bad stuff. Because bad stuff wasn't just auto payments and not being invited to the office party or processed cheese. Bad stuff was sabertooth cats and giant eagles.

There's always more fruit somewhere in the jungle, but the ape who didn't pay attention to the sudden suspiciously-eagle-shaped shadow circling above doesn't get to stay around a whole lot longer.

If you're on the receiving end of a dealbreaker, don't worry!

"A dealbreaker for one person may be a dealmaker for another," Webster says.

Just an ordinary, happy, totally real American couple being really real and washing dishes together in a totally real candid moment. Photo via iStock.

In the report on the study, Webster cites impulsiveness, which can be a huge turn-off for some, as being a potentially huge turn-on for someone else who might be attracted to that kind of spontaneity.

The good news? That applies to dealbreakers big and small:

Being only 1% religiously compatible with one person just means you're 99% religiously compatible with someone else. Living 800 miles away from one potential partner just means you live a few blocks away from another. Your significant other refusing to see "Carol" with you for the 37th time just means you have an extra ticket for the next person in your life.

And if it's bad stuff like being too messy, well, there's always Chore Wars.

If you're the one finding the dealbreaker, that's OK too. It's just your monkey-brain trying to keep you safe. You'll find someone else.

Your ex may take it hard — breakups are rarely easy. But in the end, they'll find someone else too.

Turns out #373 was her favorite too! Photo by rsteve254/Pixabay.

There are plenty of unicorns in the field, after all.

Since his first hit single "Keep Your Head Up" in 2011, award-winning multi-platinum recording artist Andy Grammer has made a name for himself as the king of the feel-good anthem. From "Good to Be Alive (Hallelujah)" to "Honey, I'm Good" to "Back Home" and more, his positive, upbeat songs have blared on beaches and at backyard barbecues every summer.

So what does a singer who loves to perform in front of live audiences and is known for uplifting music do during an unexpectedly challenging year of global pandemic lockdown?

He goes inward.

Grammer told Upworthy that losing the ability to perform during the pandemic forced him to look at where his self-worth came from. "I thought I would have scored better, to be honest," he says. "Like, 'Oh, I get it from all the important, right places!' And then it's taken all away in one moment, and you're like, 'Oh, nope, I was getting a lot from that.'

"It's kind of cool to break all the way down and then hopefully put myself back together in a way that's a little more solid," he says.

Keep Reading Show less

Since his first hit single "Keep Your Head Up" in 2011, award-winning multi-platinum recording artist Andy Grammer has made a name for himself as the king of the feel-good anthem. From "Good to Be Alive (Hallelujah)" to "Honey, I'm Good" to "Back Home" and more, his positive, upbeat songs have blared on beaches and at backyard barbecues every summer.

So what does a singer who loves to perform in front of live audiences and is known for uplifting music do during an unexpectedly challenging year of global pandemic lockdown?

He goes inward.

Grammer told Upworthy that losing the ability to perform during the pandemic forced him to look at where his self-worth came from. "I thought I would have scored better, to be honest," he says. "Like, 'Oh, I get it from all the important, right places!' And then it's taken all away in one moment, and you're like, 'Oh, nope, I was getting a lot from that.'

"It's kind of cool to break all the way down and then hopefully put myself back together in a way that's a little more solid," he says.

Keep Reading Show less
True

Each year, an estimated 1.8 million people in the United States are affected by cancer — most commonly cancers of the breast, lung, prostate, and blood cancers such as leukemia. While not everyone overcomes the disease, thanks to science, more people are surviving — and for longer — than ever before in history.

We asked three people whose lives have been impacted by cancer to share their stories – how their lives were changed by the disease, and how they're using that experience to change the future of cancer treatments with the hope that ultimately, in the fight against cancer, science will win. Here's what they had to say.

Celine Ryan, 55, engineer database programmer and mother of five from Detroit, MI

Photo courtesy of Celine Ryan

In September 2013, Celine Ryan woke up from a colonoscopy to some traumatic news. Her gastroenterologist showed her a picture of the cancerous mass they found during the procedure.

Ryan and her husband, Patrick, had scheduled a colonoscopy after discovering some unusual bleeding, so the suspicion she could have cancer was already there. Neither of them, however, were quite prepared for the results to be positive -- or for the treatment to begin so soon. Just two days after learning the news, Ryan had surgery to remove the tumor, part of her bladder, and 17 cancerous lymph nodes. Chemotherapy and radiation soon followed.

Ryan's treatment was rigorous – but in December 2014, she got the devastating news that the cancer, once confined to her colon, had spread to her lungs. Her prognosis, they said, was likely terminal.

But rather than give up hope, Ryan sought support from online research, fellow cancer patients and survivors, and her medical team. When she brought up immunotherapy to her oncologist, he quickly agreed it was the best course of action. Ryan's cancer, like a majority of colon and pancreatic cancers, had been caused by a defect on the gene KRAS, which can result in a very aggressive cancer that is virtually "undruggable." According to the medical literature, the relatively smooth protein structure of the KRAS gene meant that designing inhibitors to bind to surface grooves and treat the cancer has been historically difficult. Through her support systems, Ryan discovered an experimental immunotherapy trial at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD., and called them immediately to see if she was eligible. After months of trying to determine whether she was a suitable candidate for the experimental treatment, Ryan was finally accepted.

The treatment, known as tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte therapy, or TIL, is a testament to how far modern science has evolved. With this therapy, doctors remove a tumor and harvest special immune cells that are found naturally in the tumor. Doctors then grow the cells in a lab over the next several weeks with a protein that promotes rapid TIL growth – and once the cells number into the billions, they are infused back into the patient's body to fight the cancer. On April 1, 2015, Ryan had her tumor removed at the NIH. Two months later, she went inpatient for four weeks to have the team "wash out" her immune system with chemotherapy and infuse the cells – all 148 billion of them – back into her body.

Six weeks after the infusion, Ryan and Patrick went back for a follow-up appointment – and the news they got was stunning: Not only had no new tumors developed, but the six existing tumors in her lungs had shrunk significantly. Less than a year after her cell infusion, in April 2016, the doctors told Ryan news that would have been impossible just a decade earlier: Thanks to the cell infusion, Ryan was now considered NED – no evaluable disease. Her body was cancer-free.

Ryan is still NED today and continuing annual follow-up appointments at the NIH, experiencing things she never dreamed she'd be able to live to see, such as her children's high school and college graduations. She's also donating her blood and cells to the NIH to help them research other potential cancer treatments. "It was an honor to do so," Ryan said of her experience. "I'm just thrilled, and I hope my experience can help a lot more people."

Patrice Lee, PhD, VP of Pharmacology, Toxicology and Exploratory Development at Pfizer

Photo courtesy of Patrice Lee

Patrice Lee got into scientific research in an unconventional way – through the late ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau.

Lee never met Cousteau but her dreams of working with him one day led her to pursue a career in science. Initially, Lee completed an undergraduate degree in marine biology; eventually, her interests changed and she decided to get a dual doctoral degree in physiology and toxicology at Duke University. She now works at Pfizer's R&D site in Boulder, CO (formerly Array BioPharma), leading a group of scientists who determine the safety and efficacy of new oncology drugs.

"Scientists focused on drug discovery and development in the pharmaceutical industry are deeply committed to inventing new therapies to meet unmet needs," Lee says, describing her field of work. "We're driven to achieve new medicines and vaccines as quickly as possible without sacrificing safety."

Among the drugs Lee has helped develop during her career, including cancer therapies, she says around a dozen are currently in development, while nine have received FDA approval — an incredible accomplishment as many scientists spend their careers without seeing their drug make it to market. Lee's team is particularly interested in therapies for brain metastases — something that Lee says is a largely unmet need in cancer research, and something her team is working on from a variety of angles. "Now that we've had rapid success with mRNA vaccine technology, we hope to explore what the future holds when applying this technology to cancers," Lee says.

But while evaluating potential cancer therapies is a professional passion of Lee's, it's also a mission that's deeply personal. "I'm also a breast cancer survivor," she says. "So I've been on the other side of things and have participated in a clinical trial."

However, seeing how melanoma therapies that she helped develop have affected other real-life cancer patients, she says, has been a highlight of her career. "We had one therapy that was approved for patients with BRAF-mutant metastatic melanoma," Lee recalls. "Our team in Boulder was graced by a visit from a patient that had benefited from these drugs that we developed. It was a very special moment for the entire team."

None of these therapies would be available, Lee says without rigorous science behind it: "Facts come from good science. Facts will drive the development of new drugs, and that's what will help patients."

Chiuying "Cynthia" Kuk (they/them) MS, 34, third-year medical student at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine

Photo courtesy of Cynthia Kuk

Cynthia Kuk was just 10 years old when they had a conversation that would change their life forever.

"My mother, who worked as a translator for the government at the time, had been diagnosed with breast cancer, and after her chemotherapy treatments she would get really sick," Kuk, who uses they/them pronouns, recalls. "When I asked my dad why mom was puking so much, he said it was because of the medicine she was taking that would help her get better."

Kuk's response was immediate: "That's so stupid! Why would a medicine make you feel worse instead of better? When I'm older, I want to create medicine that won't make people sick like that."

Nine years later, Kuk traveled from their native Hong Kong to the United States to do exactly that. Kuk enrolled in a small, liberal arts college for their Bachelor's degree, and then four years later started a PhD program in cancer research. Although Kuk's mother was in remission from her cancer at the time, Kuk's goal was the same as it had been as a 10-year-old watching her suffer through chemotherapy: to design a better cancer treatment, and change the landscape of cancer research forever.

Since then, Kuk's mission has changed slightly.

"My mom's cancer relapsed in 2008, and she ended up passing away about five years after that," Kuk says. "After my mom died, I started having this sense of urgency. Cancer research is such that you work for twenty years, and at the end of it you might have a fancy medication that could help people, but I wanted to help people now." With their mother still at the forefront of their mind, Kuk decided to quit their PhD program and enter medical school.

Now, Kuk plans to pursue a career in emergency medicine – not only because they are drawn to the excitement of the emergency room, but because the ER is a place where the most marginalized people tend to seek care.

"I have a special interest in the LGBTQ+ population, as I identify as queer and nonbinary," says Kuk. "A lot of people in this community and other marginalized communities access care through the ER and also tend to avoid medical care since there is a history of mistreatment and judgement from healthcare workers. How you carry yourself as a doctor, your compassion, that can make a huge difference in someone's care."

In addition to making a difference in the lives of LGBTQ+ patients, Kuk wants to make a difference in the lives of patients with cancer as well, like their mother had.

"We've diagnosed patients in the Emergency Department with cancer before," Kuk says. "I can't make cancer good news but how you deliver bad news and the compassion you show could make a world of difference to that patient and their family."

During their training, Kuk advocates for patients by delivering compassionate and inclusive care, whether they happen to have cancer or not. In addition to emphasizing their patient's pronouns and chosen names, they ask for inclusive social and sexual histories as well as using gender neutral language. In doing this, they hope to make medicine as a whole more accessible for people who have been historically pushed aside.

"I'm just one person, and I can't force everyone to respect you, if you're marginalized," Kuk says. "But I do want to push for a culture where people appreciate others who are different from them."