Is It Always Okay to Give Your Partner an Ultimatum?

Relationship ultimatums are having a moment right now thanks to an unfortunate new Netflix show literally titled The Ultimatum: Marry or Move On . While the idea of ​​giving your partner one last chance to commit may seem appealing, there is one side to it: “be careful what you wish for.” Your drive to make them make a decision about your relationship may actually push them away, at which point it may be too late to realize that you don’t really want to be suddenly left alone. Conversely, you can force them to make bigger commitments when they aren’t really ready for them. .

Is it always wise to issue an ultimatum? There are a few cases where this is more appropriate than others, but there are a number of factors you need to keep in mind.

Only offer an ultimatum if you’ve told them ahead of time.

An unexpected ultimatum is not a good idea. Communicating your wants and desires and setting a schedule are not the same thing.

“When you talk about marriage, I think it should be an ongoing conversation,” said Casandra Henriquez, a certified dating and relationship coach . From the very beginning of your relationship, she says, you should constantly discuss what you want from the relationship and have an open dialogue when your feelings change.

If you’re not clear about your interests and intentions early on, you can’t expect the other person to know what you want, let alone make an either/or decision later on. Which doesn’t mean you have to start a relationship with an ultimatum; it takes time and constant conversations first to build a certain level of trust. As Henriquez warned, “you don’t have to” start a relationship with an ultimatum.

According to Enriquez, it’s unwise to ignore what your partner says in these ongoing conversations and assume that you might change your mind or issue an ultimatum in the future. She pointed to her client, whose boyfriend had made it clear from the outset that he was not interested in marriage. Instead of listening to the messages he sent, she stayed with him for three years, hoping he would change his tune. In this context, an ultimatum can help end a relationship, but if you know from the start that someone doesn’t want what you want, why let it get this far?

“Ultimatums [sometimes reflect] a lot of missed communications and missed conversations from the very beginning of your relationship,” Enriquez said. “It should be a continuous conversation – one of them: “Do you want to get married?” and two: “Do you want to marry me?” Ultimatums come from the fact that you do not have these conversations and do not listen.

Rachel DeAlto, Match’s chief dating expert, agreed. “Ultimatums are decisive actions, and while sometimes they can lead to the desired result, most often they don’t,” she said. “Anyone who issues an ultimatum must be willing to end the relationship if their demand is not met. A much healthier approach would be to set boundaries and communicate intentions and desires openly and often.”

If you can’t have open conversations with your partner throughout the relationship, why are you trying to take the union into the next phase with an ultimatum?

Consider ultimatums when considering reconciliation with an ex

An ultimatum can be more helpful when you’re thinking about rekindling a relationship with someone you’ve already dated. In this case, you know which habits and traits of the other person do not align with your goals and interests, so highlighting them as barriers to reconciliation can be helpful. The ultimatum here is: “Commit to solving the previous problem, otherwise we will not be able to come together again.” This type of ultimatum is better than threatening to break up when you’re already with someone because it prioritizes reunion over breakup. If they missed you and want to make it work after they found out how bad life has been without you, they can follow through.

Issue ultimatums only when faced with a deal breaker

You shouldn’t tell someone that a breakup is inevitable if you can’t handle the breakup, so it goes without saying that you shouldn’t use a possible breakup as a solution to a minor problem. Don’t scream like a wolf here and don’t threaten to break up if you’re not serious about it. If a minor issue is actually a sign of a deeper resentment or an ongoing problem in the relationship, focus on it instead of small-scale resentments. Instead, save the ultimatum for the really important things.

“I really think of ultimatums as setting boundaries. If your partner(s) does something that goes beyond your boundaries or violates your deal, an ultimatum may be appropriate,” said Julie Labanz , a certified sex therapist and licensed professional clinical consultant.

Deliver ultimatums at scheduled times

The ultimatum should not just be presented to the partner, but he himself should be valid for a longer period of time. Enriquez cited her own marriage as an example: a few years ago, she told her partner that her goal for this year was to get engaged. She and her then-boyfriend had already discussed their goals, and he knew that she was interested in marriage. However, he waited 11 months after that January call to ask a question, and did so only in November.

“I was counting down in my mind. I didn’t bring it up, but I did have the thought of saying, “OK, if he doesn’t propose by January, we’ll have a real conversation about what we’re doing,” she said. .

It is important to communicate your intentions by giving the other person time to adjust. They may have their own reasons for not acting on what you think is an appropriate schedule, whether they are working on themselves or their finances, and you should consider their perspective in addition to your own.

Understand Your Partner’s Personality First

Some people need that little push because they’re better at dealing with deadlines or the threat of repercussions. Others may do better if given the opportunity to act at their own pace. To know if it’s time to give your partner an ultimatum, you really need to know their personality.

“There are some personality types that suffer from analysis paralysis and we see it all the time,” Enriquez said, citing a friend who took ten years to propose to his girlfriend because he was worried that he wasn’t financially ready for it. . obligation.

In this case, it is important not only to know the identity of your partner; it’s important all the time. Before you corner them about getting married, having a baby, going to a psychologist, or whatever you want, first think about who they are and whether you should even do any of this with them, because these relationship problems will not stop, even if the ultimatum works and you get your way.

If you’re going to give an ultimatum, do this.

If, after reading all of this, you still think an ultimatum is appropriate in your relationship, whether you want to get married or help your partner stop being mean, approach the conversation the right way.

First, consider why the topic at hand could break the deal, Labanz said. Know your own thoughts and feelings about the problem from within and without. Think about the values ​​behind your decision, “and be prepared to present them to your partner,” she said. “Know the areas where you feel flexible about the topic.” You will not be surprised that even the presentation of an ultimatum involves a big conversation. If you think you can just give them two options with the threat of an immediate break looming over the conversation, just break up and spare both of you an uncomfortable conversation. The goal here, after all, is to move forward with the goal.

“Approach [gently] using the language of ‘I’,” Labanz said. “For example: “I took the time to explore monogamy for myself and I know it’s a lifestyle that really matters to me and suits me the best. If you’re interested in a [consensually non-monogamous] relationship, I want you to be able to respect that for yourself, but that’s not a relationship I might be in, and eventually we’ll need to part ways.” You honor yourself and your partner by talking about your values.”

Be true to yourself, be open, honest and, again, be prepared to be alone.

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