Ultimatums in relationships are a very tricky subject to navigate and should not be taken lightly. On the one hand, they can bring an end to a problem that has been dragging on for a long time. On the other hand, they can lead to a lot of hurt feelings and resentment.
Are ultimatums in relationships really worth the risks? The general consensus is that they should be used only as a last resort and only in certain situations.
Giving an ultimatum is risky, and can backfire. It is important to have a clear understanding of what you want and to communicate it to your partner in a non-threatening way.
Ultimatums can be considered as manipulative and can cause much more damage than good if not handled correctly. They should be used sparingly, as they can create an atmosphere of mistrust and resentment. It is also important to have clear expectations regarding the consequences if the ultimatum is ignored.
When it comes to relationships, ultimatums are desperate attempts to get a partner to do something that they may not be willing to do. An ultimatum is a statement that demands a certain action be taken or else the relationship will end.
It is a way of putting pressure on your partner to make a decision or to take a certain action, but you need to ask yourself if is this how you want to live.
What is an ultimatum?
When it comes to relationships, ultimatums are often seen as a last resort, a desperate attempt to get a partner to do something that they may not be willing to do.
When used in a relationship, an ultimatum is a way of communicating to your partner that you have had enough and that you need a change in their behavior, or else the relationship will come to an end. Ultimatums can have dire consequences.
Examples of ultimatums are:
- It’s a way to set a limit and say, “I’m not willing to continue in this way any longer.”
- Ultimatums are a type of threat that conveys the message, “You must do what I want or our relationship is over.”
- An ultimatum may be expressed with words such as, “I can’t go on like this any longer,” “I can’t take it anymore,” or “This relationship is not working.”
Ultimatums are best avoided because they can cause resentment and can be very damaging to relationships. An ultimatum is a threat, therefore there is always the risk that the person on the receiving end will say, “Okay. I’m out of here,” even if they don’t really mean it or want to, they are just not prepared to be threatened.
According to marriage and family therapist Andrea Dindinger, “people make ultimatums when they feel powerless to change the other person.”
Personally, I believe that a healthy relationship doesn’t need ultimatums and it would be a deal breaker if I was on the receiving end of an ultimatum.
Cons of Using Ultimatums in Relationships
There are many reasons why ultimatums can be harmful in relationships especially if they are idle threats and you have not thought through the consequences.
Ultimatum may backfire
The ultimatum may backfire, causing your partner to escalate their behavior as a reaction to the ultimatum. According to Relationship expert, Darcy Sterling, “setting an ultimatum is the relationship equivalent of nuclear warfare.”
If your partner is not willing to change their behavior are you willing to walk away? Idle threats will not achieve anything positive for your relationship.
Relationship may end
Your partner may feel cornered, blamed, or attacked by your ultimatum and they may push you away. You may leave them feeling that they have no control over their own lives and will ultimately think of ending the relationship. How will this make you feel? Will you regret threatening them with an ultimatum?
Negative Feelings develop
An ultimatum may make your partner feel resentful, unloved, and rejected. The dangers of ultimatums are that your partner will feel manipulated and that they no longer have free will and freedom of choice. Negative feelings that develop from an ultimatum will damage the emotional intimacy of the relationship.
Marriage and family therapist Megan Harrison highlights the dangers of ultimatums, by saying, “They are particularly damaging because they are threats that force changes in behavior. This often leads to resentment and insecurity in the relationship since your partners felt pressured into doing something they didn’t want to do.”
Guilt and shame
If you issue ultimatums your partner may feel ashamed, guilty, or embarrassed about their behavior. In the long run, this will not necessarily result in behavioral change but will definitely result in festering feelings of negative emotions. It may actually shut down your partner’s ability to reflect on their behavior and make changes.
Misunderstood and misjudged
A relationship ultimatum will create relationship issues as your partner will feel completely misunderstood and misjudged.
Pros of Using Ultimatums in Relationships
However, there are times when ultimatums are necessary to get someone to break the patterns in their behavior that are causing both of you pain and harm. If your partner has a drinking problem, a problem with substance abuse, or there is an issue with domestic violence the situation may be desperate enough to use ultimatums and seek professional help.
Ultimatums are useful in getting someone to change their behavior when other methods of open communication have failed.
An ultimatum can be a good idea if:
- You have tried to communicate in other ways but it has not worked.
- The chronic habit has been going on for a long time and is not something that you can easily let go of.
- You have tried to communicate with your partner and have come to the conclusion that their destructive behavior is not going to change.
- With the help of their best friend, you have tried to communicate with your partner and there has been no change.
- Ultimatums can also be useful in helping you to set boundaries. For example, if you have been in a relationship with someone who has been emotionally abusive, you may have found it difficult to set boundaries because they have been pressuring you to do things that you don’t want to do. You could say, “I don’t want to hear from you until you are sober”.
- As a last resort to make a positive change to negative and destructive behavior.
Tips for Using Ultimatums in Relationships
It’s best to use ultimatums very sparingly and be very clear on your desired outcome.
I would not use ultimatums in the following situations:
- when you’ve only been dating for a short time. It’s better to get to know each other first.
- If you have been dating for a long time and you are still not happy with your partner, then you may want to use an ultimatum. However, if you are not happy, should you rather not just break up with them on your own terms?
- If you have met someone online and you are not completely sure who they are, you should take your time getting to know them better before you use an ultimatum.
- An unfair ultimatum would be used on someone who is unhealthy.
But the bottom line is that ultimatums should be used only when you have tried all other options.
Alternatives to Using Ultimatums in Relationships
Negotiating with your partner is the best way to get a positive result. With an ultimatum, you are putting the relationship on the line. With negotiation, you are trying to get something that you would like or something that would be beneficial to the relationship. Keep an open mind and ensure honest communication centered around the core value of the relationship and your personal limits.
Although communication is not always effective, it is better than an ultimatum. An honest conversation discussing various options and outcomes will result in a healthier relationship. You need to choose a calm moment and have clear communication to achieve a meaningful change in the relationship.
All romantic relationships need clear boundaries to avoid relationship problems in the future. We all want to be respected and not be impacted negatively by our partner’s behavior. Know your own boundaries and ensure that these are openly communicated with your partner. Ensure that you also take the time to understand your partner’s boundaries.
D.Taking a Break
Sometimes, if you are not happy with your current relationship it would be better to end the relationship rather than feel that you have to tolerate something for the ‘rest of my life’. It is better to end the relationship rather than force someone to stick to your set of rules or give them a marriage ultimatum that fits into your timeline.
Ultimatums in relationships should be a last resort when trying to find a solution to an unhealthy situation within the relationship. There are other avenues of communication that can be used that will achieve a much more positive result for your relationship.
Should you feel helpless and desperate for change, please reach out for couples therapy, and speak to trusted family members or close friends. Yes, ultimatums may work in certain situations with certain people, but I just feel that the risks of a negative response as your partner’s natural response are high. You may not always get your desired response and will be disappointed.