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Sometimes, the boundaries get blurred in relationships between asking your partner for what you want and flat-out handing out ultimatums, and demanding what you want!

Stop Handing Out Ultimatums in Relationships!

For example, you will leave if your partner does not stop misusing drugs or alcohol, start helping around the house or with the kids, or discontinue a relationship that is affecting your bond. Your ultimatum suggests that you will leave the relationship if your requirement is not met.  Most ultimatums, on the other hand, are requests for your partner to change because you are not ready to leave the relationship. This is where the ultimatum fails, and your relationship suffers as a result. Why? Because finality is implied by ultimatums.

Let’s understand what we are referring to by taking a few real-life scenarios that, unfortunately, happen a lot between couples.  The following statements are often passed around when one of the two individuals in a relationship don’t get their desires met as they hoped:

  • If I don’t have a ring on my finger by such and such date, consider us over.
  • I want to have a more physical relationship with you, and if you’re not willing to give me that, I might just have to look elsewhere.
  • If you don’t stop drinking, I’ll make sure you don’t get to see your kids ever again!

Everybody Plays a Part

Moreover, most of us don’t even hesitate to encourage our friends and family members in such cases. We advise them, “You need to tell your partner they better stop doing ‘this or that,’ or else you’ll leave them, file for divorce, or won’t talk until they finally make it happen.”

We defend this behavior by believing that it’s about staying strong, self-assured, and not compromising on your wants and needs.

The Question Remains…

Is handing out ultimatums an effective and appropriate strategy to solve matters in a relationship? Are they even worth it? Because once all is said and done, we must admit that ultimatum remains to be just a fancy word for threats with consequences. The said consequences might be a bluff, depending upon how much the person passing along the threats are committed to their promised verbal attack.

More often than not, people don’t even think about whether they’re ready to act upon the threats they pass along to their partners, such as, “Marry me or I’ll find someone else.” Likely, their ultimatum might just work initially. However, if that doesn’t happen, they get left alone to deal with the consequences of what they’ve done without preparing for the after-effects themselves.

What You Need to Know About Ultimatums

An ultimatum is seen as a final demand. When these demands don’t get met, you’re eventually encountered with an undesired retaliation that results in a break of delicate relationships. In other words, it’s a do-this-or-else statement.

Moreover, being the recipient of a threat or an ultimatum indeed makes you the victim while you deal with the “or else” part. However, it’s essential to understand that the giver of the injunction also likely faces the consequences when it comes to a romantic relationship. This essentially makes handing out ultimatums a destructive practice that not only appears manipulative but also backfires in the worst way possible.

It’s your life, and you can verbalize your desires and wants. However, you should also remain prepared for the blowback that you’re sure to receive after forcing someone’s hand. When times get tough, which they always do, your partner might remember when you forced them into making a certain decision, be it marrying you, having kids, changing careers, or moving elsewhere.

5 Consequences of Handing Out Ultimatums – And What You Can Do About Them!

Now that you know what it means to hand out ultimatums to your partner, let’s review how this action can put a permanent stain on your relationship and what you can do to minimize the damages encountered:

1- Ultimatums Make Way for Resentment

You may feel like you’ve won when your partner bows down to your ultimatum. However, that’s also usually when your relationship fails. You can’t expect to twist your partner’s arms into agreeing to something that only you want and not feel their resentment in return. After all, threatening with consequences pressurizes them to do things that they want no part of. So, yes, while they may give in to save the relationship at the time, it’ll wreak havoc on your love life sooner rather than later.

To prevent your relationship from taking this downhill, you must put yourself into your partner’s shoes before handing out an injunction the next time. Then, assess how you would feel if you were to be treated similarly by the hands of your partner. You’ll likely realize a better way of handling the given situation that doesn’t involve ultimatums and resentment.

2- Unhappiness Becomes Inevitable

It’s also essential to remember that ultimatums are always one-sided. Therefore, there’s never a win-win situation to strive for. Whether you give an ultimatum that’s well-deserved or not, the logic remains irrelevant to your partner’s feelings.

That’s why it is suggested to talk it out with your partner and understand each other’s perspective through constructive communication rather than taking the wrong path to get what you want.

For example, let’s take the prior example of leaving your partner if they don’t stop drinking. While that’s an issue that genuinely needs to be resolved to secure a better future for you and your children, ultimatums still might not be the right way to go. Instead, you can initiate the talk by saying something like, “I’m really concerned about your drinking habit, and it’s messing with our relationship as well as our kids’ mental health. Let’s talk about it.”

After you’ve had a detailed discussion when your partner is sober and willing to talk, you can calmly ‘suggest’ a solution rather than hand out an ultimatum. You can continue the conversation in a conservative tone, “Alright. So, we both agree that it’s something you’re struggling with right now. You should know that I’ll be here for you, but we need to make some positive changes. I can feel more at peace if you begin to work on this by attending the AA meeting every week by February 1st. I think it’s a good timeline and suits both of our schedules. What do you say?”

You’ll see how much more effective this method will be than handing out an ultimatum. That’s because you’ll not be pressurizing them but working alongside them as if their happiness matters to you.

3- You Get What You Dish Out

Next, when you make ultimatums a regular part of your life, they automatically set a standard of behavior. At some point, your partner will retaliate by passing out ultimatums just as you do. They would think it’s only fair to dish out the same injunctions when you fail to live up to their needs. Moreover, you can hardly disagree with their logic when you’ve been pulling the same card on them in the past repeatedly.

However, there’s one simple yet effective solution to this. While it may sound distressingly obvious, the only way to influence a positive attitude in your relationship is to stop handing out ultimatums yourself. After all, it’s only when you start changing the standard of behavior from your side that your partner will likely follow.

4- They Start Calling Your Bluff

When you issue a command to your partner for the first time and see the fear driving them into agreeing with your demands, you feel it like a clean win in your favor. However, when you make a habit of it, the day wouldn’t be far when they’ll eventually get tired of the threats and call your bluff. It’s only then you’ll realize that your ultimatums were nothing but a whole string of lies that you were telling to win while believing that you’ll never get called out.

Moreover, this will put you in a situation where you’ll find yourself stuck between a rock and a hard place. You wouldn’t want to act upon your threats because you didn’t mean them, but backing out would also feel like an insult to yourself.

There’s a straightforward way to avoid such circumstances. When you ‘think’ before handing out ultimatums and assess whether acting upon them would be a better step for your life, things start to make more sense.

For example, before you tell your partner that you’ll call it quits if they don’t marry you before the year ends, think about whether you’re okay to leave them if they don’t follow through. Moreover, think about whether there are other ways to talk about the stressful situation, so you don’t regret later about the consequences. If the answer to both these questions always comes in your favor of issuing ultimatums, you can go right ahead.

However, never issue an ultimatum that you don’t mean under any circumstances. If they start calling your bluff every time you threaten them, you might regret the consequences more than they would while you also look foolish and manipulative.

5- Last Comes the Complete Lack of Trust

Since ultimatums are a form of manipulation, this conflicting behavior puts doubts in your partner’s mind as they start questioning your trustworthiness. Once that happens, the trust you and your partner have built together since the beginning of your relationship vanishes in a matter of moments. Plus, we don’t have to point out the importance of trust in a relationship since that’s the key to a possible future ahead. Without trust, you can never grow your connection, mentally and emotionally.

This point takes us to what we discussed in the last point, i.e., you must never hand out ultimatums when you don’t mean them. When you start giving ultimatums regularly, your partner not only loses the trust in you as a partner but also the respect for you as an adult person.

Is There Ever a Right Time to Hand Out Ultimatums?

By now, you must’ve understood why giving commands and requests can be the wrong way to define the scope of your relationship. While an ultimatum always sounds harsh by definition, we can’t deny that they’re sometimes necessary to force a decision that you can’t compromise upon.

For example, suppose you’ve done everything you can do to make your partner stop drinking for your and their sanity. However, they wouldn’t listen, no matter what, even though it is severely affecting the way your children are growing up. In this case, the situation has led to a point where your partner has to stop drinking and take responsibility or you’re out of there.

We can state a few similar examples regarding how sometimes ultimatums can work in your favor and make your relationship grow instead of taking a fall. For instance, when your partner starts to toe with the boundaries you’ve established for yourself, you must tell them how much their actions hurt you and that you wouldn’t tolerate such behavior. Similarly, couples struggling with finances can issue structured ultimatums for saving money when they know it’s essential for their future together. However, the way you address these talks should be taken into consideration as well. Instead of being dominating, try to work toward a goal together rather. Recklessly using ultimatums like keyless grenades can cause them to bomb your relationship.

Note that none of the scenarios we mentioned here are related to making big life decisions since those require in-person professional help and counseling sessions.

Contact a Relationship Coach Today!

If you’re struggling with such behavior, you’re always welcome to seek professional help at Marriage Means Moore. You neither have to hand out ultimatums nor do you have to struggle alone during this emotionally exhausting routine! A relationship coach can help you realize when it’s essential to set boundaries or ultimatums and whether they can improve your relationship. It’s your happiness at stake, and so you need to fight for it the right way.

You can schedule an appointment with us today to get your relationship back on track. Moreover, we also suggest visiting our website’s blog section for more helpful resources to work out your relationship constructively.

October 17, 2021 | By Antonio & Laura Moore, Relationship & Marriage Coaches | Marriage Means Moore Inc.

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