Ultimatums In Love
By Frank Kermit
Ultimatums can come up in any and all relationships. Even the best relationships can face a crisis point where an ultimatum is necessary and uttered.
Ultimatums are not pleasant, neither for the person issuing it, nor for the person on the receiving end of it. However, if a relationship can get past the ultimatum, and resolve the crisis point, it can be one of the hurdles that will help the relationship survive into the future.
An ultimatum is NOT a sign that you are with the wrong partner. If you find yourself in a position where you feel the need to issue an ultimatum to your partner, it tends to be a sign that you have not communicated your needs and boundaries directly enough.
This is especially the case when the resentment or the desire to make the ultimatum has been brewing for quite some time. I often find in my practice that those people who fall into the category of "people pleasers" tend to shy away from conflict and then, after the frustration builds up, will explode with anger and ultimatums, in part because, the build up became so overwhelming it was too painful not to deal with their fear of conflict.
If these individuals would have communicated with their partners as the issues came up, instead of shying away from discussing topics that may be momentarily unpleasant, the entire blow up process may have never come to pass.
Some of the more common ultimatums that I see in my practice are with couples that are either struggling to move to the next level of commitment (becoming exclusive, start living together, getting engaged, setting the wedding date, having children) or those couples that are facing some kind of perceived threat (staying in touch with an ex who will not give up trying to rekindle).
However, an ultimatum can be about anything that one partner seriously requires a change with that without complying with said ultimatum, might bring about the desire to end the relationship. Some couples want a partner to take better care of health issues (like quitting drugs) and others demand a change in lifestyle, and even a move to a completely different home.
The ultimatum itself is actually less important than the way it is communicated.
If you are going to issue an ultimatum, be sure to stay calm, be direct, be clear and firm about what you need changed and why it is very important to you. No screaming, no name calling, no personal attacks.
Start off by telling your partner that you want to set aside some time to talk about something important to you and to schedule it when you feel your partner would be most receptive (such as a Saturday night after a day of rest, instead of a Monday morning just before a big presentation at work).
If you are on the receiving end of an ultimatum, be sure to stay calm, listen, ask questions to be sure you are clear about what your partner needs and why it is important, listen some more, and leave your ego at the door as much as you can.
Even if your partner is not saying it in a way that you are happy about, try to put your compassion for your partner ahead of your offended ego. When your partner is communicating an ultimatum to you, your partner is in fact acting like your best friend. Your partner is giving you a full chance to take control of a situation by bringing his or her discontentment to your attention.
This is actually much better than a partner deciding not to confront you, and potentially doing something behind your back out of emotional vengeance, or simply surprising you with a break up, without ever giving your relationship a chance. That is why you have to be grateful for the ultimatum, even if you despise what you may be hearing.
Now, what if you and your partner have reached an impasse? What if the ultimatum is about something that you either are not sure is a good idea to agree too, or if it is something that is completely against your value system.
For example, your partner cannot abide any longer having your aging and ill health parent live in the same house as your family, but you do not want to relocate your parent to a special care senior’s residence. What do you do then, when your values have reached a crisis point of incompatibility?
In situations like this, it is often a good idea to seek out the help of a professional who can offer an objective point of view and can assess if anyone is being unreasonable.