Have you ever been frustrated by your partner’s repetitively irritating behavior?
Perhaps, he keeps falling asleep on the couch after watching a late night movie, or she shops like credit card bills never have to be paid.
The reasons don’t matter, because they are far too many of them.
You put up with these annoyances for a while, until one fine day, one thing leads to another and you just burst out with an ultimatum. You tell your partner to avoid their obsession or you threaten them with dire consequences.
Giving ultimatums may not be the right way to solve differences in a relationship. But there’s a reason your partner’s giving you an ultimatum. Your partner feels miserable and helpless.
If you’ve been given an ultimatum, try to look at things from your partner’s perspective too. While a string of ultimatums lead to nothing but feigning ignorance or a break up, it’s still an aggressive plea for help.
You’re upsetting your partner over something you’re doing, and like a scared animal that’s trapped in a corner, your partner’s instincts force them to get aggressive towards you. It’s a sad thing, isn’t it, when two lovers don’t understand each other or care enough to make each other happy? [Read: 25 relationship rules for successful love]
Common ultimatums all of us use
Ultimatums in a relationship come in all hues and shades. But here are a few common ultimatums we often hear, and do nothing about.
#1 If you don’t stop speaking to her, I’ll break up with you.
#2 Quit smoking or I swear I’ll leave.
#3 You need to speak to your friend about it, or I will.
#4 Stop spending so much time on your computer or I’ll break the damn thing.
#5 Lose weight or I’ll never have sex with you again.
#6 If you don’t communicate with me, we’re going to end up leaving each other.
If you’re the one shooting ultimatums at your partner often, stop. You’re killing the relationship.
And if you’re the one who’s been facing a load of ultimatums, stop ignoring them. Don’t you see you’re hurting the one who loves you so much?
Ultimatums in a relationship will never help anyone. If you yell an ultimatum at your partner, they may grudgingly comply with your request just to avoid a fight, but deep inside, they’d be angry and even hate you for it.
You may feel like your partner’s not listening to you and that’s why you have to use ultimatums. But at the same time, your partner would definitely feel like you don’t understand them anymore.
A relationship works on love. You can’t arm twist someone into loving you or treating you better. If a relationship has to work out, both of you have to take time to build a connection that works on relating with each other instead of confronting each other all the time. [Read: The best way to fight fair in a relationship]
Relate to your partner and your partner will listen to you
Look at the problem through your partner’s eyes. And help your partner see the solution through your eyes.
Some time ago, a couple I’m good friends with had a serious issue that was almost leading their marriage towards a breakup. The husband would drink a lot every evening, he was obese and would never have any couple conversations with his wife. His wife, on the other hand, was a casual drinker who enjoyed having one drink every evening. They used to love each other, but slowly, they started drifting away from each other. [Read: Perfect things to talk about in a relationship]
And one fine day, angry and annoyed after holding her thoughts back for months, the wife burst out with an ultimatum and told her husband to stop drinking, get fitter and spend more time with her… or else!
But her husband didn’t change at all. In fact, he got worse. During a casual conversation with her, I told her to try at look at the issue through his eyes instead of tossing ultimatums at him. After all, it isn’t easy to stop drinking overnight and look like a sex god in no time. Her ultimatums were well meaning in nature, but it was too hard and too aggressive.
And her husband chose to ignore it. He may be feeling guilty on the inside, but his helplessness made him feel worse about himself and the relationship too. And eventually, all ultimatums do make us feel like failures.
I told her to help him look for the solution through her eyes. I told her to quit drinking, and start working out every day when he’s around. She didn’t have to tell him anything though. She behaved normally around him, but she completely avoided her evening glass of whiskey and started working out at home after work.
A month later, she looked fitter and healthier, and she was positively glowing. She didn’t ask her husband to stop drinking or start working out, but she told him how good she feels after quitting on her drinks and working out every day. She had lost a couple of sizes already after a month of cardio.
A week later, she asked him casually and warmly if he could join her for a cardio work out. At first, he was reluctant, but after seeing how many sizes she had lost, he too was eager to start working out with her. Instead of yelling at him or giving him an ultimatum, she helped her husband see the solution through her eyes.
And now, about six months later, both of them look stunningly fit in each other’s arms, he’s stopped drinking and they’re happy to spend time with each other all the time. [Read: A true story of unconditional love]
When should you use ultimatums in a relationship?
Hopefully, never. Ultimatums strain a relationship and over time, it may become irreparable. If you want to help your partner change, sit down with your partner and calmly and softly, ask them why they’re having such a hard time changing their behavior for the better. Sometimes, a conversation that feels relaxed and free of frustrations can help both of you understand each other so much better.
Ultimatums and angry words create bigger egos in a relationship and these egos build a thick wall between both of you. And as long as you don’t drop your ego, you’ll have to live in a world of ultimatums. But if both of you could learn to break down the ego and speak truthfully about each other’s feelings, both of you will feel more loved and can actually start avoiding ultimatums in love.
Ultimatums in a relationship may, at times, be inevitable. But there’s always a better way if you can drop your egos and see it. Learn to listen to each other and talk truthfully. You’ll never need any ultimatums!
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A mom of two who’s currently working on a novel, Elizabeth Arthur lives in Cornwall. And when she’s not chasing her boys around the house, she enjoys sittin...