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Ultimatums in a Relationship and How to Use Them Right

ultimatums in a relationship

Do you hate your partner’s behavior? Find out how to use ultimatums in a relationship the right way and better the love instead of making it worse.

Differences in relationships can crop up all the time.

After all, we weren’t all created in pairs that perfectly mesh with each other.

But what do you do about it?

And how do you sort those annoying differences?

In most relationships, couples learn to understand each other’s likes and dislikes and work around them to keep each other happy.

But every now and then, there comes a few circumstances when we don’t really care about our partner’s opinions.

And when that happens, ultimatums in a relationship may start crawling into your life.

[Read: 7 secret signs your relationship is starting to go bad]

What is an ultimatum in a relationship?

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.

Have you ever done that? Chances are, you have. When things start to get frustrating, it’s easier to give an ultimatum instead of talking about something that can’t be solved. [Read: 9 relationship stages that all couples go through]

Why do lovers use ultimatums?

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 notice these ultimatums, they’re rude and painful. But somewhere deep within, it’s an insecure plea for a better relationship. [Read: 12 tips to be a happy couple that’s envied by all]

Are ultimatums really helping anyone?

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 there’s only two ways to dealing with an ultimatum. You comply with it. Or you ignore it. [Read: Top 20 reasons for divorce most couples ignore]

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.

[Read: 25 sweet romantic gestures for everyday life]

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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Elizabeth Arthur
Elizabeth Arthur
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...
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6 thoughts on “Ultimatums in a Relationship and How to Use Them Right”

  1. Marla says:

    One time ultimatums are helpful is when your partner is repeatedly doing something that is a dealbreaker for you. He could readily stop (or sincerely try and talk to you about it) but doesn’t choose to respond because, frankly, he doesn’t care how unhappy you feel about it. He doesn’t think it’s “that bad” and expects you continue sucking it up. An ultimatum from you is simply a heads up that you’re leaving–and real soon. The point is not to”make him change”. Instead, it effectively and honestly describes the consequences and makes it impossible for your partner to claim later that “he didn’t know” there would be any. Anyone who has ignored an ultimatum–but expected the relationship to continue as before–feels incredibly stupid to have misjudged the situation and destroyed a good thing. Hopefully for them, they wanted the relationship to end. If not, they hate themselves for pushing things beyond the point of no return. Although it is too late to ever recover that relationship, now lost forever–i know at least a dozen men who made this mistake and NEVER made it again. If you are their next GF, you can count on your BF being very attentive to your concerns and willing to talk and make changes.

  2. Howl says:

    People grossly over-estimate their own importance. The way to win in this scenario is to state 1) I am free to say/do as I please. That is something you will have to learn to deal with. If you want to give me an ultimatum it shows that our relationship is not what I thought it was. Maybe we should go separate ways. What do you think?
    You’ve either won yourself freedom or got rid of a weight around your neck.
    Alternatively, if your partner is doing something which is really that massive an issue for you, then tell them ‘What you are doing with regard to X is causing me pain, do you realise that? Would you consider changing your behaviour? If yes then great, that’s fair enough. If not, then then just cut the dead wood and get on with your life.

  3. Lucy says:

    Okay so I totally agree with this, it makes complete sense. But how do I avoid an ultimatum and still stop him from hanging out with his female friend. I’m aware that he’s not going to cheat on me and that she’s happy in her marriage, but the two of us hate each other. I know I’m going to still be here longer than she will, but it drives me nuts when he makes plans with her. How do I fix this without presenting an ultimatum? (i.e. Stop spending time with her or I’m gone)

  4. Carina says:

    I have been the main support for myself and bf. He works side jobs in construction but few and far between. I pay the rent. He’s lived w me now almost 3 years and hasnt gotten a steady job. He stays home, cooks, but mainly hangs around the house watching sports. Ive tried encouraging him to seek help for finding a job, pain issues, depression issues. He has helped fix things around the house but i believe he needs to be actively seeking a job to help with rent too. I dont think its fair for him to keep living rent free plus hed feel better if he worked or even at a volunteer job. It feels like hes just along for the ride until i put my foot down. So i said that i want to see him getting a job and taking care of his issues or we should part ways by June when the lease is up on the rental.

  5. Ultima says:

    I never thought I’d be one to ever think of an ultimatum. But here I am. So I’ve been having this issue with the boyfriend for a while, and something he said completely changed my perspective on the entire thing. Basically, for the past 2 years we have been together he has not done much. He’s had around 3ish jobs that have not lasted that long, (one that broke MY car and he was unable to help me pay/save for a new one), and he is not going to school (even though his dream is to be a history professor). That’s a long story short. Longer version is in my history, but it seems silly to re-post it in this post and make it even longer. So long story short, he says the reason he doesn’t go to school and spend 8 years getting his degree is because he’s never found school challenging and he gets bored being in classes. What. The. Fu*k. Is that why he’s at where he is in life right now? Relying on me and my part time job heavily to feed him. He’s living for free at his bro’s apartment but they’re getting evicted and he doesn’t know where he’s going to go, prolly stay at his friends place. The thing about that is he constantly bitches about the people he lives with, whether it be his brother’s place or his friend’s place. So he’s 3 weeks away from being homeless. He was telling me the other day he doesn’t have socks because people took them all. He can’t even get himself a pair of fuc*in socks. This entire time I didn’t mind helping him too much until recently because I figured I was just helping him back on his feet. Apparently not. Apparently he’s not planning on doing anything. He was being super picky about the jobs he applied to until it was suddenly critical because of the real threat of being homeless. I used to be all sympathetic to his problems, but now I’ve suddenly realized it’s all his fault. Because he doesn’t do anything to get out of the situation, all he does is complain. I almost rented a room for us off my limited income so we could finally move in together; the only reason I didn’t was because the room owners never answered. I’m so glad about that now. I feel so dumb. I guess this brings me to this question. I’m going to talk to him after my test Wednesday about this. I don’t know if I’ll stay with him. If I give him an ultimatum, “get your shit together or I’m out”,(Phrased more diplomatically, I’m just mad right now) , will that really motivate him? I’m worried that if I do that then he’ll only be motivated temporarily, but since it’s not his own motivation he’ll burn out and stop.,

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