Many people use ultimatums within their relationships in hopes to change a behavior or to get what they want from the other person. My immediate thought is, if you have to give an ultimatum–then you are not with the right person. Why? If you were with the right person, both people would be on the same page in which there would be no need to give an ultimatum. For example, if you have to say to someone, “I will only date you if….(fill in the blank)“ then it shows that you are not accepting the person for who they are and you are potentially forcing someone to change against their will. Meaning that even if the person complies and gives in to the ultimatum, it often times is not their personal choice and can cause resentment over time. Rather than trying to force upon a change within the relationship with an ultimatum, it is much healthier to communicate with your partner what your needs, expectations, and boundaries are from the start. If you find that your significant other is falling short of what you ultimately are looking for in a life partner, even after you have spelled it out and have had open discussions about it–rather than giving an ultimatum, you are actually just better off breaking it off because chances are, the person’s behavior was not going to change anyhow and as I mentioned before, it is clear that both people were not in sync enough with one another. Too often I see people trying to change their partners with various tactics including ultimatums and they simply fail because it just reveals the incompatibility between two people and that they do not belong together.
Let’s look at the flip side of the coin for just a moment. What if you are the recipient of an ultimatum? Hypothetically, what if your partner is imposing an ultimatum on you? Now what? Again, the bottom line is that you have two people with a totally different outlook on the relationship and chances are, the relationship is not built to last. I also consider ultimatums to be a control tactic and a red flag immediately goes up if I were to be in a situation where someone has to give me one. Personally, I have a ‘take it or leave it’ approach to my relationships so if a person is going to give me an ultimatum, my response is, “We are better off breaking up because I’m not going to do something that I am not comfortable with.” Again, I do not want anyone putting demands on me that go against my value system and the core of who I am. If someone cannot accept me for me then I know that I am in a much better position terminating the relationship on the spot and being alone as opposed to continuing a relationship that easily can turn into a very toxic and controlling one. It is a lose/lose situation either way because ultimatums tend to cause separation, tension, and future problems. If one person complies, they are setting themselves up for an unhealthy relationship by giving their partner the power to continue to control them. If the recipient decides to end the relationship, then the other person is at a loss of their partner when they might have been able to find a healthy solution or communicate in a way that would have prevented a permanent break up.
This leads me to my final point that ultimatums should be avoided altogether as there are much better ways to promote healthy change through providing positive support to one another, making a commitment to express self openly and honestly at all times, and offering fair compromises to create unison. If you find that you are in a relationship where your partner is placing unreasonable demands on you or that you are with someone who is not capable of making the changes needed on their own terms to ensure a lasting future, then do not forget that you always have the option to walk away, never look back, and start over–and there is nothing wrong with that.