When to Give an Ultimatum

I’ve written before about why ultimatums rarely work in relationships.   Relationship ultimatums tend to go along the lines of “Change your behavior, or I leave.”  Most of these ultimatums don’t work because the person issuing the ultimatum isn’t ready to follow through with the threat to end the relationship; however, there are times when an ultimatum is in order

An ultimatum is a final demand that, if not met, will result in a direct action.  In the case of the relationship ultimatum, the direct action is leaving the relationship.   The word “final” is a crucial part of the definition.  In some relationships, it isn’t clear whether you can move forward with your partner.  You reach a point where it is less important for you to keep the relationship intact than it is for you to live your life a certain way.  You might love your partner dearly, but their behavior hurts the relationship in a way that you no longer wish to tolerate.  If you tell your partner for the first time that their behavior is upsetting, then an ultimatum is not called for.  This is because the ultimatum, as defined above, is a last resort, a final demand.  It is time to resort to a final demand when you have tried everything else.

If you have already asked your partner to change the hurtful behavior, and you are unhappy with the lack of response over time, you might be considering an ultimatum.  You can only give a truthful ultimatum if you are indeed ready to end the relationship.  If you aren’t ready yet, there is no point in rushing things by issuing an ultimatum that you can’t follow through on.  If this is the case, try move your focus from your partner’s behavior to your own.  Issue yourself an ultimatum to change your behavior of accepting poor treatment.  This will help you to gather the courage to leave if necessary.  Once you have that courage, you may no longer be interested in issuing an ultimatum in the first place, because you may simply end the relationship.  But, if you still have such an interest, the time to issue an ultimatum is when you have the courage and means to follow through on it.

Other posts that you might find interesting:

Finding the Courage to Leave a Relationship

A Breakup Disguised as an Ultimatum

Ultimatums and Power