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Ultimatums in Relationships: Do They Actually Work?

Ultimatums in Relationships: Do They Actually Work?

Updated on May 27, 2022 | Published on Feb 24, 2022

Reviewed by Julianne Cantarella, MSW, LSW , Certified Relationship Coach

Ultimatums in Relationships - Definition, Importance, Ways, Impact & More

Ultimatums in relationships can be effective or ineffective. Giving your boss that deadline may have aided in your promotion. However, doing the same in a relationship may not always result in a positive outcome.

Being forced into a corner is one of the most unpleasant things we can go through as humans.

This is why demands that rely on the regularity of a shared relationship can often lead to its demise. However, in some cases, ultimatums can lead to a stronger relationship.

If you’re unsatisfied with something about your marriage and family, you might be tempted to issue an ultimatum.

On the other hand, ultimatums in relationships can be a wake-up call that motivates a person to make positive changes for the sake of the relationship.

In other cases, ultimatums can be harmful to the relationship, causing even more harm in the long run.

Therefore, this article highlights ultimatums and their impact on relationships. And suggests more effective alternatives for communicating your desires to your partner.


Ultimatums in Relationships Infographics

Ultimatums in Relationships - Definition, Importance, Ways, Impact & More
Ultimatums in Relationships – Definition, Importance, Ways, Impact & More
Ultimatums in Relationships - Definition, Importance, Ways, Impact & More
Ultimatums in Relationships – Definition, Importance, Ways, Impact & More

Definition of ultimatum in relationships

Summary
Ultimatum in relationships is an unpleasant demand for behavioral change that is accompanied by a threat of losing the relationship and you.

When you issue an ultimatum to your partner, you are warning or demanding that they act in a certain way. And within a certain time frame or risk losing you and the relationship.

Andrea Dindinger, a marriage, and family therapist admits this. Ultimatums are never a good idea in her opinion. “People make ultimatums when they feel powerless to change the other person,” she says.

In a relationship, an ultimatum can manifest itself in a variety of ways. Here are some examples:

  • Giving your partner until the end of the month to decide whether or not to label your relationship
  • Threatening to leave at the end of the year unless you receive a marriage proposal
  • Demanding that your partner cut off a person with whom you disagree or risk losing you

You may be guilty of issuing ultimatums to your loved ones if you find yourself constantly urging them to walk the tightrope or risk losing your relationship.

Why are ultimatums in relationships important?

While ultimatums can be harmful to a relationship, a marriage ultimatum may be required if a couple reaches “rock bottom”(the lowest possible level).

For example, if your marriage has been without sex for several years or your spouse is having an affair. 

You could issue an ultimatum stating that something must change or you will be unable to remain in the relationship.

Ultimatums in relationships should be used only when it is clear that you will be unable to continue the relationship if nothing changes.

They should not be used as silly threats or to manipulate your partner.

Instead, you should only issue an ultimatum to your spouse if you have decided that you cannot stay in the marriage under the current circumstances.

And are willing to leave if your partner does not change his or her behavior. Furthermore, ultimatums are required in an abusive relationship.

If you have been subjected to ongoing physical, sexual, or psychological abuse, a marriage ultimatum is necessary. Because no one has the right to abuse you.

Giving an ultimatum to stop abusive behavior may be your only option. In this case, if you use an ultimatum, you should stick to your decision to leave if the behavior does not improve.

Why do lovers use ultimatums?

Giving ultimatums in a relationship may not be the best way to resolve conflicts. But there’s a reason your partner is issuing an ultimatum to you. Your partner is depressed and helpless.

If you’ve been given an ultimatum, try to see things from your partner’s point of view as well.

While a series of ultimatums results in nothing more than feigning ignorance or a breakup. It is still an aggressive request for assistance.

You’re upsetting your partner with something you’re doing. And your partner’s instincts force them to be aggressive towards you much like a scared animal trapped in a corner.

Isn’t it sad when two lovers don’t understand or care enough about each other to make each other happy?

Therefore, it’s necessary to understand what your partner is going through and try to help them without being angry and giving ultimatums.

Are ultimatums good for relationships?

Ultimatums are not healthy if you do them continuously. Therefore, stop issuing ultimatums to your partner on a regular basis. You’re suffocating the relationship due to this. 

And if you’ve been subjected to a barrage of ultimatums then stop ignoring them. Don’t you see how you’re causing pain to the person who loves you so much?

Ultimatums in a relationship are never helpful.

If you issue an ultimatum to your partner, they may grudgingly comply in order to avoid a fight but deep down since they will be angry and even hate you for it.

You may believe that your partner is not listening to you which is why you must use ultimatums. At the same time, your partner will undoubtedly feel as if you no longer understand them.

Love, respect, and trust are the foundations of successful relationships. You can’t force someone to love you or treat you better.

To make a relationship work, both of you must take the time to build a connection based on relating to each other rather than constantly confronting each other.

Why can ultimatums be damaging to your relationship?

When you’re frustrated with your partner, it’s natural for an ultimatum to come out of your mouth.

However, it’s critical to understand why ultimatums particularly can be extremely damaging in a relationship.

Undoubtedly, there are times when an ultimatum is required. However, most ultimatums are simply expressions of rage and frustration and they are not used at the appropriate time.

Here’s what happens when you issue an ultimatum to your partner.

Maybe you tell your partner that if they don’t stop staying out late and you’re leaving. You’re probably right to be upset about this but is threatening to leave the right course of action?

It isn’t because when you give someone an ultimatum, you force them to choose. In this case, you’re forcing your partner to stop coming home late because you’ll leave if he doesn’t.

But wouldn’t it be preferable if they changed their behavior because they wanted to? Because the two of you discussed it and they realized how their actions were making you feel? 

If they stop coming home late as a result of your ultimatum, they may not understand the root of the problem and are acting in the wrong way.

That will turn into resentment over time and your partner may feel as if you are attempting to control them. It makes no difference if you were correct about them staying out late. 

What is important is that you handled it wrong. It all comes down to communication, hence talk to your partner. 

How to give an ultimatum about relationship

Giving an ultimatum to someone in your life whether it’s a spouse, lover, child, parent, boss, coworker, client, or anyone else is a game-changer. 

By the time you reach this stage, you may have already experienced a great deal of trauma and difficulty.

As a result of this person’s behavior, actions, or comments and thus a great deal of emotion is likely to be tied up in the ultimatum. 

However, you must think clearly and rationally to ensure that this is the only option left to you and more importantly that you truly mean it.

Finally, you must be willing to follow through or walk away from an ultimatum. 

Here is an ultimate step-by-step way to give an ultimatum to your partner.

1. Think about what makes you come to this point of giving ultimatum

Giving an ultimatum is a test of your convictions as well as the other person’s willingness to change their ways.

And it can be very confronting unless you’ve already come to terms with your side of the likely outcome. 

It may appear to be the only option left. However,  it is neither simple nor the only way to progress in a relationship with someone else. 

Before issuing an ultimatum, make sure you’ve exhausted all other options such as discussing, asking, explaining your feelings, demonstrating the consequences, and so on.

2. Examine your own feelings that why you want to give an ultimate

This is a danger zone if you issue an ultimatum as a result of being unable to contain your emotions.

Giving an ultimatum because you’re frustrated, angry, annoyed, fed up, or insecure is a bad idea. 

If the other person does not agree, you are still stuck in your negative emotions. Even if they do agree, your negative feelings may make it difficult.

And if not impossible for you to cope with a change in your relationship’s direction. 

Make sure you’ve worked through all of the issues with clarity and that you’ve assessed how your emotions are influencing your response.

You should proceed only after you have accepted the possible consequences and dealt with your own feelings.

3. Make an honest evaluation of your chances of success of giving ultimatum 

The likelihood of an ultimatum working is determined by a number of factors, including the personality of the person receiving the ultimatum and their own feelings or coping strategies. 

The ultimatum is more likely to have an impact on someone who is stoned all the time and unable to spare a sober moment to work through their self-pity and unhappiness.

Because they are an open person willing to listen and learn from the objective discussion of their ways.

An ultimatum rarely works with someone whose coping abilities have been impaired by depression, drug or alcohol abuse, or other negative coping strategies. 

In this case, facilitating the provision of professional help for them is more important than demanding that they change.

And ultimatums could push them over the edge until they can think clearly. 

An ultimatum may be effective in the following situations:

  • Someone you’ve been dating for a long term but who doesn’t seem to want to commit, a little push from an ultimatum might help. Or, if you know deep down that this person isn’t truly committed to you then the ultimatum is unlikely to work.
  • Someone you care about and someone you know who cares about you but hasn’t been spending much time with you. Or who is too distracted to focus on you due to work or other commitments may be moved by an ultimatum to recognise the impact of their distancing.
  • Someone in your life must make a decision in order for you to make changes to something such as where you live or how a work practice is carried out. However, be careful not to use their indecision or inability to make changes as an excuse to avoid finding alternatives. And more constructive ways to change things to improve your life.

4. Select an appropriate time while issuing ultimatum

The person to whom you are issuing an ultimatum should be alert and willing to engage with you, so choose a time when they have their full attention on you. 

Check to see if they are under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or if they are distracted by something else while talking to you. 

You don’t want them brushing you off or agreeing to anything haphazardly in the name of restoring peace. This will necessitate some careful timing analysis on your part but it will be worthwhile.

Similarly, select a time when you are calm and collected.

It’s pointless to issue an ultimatum in the middle of a screaming match or when you’re so upset or angry that you can’t think straight. The ultimatum requires you to be at your best and think clearly.

5. Try to be honest

If you’re going to issue an ultimatum, make it something that the other person can actually accomplish.

It’s pointless to ask for the moon when the person can barely stand on their own two feet. Don’t ask anything that you know is intended to change the person. 

There is a fine line between asking for bad habits and behaviors to be changed and expecting someone to stop being themselves. 

Help them see that bad behavior is not who they are. In other words, rather than calling them names or implying that they are flawed as people, always focus on the behavior and its consequences for you. 

Never demand an unreasonable or unethical ultimatum from another person. Furthermore, anything you know goes against their heart should not be included in an ultimatum.

6. Make it clear what you expect and what the results will be if the things you’re asking for do not occur 

This should be simple, such as “If X does not happen, then I do Y.” 

For instance:

“If you don’t stop growing this plant in our backyard by next Monday, I’m moving to a place where no drugs are grown in the backyard.”

“We’ve been in a relationship for 10 years. I want to marry you and I need to know if you agree to marry me by the end of this month. If you do not agree with this then please do not go ahead.”

7. Expect a positive or a negative response 

Nobody enjoys being given an ultimatum. It may be exactly what the listener requires at the time. However, that doesn’t make it any easier to hear. 

And it’s likely that you’ve touched a raw nerve for the person who is struggling to overcome the issue you’ve just brought up in no uncertain terms.

As a result, expect resentment and possible negative outcomes. 

For example, asking someone to make a commitment to you can have the opposite effect.

If the person realizes you mean business and your demand clashes with their desire to remain footloose and fancy-free.

Because an ultimatum frequently strikes at the heart of what someone else has been avoiding explicitly clarifying for themselves.

They may choose to view you as the enemy. This is why, if they don’t agree then you must be willing to let go.

The person may be mean to you, gossip about you, bawl at you, snigger at you, ignore you, or berate you.

All of these things are aimed at dismissing you while avoiding their own pain or lack of direction. 

And even if you’re in the right, you should be aware that pushing someone is a risky and potentially damaging move.

8. Be ready to end up if things don’t work out

If the person calls your bluff, you must be absolutely certain that you will walk away or end the situation as specified in your ultimatum. 

As with teaching a toddler to behave, there must be consistent follow-through with the message given. 

And if you’ve just given that person the final message they’ve been waiting to hear, you must be prepared for that outcome and follow through on what you’ve said.

Healthy ultimatums in relationships 

Ultimatums can destroy relationships and disrupt the mental health of both partners. However, there are some ultimatums that can be beneficial in relationships. 

This section contains seven ultimatums that will assist you in re-establishing peace in your relationship!

You are laying everything out on the table for your partner by owning your confidence. And respectfully communicate your needs and values to them.

If they choose to work with you to improve a specific issue or behavior, the relationship can progress.

This is accomplished through a positive ultimatum which is given during a calm moment when both of you are listening to and respecting each other’s feelings.

1. Tell them not to say it again because it hurts

You are laying everything out on the table for your partner by owning your confidence. And respectfully communicate your needs and values to them. 

If they choose to work with you to improve a specific issue or behavior then the relationship can progress. Simply tell your partner their words hurt you and don’t use them again. 

2. Tell them you will do something else if they are busy on phone

A positive ultimatum is given in a calm moment when both of you are listening to and respecting each other’s feelings. 

A healthy ultimatum can also be based on the conversation’s actual intent: Are you threatening your partner?

Is the ultimatum issued after several chances and discussions about the issue? Then, you are doing it wrong. 

If they are always on their phone then tell them clearly, you can do anything if they are always busy on their phone. 

3. Ask for some time to be prepared while heading out

Even something as simple as ensuring your partner understands your needs as you prepare to go out can significantly reduce the strain on your relationship. 

If your partner continues to limit the amount of time you have available, you can inform them that they can go out without you.

While not everyone has the same priorities, it is critical to respect your partner’s priorities and vice versa.

4. Tell them it hurts when they message their ex

We occasionally test each other’s boundaries. So, ultimatums serve to reinforce them so that they are clear and understood by both parties. 

It is critical to remind ourselves that people do not intentionally harm us even when they violate our boundaries. 

While confronting your partner about contacting their ex. And if your partner does not see your point of view, then it is up to you to decide whether or not this is a deal-breaker. 

By explaining to your partner how their actions make you feel, you can approach the situation with genuine concern rather than anger and resentment.

5. Tell them not to watch TV together since you both want to watch different channels

Remember that when you issue an ultimatum to your partner. You have no control over how they will react or whether anything will change. 

Instead, remind yourself that this ultimatum is for you. And to know your worth, how you should be treated, and what you deserve in a relationship. 

Consider an ultimatum to be self-care rather than an attempt to exert control over another person. You’re issuing one because you believe it’s the only way you’ll be able to care for yourself.

6. Express your feelings of improving relationship

Above all, the discussion should focus on you and your partner devising a solution to improve your relationship. Or defining the level of commitment you are both willing to make. 

If your partner is unwilling to make the type of commitment you desire, you may be ready to move on. 

By explaining to your partner that you want to be exclusive in a clear and calm manner, you are laying out your expectations.

While this is a tough ultimatum, it is a proactive way to stand up for what you want.

7. Talk about managing money and finances

Finances and money are difficult subjects to address and important ones which is why it is critical to address any financial concerns or issues calmly. The manner in which you do it is more important. 

You may have a better outcome if you come across as loving but extremely concerned about your problem.

By being open about your financial expectations, especially if you share bank accounts. 

You begin a discussion about ground rules that will work for both of you.

Ultimatums in relationships: What Psychology says

According to Psychology, ultimatums in relationships are like a lose and win game, where one has to do something on the demand of the partner. 

These are issued by those who believe their needs are not being met and issue ultimatums. The reason behind issuing this ultimatum is to analyze if the partner is genuine or not. 

Psychology says that both partners give ultimatums but women are most likely to give them. Generally, female partners issue ultimatums to save the relationship for a long time. 

The one who issues ultimatums is considered a selfish behavior that neglects the choice of another person in a relationship. It’s like threatening them with dire results if they don’t do what you want.

The following are some of the reasons why someone in a relationship might issue an ultimatum:

1. To increase your power in the relationship

Ultimatums are a common way to show power and lead the relationship in its own way. Therefore, this could be a common reason behind issuing an ultimatum. 

An ultimatum is a type of power play in which one person exerts control over the other.

Ultimatums may be common in relationships where power struggles are constant. It is when a person wants to show who is the boss in the relationship. 

2. Lack of effective communication

Communication is key in any relationship. Therefore, if one gives ultimatums to another person, it’s because of a lack of communication between them. 

Men who lack emotional intelligence and communication skills are less likely to notice signs that women are expected to notice.

Due to the lack of communication, the woman is forced to issue an ultimatum to get her message across.

3. Trust issues between you and your partner

If a relationship lacks trust, then issuing an ultimatum can be a very common practice. As trust is the foundation of any relationship, both partners should impose it. 

Otherwise, it can lead to frustration and ultimately issuing ultimatums such as “if you keep talking to your ex, I will leave the home”.

Ultimatums arise because of such causes in a relationship. However, there are certain ways to avoid it.

According to psychology, these could be effective ways to avoid ultimatums in a relationship. 

  • Communication with your partner should be a top priority at all times. Start by listening without interrupting to understand your and their feelings. 
  • When you and your partner sit down and talk about what’s been bothering you, you’ll be able to identify the triggers and set boundaries. Make an effort to give your boundaries choices.
  • Try to resolve the conflicts in the relationship as soon as possible to avoid any further big issues such as giving ultimatums or deadlines. 
  • Understand your partner and try to maintain their needs and wants. This is a common way to keep the relationship happy and healthy. 

Ultimatums that are not good to give your partner

Ultimatums can be harmful to your relationship, and they are sometimes simply unfair.

Requesting one of the following five changes from your partner can be interpreted as a way to manipulate them into giving you your way, which is not a healthy way to use ultimatums in relationships:

1. Asking to do something to show you how much they love you

It is never fair to tell your partner that failing to comply with your ultimatum will show that they do not truly love you. 

We all express love in different ways and your partner can love you without giving in to an unreasonable demand.

This is a difficult situation to put your partner in and it is merely a tool for manipulation.

2. Demanding your partner change what is important to them

Maybe your partner has a weekly night out with girls, or maybe he meets up with friends twice a week to play basketball.

In any case, never tell your partner that you will end the relationship if they do not give up something important to them.

You may feel left out but maintaining separate interests and enjoying our own activities is part of being in a healthy relationship.

Assume your partner’s decision to pursue their activities bothers you. In that case, instead of issuing a relationship ultimatum, it is probably time to evaluate your own feelings, such as jealousy.

3. Demanding your partner to quit his or her job

You may believe you have a valid reason, such as unease that a coworker is too close to your partner.

However, it is never acceptable to ask your partner to give up a job for you. One of the most important aspects of your partner’s identity is his or her career.

So, if you feel compelled to issue a relationship ultimatum involving the loss of a job, it is critical to investigate the underlying issues that have brought you to this point.

4. Putting your partner in the position of having to choose between you and another important person in their life

Isolating your spouse from friends and family is a bad habit. Requesting that your partner give up a key relationship in order for you to be happy is a form of control and social isolation.

Maintaining social ties with other important people is an important part of having a healthy relationship.

It is one thing to ask your spouse to give up an affair partner. However, it is never acceptable to demand that your partner simply cut off a lifelong friend or sibling.

You may have to accept that you will not always like all of your spouse’s friends or family members.

However, this is a situation that necessitates compromise and honest conversation, not a relationship ultimatum.

5. Forcing your partner to do something in the bedroom with which they are not comfortable

It is never acceptable to demand or allow sexual activities that make your partner uncomfortable. Whether it involves trying out a sexual fantasy or opening up the marriage to other sexual partners.

Sexual intimacy between two people in a relationship should be a pleasurable form of interaction and should never involve forced activities. This can lead to resentment and make one party feel unsafe or disrespected.

In a healthy relationship, one partner should never threaten to leave or have their needs met elsewhere. If the other does not comply with all sexual requests.

When to use ultimatums in a relationship

Ultimatums put a strain on a relationship that can be irreparable over time. If you want to help your partner change, sit down with them.

Ask them calmly and softly why they are having such difficulty changing their behavior for the better.

Ultimatums and angry words grow egos in a relationship and these egos form a thick wall between you both. And as long as you don’t let go of your ego, you’ll have to deal with ultimatums.

However, if both of you can learn to let go of your egos and speak truthfully about each other’s feelings. You will both feel more loved and will be able to avoid ultimatums in love.

In some cases, ultimatums may be the only option. If you’ve had several conversations and nothing has changed, issuing an ultimatum is a good way to set a limit.

It’s critical that if you set a boundary like this then you stick to it.

If you tell your partner that you can no longer tolerate their behavior whatever it is and that if they do it again. You will leave the relationship and you must keep your word.

You are eroding the value of the ultimatum if you do not do so and your partner will not take you seriously.

What you must understand is that the fact that you are having to issue serious ultimatums like this does not function well for your relationship. In that case, do you really want to hang around?

What is an alternative to an ultimatum in a relationship?

Relationship ultimatums are frequently harmful and should only be used as a last resort when all other options have been exhausted. 

Before issuing a marriage ultimatum, it is important to experiment with some relationship alternatives to ultimatums.

The most reasonable alternative to issuing a relationship ultimatum is to sit down with your partner and have an honest and open conversation.

For this conversation to be effective, you must remain calm and respectful while also ensuring that both you and your partner have an opportunity to speak.

For example, you may be dissatisfied with the amount of time your partner spends with friends because it interferes with household duties.

If this is the case, instead of telling your partner that you will leave if they do not stop hanging out with friends, you can have an open discussion about household responsibilities.

The option described above is far more effective than simply issuing a marriage ultimatum. It gives your partner a chance to weigh in on the situation and is less likely to evoke resentment or appear as a demand.

For these conversations to be effective, both you and your partner must be willing to listen to each other.

The preceding exercise allows each partner to speak and listen. Both are able to express their emotions without interruption, ensuring that each member of the relationship feels heard.

Finally, the goal of this exercise is to reach a compromise that is acceptable to both parties.

Rather than being dramatic and requiring one partner to completely give in, such a compromise is fair.

It results in each partner wanting to make changes for the other, rather than building resentment after being forced to make changes.

How to respond to an ultimatum in a relationship?

Going through a rough patch in your relationship is completely normal, even the best of couples go through it.

However, in some cases, these ups and downs may lead to your partner requiring you to make a major decision in the relationship.

The advice provided below will assist you in determining how to react when your partner gives you an ultimatum.

1. Ask yourself what would you do in their situation

The first thing to do is apply the golden rule test to the situation. Was your behavior something you’d like to have done to you?

Would you have issued an ultimatum if you were in the same situation? 

If you answer yes, you can consider whether the final decision is ultimately better for the relationship.

If you come to the conclusion that you would never act in the manner in which your partner is acting, you may need to reject their ultimatum.

2. You can accept the ultimatum

If you believe the ultimatum is reasonable in light of the circumstances, you can explain to your partner why you value their decision.

You should also talk about how to avoid getting to the point where an ultimatum is required in the first place. 

Do you require additional communication? Are your relationship styles unique? Put it all out there and you’ll be less likely to find yourself at this crossroads in the near future.

3. If you don’t compromise, reject it

Refusing your significant other’s ultimatum does not mean the relationship is over. First of all, explain why you don’t think their ultimatum is the best thing for the two of you. 

Moreover, tell them you’ve applied the golden rule to yourself.

Tell them how you would have handled the situation differently or why you believe the ultimatum is unfair. Once this is done, you can begin to compromise.

4. You can compromise if want to improve the relationship

When you reject an ultimatum, leave room for compromise. When good reasoning is presented to people, they tend to change their minds. 

If your conversations have been fruitful, your partner may decide to drop the ultimatum and focus on moving things forward.

5. You can find a mid way or discuss with them

If your significant other refuses to budge from an unreasonable ultimatum, you may need to consider moving on. Don’t be afraid to take a stand.

Remember that living with an unfair ultimatum will not make you happy, and it will not be good for your relationship.

How to stop giving ultimatums to your partner?

If you’ve discovered that you have conflict in your relationship and that ultimatums aren’t working, it’s time to abandon this method.

This is when you use an ultimatum as a manipulative tool to get your way, to force your partner to give up passions that make you jealous.

Or to persuade your partner to choose you over a job or another important relationship.

Instead of using ultimatums, investigate the underlying relationship issues that are driving your desire to issue an ultimatum.

Do you feel estranged from your partner?

Is your partner failing to meet your emotional needs?

Sit down and have an open conversation, allowing your partner to express their thoughts.

You can reach a compromise or set a boundary using this method without making your partner feel threatened or manipulated.

Assume you’re having difficulty resisting the use of ultimatums in a relationship or you’re dealing with resentment as a result of marriage ultimatums.

In that case, it may be time to consult with a couple’s therapist.

This person is a trained professional who can assist you in developing healthier ways of interacting with your partner. Moreover, expressing your needs within the relationship.

How to cope up with ultimatums in relationship?

Examine the issue through your partner’s eyes. As a result, you’re assisting your partner in seeing the solution through your eyes.

An ultimatum can only be handled in two ways. You abide by it or you can choose to ignore it.

The only way to express your dissatisfaction with your partner’s behavior is to sit down. And have an open and honest conversation about it.

Your partner does not have the ability to read your thoughts. How can they know they’re upsetting you unless you explain clearly and carefully why their actions are causing you to feel a certain way?

Of course, communication means they get to tell their side of the story as well. It is critical that you pay attention.

It’s entirely possible that you’ll find a solution this way. In fact, it’s extremely likely. However, it is critical not to point the finger of blame or use language that makes them feel as if you are attacking them. 

Avoid phrases like “you always do this”, “you make me feel bad”, and “I hate it when you do this”.

Instead, use phrases like “I frequently feel xyz”, “I would like to say xyz” and so on.

Boundaries vs ultimatums in relationships

We constantly hear our therapists discuss boundaries and the value they provide in our relationships.

Boundaries are essential for our emotional health as well as our own self-esteem and feelings of worth.

Setting boundaries in our relationships can help us communicate with our partners what is and is not acceptable. But what is the difference between a boundary and an ultimatum? 

A boundary is a line at the bottom of something. A boundary means that if nothing changes, you’re telling your partner that you can’t stay and that you need them to know that. 

You must be aware that you will need to leave the relationship or follow through on what you told your partner would happen. 

Simply put, you must say what you mean and mean what you say. This is why boundaries are frequently interpreted as ultimatums or threats. 

Most of the time, we are very good at telling our partners what needs to change, but not so good at carrying out the consequences.

This is why setting and maintaining boundaries can be difficult. 

Who wants to end a relationship or make their partner unhappy because of their actions?

So, how do we draw the line? The first step is to consider your personal values and core beliefs. 

The more we can live in accordance with our own values and moral system, the happier we feel. The next step is to express clearly to your partner what you will and will not tolerate. 

Your partner is not a mind reader. If you do not express your needs clearly and concretely, he or she will not realize that what he or she is doing is unacceptable. 

You’re inviting your partner to ignore your requirements. You must back up your boundary with action.

Some examples of action boundaries include telling your partner. If you are in a monogamous relationship and they do not honor this, you will leave the relationship. 

For example, set a boundary with your personal time by telling a friend that you’ve decided to take personal calls on Saturdays after 10:00 am in order to spend mornings with your children.

And that you’ll need to call them back after 10:00 am. 

It is critical to back up the boundary with action.

If your boundary is violated, you must respond in a direct and firm manner. This is usually where things get complicated.

We don’t want our partners or friends to think we’re being rude or hurting their feelings, so we often give in at this point. 

What we’ve done is start a cycle of using ultimatums. We communicated our boundary, it was crossed, and we basically let it go.

The bottom line

Sometimes setting an ultimatum in a relationship is unavoidable. But there is always a better way if you can put your egos aside and face the problem together. 

An ultimatum is a demand that comes with a threat, thereby it’s not good for the relationship.

Therefore, before coming to this step, you should understand the perspective of the other side of the coin. 

Keep your anger at bay by seeing things from their perspective as well as your own. Learn to listen to one another and speak openly. You won’t need any ultimatums!

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