Giving your partner an ultimatum can sometimes feel like the best decision for your relationship. You may have reached a point where you’ve gone through a lot of difficulty with your partner and you believe an ultimatum is the only solution to correct his or her behavior. Unfortunately, when we try to force change to someone’s behavior, it has a tendency to backfire.
The problem with ultimatums is that they are laced with emotion, usually from a build-up of previous exhausted efforts to get your partner to do something that you want or to change a behavior pattern. And it’s after you’ve tried numerous attempts, had many discussions and explained how you felt that you may reach a conclusion that the only choice left is to issue an ultimatum.
Even though you may feel as though you are presenting your partner with a choice, at the very root, an ultimatum is about control. That is because an ultimatum is framed as a definite and unmovable option and there isn’t any room for compromise. When there is no room for compromise and you give your partner an either/or, you are basically trying to control their choice to be in line with what you want.
Now there is a difference between setting boundaries and giving ultimatums, even though they can appear to be one in the same because on the idea is to set a limit on what someone else may or may not do. However, boundaries are more about choice than ultimatums. Although some may contend that giving someone an ultimatum presents them with a choice, their choice to change or do what you are demanding is not based on a genuine desire, it’s more based on fear of the consequence. This is why ultimatums often lead to resentment because no one likes to be forced or pressured to do something. On the other hand, setting boundaries through healthy discussion teaches your partner about how your expectations for the relationship and you remain open to compromise, even if you have some hard lines with your expectations. Boundaries are expressed with love and compassion whereas an ultimatum is usually spoken in anger and frustration. It’s difficult to get much accomplished when coming from a place of anger and negativity.
If you have to resort to giving an ultimatum, make sure you clearly think about all the consequences for doing so. Usually an ultimatum is given with the assumption that it will force someone to do what you request and that has a tendency to backfire. People typically rebel when they are being forced to do something and it can often come as a shock or surprise if the one you give an ultimatum to decides to call your bluff. So it’s important that you’ve thought very clearly and rationally about all the options on the table and that giving your partner an ultimatum is something that you will definitely follow through on.