Is asking your spouse or partner an ultimatum really a good plan? If it can or convince her to take the plunge, not sure if it is a healthy foundation for the couple. Experts enlighten us on the question.
After a seven-year relationship, “Melanie” (the names of this story have been changed) received a marriage proposal from “Jeff” last year … accompanied by an ultimatum. Not long ago, her boyfriend cheated on her and ended their relationship. However, they stayed in touch, having planned a trip the following month.
A few days before departure, without warning, he asked her for his hand – leaving him only two options: agree to marry him, or permanently break all ties between them. The young woman replied that she needed to think about it, especially given the instability that had recently characterized their relationships.
“Her attitude really gave me the feeling of being trapped,” she told the American HuffPost. “I kept falling apart as soon as I found myself alone. He had left me only that choice, to say yes or lose him on all fronts, when he was also my best friend for almost 20 years.”
The couple tried to find a solution for several months before ending up breaking up at the start of the year, with Jeff’s authoritarian tendencies becoming more pronounced.
Of course, all cases of the ultimatum (“If we are not engaged or married before a certain date, I leave you”) do not have this frankly manipulative side. Some, frustrated by the impression of not advancing in their relationship, may believe that their only chance is to increase the pressure (a little secret: they are wrong). In the event of communication problems, they sometimes find it difficult to express their position in a less clear-cut manner.
“In general, the results are rarely positive, but it all depends on the situation,” said Samantha Rodman, psychologist and relationship coach.
We asked marriage specialists what can push people to these extremes, why it usually backfires, and how to handle such a situation in a more balanced way.
The reasons for the approach
Demanding marriage can be an awkward attempt to get their needs met. The person is trapped between his desire for commitment and the fact that his spouse is not ready. But it is his way of handling this difficulty that poses the problem.
“For me, [the individuals concerned] wish to respect the hesitations of the other and allow him time to make his way … But at the same time, they feel the need to affirm what is essential in their eyes, which leads them to set a deadline, “says psychologist Ryan Howes.
But if you believe it, another more unconscious reason may also come into play. Issuing an ultimatum is somewhere a way of discharging responsibility for such a decision by placing it entirely on the shoulders of the ‘other.
“They prefer to leave the last word to their partner because they themselves have not really taken stock of what they expect from the relationship.” In other words, this approach is in fact the expression of uncertainty, which leads the person to give up his own capacity for choice.
“His attitude really gave me the feeling of being trapped. I kept falling apart as soon as I found myself alone. He had left me only this choice, to say yes or lose him until his friendship. ”
“To really assert yourself is to know what you want and to be ready to ask for it. It is a riskier strategy, but also much more effective.”
“If you want to get married, why not just say it and ask your spouse what he thinks? If he does not want or is not ready, then you can choose to leave or be patient, knowing that the right time may come in six months or not at all. ”
Then ask yourself if you still want to try your luck.
“If you are prepared to wait, then go for it. And if you prefer to go looking for someone who is more confident, it is also your choice. Forcing your partner to decide for both of you is somewhat refuse to take control of your future. ”
Why it doesn’t work (at least not in the long term)
Imagine that you have made the deal: if your dear and dear are still not ready to publish the banns by the summer, you will plant them there to find someone else. Who knows, he might give in for fear of losing you … But is that really how you want to start this new big chapter in your life?
“No one likes to be forced and forced to do something,” said Samantha Rodman. “But it’s different to clearly express your needs and wants, for example, if you really want to have your ring on your finger before 30 or if the lack of long-term commitment is undermining your feelings. important to share it all as part of a couple. ”
What if the other says no? “Be ready · e from if necessary, but do not leverage.”
“If you want to get married, why not just say it and ask your spouse what he thinks about it?”
For Ryan Howes, if issuing an ultimatum seems to be your only recourse in such a situation, it is in itself a serious red flag. Marriage is a lifetime spent making choices together, discussing, debating and finding compromises. Many other major decisions will still mark your way …
“If, from the start of your union, you are already considering such a violent way of imposing your will, what can that say about your future? What will happen if you then disagree on having children or how to raise them, your careers, or even financial issues – daily budget, savings, investments, inheritance? Isn’t it better to play on communication and taking care of taking into account the wishes of the other, instead of creating such a balance of power? ”
One point to understand: there is a huge difference between asserting your desires and needs and asking for an ultimatum. No one is asking you to sacrifice what you think is essential (in this case, marriage). It all depends on how to express these imperatives.
“If the person sincerely thinks that failing to pass this stage, he will not be able to continue the relationship, then to say it clearly is a proof of honesty”, estimates Samantha Rodman. “An ultimatum has something wrong, like a threat that is brandished without intending to carry it out.”
And be aware that even if the other end up saying yes, the episode could leave some bitterness between you. It is never pleasant to be put on the wall.
“Some of my clients who have gone through such an experience have kept their regrets and feelings of anger,” says Samantha Rodman.