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Should I Give My Partner an Ultimatum?

Plascilla Foster, LPC, NCC 

A Netflix series entitled “Ultimatum: Marry or Move On,” follows six couples. In each relationship, one partner wants to get married, and the other partner is unsure. Reasons that one partner may choose to give an ultimatum are fear that their time is being wasted, wanting validation that they are important in the relationship, wanting to feel heard, wanting to feel seen, needing to be a priority, desiring to share the same goals with their partner, needing to feel in control, or desiring a stronger commitment. 

Understanding Ultimatums

Ultimatums can be tricky and giving an ultimatum to your partner may do more harm than good. When it comes to giving an ultimatum on choosing to get married or ending the relationship, before giving an ultimatum one may want to ask themselves a few questions. One may want to ask themselves, ”Is this ultimatum about my partner and our relationship, or is it about me?” What does marriage mean to me and how would the waiting period impact that?”, “What needs are not being met in my relationship?” or “How long am I willing to stay in this relationship without progressing to marriage?”  

If one explores the question ”is the ultimatum about me or about the relationship,” they may conclude that the ultimatum is really all about them, and unfortunately maybe in a selfish way. Some of us have a specific plan and timeline of how we desire our lives to turn out. There may not be an issue with having a plan, but if the ultimatum to your partner is more about your vision or plan versus the actual relationship, then this may require deeper self-reflection. For example, having two children by age 32, married by age 27, purchasing a house by age 30, etc., because that is where you have a rooted belief that that is where you should be, and whoever you are with needs to align with these time frames because that is what you want. Some of these time frames may stem from social pressures or comparisons of friends and family around us. If this is the case, this ultimatum is not fair to your relationship.  

Ultimatums around getting married can harm the relationship because even if your partner chooses to marry you versus losing you, this can create resentment in the future. Your partner may not be ready to get married due to wanting to be more financially stable, grounded in their career, or develop more trust in becoming emotionally vulnerable with you. This could show respect for the relationship and that they want to be the best spouse they can be before saying, “I do.”

According to an article written by Plumptre (2021), instead of giving an ultimatum, one may want to express their needs, and concerns through clear communications and setting boundaries. These steps can be processed through couples counseling if it has been a challenge in the relationship. According to Martin (2022), there are several benefits to setting boundaries.  

The Benefits of Setting Clear Boundaries Are:  

  • Increased compassion  
  • Higher probability of needs being met for both partners  
  • Decreased probability of resentment  
  • Decreasing passiveness for sharing your needs  
  • Focusing on and increasing positivity in the relationship between each other

If you find yourself wanting to give an ultimatum to your partner regarding getting married or walking away from the relationship, this may be an indication that unresolved issues are present in your relationship. What are the next steps? Try being more open with your partner about your needs and what makes marriage an important aspect of your life. You may also benefit from engaging in couples counseling. Learn more about all of our counseling services online, and contact Symmetry Counseling to get paired with a Chicago counselor who can help support you in your mental health journey.   

References 

Martin, S. (2022). Benefits of setting boundaries. Livewell. Retrieved May 3, 2022, from,  

https://www.livewellwithsharonmartin.com/6- benefits-of-setting-boundaries/  

Plumptre, E. (2021, December 8). Why giving an ultimatum can hurt your relationship. Very well minded. 

https://www.verywellmind.com/the-reasons-ultimatums-can-harm-your-relationship-5199285

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