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The relationship ultimatum is a common trope in movies and TV, but is it a good idea in real life? It can definitely seem like one; maybe your boyfriend is dragging his feet when it comes to getting down on bended knee or is at the office so much you barely ever see his face. If you feel like you’re at a breaking point and need him to do something or the relationship will be over, issuing an ultimatum may seem like a smart way to make it clear that you mean business. Although it can feel natural to blurt one out in the heat of the moment or even after a lot of thought, I’d still caution most people against giving someone an ultimatum

Let’s think about why ultimatums usually come about: One person isn’t doing something the other person wants. They often occur after the topic has been talked to death and one person thinks the relationship can no longer function unless some big changes are made. The goal is for those changes to happen in an organic fashion, but an ultimatum is more about forcing someone’s hand. It’s wielding power in a way that can very easily harm a relationship. Plus, would you really want your guy to do something just because you basically threatened him?

I asked my boyfriend what he would say if I gave him an ultimatum. I offered the example of figuring out our end date: “What if I said if you don’t move to New York in the next few months, we’re breaking up?” He didn’t have to think very long before responding, “I’d feel very cornered. I might do it but push back and frustrate you in other ways.” My boyfriend is the least passive-aggressive person I know, so that’s a big hint an ultimatum wouldn’t be the best way to get him to do something he might happily do otherwise.

The issue with ultimatums is that they make your S.O. feel like he’s not in control of his own life. No one wants to lose independence when dating someone (and let’s be real, guys are usually especially freaked out by this). You can express that something’s really important to you without commanding him, and you can even get the idea across that your relationship will be untenable if a certain thing doesn’t happen. It’s all about how you frame it. Instead of something like, “If you don’t propose in 2015, I’m breaking up with you,” you can say something like, “I feel like at this point we’re ready to move on to the next step. I want us to be on the same page about this, and I’m hoping we can get engaged by the end of 2015. If you’re not ready for that to happen, I think we might have to reevaluate if this is the right relationship for both of us.” See the difference? It’s like ultimatum lite. Gets the point across but in a much less scary way.


What do you think? Let us know in the comment section below!

The Experience: Is it Ever Okay to Give an Ultimatum?!?  was originally published on