My Way or the High Way : Do Ultimatums in Relationships Ever Work?



When you’ve been single for quite some time, it’s easy to forget that being in a relationship can, at times, be hard. I won’t lie, the thought of yet another bleak Tinder date where I have to tell some dude what I do for a living and listen to him blabbing on about his list of credentials and have a phat brag about where he went to school, fills me with dread and makes me want to pewk in my mouth a little. Sure, being a single girl in the age of internet dating can be pretty grim but is being in a relationship really that much easier?

Of course, being in a good relationship is probably better than being an dating aficionado but even the best relationships aren’t hearts and flowers one hundred percent of the time. All relationships have tough times where its no longer just about dealing with your own feelings and desires but also about handling another human’s issues on top of your own. Compromise is an important part of any successful relationship and it is certainly helpful when it comes to overcoming the inevitable disagreements which plague all couples. However, there may also come a point with certain arguments where diplomacy is no longer an option and one or both parties reach a breaking point. Today, Dear Rinsers, I’ll be questioning the value of dishing out ultimatums and when, if ever, they can be used successfully to resolve a quarrel or whether they are simply a symptom of being a stubborn, spoiled brat that isn’t getting their own way.

Naturally, the things we argue differ from one couple to the next. There are those simple things that can cause tension such as who does the washing up or takes out the trash. In most cases as long as the two parties are reasonable these sorts of trivial issues can be ironed out over time as people learn to accommodate one another. On the other end of the spectrum you have more contentious issues, the sorts of things that can probably make or break a relationship. These can be big practical matters such as financials or major ideological/religious differences.

When you hit such a relationship roadblock and you’ve pretty much reached your breaking point, it’s tempting to issue an ultimatum basically telling your partner to sort their shit out or the relationship is over. It’s normal to feel that threatening to quit the relationship is better than placing that one day wager in the hopes that you significant other will eventually come around to your way of thinking. Before launching in with such a bold all-or-nothing move it is, however, wise to weigh up your options and the consequences.

Firstly, it’s important for you to establish in your mind what exactly you desire the end result of your actions to be. Of course, you are hoping the ultimatum will result in some dramatic change in your partner but have you considered what you’ll do if they simply shrug their shoulders and move on? If this is your attempt to save the relationship there are probably less risky strategies.

Secondly, consider your reasons for making such demands. Is the change/compromise you are asking your partner really in their best interests or could it be purely for your own benefit? If you for example you force them to give up what you consider to be toxic friendships or their backwater religion before they are ready they may end up with regrets and resent you for it. Think about the long-term damage this could potentially do to your relationship.

Finally, if like many people, you are actually giving in an ultimatum without any intention of truly leaving such empty threats will only serve to help you lose your negotiating power in the future. On the flipside, if you truly are at a point where you have the strength to walk away then maybe using an ultimatum isn’t even really necessary. Perhaps deep down you have this gut feeling that things aren’t working and you are only going through the motions for final confirmation.

To conclude, the aim should be to avoid getting to a point in a relationship where you feel the need to issue an ultimatum. Rather keep the lines of communication open from the get go. Sure, it is easy to tell you to establish your deal breakers from the start and stick to those but people do change and sometimes issues only reveal them further down the line when you are far to emotionally invested to brush things off so easily. Regardless, do try and find out where any potential significant other stands on issues that are important to you as early as possible. And if despite your best efforts you do find yourself at breaking point try to have a deep and meaningful conversation about things and possibly seek advice from trustworthy sources before doing anything drastic.

Good luck!

OK, My Beloved Rinsers. Give us some food for thought in the comments section. Have you ever been forced to issue an ultimatium to get what you wanted in a relationship? Or have you been receiving end of such a threat? Did anything good come of the ultimatum and did it result in the desired outcome? Go wild…





    • Yeah I’ve heard many chicks complaining when they’ve been with a guy for years and he still won’t propose. In these cases I doubt many people would actually walk away they’ve already invested so much. And honestly, is marriage really all that important? If you are in a healthy, happy committed relationship would you really walk away from it over what is essentially a piece of paper and an expensive party?

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Ultimatums usually don’t work whether in a relationship,on the job or in any other facet of life. Unless you are totally prepare to act out the threat then it’s best not to even issue it. Something I used to deal with my ex wife was good on making ultimatums as a way to get my attention in the end it backfired as I ended up leaving and we ended up getting divorced.

    Liked by 2 people

      • I have an expression I tell my kids once spoken words don’t return. Meaning you can’t take back what you say. All the im sorriess will not take back what you say…so here is another expression…think before you speak.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. My ex was a huge fan of ultimatums; even the one that Lifehostage32 stated above, which ended our relationship. The worst one he presented me with though, was go on a once in a life time, expenses paid vacation with my family, or go to my ex’s brother’s wedding. Since my plane ticket was already purchased and it would be the last actual family vacation before I moved out, I decided to go. When I told my ex, he gave me an ultimatum: go on the trip and we break up. We got in the biggest fight since the start of our relationship and I was so infatuated with him at the time, I couldn’t see how manipulative he was being. I ended up missing the trip and going to the wedding where the ex was the best man, so I attended a wedding where I didn’t know anyone, alone. I now regret not going on the trip with my family, but c’est la vie.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This was a very interesting and useful post about giving ultimatums. You made excellent points, in my view.

    I must admit that I can’t recall my husband or I giving each other any major ultimatums in all of our years together. Maybe some piddly thing regarding doing a chore, but nothing more. I do know, however, that me taking my bipolar medications is a mandatory practice. I think if I stopped and became very ill again hubby would have some major problems with that. Maybe then he’d issue an ultimatum to go back on. Actually, it is quite common for spouses of people with mental illness or addictions to give ultimatums to get proper treatment.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah that is quite a serious case and I can see how him giving a ultimatum would be done with the best of intentions. I haven’t been in such a situation myself but I can imagine if you’ve tried everything else an ultimatum could be an option. It’s very different to ppl telling their spouse to marry them or they’ll leave … those sorts of ultimatums are selfish and I doubt could ever achieve a positive sustainable outcomes.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Indeed. An unmedicated person with mental illness can be a terrible partner. I can’t believe that my husband put up with so much before I started getting medicated, but I’ll admit that during those times my behavior and moods weren’t nearly as severe as when my illness really took off. Such behavior can be devastating to a marriage.


      • I’m sure it was tough. I hope things are sorted now. I am sure he understood that your moods were a result of a medical condition and probably not something that an ultimatum could really solve.


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