Ultimatums are pretty much the worst all around: Horrible to give, horrible to receive, and overall a last-gasp move that is usually unfair and often quite painful for all parties involved. If ultimatums are on a spectrum, though, what are the ultimatums that are unfair in a relationship under any circumstances? Generally, it's common practice and universally understood that ultimatums are a bad idea, and that you really should avoid such an action at all cost. But if your back is up against the wall and you feel as though you have no other options — other than leaving your love — what do you do?
"I feel that ultimatums are a form of emotional and mental abuse; if you feel the need to bring one up, regardless of why, get to a therapist and work out your issues before you work out the relationship," zen psychotherapist and neuromarketing strategist Michele Paiva tells Bustle.
I spoke with dating, relationship and love experts about their views on ultimatums, and they all had fascinating and slightly different takes on the whole deal. Keep in mind that if you are in a relationship that makes you feel as though you need to issue an ultimatum, there is a chance you're with an emotionally, mentally, physically or spiritually abusive mate, and there is tons of help out there for you, because you don't ever have to live like that.
Without further ado, scroll on to find the ultimatums that are not OK in relationships.
1. The "If You Really Loved Me, You Would …" Ultimatum
"Anything that starts with, 'If you loved me you would …'" is unacceptable, plain and simple, relationship coach and therapist Anita Chlipala tells Bustle. And she is so, so, so right. "Whatever follows that phrase is an ultimatum, because it doesn't leave the partner with many options," she says. "If they do what the partner asks, they risk growing resentful or feel unaccepted; if they don’t do it, their partner may truly think they don’t love him or her."
Keep in mind that this has absolutely nothing to do with love — it's about control. "A person can still love their partner but still not want to do what the partner requests because of differences in values, preferences, personality, etc," Chlipala says. "Love has nothing to do with it. The phrase shows a lack of respect and acceptance for the partner and is a manipulative technique to get one’s way."
2. The "Give Up Your Values For Me" Ultimatum
"Ultimatums are, of course, never fair — but probably the most egregious one is asking a partner to compromise their own value for the sake of your comfort," life coach Kali Rogers tells Bustle. "For example, if one partner values alone time with their best friends every Wednesday, but the other would rather their partner be home with them because they don't love being alone, it's pretty terrible to threaten the relationship to manipulate one into giving up a value for the sake of the other's comfort."
Word. If you don't like being alone, tough cookies. Figure your own stuff out, but don't take it out on your partner. "Compromise should always be on the table, but values should be respected as much as possible, and ultimatums shouldn't ever be introduced surrounding values." If your partner likes to go out with their friends once or twice a week, so be it. Go out with your own crew or find something else to do. Don't drag your partner into your own baggage.
3. The "If You Don't Do What I Want, I'll Leave" Ultimatum
"All ultimatums are not unfair," Tina B. Tessina, aka Dr. Romance, psychotherapist and author of Love Styles: How to Celebrate Your Differences , tells Bustle. "If your partner is abusive or out of control, an ultimatum is exactly the right thing to do."
Generally, though, ultimatums aren't a good idea, and Tessina agrees with Chlipala that it's particularly terrible to use the "If you love me, you’ll…" route. Saying your partner would do something if they really loved you and then saying something your partner hates to do is "a toxic ultimatum," Tessina says. Anything from 'If you love me you’ll take a job you don’t like' to 'If you love me you’ll choose me over your family' and everything in between are not OK, Tessina says. "[These statements] imply — if you don’t do what I want, I’ll leave," she says. "The correct answer to such an ultimatum is, 'I love you, and I’m not going to do that,'" Tessina says.
For what it's worth, if anyone does give such an ultimatum to you, you can feel free to add that it's not OK to issue it — ever again.
4. The "You Have To Leave Your Job" Ultimatum
"Telling your partner that they can not work at a job any longer because a co-worker has developed feelings for them [is unfair]," psychologist Nikki Martinez tells Bustle. This situation is on you to resolve — not your partner. "It is not their fault, and this is their source of income," she says. "If this is a serious job, and they have done nothing wrong besides be the nice person they are, you need to find a way to make piece with it, as it is completely unfair to ask them to make that kind of sacrifice when they have done nothing wrong." And if you trust your partner, you should understand that nothing will happen — and move on.
5. The "It's Me Or Your Life's Passion" Ultimatum
"One ultimatum that no partner has a right to give or ask of another is, 'Choose between me and your life's passion,'" relationship coach and psychic medium Cindi Sansone-Braff, author of Why Good People Can't Leave Bad Relationships , tells Bustle. "Whether this passion is a person's vocation or avocation, you really can't expect your partner to stop doing what he or she loves doing just because you say give it up or else."
Dr. Ramani Durvasula, author of Should I Stay or Should I Go: Surviving a Relationship With A Narcissist , agrees. "Choose this relationship or your dreams [is unfair]," he tells Bustle. "A dream or aspiration cannot or should not be separated from the person — it's as if you cut off their head."
First off, a really good question to ask yourself if you find yourself in this situation is the reason behind why you care so much about your partner's passion to begin with, since it's not about you. "A person's passion in life emanates from deep within the soul, and whether this passion is music, singing, dancing, writing, kayaking, stand-up comedy, skiing, or whatever, this activity is a fundamental part of who he or she truly is," Sansone-Braff reminds, and if you have an issue with it, that's on you.
"Some people view their partner's personal dreams, aspirations, or passions with a sense of jealousy," she says. "These people can actually make you feel as if you're cheating on them when you choose to do this activity rather than be with them. Once of my clients, an aspiring screenplay writer, just broke up with his long-term girlfriend because she kept making him feel guilty every time he sat down to write his script," Sansone-Braff says. "She threatened the wrong thing and lost a really great guy who just happens to love writing," she says. If you feel neglected because of your partner's work or art, sit down and talk about it — don't issue an ultimatum.
6. The "Open Our Marriage Or I Want A Divorce" Ultimatium
"A recent one I have been helping someone with is, 'Let us make our marriage an open marriage now after 10 years together,'"relationship coach and psychic medium Melinda Carver tells Bustle. "It is the 'open marriage now or divorce' ultimatum that seems to be the rage these days." Of course, open marriages are totally cool and can work really well if both parties are on board, but it has to be discussed and negotiated. An ultimatum around this is totally not OK.
"To change a relationship mid-stream from a loving, monogamous one to 'it has to be open or else' is not fair to your spouse or partner. If you are bored sexually and want to move on, it is time to end the relationship instead of trying to push for it to be open," she says. "You end up hurting your spouse or partner with emotional blackmail and they feel they must twist themselves into a pretzel to make you happy." If you want an open relationship and your partner doesn't? "Make a clean break and go sow your oats without forcing someone into your new 'plan,'" she says.
7. The "Choose Between Me And Your Friend, Family Or Pet" Ultimatum
"Any ultimatum that pits you against your family or close friends is going to either leave both of you questioning the relationship and the reasoning behind the request," dating expert Noah Van Hochman tells Bustle. "These are times when either a strategic retreat or workable compromise are the best course of action if you want the relationship to continue." In other words, if you don't like your partner's BFF, you can't ask them to choose between the two of you. "This is one of the hardest ultimatums to work through but also one of the most common," he says.
"[Another ultimatum] is to make a partner choose between you and a pet that they may have had for a long time," Van Hochman says. "Our pets become more like members of the family rather than just an animal, and asking someone to give up a pet is like asking to give up a brother or sister — it just should not be done. When you enter into a relationship you should have already considered this as a probability," he says. Either take your partner as they are or find someone else.
8. The "If You Mess Up, I Won't Sleep With You" Ultimatum
"I find it is super unfair to put ultimatums in your sex life," Rob Alex, who created Sexy Challenges and Mission Date Night with his wife, tells Bustle. "For example, if you withhold lovemaking from your partner because they didn't stand up to their boss, or because they forgot to pick up the dry cleaning," Alex says. "We all get mad at each other, even in the best of relationships, but withholding any type of affection for your partner because you don't agree with something they did will not help build your relationship."
If you are upset about something, talk it through, but don't let it come along to the bedroom. "Even if you are too upset to be intimate, each and every night should end with a kiss and telling each other that you love each other," he says.
9. The "You Have To Do This To Me In Bed — Or Else" Ultimatum
In a different tack on the same idea, relationship coach and transformational speaker Sherica Matthews tells Bustle that sexual ultimatum is unfair. "This isn't so much about bringing outside problems into the bedroom, but trying to force your partner into doing something they don't want to do. "Some people would say, 'If you don't do what I want you to do, as often as I want you to do it, then I'll go find what I need somewhere else,'" she says. Nope. Never OK.
"These types of ultimatums are unfair because you're making sex into a job, instead of a pleasurable adventure," Matthews says. "While sexual satisfaction is important in a relationship, it is also important to be fair and hold yourself to the same standard." If you don't like how things are going, you can talk about it, but you can't make demands, especially not unreasonable ones.
10. The "It's Your Child Or Me" Ultimatum
"When you’re dating a single parent and you tell them it’s your child or me, you’re putting them in an untenable situation," New York–based relationship expert and author April Masini tells Bustle. It can be hard to date in this situation, and if you find yourself wanting to threaten this, this relationship may not be the best fit for you at the time. "Chances are you underestimated the relationship you were going to have dating a single parent, and you’re in over your head," she says. If it's hard to spend time with a moody kid or teen, try to accept it and be understanding.
11. The "You Have To Commit To Me" Ultimatum
"[It's unfair to] expect someone to commit — moving into together, getting engaged — to change their life … within a short amount of time — less than 12 months, Stefanie Safran, Chicago's "Introductionista" and founder of Stef and the City, tells Bustle. This becomes all the more true if your partner has children. "Tread carefully when a relationship has children; if it doesn't work out, it is a much bigger deal than if it is just the two of you," she says. Child or not, though, you cannot expect someone to commit to you in such a big way in the first year — ever. Moving in together takes time, as does getting engaged, and getting married. Slow down. It's never a good idea to force someone to commit to you. Let it come naturally.
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