Why Ultimatums Don’t Work

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ultimatums don't work

If you want to know why ultimatums don’t work, watch this video. I share some examples of common ultimatums, and what you can do instead.

We issue ultimatums in relationships when we want someone to change or do something we want, like move in together, get married, or have kids. The problem is, ultimatums don’t work. In this video, I’m going to share what an ultimatum is, why people think they’re a good idea, and a more effective strategy for getting what you want in your relationship.

Why Ultimatums Don’t Work

What’s an ultimatum?

An ultimatum is a demand for someone to change a behavior. Demands don’t work. If you’re trying to force someone to decide on something against their will, that’s a recipe for pushing people away. And that’s the opposite of what you’re trying to accomplish with an ultimatum. If you push hard enough, your partner may agree to what you’re asking for, but over time, resentment will build, and that usually leads to the end of a relationship.

Examples of ultimatums

1. If you don’t propose, I’m breaking up with you.

2. If you don’t move to the city I want to live in, this relationship is over.

Why we give ultimatums

We give ultimatums because of fear and a lack of trust that our partner cares enough to marry us, have kids with us, etc. This distrust is often due to being betrayed or abandoned in the past, but it keeps coming up in current relationships if we don’t work on these triggers.

When we understand and work on our triggers, we have a better chance of regulating our nervous system so we can communicate calmly with our partner, especially when it comes to a hot topic. 

Why ultimatums don’t work

They don’t work because we’re demanding what we want without explaining why it’s important to us. Or maybe we’re not checking in with our partner about the reason they’re resisting our request.

What to do instead

The best way to get what you want in a relationship is to connect with compassion and empathy. Learn what gets triggered in your partner when you ask to have your needs met.

When there’s a perceived threat, we’re wired to protect ourselves. Your partner will naturally shut down or withdraw from you when you state your needs as a demand.

We can’t change our partner’s mind, but we can attempt to influence them. We do this by discussing why our request is so important to us. Then, we check in with them about what’s being triggered and why they’re resisting. This creates empathy, closeness and more understanding. 

How to turn an ultimatum into a compassionate conversation

1. If you don’t propose, I’ll leave! Change it to: “When you don’t ask me to marry you after two years together, I feel sad, because I love you and see a future with you. What’s going on for you?”

2. If you don’t move to the city I want to live in, this relationship is over! Change it to: “I want to live in this city, because I am craving the excitement of city life. When you refuse to move, I feel upset, because I want to figure out how to make us both happy. Can you help me brainstorm ideas so we can figure out a solution?”

Changing an ultimatum to a clear and compassionate conversation is the key to staying close to your partner while trying to meet both of your needs.

If your partner issues an ultimatum:

  • Notice what feeling your partner’s demand is triggering in you
  • Let them know how you feel without being critical 
  • Make a clear request for them to stop threatening, or they’ll push you away

Many good relationships end because the partners don’t have these skills to use during conflict. If you have trouble with conflict resolution and get triggered easily, please seek support. Set up a session with me, and let’s talk about coaching. I’d love to help you go on your last first date.

If you’re feeling stuck in dating and relationships and would like to finally find love, sign up for a complimentary 45-minute love breakthrough session with Sandy and explore how private coaching can help! https://lastfirstdate.com/application

Join Your Last First Date on Facebook https://facebook.com/groups/yourlastfirstdate

Get a copy of Sandy’s books, Becoming a Woman of Value; How to Thrive in Life and Love and Choice Points in Dating: Empowering Women to Make Healthier Decisions in Love.


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