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So you’re ready to commit and take your relationship to the next level but your partner seems to be dragging their heels leaving you frustrated and wanting to throw out ultimatums…”marry me or else”

Is it a good idea to give your partner a marriage ultimatum?

The worst thing you can do is give your partner an ultimatum or make him/her feel like they are being forced into make a choice or decision. Ultimatums very rarely work if at all and you may well not get the outcome you are hoping for, in fact often ultimatums have the opposite effect. Would you like to be forced into doing something?

It’s important to understand what’s causing you to feel this way in the first place that you are wanting to dish out ultimatums:

  • Has your relationship got into a rut?
  • Do you feel like you’re not moving forward in your relationship or there’s no definite plan about your future together?
  • Everyone around you is getting married and you’re feeling left behind or like you’re sitting on the shelf?
  • You’ve had talks about marriage but nothing concrete has happened or there has been no follow through?
  • Your biological clock is ticking?
  • You’re ready to settle down and get married but your partner isn’t?

Sometimes there could be very real reasons as to why one partner is not willing to commit or take the big next step. It’s important to understand what’s behind their reluctance as it may not be an unwillingness to commit.

Some people have very real fears of failure based on their own experiences (e.g. coming from a divorced home) and fearing ending up the same way. They could have very big expectations of themselves or your relationship first before they feel competent or ready to take that big step (e.g. being financially sound or stable and not wanting to start off together with piles of debt).

Is there ever a right time to discuss marriage and ultimatums?

There is no prescribed ‘right time’ to have a conversation as each relationship and couple is different however there are signs to look out for and ways to approach the situation.

In the beginning stages of the relationship pay attention to how your partner speaks about what they want or see for themselves in the next few years: is settling down part of their vision or are they talking about backpacking around the world? How does this align to where you are at and the future you are wanting for yourself? Is it a similar time frame or does it seem poles apart? Do they talk about wanting a family or is pursuing their career top of mind?

This will give you clues as to where they are in their life stage, what that picture looks like and where you potentially fit in.

Equally so, you need to know what your own life plan looks like so that you know what kind of relationship and partner you are looking for or that you don’t end up getting yourself into situations you may regret later.

In the beginning stages of a relationship, we get caught up in the honeymoon/romantic phase of the relationship and can miss these important signals that could come back to bite us later on. Sometimes we go into a relationship hearing the red flags but dismiss them hoping things will change down the line when sometimes they don’t, and this can cause a lot of heartache.

If you are ready to settle down, it’s important that you discuss this in the early stages of the relationship to determine whether there is longevity in the relationship or whether you should move on to find someone who is on a similar path and timeline as you.

However if you find yourself down the line and wanting to know where you stand then you may need to have what I call a courageous conversation.

Most important is finding the right time to have this conversation, not after you’ve had an argument or in the heat of the moment. This is where you sit down and share with each other what the future looks like from each other’s perspective, and to get a sense of how big the gap is: do you have totally different perspectives or do you both have a similar outlook?

This allows you to tackle any potential obstacles (e.g. financial fears) and find solutions and a way forward together or possibly that you’ve reached the end of the road. This can be quite a tricky subject to navigate so you may need to seek the help of a professional who can navigate the process with you.

If you are both on the same page and wanting to commit, discuss what that time frame looks like to both of you and how you can put steps in place to reach your happily ever after. This needs to be done in a way that doesn’t feel pressured and expectations are managed.

Are there any disadvantages of having these types of conversations?

Tackling this subject could expose the fact that you’re heading in opposite directions and that you’ve reached the end of the road in your relationship as you have very different perspectives and views on your future together. This can be a very traumatic time for both parties as each person will be going through their own emotional roller coaster and possibly experience a combination of anger, guilt, remorse, resentment, hurt, wasted time etc.

What I have learned over the years of working with couples is that you cannot force someone to be where they don’t want to be (or are not ready to be) and rather than give them an ultimatum, let them go with love and light and invest time in finding a partner who is ready to settle down and make the commitment you are looking for.

A version of this article also appeared on W24 website

Paula Quinsee: Relationship Expert, Tedx speaker and author of self-help guides: Embracing Conflict and Embracing No. Paula teaches individuals and companies tools and skills to immediately and positively enhance the quality of their personal and professional relationships. More info: https://paulaquinsee.com/

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