It’s a truth universally acknowledged that, at least in the relationship world, ultimatums are sticky business. There has never been a tried and true rule set forth by the Relationship Gods that dictates when to use them, if to use them, and how to go about using them without the whole thing backfiring on you.
And yet, that doesn’t deter us. In fact, we see them very often in the most significant of forms: The Engagement Ultimatum.
What if you really want that ring? And what if it’s just not happening? You’ve dropped hints, left magazines open to the right pages, told all your friends exactly what you want and still nothing. If nothing else is getting through to him, it’s time to stop hinting and drop the “U Bomb,” right?
If there’s one person who I think can answer that question for us, it’s none other than “Waity Katie” herself: Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge. It’s been bandied back and forth with little headway made and speculation still high. After more than seven years of dating, did Kate give William an ultimatum?
I’m not normally a gambling woman, but if I were, I would bet some pretty serious money that Kate didn’t give William an ultimatum. Smart, savvy woman that she is, I think she knew better than to put herself in that situation. Below, what Kate likely knows about ultimatums, and what you should absolutely know as well.
Time Will Tell. I’ve witnessed women give men marriage ultimatums after two weeks (yes, I just said two weeks) of dating. I could write a lengthy rant about that alone, but I’ll spare you. Instead, here’s the condensed rule: If you’ve been dating less than two years, cool your freakin’ jets. There is no reason to rush into a marriage (you know, this thing that can last upwards of 50 years), or put pressure on someone to propose when you’ve barely known them through four different seasons!
Go ahead and read up on why it's a good idea to get to know someone extremely well before marrying them, and wait to see how the relationship plays out. Many, many relationships fall apart at the two-year mark. Wait to see if yours is one of them or if it has lasting power before you demand any bling. Kate clearly knew this rule - the girl waited seven years for her engagement, and she wasn’t the worse off for it. She didn’t miss out on anything or end up “behind” her peers. In fact, when she got married she was probably extremely ready for the commitment and the responsibilities, and had the emotional maturity it takes to be one half of a solid marriage.
The Power Struggle. You might think that you’re pretty damn powerful for finally coming out with it. You’ve said what you had to say and you’re not going to put up with his vague waffling anymore! Don’t be fooled. The moment you give an ultimatum, no matter how justified you think you are, you’re handing over your power in the relationship.
An ultimatum comes down to one question: Do you pick me or the alternative? Instead of retaining any power, you’ve handed the decision fully over to your significant other. Now, they get to decide your relationship’s fate while you twiddle your thumbs in the corner. Not to mention, of course, that most people resent being given an ultimatum. Between the choice you want them to make and the alternative, what decision do you think they’ll come to if they’re resentful of you?
And the final nail in the power coffin? Giving an ultimatum that boils down to “Marry me or else!” is extremely unattractive. It comes across as needy, desperate (hmm, that sounds familiar!) and a touch bitchy, not to mention extremely immature. If you’re an adult ready for the hugely mature step of marriage, would you really be threatening someone to marry you? Which leads me to
The Last Resort. The previous question still stands. Why exactly are you giving your partner an ultimatum? An ultimatum is always recognized as a last resort; a last-ditch effort to make something happen when all else fails. This is your marriage. This is supposed to be a decision that you and your significant other reach together naturally, not forcefully. If, after a certain number of years together, you want the relationship to progress to marriage and it hasn’t, it’s your responsibility to examine the reason.
If you’re giving an ultimatum because your partner won’t take a hint, then maybe it’s time to put on the big girl pants and have an adult conversation. Sit down and discuss where you both see this relationship going, in what time frame that might happen, and if you’re both on the same page. You can’t expect someone to read your mind.
If, however, you have discussed marriage and have been met with resistance, you’re fighting a losing battle. If marriage is important to you and your partner does not want marriage, your relationship is not going to work. There are fundamental aspects on which two people in a relationship need to be in agreement, and this is one of them.
And remember: the vast majority of men do end up married one day. If he’s telling you he "doesn't believe in marriage,” or he "just can’t see himself getting married,” he could genuinely feel that way. But more likely (and this is hard to swallow) he just can’t see himself married to you. And that’s okay. Do you really want to be married to someone who doesn't want a lifelong commitment to you?
If you really want to know once and for all if he’s going to be committed to you without giving an ultimatum, take a page out of Kate’s book. When she and William broke up in April of 2007, Kate was photographed out on the town, having fun and not looking at all bereft. In less than two months, they were back together. Instead of giving an ultimatum, she just up and left him missing her, realizing that his life was a whole lot less desirable without her in it. She bypassed the needy, kept her power, and maintained her dignity - three things you can’t say about giving an ultimatum.
Ultimatums aren't the habits of composed, intelligent, and powerful women like the former Kate Middleton. They’re more likely to make your relationship crash and burn than take it to the next level. If you’re considering giving an ultimatum to get to that next step, stop for a minute and ask yourself something: how did my relationship get to the point that I feel the need to force this? Spend more time ruminating on that question, and less time scheming for bling, if you want a healthy relationship.
Each week in "Relationships by Rachel," TMR Columnist Rachel East tackles relationships in all their blissful, heartbreaking, and mind-boggling glory.