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Ultimatums within a marriage


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So my husband and I have been happily married for 8 yrs. He is a self-confessed procrastinator. Often, when other methods fail, I find myself having to give him ultimatums overly relatively minor things. Stuff like...unless you fix the car TONIGHT, I will take it into the shop tomorrow and pay whatever they ask.

 

Recently, I was chatting with my sister-in-law about married life and found that in her opinion, giving any ultimatum is wrong and one should never be acknowledged by the recipient. She thinks they are especially inappropriate in a marriage.

 

My feeling is that almost every marriage has at least a couple- even if it's just implied. Like...if you have an affair, I will divorce you. And that every couple has to figure out what works for them.

 

Since then, I get the impression that his sister finds me manipulative and that she might be trying to give my husband's mom that idea too...

 

Before I talk to my husband about this...I need some neutral opinions. I know there's sort of a negative association with the word "ultimatum", but aren't they the appropriate/only option in some situations?

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Ultimatums are by nature, manipulative.

 

If you don't do this, I will do that.

 

Infidelity is not an "ultimatum"...implied. It is a boundary that should not be crossed.

 

And, for the record, I don't believe in ultimatums. If you have asked that the car be fixed and he doesn't do it, simply take it to the mechanic.

However, you said you are happily married. And apparantely threats motivate your husband.

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It really depends on the circumstance. Little things like the threat to pay whatever they want to fix your car, can act as motivators when he is putting things off. As long as you aren't doing it all the time, then I don't see it as manipulation.

 

However, if you are giving ultimatums on major issues in the marriage it can get manipulative. Things like "Unless you take me to Paris for our next anniversary I'll leave you" or "If you don't do X, Y and Z for me then it's over" - those are deal breakers because they are deliberately threatening and trying to change who your husband is to get what you want.

 

But you are right - it is about what works for you. It sounds like his sister is looking for a reason to dislike you. Don't rise to the bait.

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Oh no, no, tvnerdgirl. I would never use an ultimatum to gain a fancy trip or anything. And the truth is- if I didn't give him fair warning that I was going to take the car into be repaired, he'd say "You spend $400 on that?? Why didn't you just ask me to do it last night?", haha!

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annie, good point about giving him reasonable deadlines. And I usually do give him more time on the more minor issues. But this time around, the brakes had been making a funny noise for two weeks and I was tired of worrying they were going to go out!

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Oh no, no, tvnerdgirl. I would never use an ultimatum to gain a fancy trip or anything. And the truth is- if I didn't give him fair warning that I was going to take the car into be repaired, he'd say "You spend $400 on that?? Why didn't you just ask me to do it last night?", haha!

 

Yeah that sounds like normal every day interaction between spouses. I tell my husband little things like that and he does to me as well. Last night I pointed out that I had made the tea for him all week after dinner (we take turns making tea) and that next time I had to make it, I would give him the Dalek cup instead of the TARDIS cup (we are Doctor Who fans). He jokingly said "oh no" and then went and made the tea.

 

Your marriage sounds normal.

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Stuff like...unless you fix the car TONIGHT, I will take it into the shop tomorrow and pay whatever they ask.

I don't think that's an ultimatum. It's an assertive request, and assertive requests always have stated consequences. I don't know how else you can make a bad procrastinator take action than to do it the way you're doing it.

 

If you want to make the car thing sound less like an ultimatum (which it isn't), you can add a discussion aspect to it, like "I feel bad that I have to say it like this, but I feel like this is the only way that you won't procrastinate on this important issue. But if you take care of issues like this promptly in the future, I think both of us will be happier and you won't have to hear any statements from me that include the words 'or else' in them and it will be good for both of us."

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I usually will say " Could you please clean up the living room?" and I will wait a reasonable amount of time for action, without nagging. Then I will ask again, nicely, but also throw out that if it does not get done this time, I will do it, and if I have to do it, I am going to be steaming mad. If it gets to that point where I have to do it, I will, and I will be furious about it. You know the saying, Happy Wife, Happy Life? Thats ssssoooo true.

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I think unfortunately, you need to go that route. It's not an ultimatum so much as, "we need to get this fixed, if you don't, I will." I'd set up reasonable deadlines, I mean, don't tell him he has 24 hours to do something.

 

Yes but she is solving the problem by ways of threat. Never good.

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I usually will say " Could you please clean up the living room?" and I will wait a reasonable amount of time for action, without nagging. Then I will ask again, nicely, but also throw out that if it does not get done this time, I will do it, and if I have to do it, I am going to be steaming mad.

I think that's fine too. It's just a request with a consequence, and the consequence is reasonable compared to the request.

 

Something like "If you don't clean up the living room, I'm divorcing you" is an ultimatum.

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Maybe it's the way it's worded because I don't really see it as an ultimatum. I see at as this is something that needs to be done, basically saying: if you want to take care of it and save us some $, that's great but if not, I have to take it to the shop because I'm not OK w/ driving around w/ perhaps faulty brakes. I can't wait for a year on this so I'm imposing some kind of deadline. Maybe when you let him know brakes are making weird noise and ask him if he wants to fix them or have you take them to shop, if he says he wants to fix them, ask for a reasonable time period to expect them to be done and then if deadline not met you take to shop? That type of thing, maybe that won't be seen as ultimatum. Ultimatum has negative connotations to it and I just see this type of thing as getting what needs to be done, done.

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unless you fix the car TONIGHT, I will take it into the shop tomorrow and pay whatever they ask.

 

I do see that as an ultimatum. It feels bossy and controlling to me. That would make me shut down COMPLETELY.

 

A different way of saying this would be: "When do you think it can be fixed by? I know you have good intentions but if this is not fixed by - I'll probably have to take it to the shop. I really can't wait around a few weeks to have it fixed".

 

Then you just do it if he doesn't follow through.

 

To me, the difference is that one is a threat, the other is just informing him of your intentions if his intentions fall through. HUGE difference IMO. One is aggressive the other is assertive.

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Exactly. Yesterday I said to bf: "Can I ask you for a small favor this weekend? You know the lights we bought for outside the door a few months back...well, the existing ones burned out and in changing them I noticed a wiring issue". He said...sure.

 

I could have.opened with: when are you going to get around to changing the lights. We bought the.replacements months ago!!

 

Honey vs vinegar.

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Exactly. Yesterday I said to bf: "Can I ask you for a small favor this weekend? You know the lights we bought for outside the door a few months back...well, the existing ones burned out and in changing them I noticed a wiring issue". He said...sure.

 

I could have.opened with: when are you going to get around to changing the lights. We bought the.replacements months ago!!

 

Honey vs vinegar.

 

Oh my. Oh no, no, no. My husband and I have been married for 10 yrs and we both share this home. It is a partnership and long ago we sorted out who had what responsibilities based on our strengths and preferences.

 

When the lights go out on the porch it's not a favor to ME when he fixes them. It's him being an adult and doing his part to take care of our home/investment. Just like when I clean the bathrooms and he doesn't have to beg or thank me.

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It isn't lightbulbs out...the lanterns need to be fully replaced! I can change a lightbulb!

And we don't live together... so, I could call my electrian or.ask bf for a favor.

 

My point was the way you frame a request makes all the.difference in the world.

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unless you fix the car TONIGHT, I will take it into the shop tomorrow and pay whatever they ask.[/i

 

I do see that as an ultimatum. It feels bossy and controlling to me. That would make me shut down COMPLETELY.

 

A different way of saying this would be: "When do you think it can be fixed by? I know you have good intentions but if this is not fixed by - I'll probably have to take it to the shop. I really can't wait around a few weeks to have it fixed".

 

 

I have to say..."shutting down" seems an extremely immature response to any situation. But especially as a response to an issue regarding a matter of safety...

 

I will say that the "ultimatum" is never the first request. But when I say "The brakes are doing ________. Do you think that's something you can fix or do you want me to take it to the shop?" and he says he wants to fix it... I then expect him to do what he says. After a few days, I will ask about it or give a gentle reminder. But if he continues to let it slide...well what else is there to say? The request didn't work...the reminder didn't work... Time for something else.

 

Also I should probably say this approach has never bothered my husband who thanks me often for putting up with his chronic forgetfulness It's his sister who seemed to take issue with it for some reason.

 

Thanks all! You've convinced me that what we do works

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Well, that's quite a different thing if you don't co-own the home. In my sitch, we co-own the home, car and have joint bank accounts. In fact...he's the one who's the do-it-yourselfer. I don't mind taking it to the shop, but he does. So after he's made the commitment...I think he is obligated to follow through or accept the consequences.

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Agree with Mhowe that it's how you say it. I don't expect my husband to thank me for doing chores that are my responsibility but it's nice when he does. When he takes out the garbage or does one of "his" things I often say thanks -it's nice to feel appreciated.

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annie, good point about giving him reasonable deadlines. And I usually do give him more time on the more minor issues. But this time around, the brakes had been making a funny noise for two weeks and I was tired of worrying they were going to go out!

 

For something like this, where he had had ample time to do something (2 weeks) and it's a safety issue, while the wording could maybe have been more diplomatic, I'd probably be less than tactful as well. "Honey - I'm not sure if you realize it, but it's been over 2 weeks since I asked you to look at the brakes the first time. I don't feel safe driving it as is, so let me know now if you can't look at it tonight, and I'll call and make an appointment at the shop," isn't really any different as to intention - just worded a bit differently.

 

I'm married to a procrastinator as well. He tells me to remind him - and sometimes gets snippy when I do. So I preface everything that is a multiple time request with "you asked me to remind you to go through your stuff in the garage and I have, for 3 weeks - when do you think you'll be getting to it realistically?"

 

Sometimes I just give up and do it myself - and always get "I told you to ask me and I'd do it!" My response is "I did... three times. At which point I figured it was easier to just do it." He doesn't like that much - but honestly, for minor things, I'm fresh out of motivational ideas!

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Tone and wording makes all the difference.

Bf's response was: "you can have anything you want, anytime you want," ....and was said without an ounce of sarcasm.

 

I don't think you've got a quite a clear picture of what's going on here, mhowe.

 

So imagine if you asked the boyfriend if he could please fix the electrical stuff that weekend, and he pleasantly replies "anything you want, anytime dear"! But then you come home from work Sun night...and it's not done. So you ask him about it, and he gives you an excuse and promises to do it during that week. So you remind him Wednes that it's still broken and he says "Oh yeah! I almost fogot!". And then two weeks later...he still hasn't done it. What then?

 

See, I don't just come stomping in the door first time with orders and ultimatums. ANY time I declare an "utimatum" I have asked a minimum of twice (and probably more like 6) times already.

 

Mesemene...I am almost worried we are married to the same man, lol!

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