Ultimatum Alternatives: Why You Should Never Have to Negotiate Love
There are two types of people in this world: move makers, and move fakers.
Sadly, this behavioral disparity becomes even more evident when it comes to dating and relationships. Suffice to say, if you're not making shit happen in your life, then you're either wasting your time, someone else's, or both.
That being said, with each passing year, one thing becomes more and more strikingly obvious to me: I only want people in my life that want to be there.
Sure, this may seem like a no-brainer, but this was far from apparent to me in my 20s. When I reflect on the mistakes I made, the nights I cried, and all of the bad behavior I put up with from people, I want to slap my younger self in the face - twice. Once on both sides. But without those cruel teachings of my youth, I wouldn't be who I am today. In fact, the most important lesson I learned along the way was this: you should never have to chase or negotiate love.
Think about it, if you've ever had to give someone an ultimatum in a relationship, then something is already wrong. Ultimatums might work in parenting or in sales, but not in relationships. Why? Because an ultimatum is in line with a demand and unfortunately, demands and love don't mix. If there is something you don't put up with in a relationship - something that is an actual deal-breaker, not just an annoyance - and you continue to stay in the relationship, then you're lying to yourself.
The truth is, if you don't put up with something in a relationship, then your actions need to reflect that, not your words.
People do a lot of talking around what they want and then make compromises very quickly. It's so much easier to say you are done with a person than to actually be done with them. One requires decision, the other requires action.
Giving someone an ultimatum does not fix the problem because the funny thing about love is this: it can't be negotiated - you can't make someone love you nor can you demand that someone marry you. To look at it from another angle, think of it like this: You can force time together with someone, but you can't force the quality of that time; You can force viewing nature, but you can't force those magical moments. And while it's possible that you can "decide" what or who it is that you like, love is different. You can't chose what you love. It chooses you.
So what are you supposed to do when you're not getting what you want in a relationship or a would-be relationship and you can't use an ultimatum?
Here are two tactics to try next time you're tempted to use the U word.
The only way not to put up with something is to actually NOT put up with it. This is not a people-changing method but rather a behavior changing method. In other words, you have to be serious when you say, "I don't put up with ..." or “I can't do this anymore” otherwise your words lose all power if you don't actually follow through with them.
If you really want to let someone know what it's like to live without you, then pull away. I like to call this “giving someone the gift of missing you” You see, when you create space, you give the person time to come to terms with how they feel. It also does wonders for your own mental clarity. Moreover, if the other person doesn't try to talk to you after you pull away, then they probably didn't care too much about you in the first place. Or perhaps they do care about you, they're just not interested in a future with you.
Pulling away is a much stronger course of action rather than an utlimatum. Why? Because if you were to give a person a relationship ultimatum and they say “Yes, ok fine, let's be together then” then it will always be in the back of your head as to whether or not that person settled for you. Or worse, if they say yes, then they will feel like YOU made the decision, not them.
If a person, when confronted, blatantly says “No, I don't want to be with you” some of you may think “Great! Now I have my answer and can move on.” However, I've witnessed time and time again through clients and friends that this is not always the case. Some people become tenacious when a person says they're not ready for the next step or not looking for anything serious. Sadly, somewhere in the back of the rejectee's mind, they think “If I stick around long enough, maybe they'll change their mind and realize how great I am.” This is a great way to kill yourself without dying.
Reward, reward, reward
So maybe you want to avoid an ultimatum because you don't want to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Well, the first step is to define what the baby is. That is, find what you like and reward it. Appreciate it. Be thankful for it. If you're hanging on to a relationship for dear life, there must be SOMETHING you love about it. Find that something. Most people have a problem with the idea of “reward” because when they're angry about something, they'd rather hang on to that anger.
We'd rather be right than happy.
But surely there are things you like about the relationship you're in or are working towards, otherwise you wouldn't care about the outcome. If you make it a habit of appreciating what you like about a person and rewarding their good behavior instead of punishing bad behavior, you will start to find things you like in other aspects of your life, too. People respond to reward, not punishment, so if you're used to always focusing on the problem, then this will be a problem. Not to mention, if there is more to dislike than to like, then it's time to move on. If someone isn't meeting your needs, figure out why. You can't change someone's behavior, only your own. So why not try focusing on what you're doing and why you're feeling the way you do instead? I assure you, it's a much better investment of your time. You may even realize how you truly feel about someone - not just how you thought you felt about them.
Long story short - ditch the ultimatums, they don't work! A relationship based on positivity and reward will be much more beneficial and satisfying than a relationship that is based on negativity and punishment. Plus, wouldn't you rather date someone who wants to win rather than someone who just wants to avoid losing? There's a difference. So in a world of move fakers, be a move maker.