He was supposed to be a fling. A crush that turns into one of those amazing month-long romances and then fizzles out. However, after 30 days, I was hooked. He was the complete opposite of everything I was and I couldn’t have been more drawn to him.
The problem was, I think my feelings for him were always stronger than he’d ever have for me.
And so we became that couple that breaks up and gets back together. Over and over for five years. Until finally, I was in my late 20s and the allure of drama wasn’t appealing anymore. I suddenly wanted stability. And a family.
But he didn’t. He wanted to be free. Didn’t want a wife or children or anything tying him down.
So I did what many women before and after me in the world have done.
I gave him an ultimatum. We get married or we never see each other again. He chose the latter.
We broke up, I moved in with friends, and a new, single life started to unfold for me.
Until the phone rang one day.
He had changed his mind. Grown up, he said. He loved me and if getting married meant being together, then he wanted that too.
Everything in my body and heart wanted to believe him. I pushed away that nagging feeling that told me this wasn’t a good idea.
And one year later, after he officially proposed and we spent months planning a wedding, we were married.
However, sitting on the beach on our honeymoon, I looked over at his face and knew. We had made a terrible mistake. I loved the idea of this relationship. I loved what it stood for and what it meant. What he had done to be with me. But in the end, did he really want this?
I knew the answer was no, but for two years I tried to convince myself it wasn’t true. That he was just distant because he was busy at work. Or he wasn’t interested in sex because he was stressed about family issues. Or that he just wasn’t comfortable with affection or intimacy.
But finally, the truth came out.
He wasn’t in love with me. He didn’t want to be married. And he never wanted children. There was no changing his mind anymore. No more fighting and returning back into each other’s arms. He said the words aloud and couldn’t take them back.
And for the first time, I listened. And believed him.
We were divorced one year later. No husband, no family and a hole in my heart not from where he left, but where I had somehow lost myself in all the pushing and forcing of a relationship that never fulfilled me either.
I often wondered if ultimatums ever work for people. What is the average success rate of a woman giving a man an ultimatum?
Sadly, the results are as I suspected. I talked to many women who had issued one for marriage or kids and often their hands were left empty on both fronts.
One couple I spoke with confessed that they got together from an ultimatum, but it wasn’t a matter of if but when. The husband did want to get married and have children but didn’t want to pay the money for a wedding. She threatened to leave, even packed a suitcase and stayed at her sister’s home, when he came to his senses and ran straight to the bank to take out the cash needed for the celebration. They just celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary last year.
But that wasn’t an ultimatum about feelings. That was over practical things like money. Or things like location and timing.
I posed the question on Facebook of whether ultimatums ever work and I believe Sierra Moriarty, 41, from Sacramento, California, summed it up perfectly. “I've come to learn that if I'm being really honest with myself, the relationships I pushed so hard to cement weren't a good fit for me either. I thought my boyfriend announcing his love to the world would validate me... it didn't. Instead I still felt very much the same, but now had a looming commitment ahead that I wasn't really ready to participate in.”
I learned through my own ultimatum that the forcing isn’t about the other person — it’s about us. It’s about pushing aside the voices in our head telling us to walk away and instead trying to put a square peg in a round hole. It isn’t our job as women to show a man the “light” or challenge them to be a different version of themselves that we believe they really are. If a man or woman is saying they don’t want something, they don’t want it. Have the confidence in yourself to listen and believe. In the end, I’ve learned that I’d rather be alone for the right reasons than with someone for the wrong.
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