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Rembrandt's depiction of Samson's marriage feast

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Recently, I’ve been hearing a lot about a specific relationship phenomenon I like to call the un-timatum. It seems that a lot of the marriages and relationships of today have come about because of the un-timatum. Although most of the cases I’ve heard of have been women issuing un-timatums, there are men who issue them as well. I’m wondering what this trend says to us about the relationships of today.

What is an un-timatum, you ask? Here’s an example: I was in reception talking to the receptionist, who recently got married (she may have still been engaged when this conversation took place). I was asking her about how her fiancĂ© had proposed and etc. She begins telling me about their relationship, when they moved in together, when it started getting serious. She said she reached a point where she wanted to be married. He wasn’t sure or wasn’t ready. So she told him that she respected that and wouldn’t push him into anything he wasn’t ready for. Then she packed her things and moved back home.

That, friends and neighbors, is an ultimatum. Another example: The receptionist has a friend who recently got engaged. She has been dating this person for six or seven years. She was ready to get married. He had been married before and didn’t seem eager to repeat the process. He asked her why he couldn’t just move in. She told him she was sorry, but she wasn’t living with anyone she wasn’t married to.

Patti Stanger talks about something similar in her DVD Married in a Year. I believe it’s in the “Negotiating the Ring” chapter. Recently, on Teen Mom 2, Corey gave Leah an un-timatum: he wanted to be married.

Basically, the un-timatum is not an ultimatum. It’s not a “marry me or else.” An un-timatum is one person acknowledging that for them the relationship cannot continue operating under the status quo. It’s one person saying “I want more than this.” It’s one person being honest with themselves about what they want, and asking the other person what they want. If the two things aren’t compatible, however, the issuer has a decision to make. I haven’t heard anyone issue an un-timatum that they weren’t willing to act on. As mentioned, the receptionist packed her things and moved out. It was that important to her.

When I think about these un-timatums, I think about Intervention. When they are preparing to perform an intervention, the intervention expert has a conversation with the family in which he asks, “what are you willing to do if they refuse to go to treatment?” The purpose of this is not to punish the person. Up to this point, the person doesn’t have to deal with their addiction, the consequences and hardships, the emotions, because everyone else is. By withdrawing their support, they force the person to be responsible for their actions and decisions. I see the un-timatum working the same way. Once the issuer has put their pre-planned reaction into effect (i.e. leaving, etc.), it forces the other person to examine themselves and their feelings about what the other person means to them. They have to evaluate if they want that other person in their lives or not.

But how much of this is strategic force, an ultimatum wrapped in pretty paper? What impact could this have on the relationship in the future, should it continue? I’ll get to that in the next post. For now, give me your two cents. Have you issued an un-timatum? How did it go? Did you follow through on your plans if they said no? Do you think it’s right/fair to issue an un-timatum? Is this just an ultimatum to you?