First, a definition. Ultimatum means, according to my friend Merriam-Webster,
: a final proposition, condition, or demand; especially: one whose rejection will end negotiations and cause a resort to force or other direct action
So, the woman who tells her boyfriend, manfriend, hookup, special friend, lover, what have you that she is going to leave now if he isn’t ready to be married is giving an ultimatum. But what about what I told you yesterday?
In the receptionist scenario, she expressed what she wanted. He expressed that he did not want the same thing. She accepted that he wasn’t ready, and left. Does the absence of threat, the absence of force or direct action, disqualify it from being an ultimatum? Is a woman (or man) who expresses where they are and is willing to leave the relationship in order to find someone who is where they are putting undo pressure on their significant other?
Timelines. Everyone has one. They teach ladies not to mention timelines in the beginning of relationships. Patti Stanger says do not say you want to be married or have kids by a certain age. Patti says be vague. You don’t want to scare him off, right?
Some women are like little children who have to go to the bathroom. They are enjoying a day with their friends or family, having a good time, and they don’t want to bring the mood down by having to get someone to take them to the bathroom, so they hold it in until they are in danger of peeing on themselves. Even if someone asks them if they have to go, they will say no unless they are made to go, until they just can’t hold it any longer.
In this way, we sometimes hit men over the head out of the blue. They can’t understand why we have this sudden obsession with making things official or getting married or moving in together. Who have you been talking to? Where is this coming from? It’s all of those women who say they knew right away and were just waiting for him to catch up.
If women have dreams of being married or starting a family by a certain age, if we are only willing to date someone for a certain amount of years before we want them to start talking rings and things, men have a different timeline. Women have two timeline options: objective–in which the timeline depends on the current relationship (I’m going to date him no more than two years, etc.) and subjective–in which the timeline is fixed in time (I’m going to be married by 30, by fair means or foul, by hook or by crook, it’s going to happen! and etc.). Men usually have one timeline. This timeline is very linear: first I’m going to have fun (college stage), then I’m going to focus on my career and get my financials straight (entry level), then I’m going to play around and have some more fun (first promotions/raises), then when I have all playing around out of my system and my career is at the right stage, I’ll start looking around for a wife. If you grab hold to a man at the wrong spot on the timeline, you can be hanging on for umpteen years for a commitment, or you can cut your losses.
So here you are, in love and in trouble. You love him and you think he could be the one. You start acting like a wife in hopes he will make you one (after all, you know what they say about self-actualization, naming it and claiming it, self-fulfilling prophecy). You tell your eggs to be quiet; you’re trying to focus. You consult Cosmo, Essence, your girl friends, your guy friends, and the ladies at church on how you can snare him. Year after year, you are letting other opportunities go in favor of landing this fish.
At some point, though, you have to be honest with yourself. You have goals and priorities, too. You can’t hold out on doing things you want to do forever. Some of them you start doing–buying a home (but how will you get rid of it in this market?), exploring your career–but some of them are lying unfulfilled, and maybe they make you resentful. Men hate to hear it, but women only have so many eggs, so if you want children, you can’t wait forever on that. If you want healthy babies, you can’t wait forever on that. That’s just how it is.
I don’t necessarily believe in soulmates. I don’t believe that there is one person out there for everyone. I believe love is a choice influenced by attraction, common values, morals, and goals. So, I would be more inclined to have a “State of Our Union Address” that may just end in an untimatum. If you aren’t in step with me, then I need to take my eggs elsewhere. That doesn’t mean I don’t want to be with you, but I have to think about myself and my future. Do I want to still be here? Can I afford to still be here? Anyone issuing an un-timatum is not issuing an idle threat. They have thought about it and made decisions based on where they are, where they want to be, and what they’re non-negotiables are. They don’t say it to force you to come around, but because if you aren’t there and they are, they have decided they can’t wait for you anymore without compromising their other dreams and aspirations. This is hard to do, and I applaud anyone who can make this break and stick with it.
However, it shouldn’t be anything new to my partner. If we are at the point that I’m thinking marriage, he should know how I feel about marriage in general already, unless I’ve changed my mind recently. There’s no springing of a trap. I don’t want to take that particular kingdom by force, either. I, and, I think, most people, want someone to want to marry them. Men get married because it’s time or the right thing to do or they can see a future with this person. Please don’t marry me because it’s the right thing to do, or people are pressuring you. If you don’t want to, do us both a favor and don’t ask!
There is someone I know superficially who has been married a long time, but is now bored and unhappy with the relationship. This person is easily distracted by members of the opposite sex who seem interested in a romantic relationship. This person is starting to feel they got married too young and for the wrong reasons. Who knows when discontent will turn to resentment? Who knows how much pressure this person felt to marry this person? Maybe it wasn’t a want. This is one of my worst nightmares.
If I were to issue an un-timatum, I would already have made up in my mind what I was going to do. I would be prepared to act on the response I get. I wouldn’t blindside anyone, but I’m not going to sit on my dreams and let opportunities that are better for me pass me by, either. That’s my two cents, anyway. Leave yours in the comments section, or email me at 2blu2btru4u [at]gmail[dot]com.