Marriage Ultimatum – Why it Does Not Work


Considering a Marriage Ultimatum?

marriage ultimatum

I am often asked about marriage ultimatums. Though I am sure that there have been a few times in history when marriage ultimatums have worked, let me provide a little insight as to why they often are futile.


Why a Marriage Ultimatum Typically Fails


Marriage ultimatums usually fail because when a spouse gives an ultimatum they are professing that they are ready to play their last card. The only problem is that this rarely occurs as it is more of a threat than something that they are ready to carry out.


It Only Works Once or Twice.


The other issue with marriage ultimatums is that if you have threatened divorce, separation, or a change in the status quo once, yet never acted upon it, then the next few occurrences seem to carry less and less weight.


Another Option


Instead of giving ultimatums, I would encourage a spouse in a troubled marriage to take on a different approach. Here are the steps that I would encourage:


Step #1 – Work on Yourself First


I have found that there is always something that a spouse can do to create the atmosphere so that change has a better chance of happening. On this site as well as in our book on marriage we give couples very tangible steps to take in order to help promote viable change in their marriage.


Step #2 – Give it some time


Time is a very valuable commodity though few seem to want to use it in our day. The hand of Providence over long periods of time has a way of softening hearts and bringing people to a place of repentance.

In our fix it yesterday culture we tend to want every problem eradicated as quick as possible. However, I typically find that problems are seldom fixed when you want them to be fixed and in the way you want them to be solved.


Step #3 – Watch our Video on The Top Mistake Couples Make in a Fight


Sad to say, but many couples do have great motives when it comes to solving their marital issues, just absolutely lousy methods. And, we have found that our teaching on The Top Mistake Couples Make in a Fight shows couples exactly why they have failed to penetrate the wall of emotion that is between them and their spouse.



Step #4 – Express a Fear of Hopelessness


Instead of giving an ultimatum, I advise couples to establish a time with their spouse to say something to this effect:


“You know that I want this marriage, and I want to obey my marriage vows. However, if you persist in this behavior, I am afraid of losing hope that our marriage will ever change. I am also afraid of where my feelings will tempt me to go if your behavior is no different in six months from now.”


Let me tell you why this works better than a typical marriage ultimatum:


1. Marriage ultimatums are typically delivered in a way in which the other person feels as if they do not have the power to act on their own volition.

2. Marriage ultimatums usually make you to look like the parent and the other the child. (Though the case may be so, it never helps for this paradigm to be present.)

3. Marriage ultimatums give the impression that your love is conditional in nature.

4. Marriage ultimatums are typically delivered in an emotionally charged atmosphere which is almost always a recipe for disaster.

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Posted in Marriage Advice

5 comments on “Marriage Ultimatum – Why it Does Not Work
  1. Tracy says:

    Sounds like a good thing to try but I am sure my hubby will think it is a veiled threat for me to leave. I can already hear his response already. My husband seems to have his mind made up about me that I am not desirable in many ways and that I’m just never happy. The truth is I am happy when he’s not around and our kids all see that and see we don’t get along. How did this happen? As soon as we got married he changed and we had a baby and he changed even more into this cold and rigid person. He is a workaholic. I can’t get any time w him. Forget sex bc that’s only allowed on nights he doesn’t have work the next day or has not been to work. Oh but not nights bc he is usually too tired for that at night on Saturday night the only night it would be allowed. So, we r down to mornings and everything must be perfect then as well. Nobody can have a cold or any other discomfort of any kind of all bets are off. There has been one date night in a year planned by me. There has been one vacation in 6 years also bc I planned it all. Usually no gift on bday, valentines or anniversary. I may get flowers he picks up at Walgreens pharmacy on way home but hear nothing all day about the special occasion. No holding hands, cuddling only allowed when we have sex. We can go months w no sex bc how particular he is about it all. When told of like to make love more and have affection and time together I am blamed for why we can’t and accused of denying him sex (never happened).

    He works crazy hours and I understand but there is no balance at all. When he gets home he finds some chore to busy himself w like reorganizing the pantry or fridge. He plays w our son for hours and spends no time w me. It’s like he is passive aggressive or something and he makes our son favor him by undermining our rules and routine. If he is giving the son a bath at night he will let for an hour or more in the tub and come to bed late. My going to bed late is one of the reasons he says we can’t have sex but he’s never ready for bed and a better routine w our son would give us time together to talk or cuddle.

    He also prepared a will and trust without consulting me and I am the one who impacted most by his death. I will only get community property when he dies if he does first and i will have to sell my house to live off the money. I just don’t think all of this sounds like oneness.

    I am here for the kids at this point.

    I have a hard time changing my attitude bc I am angry at being misled into a cold marriage that makes me feel insecure. I pray that God will fill the void and change this miserable human being’s heart.

    • Maddi says:

      Did this book or ministry help you? How is your marriage now, if you don’t mind me asking. I’m in a similar boat and grasping at straws to find actual help.

  2. Julie says:

    I made many horrible mistakes in the beginning of my relationship with my husband and he found out. After 10 months of my husband threatening divorce and telling me I don’t deserve him ( which on some levels I did not)among some much more , my husband has finally come around and wants our marriage back and to be in the family home. However he left twice and has been out more than in and I just don’t know that I want him back in the house. I love him but after all the stress and anxiety of everything I forgot why I fell in love with him. I read your articles and I find them wonderful however despite telling my husband I still have faith I don’t know that I believe I do. I’m putting on a good front but in reality I think I’m just going thru the motions hoping it will one day change. My marriage was never great but it was mine and my mistakes are the reason why it is the way it is now. His reactions didn’t make anything better but I feel guilty thinking maybe I should let go now that he says he’s committed again.

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