ultimatums might as well have the word “mate” in them

The problem with ultimatums is that they seem perfectly reasonable at the time.  Look.  I’m here.  You’re there.  So I’ll be patient.  I’ll wait for you to get where I am by this date.  We wait for a future, handing ours over, at least for the time, into someone else’s hands.  Once we hit that magical date, he should know if I’m the one.  He should be ready by then.  Any reasonable person would agree.  But it never works that way.  Ever notice that?  "But we had a deal, and you knew this date was coming."  The thing is, the person on the other side of the ultimatum just thinks about having more time to decide.  "Well, I don’t have to really think about it now.  The date is so far away, so I can worry about it then."  Until "then" comes.  When then comes they ask for more time.  They "please, I swear.  I am not ignoring your needs.  I just need to understand why I’m like this.  Please, I don’t want to lose you.  You are my family."  But you’re not.  You’re really not.  And if they do give you what you’ve wanted all along, you wonder if it’s for the right reasons.  You worry they’re with you just because of fear.  That’s no way to live the rest of your life.

It’s easy to say, "ultimatums are manipulative and suck."  Yeah, mean people suck too, but they’re out there.  I think we all dole out the ultimatums, even those of us who stamp our feet about their existence.  You know why?  Because "if you’re not ready to commit to me, then I’m moving on" isn’t necessarily an ultimatum, but it sure smells like one.  IF is involved.

Remember math class?  THEN follows IF.  If A then B means whenever A is true, B is too.  "Then" always follows "If."  As soon as you construct a sentence with if, you’re looking for a then.  "If I were to lose all my limbs, then what?  Would you still love me?  Would you still want to have sex with me?"  I play the if game a lot, but I rarely pull the if ultimatum.  Oh I have, but I don’t need to do it anymore.  I found someone who wants me just as much.  But I can absolutely understand them.

I understand the whole, "I have needs.  If you don’t meet them, I’ll get them met somewhere else."  If my need is to be married and have babies, and I’m in a relationship where he doesn’t seem too excited about those ideas with me, then how long do I stay and wait around, hoping he will be ready?  This is what floats around in the heads of a lot of people I know.  When will he have that epiphany?  When I leave, if I stay?  If I leave, he’s the kind who should have appreciated me while I was there.  If I stay, am I just wasting my time in a dead end relationship?  So then, oh yes, women set a deadline!  They pick an actual date.  A year after we met… by the new year… whatever it is, they pick a date.  If we’re not *here* by *this* date, then I’m gone.  Sometimes, I think having to say that is reason enough to just leave. 

I’m not an authority on this.  But I’ve witnessed it enough times.  The women who have to put an expiration date on their relationships shouldn’t be in that relationship in the first place.



  1. "The women who have to put an expiration date on their relationships shouldn't be in that relationship in the first place."

    Now if that ain't the truth! But then again, why do we even enter relationships with men we know won't give us what we need or want. Then we set ultimatums when we never should've been there in the first place. Is it that important to be a part of a we? For me it used to be. Now I can spot someone I'm going to have to get over a mile away. I save myself the hassle and don't fall in the first place.

  2. You’re absolutely right. If you’re in a relationship where you find yourself putting ultimatums out constantly—then in my opinion—it isn’t unconditional love. When someone loves you unconditionally; they sacrifice everything. They compromise. Okay, so let’s say a “woman A” wants a baby. “Man B” doesn’t want one so fast, but it may be in the cards for him – in the future. If “woman A” loves this man with all her heart—and loves him “unconditionally”—-then that should not be a problem.

    (All my opinion…just a one-sided thought process I got going here Steph)

    In my past relationship, when my ex-girlfriend gave me an ultimatum, “Oh well if we don’t live together in six months, we have to make drastic changes…” And I broke up with her after that maneuver. I guess I didn’t love her “unconditionally”.

    True love is sacrifice, compromise, respect and acceptance. Questions you have to ask yourself…

    “Do you see yourself growing old with this person?”

    “Do you see yourself ~laughing~ with this person?” (so important)

    “Can you give up a few things in order to save this relationship?”

    Everyone is so different from another. Finding a person who will follow the same path you’re on is difficult sometimes. I do believe that two people can work things out…if the love is there.

  3. Ooooooh you mentioned the U-word, oooh I'm gonna tell:) I hear you, ultimatums are in some ways ridiculous sounding, when they really are just expiration dates. But I have a situation that might make you think otherwise, at least I hope. I'm a white girl dating a Korean boy, which sounds silly when it's in print like this, but it is an issue that has, and I have a feeling, will cause us more trouble in the future. Only because of my boyfriend's parents who are strict, traditional, conservative Koreans, and to them, their son dating a white girl is unacceptable. I have not met them and they just found out about me for the first time over the winter holiday (we've now been dating for two years). Let's just put it this way, it did not go over well. They live on the west coast, we're here in NY, so they aren't a part of our daily lives per se, but someday I hope that would change. I haven't set an ultimatum yet, but if, here we go with the ifs, if they cannot ever really accept me dating their son, and C can't in turn deal with this family pressure, I'm going to have to move on. I don't consider myself someone whose clock is ticking, but I do want a family and would prefer not to be 40 when I start it…eek! Keep your fingers crossed. I'm hoping that someday after meeting them things will change, but that might just be the optimist in me :)

  4. I'm not a strong believer in unconditional love in a romantic relationship. No one should sacrifice everything. You're still two individuals with your own needs — and these needs sometimes butt heads. Putting down ultimatums is generally a bad idea, because you're only setting yourself up with a negative situation that is going to prove dangerous later on. Of course, there are always going to be "power-plays" in any relationship. I'm not opposed to a little nudging of each other to get your way. And one partner usually has more chutzpah than the other in getting his or her way. It's just human nature. Many men would never get near the altar without some subtle (or not so subtle) reminder about how important it is to the woman to be married. A successful relationship is compromising for the sake of the one you love — or in a gambler's language, "knowing when to hold em, and when to fold 'em."

  5. I am trying to play the part of the "cool" girlfriend! One who doesn't give ultimatums! My boyfriend said he would rather be alone then any woman pressure him in to doing something he doesn't want to do. He said he seizes up if he is asked to make a commitment of more then 6 months! Yet we have been together over a year, very committed!
    So now I am on cruise control, trying to tell myself what a great life I have here in the state I am living, while he is living in Beverly Hills! In my mind his life is so glamorous and wonderful, when in actual reality he has an apartment two blocks from Rodeo Dr. lives alone, doesn't cook, longs for a woman's touch! BUT that would require more then a 6 month commitment for me!! UGH!!

  6. I really agree with this post. I'm in a relationship where I don't feel like I have to set an ultimatum, because although it might take a little longer than my impatient self would like, I do believe that we will get married. Now I haven't always felt that way, because my boyfriend and I weren't always at the same stage. However, now he has caught up with me, and I am feeling so relaxed about the relationship.

  7. Stephanie,
    I've been reading your blog for months and I've never left a comment. I'm leaving one now because your post reflects my thoughts from the last few months. I've been with someone for long enough to know that I want to marry him and have babies and just move this thing along. He's not quite there yet. I wonder if he'll ever be. Things are great between us, but I just want so much more; I want the whole package, and I'm sick of dating (especially since we're not really dating because we live together). I'm basically playing house with someone who I want desperately to be my husband, while he is enjoying dating someone who isn't his wife but acts like one.

    I set an ultimatum and it's approaching quickly. Now, I'm dreading the date because I don't want to leave him (which I feel I'll have to do if he doesn't propose), but at the same time I don't want to feel like I twisted his arm into anything (because, god, I am not desperate, I could do so much better than this). So much of this dillema is ego. I don't want to feel like I begged a man to marry me. I never thought the biggest surprise of my life would involve me being behind the scenes, pulling puppet strings. So much of this dillema is just dissapointing. Dissapointment in him for not understanding how important getting married is to me; dissapointment in me for being so "needy", for wanting life to keep going; dissapointment in how hard this has to be for me, while for everyone else it seems like all the other girls had to do was bat an eyelash and the man collapsed on his knee and pulled out the biggest rock she could've hoped for.

    I never thought I'd be this way, but it's tearing me up inside. It's changed everything about the person I used to be. For better or for worse? I can't tell anymore. I'm trying not to cry as I write this. How did I get into this situation and how do I get out?

  8. Marni, you are NOT alone. Many, many, many women want you to believe their guys just fell onto one knee and proposed, completely out of the blue. Or they hired someone to skywrite "Marry Me" or asked on a horse-drawn carriage or covered the apartment in rose petals. They don't want you to know how much they dropped hints or nagged.

    I know enough guys to know almost none of them want to get married before the female in the relationship does. (I hope that doesn't sound sexist. I know I'm generalizing.) Even the romantic, sensitive Aidan types — mine included — are just not socialized to be marriage-focused. I know that's got a lot to do with gender roles and societal pressures, but part of it could also come from biology and instinct. (That said, it's not like women don't have instincts to have sex with more than one guy. I wish guys didn't think they had the monopoly on being bored by their partners.)

    My fiance and I have been together five years. If I didn't let him know marriage was important to me a couple of years ago, he probably would have been perfectly content continuing our Tim Robbins/Susan Sarandon relationship (well, the not married part, not the age difference or being older or being actors or being politically active parts). It had nothing to do with commitment, he says, and I believe him. He's as commited as he ever was. But now that we're in this different, amazing place, he's let himself become excited about our future, our kids, etc. (He's not that big into weddings, but I don't really want or need him to be. One crazy person is bad enough.)

    There's a way to make compromises that turn out for the best for everyone involved, and ultimatums rarely get the job done. But keeping what you want to yourself never works, either. Both create resentment, and resentment breaks apart otherwise meant-for-each-other people.

    Marni, if he's the one for you, he'll be ready for marriage one day. All you need from him at this exact moment is to know that he wants to get to that point. If he can't tell you that, you're entitled to move on with someone who shares your goals.

  9. Stephanie, I read your blog often and this post rang truer to me than anything else I've read here, probably b/c it relates to my life. I am still seeing/sleeping with a man who broke up with me a year ago because he couldn't commit to us. He tells me how great I am, how cute I am, blah blah blah but then pulls away when I give him an ultimatum. He just did it again today. I am finally coming to realize that,, consciously, or not, he is manipulating me. I am trying to meet other guys but its hard when the person I want to be with lives around the corner and is my best friend. Anyway, from Boston, just want to say I like your blog, I'm happy for you. I think we were in the same class at Columbia actually, '98, or did you got to Barnard? Anyway, keep up the writing and good luck in TX.

  10. I agree completely on the 'if' an ultimatum needs to be expressed, 'then' it probably says a lot about the situation you are in. I have found in my personal exprience, and under all those various circumstances you described…that it's not the most successful approach to getting your needs met.

    I think actions speak much louder than words. (Cliche…right). But if you are at such an impasse, specifically in a relationship, it might be best to state your needs and bow out graciously. No if, then. Simply…

    I don't think declaring the repercussion is necessary really.

    Then again, this is all easier said than done…and sometimes you just want to hang on and fight like hell, hoping that the more pressure you apply, the closer you'll get to getting a positive response.

    trial. and error. good times.

  11. Stephanie, I love this post. I think many people can relate to the "ultimatum" factor in a relationship. As I read through the post it reminded me of that funny movie with Stewart French and Bridgette Wilson-Sampras called LOVE STINKS. Funniest movie I have ever seen and all about the ultimatums in a relationship and much more. I hope you've seen it, if not why rent it and have a good laugh.
    Have a great day.

  12. marni — email me! i am serious. i know this sounds dorky but i have been through the same thing. recently. am going through a lot of it. have run the gamut of ways to handle it. i mean, it was almost as if i wrote this post, a few months back. if you want to discuss or need support – for real, email me. ultimatums are not always wrong or forcing anyone into anything, and this is not ruined, and it does not have to be a disappointment. i think some of what i might say might be able to help. — suebee

  13. If anyone gives me an ultimatum I speak up or shut down. Wait. If anyone demands an ultimatum, I cry. Then pick myself up and do the best I can. You know something? Isn't it interesting how ultimatum ends in "um?"

  14. Stephanie,

    I usually agree with you- but I think there are times (I'm looking back– way back- 10 years ago- when I asked for something more from my guy, 5 years after my first marriage blew up in my face!) and I seem to remember that what I wanted was a long term commitment. And I wasn’t moving in with him, without that commitment. I got it- I don’t think I held him over a barrel to get it. I think he realized because I was willing to give the ultimatum that I was willing to put everything on the line, just to have him forever/or not. There are all kinds of extenuating circumstances that can prod a female to want to tell a guy to SOGOTP! Fertility issues were my reason to push. I knew there was a long road in front of us, and like the book says "Take Control of Your Fertility"–and I did! I knew I was with the person that I wanted to spend my life with- I think he just had to hear the words come out of my mouth to realize how important it was to me. (To get married) I wasn't playing games.

    It worked for me and here we are years later- with twins and a very happy life. Sometimes guys just need that extra "kick"– Fair or not fair- I still feel like I did the right thing- and I don’t feel like I had to play games to get it. I made my feelings and needs known, he was willing to give me whatever I wanted, but wouldn’t have done it as quickly had I not asked.



  15. women spend their marriage trying to change their husband FROM the guy he was before they got married, and men spend their marriage wishing that their wife would change back to the woman she was beore they got married.

    Its an old quote, but still one of my favorites (and just happens to be totally true).

  16. I want to repost to correct a typo… I meant to say why not rent the movie. (LOVE STINKS) :-)
    Also I want to say to Marni, hang in there, Girl. We've/me all been there. Follow your heart, but don't forget to listen to that gut instinct. What is it telling you? Good luck to you.

  17. Hi Marni,
    Your post broke my heart. Don't feel bad about telling your SO what you are looking for. Too many relationships that should have ended long ago drag on needlessly because the partners aren't talking about what they want. I think it's perfectly reasonable to say, "I'd really like to settle down in the next year or so" and to ask if he is on the same page.

    If you don't mind me asking, how long have you been dating / living together and how old are you?

  18. Amen to that last sentence. I have been in far too many relationships where I watched myself do exactly what you describe in this post. It's weird. How out-of-body the whole thing feels at the time. How, looking back, you come to realize you must have seemed crazy, that the relationship was doomed from the beginning, but you just didn't want to admit it.

  19. Deb said that, "True love is sacrifice, compromise, respect and acceptance. Questions you have to ask yourself…"

    –I haven't found that to be true, at least not for myself. I refer to the issues of "sacrifice" and "compromise". I have always found respect and acceptance to be true and natural parts of my chosen relationships.

  20. I don't think Steve is right about this: "women spend their marriage trying to change their husband FROM the guy he was before they got married, and men spend their marriage wishing that their wife would change back to the woman she was beore they got married."

    I think he may be thinking in cliches.

  21. AmyDell – I agree with you. I am opposed to the ultimatum in the sense that I'm opposed to someone saying, "You have to do this by this date, or I'm gonna do this…" That's a controlling ultimatum. But I do know women who were willing to express the truth about what they were and weren't willing to wait for, which could be construed as an ultimatum, but it worked. Sometimes I think it's about being upfront and clear about contingencies.

    Similarly, I am OK with giving myself ultimatums. My significant other was slow to feel comfortable with our committed relationship. In the beginning I gave him space, but in my mind I told myself that if we weren't in a better, more committed place by summer, I'd have to re-think whether this was really something that was going to work. Summer came, and while we weren't yet where I wanted to be, I knew we were moving that way, so I extended the "date" a bit. Two and a half years later, we're perfect.

    So ultimatums can be OK, depending.

  22. Holy moly, Klein! I've been reading your blog for months now and usually wind up nodding my head as I read– yep, been there done that, I know exactly what you're talking about there. This post feels like you landed on MY blog today and called me out. I couldn't help it, I just got on a rant this morning. Ultimatums do suck, because what do they really accomplish? Are you testing your own resolve, trying to grow a backbone or just prove that you have one already? Or are you trying to see just how much another person will cave to your demands? And if they cave on this issue, what's next? And next? I'm not a fan of ultimatums, but I'll be the first to admit that I've thrown a few thinly veiled threats out there during an argument which might have coincided with a certain time of the month– and I've always ended up regretting it big time.

  23. Stephanie,

    I'm with you on the ultimatum thing… I think, we can beg and plead and make ultimatums but ultimately ( that doesn't look right but can't think of a better word… ) people will always do what they want to do.

    When I met my boyfriend ( now fiance ) he had a drug habit. Now – I'm pretty easy going, but this is one thing I can not live with. He knew that, but carried on anyway. I found out.

    I sat him down, and explained my views: I don't have the right to tell anyone how to live their life, and I will never ask him to stop doing drugs.

    However, when I was growing up, I had a pretty bad time. When you're a child, things just *happen* to you, and you have no control over them. I am no longer a child, and therefore I can choose who I surround myself with, who gets to be part of my life.

    There are certain things that I don't want in my life: drugs is one, violence is another. Each, to me, is a deal-breaker. I have the right to cut out things / people from my life that will hurt me, because I am now big enough to do so.

    I told my boyfriend that if he wants to do drugs, he is free to do so. I wasn't going to ask him to stop, but it is up to him to figure out which means more to him: me or the drugs, because he can't have both.

    He swore he would never touch them again. I told him, that unfortunately, he'd already broken my trust, and that I couldn't believe him when he said "never again". For obvious reasons. But I was happy to give him / us one last chance. Because I know I'm not perfect either.

    I guess that was an ultimatum of sorts?

    We're still together, and as far as I know ( and I really think I would know, because he has a complete personality change on drugs ) he has not touched the stuff again.

    He knows, that should he ever succumb to the temptation, it better be worth it, because he will have to face the consequences. I don't care, if by then, there's a house and kids involved. It's my life too.

    Perhaps it's a funny way to live life, but that's how it is. Just wanted to share that with you.

  24. Jen – sounds like you're compromising yourself to play the part of a "cool" girlfriend, while your boyfriend has all the control…

    Marni – sounds like you've already compromised yourself too much if you're saying that you feel you've changed – and you can't tell if that change is good or bad. I dragged a relationship out a year longer than it should have gone because I bent over backwards to meet this guy's standards…definitely not worth it, on hindsight (isn't that always the way it works?). Did it make me a stronger person? Absolutely. Did I learn from it? You bet. Did it totally suck and hurt and make me miserable for a while? Yup.

    If there's one thing I've learnd, it's that you can't change someone no matter how much you love them. They will change when they want to. Giving an ultimatum is like trying to make a circle fit into a square…most of the time (I agree there are exceptions). None of us should be trying to force a relationship to work by setting a deadline.

    Marni – your man needs to know how you feel, without the deadline. At least make sure you're on the same page – maybe marriage is something he's never even really thought about. But communication is key…let him know how hard this has been for you, and how unhappy you are – don't settle for anything less.

  25. Firstly, Deb, I don't think that unconditional love can exist between lovers. Parents and children, siblings – familial realtionships, sure, but 2 adults are always going to ultimately be looking out for themselves on some level (and I think that is how it should be – for self preservation sake) no matter how much they love each other.

    Secondly Marni – I was so touched by your post – I am in the same position – with a man who I know loves me, but is not ready to get married yet (although he does say he wants to marry and have children with me "one day")
    So I wait, but I am becoming more and more aware of my biological clock, and am terrifed that in 2 or 3 years time, he still won't be ready, we will split and I will be 32, single, no closer to having a child, but a bit closer to not being able to have a child.
    It is such a cruel trick that nature plays on us isn't it?
    I have not offered him an ultimatum – that is not my style, but he is very aware of how I feel, and I am constantly wondering whether to leave him and try and find someone who does want to get married and have kids now, or whether to risk waiting for him to eventually come around.
    The thing is, I love him desperately, he is a kind, smart, wonderful man, we laugh together all the time, we have built a good life together, have a shared history of incredible memories, my family and friends adore him – all in all, my perfect partner, the person I WANT to be the father of my children, so giving all this up because he MIGHT not be ready for kids soon enough is a pretty tough choice.
    Anyway, that is my convoluted way of saying, I know how you feel, and even though I can't fix anything for you, hearing your problems made me feel less alone, so I hope hearing mine does for you. Feel free to e mail me if you want to talk about it, and I really hope it all works out well for you.

  26. This post rang true with me and my heart ached as I read it. My ex and I had the marriage discussion after 2.5 years of dating. I wanted to get married and he didn't so, we broke up. Seven months later he called to tell me that he got engaged to the girl he started dating a month after we broke up. They are getting married this June. I am just reeling from the news and on the verge of tears. So.. that leaves me still out there dating still trying to find my husband.

  27. What about at the other of the spectrum of ultimatums? The " I am going to do what I want to do and you do what you want to do. I am not going to pressure you or hell I am not even going to ask you to do what I'm doing. If you want to then fine, if not then thats ok too."
    I have been with my boyfriend off and on for four years. (We recently graduted from college hence the four years off and on.) After graduation last May we decided to committ and move in together, just us two. Well now I have decided to move back home to NYC. Not to be with my family, but more to be with the city. Anyone from NYC, or any big city who moves to Smalltown,USA (in my case Providence,RI) understands. He doesn't want to which led to a discussion*argument* that included the following remarks "This isn't about you. I have to do what I have to do for me." So now he says that I am selfish, that we have created a life and I must not be happy with him, can he just have more time, he won't know anyone, and a whole other list of things. Last night he looked like he was going to cry/kill me when he picked up papers off the floor and realized they were apartment listings. Am I selfish bitch?? Probably, but I'm 22. I think I deserve to be selfish. Now my mom has found out and its not good b/c she loves him. And so she is advising me to give it more time, to think about it more. And now if he does come with me then what? I'll feel guilty thinking he did it for me. What if we break up over this and it ends horribly with him hating me? What if we break up period? And in the end who gets the dog??

  28. Ladies,
    If a man does not want to commit to you, an amazing and beautiful woman, than why do you want to be with a man who lacks intelligence?????
    As hard as it is, keep searching for a smart man. You deserve it.

  29. I live in New York. My boyfriend of three years lives in London. After living with him for two summers and visiting each other once or twice a month for two and a half years, I gave him an ultimatum last August. What I said was, "We either need to make a plan to live in the same country or we need to free each other to see other people." What he heard was, "We either need to get engaged or break up." Which was essentially, if I'm going to be honest, what I meant.

    Three months later, he proposed and I said yes. Twelve hours after that, he said, "I can't do this. I love you but I've done this for the wrong reason — I proposed because I felt pressured."

    So, I returned the ring and flew back to New York a wreck. We're still together, still un-engaged; we spend most of our time apart and we say "I miss you" multiple times a day. I don't know what the answer is. We have every resource available to us — money enough for too many transatlantic flights. Since January we've been apartment-hunting in New York, for a place to buy and call home, although he still has no plan to live there more than one or two weeks a month. My ultimatum backfired — and I'm embarrassed to say that I didn't follow through with the "then" part — but I don't think that they're unfounded or always inappropriate. I understand what I was thinking when I did it: How can we close the gap?

  30. I agree with the poster that said men have to be pushed. Not all of us, but many of us. My suggestion is that, if you've been together long enough, and you're tired of waiting for to 'pop' the question, forget the 'pop'. Just tell him that you feel the two of you should get married, and if he agrees, that the two of you need to start planning. Of course, you'll already have all the plans laid out in your mind. It lacks the romance of getting down on one knee, etc., but it will work.

  31. But do we just expect men to change their standing traditions since the beginning of MANKIND? We all know men, no matter what man, does not like ultimatums! If he loves you and wants to be with you, he will figure it out!
    I am just like you guys, I want to give ultimatums, time limits, do this or I will do that. It doesn't work. Sorry to say. But I also don't feel the need to get married, living together works for me, and I don't want kids either, so I am good! :)

  32. The women who have to put an expiration date on their relationships shouldn't be in that relationship in the first place.

    Stephanie – I love your blog and I read it everyday, but I have to say, this comment compelled me to post. Our generation bears no resemblance to the ones before it. People don't get married fresh out of college. Women are no longer financially or emotionally dependent upon men. They don't even need a man to have a baby. These changes (some may call them advancements) have thrown the concepts of "relationship" and "commitment" and "marriage" so desperately out of whack, that dating for our generation is more often than not – a sport. And not always a pretty one. So while I hate the word ultimatum and hate what it stands for, the fact of the matter is its a reality for our generation and a common clause in many relationships. I often wonder whether any women in NYC would even be married if it wasn't for that awful word. Including myself.

  33. Hello

    Being a gay man I’ve had some experience with dealing with men. But I find that if you’re going to throw down the gauntlet and give someone an ultimatum, you have to be prepared to walk away, it’s an essential part of the equation. If your partner thinks you’re not going to walk he’s not going to even think about whatever the ultimatum was about, you just bought him some time because to him it seems more like an empty threat.


  34. Marni,

    It may seem “like all the other girls had to do was bat an eyelash and the man collapsed on his knee and pulled out the biggest rock she could've hoped for.” But in reality it’s not always like that. I have one friend that I know brought up the subject numerous times with her boyfriend. She was worried about fertility. But to hear her tell the story now she was so SHOCKED and delighted when her husband proposed to her. People sometimes remember things the way they want to remember them—not that that’s a bad thing.

    On the other side of the coin my uncle was married last weekend (on april fools day) to a woman he’s been with for 25 years! In the beginning it was her that wanted to get married and he didn't. Then somewhere along the way it flipped and he wanted to marry and she thought they worked well the way they were, why rock the boat? They finally decided to do it last year after she had a breast cancer scare.

  35. Delurking… I just had to weigh in on this one. I was once the girl in her late 20s dating a wonderful guy who was "not ready" to commit. "Whatever," I thought. I wasn't ready either. I never did the ultimatum thing because I didn't want to spend the rest of my life with someone who only married me because I forced the issue. After waiting around for five years I finally gave up and moved on with my life (at 33).

    About six months later I met the most wonderful, sweet, caring man, and six months after that he completely surprised me by proposing without so much as a subtle hint from me. So now I am 34 and will be walking down the aisle for the first time in June. We plan to start trying for a baby right away.

    My fiance was with his previous girlfriend for 7 years and eventually broke up with her because he just "didn't want to get married." He now says that he just didn't want to marry her. I have been that girl. Ouch.

    I cringe to think of all the "not ready" guys I dated in the past. However, I have to be honest and say that even though those relationships were painful, I just wasn't ready to move forward. And when I finally became ready, I met someone who felt the same way. I can't tell you how it happened. Timing probably has a lot to do with it, as well as compatibility (and a fair amount of luck).

    I have no idea what the future will bring, but I am happier right now than I have ever been in my life. I think every woman deserves to be this happy. So my (totally unsolicited) advice to all women stuck in dead end relationships is to not lose hope and know what you want. You have to believe things will get better and they will.

    Congrats to you, Stephanie, for finding your own happiness and having the courage to share it with the rest of us.

  36. Jesus. If women want to get married that badly, they should just propose. I did. It worked out great.

    What is the deal with all of this gender-role bullshit about the guy dropping down on one knee? Honestly, a proposal should be a mutual agreement, not a fake surprise.

  37. 1. CeCe – I think you were too young to make the decision to move in with your boyfriend when you did. Obviously you still think of your life as an 'I', not a 'We', which is why you are so adamant about getting your way with your whole situation.

    2. I can't help but think that we are all playing right into this huge joke that Mother Nature plays on us. Damn biological clocks. W/o them, would there REALLY be any of this stress? I doubt it. My suggestion is to just throw out the birth control pills, sit back and watch life happen. If you have the slightest doubt that your man won't propose if you get pregnant…then it's time to move on.

    *Ha ha….I am pretty much kidding here. However, it would be an interesting experiment if all the 29-35 year old women across the US who are in great relationships sans the ring did this….

  38. I'm not big on ultimatums, but I am big on letting a man know that if and when you want a permanent commitment. It's been my experience that a man is never going to propose unless he's absolutely sure that you're going to say yes. The feeling that you might be turned down by someone you want to spend the rest of your life with is enough to send a man into paralysis.

  39. It all comes down to expectations and communication. I can't even count how many conversations my friends and I have had, dishing out ultimatums to each other, not even sharing them with the guys we are dating. "If he doesn't propose in the next year then I am out of this relationship". It is like we have to justify to our friends that we aren't okay with the way things are and are doing something about it. Where does this pressure come from?

    I once saw an interview with someone (I am totally blanking on name, etc) who said that he doesn't believe in labelling people. It was a brilliant concept. As soon as you call someone your boyfriend there are all these ideals that get thrown at you. The minute you call yourself a wife there are all these ideas of what a perfect wife, relationship, marriage are and should be that put pressure on us and make us feel bad that things aren't perfect. I was so inspired to live like this, to throw the ideals out the window and just be me… that lasted about a day. :)

  40. This is such a great post. I'm currently living with my boyfriend and planning to enter the 'ring shopping' phase of our lives soon. (He's on board.) But I have to say, I struggle daily with how much is right to 'push'. I just can't bear the thought of him looking at me in five years and thinking, yeah, I really didn't do this because _I_ wanted to. One of our problems is that we're both in school – I'm in grad. school graduating in a year, and he's getting a second B.A. (!) and will graduate in three. And we're both turning 30 this year. We moved in together last summer and my GOSH my instincts to merge kicked in. So I've been waffling pretty badly on being demanding and issuing ultimatums but knowing in the back of my head that I didn't want to leave. Lately, with the ring talk, I've settled down and also, as a separate issue, come to realize that I'm willing to wait for him, for a while. I just can't get over how much of a role I'm playing in all of this. I really am embarrassed that he didn't think enough of me to get on the project without prodding. And I do think it's about the power dynamic – if he thought I was about to walk and trade up I think he'd move faster. But fortunately, or unfortunately, I think he knows he's got me, at least for a while. Anyway, just wanted to share my story and say thanks (again) for posting. It's good to know that other women are experiencing what I am.

  41. Ladies, reflect on the following. Eighty percent of youa re competing for the top 10-20% of the pool of unmarried men: the tallest, the best-looking, those with the most money, or the best prospects.

    You deem yourselves entitled to equality in the workplace — and, leaving aside a relatively tiny number of top jobs that by definition only a handful of males can aspire to, either, you have achieved it. Never-marrieds under thirty make about as much as their opposite-sex counterparts.

    At the same time, you fully expect to marry up, or at least across, and what few of youa re really honest about is that, once there is a baby, your husband had better be ready to pull the sled single-handed, as working for money will thereafter, or at least until his second heart attack if your marriage survives that long, be an "option" for you but an ironclad obligation for him.

    You will likely bring student loan and/or credit card debt to the altar, and little or no savings. You will probably be counting on him paying it off.

    About half of today's marriages end in divorce. At least two-thirds of those divorces are chosen unilaterally by the wives, and more than 80% if there are children.

    If the divorce is the husband's choice, or the wife leaves because the husband has been abusive or unfaithful, tuypically the wife gets the marital residence, sole custody (in most states) of any children (in about 6 cases out of 7), half or more of the husband's take-home pay as child support, and (unless the marriage was very brief) half of any pensions, accumulated assets, etc. She may also get alimony.

    If the divorce is the wife's choice, or if it results from, say, the husband arriving home early to find his mate having wild sex with his boss, surprise! The wife still gets the marital residence, sole custody, child support, half the assets, and maybe alimony.

    As "wife," you get to work, or not work, you can't be forced to do housework (although you will surely complain if your mate doesn't do what you perceive to be his share). Many, many men report a sharp dropoff in sex within 1-2 years. Divorce is a disaster for most men, and for their children who are seldom encouraged by ex-wives to remain close to their fathers.

    And we're supposed to buy you a diamond ring to induce you to take complete control of our lives.

    Er, if tomorrow the duties and obligations and benefits from American marriage were reversed, I think the multi-zillion dollar bridal industry would crater and women would be committing suicide en masse.

    The reality? Most men who marry today are getting the hostility and truculence of anti-male feminism, but (posturing aside) the financial burdens of the 1950s husband — worse, in fact, because 1950s wives had grown up during the Depression and World War II, and were mostly content with a living standard that most young women would want no part of today.

    Plus, many of you are marrying docile schmucks with good jobs when you are past 30 and already starting to fade that you wouldn't have slept with when you were 22. It ain't like there's much romance coming to contemporary coupling from your end (I'm sure there are many exceptions).

    My advice to men? Stay single until your late 30s, and then marry a non-feminist woman in her early 20s, preferably from a foreign country (Latin America, Vietnam, etc.) where men are not held in such contempt by women.

  42. Myachingback is correct. You girls mightn't be aware but there is a growing anti-marriage sentiment amongst men.

    A recent report from Rutgers University found that 22% of single heterosexual males 25-34 said they will NEVER get married, a further 53% said no time soon.

    It's pretty apparent you girls are doing what we fear most, casting for the role of husband without caring who the person is. Mainly to have a baby sometime soon.

    Why do we fear it? Because we know that once the baby arrives, the hook is set and the marriate becomes optional (usually priority 4 or 5 to you). Even if you decided to pull the plug, we're the ones that cop it in divorce court.

    I'd be MUCH more inclined to marry and have children with a women who said "I'd like to get married and have children, but if that doesn't happen i still want to spend the rest of my life with you" and meant it!

  43. myachingback and jp,
    very interesting points indeed. commentary regarding taking a bride from a third world country aside (NICE, btw), i'm curious why you don't actually feel more sympathy for the situation that young, educated women are faced with. from where i stand, i feel like i'm caught in the worse sort of catch 22, which in an even crueler way, i completely didn't see coming. i'm in grad school, and you're right, will hit marriage with crazy amounts of debt. and right again, if we have kids in any reasonable amount of time (read: the next 5-7 years) i can't see how i'm expected to pull down the money i would be making without kids. and why is that?! because there is very little affordable, adequate child care for middle class working mothers!! i can tell you right now, if i could look down the next 10-15 years of my life and know that i had good, affordable child care that i could depend on, that encompassed a corporate job schedule, i would be so happy and yep, i would work. but that's just not the case. it may just be cheaper to have me at home when the kids are young. but does that mean i shouldn't expect to have been educated in the first place? does that mean that i should have to freaking choose between motherhood or a career when men never have to play that mind game? i sure as hell hope not. your hypotheticals seem so well planned and rational, but until you're in it – in a relationship where you genuinely care about the other person and just want to be happy and be able to provide for a family – i'd save the 'man hating feminism' rhetoric for another day. it's so ridiculous. just let us work AND have kids. you know? maybe then you wouldn't feel like we were 'trying to take control of your life'.

  44. Back to the question of ultimatums–I've heard many fantastically romantic stories of creative proposals. However, more and more of these fantastic proposals seem to have been precipitated by an ultimatum. Yes, he took her to the Rainbow Room and they danced all night–a month after she said that she couldn't move in unless marriage was a possibility in the near future. Yes, he put a ring on her favorite stuffed animal and said that the animal "has something to give you," but only after she said, "you date for a year, you're engaged for a year and then you're married" and he had to accept those rules or move on. I agree with the posting that said that most men will not propose unless they know they're going to get a YES, and want to add that many will not propose unless they're given a deadline.

    I also want to respond to myachingback's comment that "many of you are marrying docile schmucks with good jobs when you are past 30 and already starting to fade that you wouldn't have slept with when you were 22." This goes both ways! Many of these "docile schmucks with good jobs" seem to think that their finances mean that they are entitled to a models-only policy, that their own self-worth is announced to the world by the measurements of their arm candy. This is just to say that the men-hating feminists you warn of are certainly balanced by too many single misogynists.

  45. Smallstatic,

    You mentioned you were doing a graduate degree, so when you finish your education will be in the top 10% of the population. Lifetime income is most highly correlated with education level, so statistically, most men you meet will earn less than you. So why are you the one who has to stay at home? Plenty of good artistic types and blue collar workers would love to stay at home and be a house dad. Or do you only plan on marrying one of the 10% of men who makes more money than you.

    I suspect that in truth, you wouldn't like to support a stay at home dad (please be honest here). Would you seriously be willing to go out and work 50+ hours a week for the next 20-30 years so your husband could stay at home to raise your children? Maybe he can work part-time when the kids go to school, but your paycheck will pay the mortgage and put food on the table. BTW: because you're not the primary care giver, if you divorce he gets the house, alimony, the kids and a large chunk of your take home pay for the next 20 years!

    If you were willing to accept this, you too could have your career and your family just like men do. But from my experience, most women aren't attracted to a man who can't hold down a job or has a low paying job, even if he would make a great stay at home dad. Often, women get very uneasy when their man is unemployed and quickly tire of being the sole breadwinner.

    Marry down and welcome to equality!

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