165: Ultimatums

Oct 31, 2023

We are on the brink of the end-of-year holiday period, a time of year that can often feel heavy with expectations and hopes for your romantic relationship. From time constraints associated with an affair relationship to circumstances that seem out of your control, emotions tend to run high for all kinds of reasons. And within this context, you might be more likely to issue or receive ultimatums.

It’s reasonable to have hopes, wishes, and desires in any relationship. However, trying to coerce, cajole, or threaten your partner into getting what you want is never the solution. Whether you feel pulled to issue your infidelity partner an ultimatum or find yourself on the receiving end of one, this episode covers both sides of the coin.

Join me this week to hear what you must recognize if you are thinking about issuing an ultimatum and how to navigate receiving an ultimatum in your affair relationship. I’m highlighting three main reasons people issue ultimatums, the subtle but key difference between ultimatums and boundaries, and why boundaries are the secret to feeling empowered, regardless of the actions your partner takes.

Starting in early 2024, I am offering additional ways to work with me. I'm offering a program called You’re Not the Only One, including teachings on dealing with infidelity situations, video courses and assignments, and even group coaching calls with other people just like you (while also maintaining your privacy!). Stay tuned and sign up for my mailing list in the pop-up for all the details!

If you’re ready to take this topic deeper in a confidential and compassionate environment, you can schedule an introductory coaching session with me, Dr. Marie Murphy, by clicking here!

What You’ll Learn from this Episode:

  • The key difference between ultimatums and boundaries.

  • Why you might be more likely to give or receive ultimatums during the holidays.

  • Three main reasons people issue ultimatums in their relationships.

  • What happens when you believe your feelings are dependent on your partner’s actions.

  • The problem with trying to ensure other people’s behaviors are to your liking.

  • What you must be ready to do if you set a boundary.

  • How to deal with receiving an ultimatum in your relationship.

Listen to the Full Episode:


Featured on the Show:

You are listening to Your Secret Is Safe With Me, non-judgmental talk about infidelity with Dr. Marie Murphy. If you’re looking for new perspectives on complicated relationship issues, you’ve come to the right place. 

Hi everyone, I’m Dr. Marie Murphy.  I’m a relationship coach, and I help people who are cheating on their partners or are engaging in anything they think counts as infidelity to deal with their feelings, clarify what they want, and make decisions about what they’re going to do.  No shame, no blame, no judgements.  Engaging in any kind of infidelity CAN be really exciting and great in some ways, and it can also be a total headfuck.  If you are quietly going crazy as you carry on your infidelity situation, I want you to know that relief is available to you.  No matter what the specifics of your unique situation look like, I can help you find relief from the confusion and guilt and anxiety and worry and shame and all of the other challenging emotions you may be contending with.  When you’re ready to start feeling better, let’s get to work.  You can schedule an introductory coaching session with me through my website, mariemurphyphd.com.  I can’t wait to meet you.

As I mentioned last week, starting early next year, I will be offering you new ways to work with me.  I will be opening the doors to my group coaching program, “You’re Not the Only One,” which will include the teachings I’ve distilled from working hundreds of clients, AND the opportunity to be coached by me on live group coaching calls.  The calls will be totally anonymous, so everyone’s privacy will be protected, OF COURSE, but these group calls will give you not only the chance to get some coaching from me but also the chance to hear other people get coached on their infidelity situations as well.  Sometimes hearing other people get coached is EVEN MORE useful than getting coached yourself.  So that’s one new option.  The other new option will be a bundle of my most helpful teachings, in video format along with assignments to help you apply the teachings to your own life – without any group coaching calls.  Both of these offerings will take you further than we go on the podcast.  The podcast is a great place to start, of course, but we need another forum for more in-depth teaching and learning, and that’s what I’ve got in the works.  When will these new offerings be available?  We’re shooting for January, and I’ll keep you posted.  If you want to get updates delivered to your inbox, head on over to my website and either fill out the contact form of go to the very bottom right corner of any page where it says “join our newsletter.”

If you’re wondering if I will still be offering one-on-one coaching in the new year, the answer is yes, but on a more limited basis.  If you’ve been thinking you’d like to get my help with dealing with your infidelity situation but you’ve been hesitating for one reason or another, now is a great time to decide to schedule your first appointment with me.  At this time of year it can be especially valuable to have personalized, intensive support with dealing with your infidelity situation.  

Okay, today we are going to talk about ultimatums, and why people give ultimatums in relationships, and how we can deal with being issued an ultimatum in a relationship.  Before we get too deep into the details, I want to clarify the terms and concepts we’ll be working with today.

There are a LOT of definitions of ultimatums out there, and there are a LOT of definitions of related concepts, like boundaries, so I want to be really clear about what I mean when I use these terms.

Ultimatums are requests – or demands – that come with a threat of what will happen if we do not fulfill the request or demand.  So for instance, if someone says to you, “You have to leave your spouse by the end of this year, and if you don’t, our relationship will be over, and I will hate you forever,” that can be considered an ultimatum.  The person speaking is telling someone else what they have to do, and what they will do to them if they don’t do the thing being requested.  Or demanded.

But interestingly, someone could say something pretty similar, and it would be considered a boundary, rather than an ultimatum.  For instance, someone could say to you, “I’m going to wait and see what you choose to do in relation to your marriage until the end of this year.  But if the new year rolls around and nothing has changed on your end, I’m going to consider our relationship over, and I’m going to move on, and if you attempt to communicate with me, I won’t respond.”  In that case, the person speaking isn’t making a request or a demand.  They’re explaining a limit they’ve set for themselves, and they’re telling you what they will do if that limit is reached.

This may seem like a pretty subtle difference, but it’s a significant one.  Here’s why.  We can’t tell other people what to do.  Well, that’s not quite right.  We CAN tell other people what to do, or try to anyway, but they don’t have to listen to us.  And they certainly don’t have to do what we tell them to.  But on the other hand, we CAN decide what we are okay with and not okay with, and what we are going to do in response when things happen that we are or are not willing to deal with.  We actually have control over our own actions.  And we actually do NOT have control over other people’s actions.

But we often forget this.  Especially within the context of romantic relationships in which promises are made.  Many people slip into thinking that if they are in a relationship with someone, and that someone promises to do something for them, that person HAS to do the thing they promised to do.  And we often think that if someone doesn’t do what they promised to do, we have the right to try to make them do it.  Maybe by issuing ultimatums and telling them what we’re going to do to them if they don’t do what we want.

It's important to talk about ultimatums at any time of year but it may be especially important to talk about ultimatums at this time of year because that period of time that so many people think of as “the holidays” is coming up.  And by “the holidays” I mean the period from American Thanksgiving to New Years.  It always strikes me as a little presumptuous and arrogant to say “the holidays” to refer to this period of time, as doing so seems to imply that these are the only holidays, or the most important holidays that humans could possibly celebrate.  But I also recognize that for a lot of people, these particular holidays are THE holidays within the context of their lives, and that this particular holiday period is a stretch of time that has a lot of meaning for a lot of people.

So today I’m going to talk about “the holidays” and I’m going to mean the stretch between American Thanksgiving and New Years.  But I want to make it clear that I know these are not everyone’s holidays, and I also want to make it clear that what I’m saying will also apply to other holiday-heavy stretches of time.

The lead-up to the holidays can be a particularly tough time for people who are involved with someone other than their committed partner, or who don’t have a committed partner but are involved with someone who does.  It can be a time when all of the constraints associated with an affair relationship seem particularly unbearable, or are exacerbated by outside circumstances, or both.  Perhaps because you really want to spend more time with your affair partner, but your family commitments or theirs make that impossible.  Perhaps because you’ve been through multiple holidays with your affair situation being what it is, and the fact that another holiday season is coming up serves as a stark reminder of the passing of time, and an occasion to compare this time of year with this time last year, and thus, possibly an opportunity to see how little has changed.  Perhaps because you love the holidays so much, and you just want to be with your special someone during the holidays, and if that isn’t happening, you aren’t happy, and it’s just that simple.

And of course, in addition to whatever is going on with your infidelity situation, emotions can run high during the holidays for all kinds of reasons.  A lot of people love the holidays, sure, but a lot of people find the holidays to be a pretty challenging time.  So both because of your infidelity situation and in spite of your infidelity situation, this time of year that we’re heading into can seem like a bit much.

Within this context, you may be more likely to give – or receive – ultimatums related to your infidelity situation.  

We tend to give ultimatums when we are unhappy with what’s happening within our relationship with someone, and we think that it is our person’s actions that are making us unhappy, and we think that our person has some sort of duty or obligation to do things differently for the sake of making this happy.  And although it’s certainly possible for us to think that someone has the duty to do things differently for the sake of making us happy within the context of any kind of relationship, we tend to especially believe that if we’re romantically involved with someone, it’s their job to make us happy.  We tend to think that romantic partnership equates with responsibility for someone else’s happiness.  

Some people believe in a very literal sense that if you are romantically involved with someone, it’s their job to make you happy, and vice versa.  But some people are like, “Of course it’s not my partner’s JOB to make me happy…” but they do believe things that are not too far from that idea.  For instance, a lot of people think that if you tell your partner that they’re doing something that you don’t like, they should stop doing that thing.  Because you don’t like it!  Some people believe that if you are unhappy with your partner, your partner should take it upon themselves to understand what they’ve done to upset you, and do something differently.

These sorts of ideas take us into some pretty interesting territory.  On the one hand, I think it’s totally fair to want to experience happiness within a romantic relationship.  It’s fair to want to enjoy your partner.  And I think it’s totally fair to make requests of your partner, sometimes.  It’s can be completely fair to say, hey, if we’re going to be in this thing we call a relationship with each other, I’d really appreciate it if you would do THIS and not do THAT.  That can be completely fair.

But often, we believe – to one degree or another – that our partner and everything they do or don’t do has the power to MAKE us happy or unhappy.  We believe – to one degree or another – that our feelings are dependent on our partner and their actions.  We think there’s a causal relationship between what our partner does, and how we feel.

And when we believe that, when we think that that’s how it works, of COURSE we may be inclined to try and get our partner to do certain things and not do certain things.  If we want to be happy, or we want to feel good within our relationship, and we think feeling good depends on our partner doing what we like, or what we want them to, of course we’re going to try and direct or manage or control their behavior – and issuing ultimatums may be one of the tools we employ when we attempt to do this.

This is, on the one hand, totally understandable and totally human.  If you’ve been trying to get someone to do the things you want them to do in an attempt to feel better, there’s nothing wrong with you.  After all, we’ve all gotten the message, to one degree or another, that this is how relationships are supposed to work!  If you’re involved with someone, they’re supposed to do the things you want them to do for the sake of you feeling good.  We’ve all been exposed to the idea that this is how things are supposed to work.

The only problem, of course, is that this isn’t how it works.  For one thing, as I said earlier, we can’t make anyone do anything, and although attempting to ensure that other people’s behavior is to our liking might work sometimes, it isn’t sustainable in the long run.  But even more importantly, it isn’t other people and whatever they do or don’t do that makes us feel however we feel.  If you’ve been listening to this podcast for a while, you’ve probably heard me talk about this before.  But if you’re new to this podcast, this might sound like a pretty radical idea.  Other people don’t CAUSE our feelings.  It’s what we THINK about other people, and whatever they do or don’t do, that generates our feelings.

Even if someone does something that we like, or does something that we really want or wanted them to do, their action does not in and of itself make us feel good.  Even if our person does the thing we want them to do, it’s still our THINKING that creates our feeling of happiness.  Sometimes we’ll really want someone to do something for us, and then they’ll do it.  But we won’t feel good!  We won’t feel happy about it.  We’ll come up with all kinds of reasons to NOT feel happy or good.  We’ll tell ourselves things like, “Well, they did that thing I wanted them to do, but it was too little too late.”  Or, “Well they did the thing I wanted, but they only did it because it was what I wanted them to do.  What I really wanted was for them to have the idea themselves, and do the thing without any urging from me.”  Getting what we want does not in and of itself make us happy.

So if you’ve been operating as if your partner has the power to make you feel good or make you feel not good by virtue of whether they do what you would like for them to do or not, I assure that they aren’t that powerful.

Now, here’s the part that might seem like a paradox.  I don’t think it actually is a paradox.  It’s just something that’s a little nuanced.  Even if your partner doesn’t have the power to MAKE you feel anything, it’s still reasonable for you to like it when they do things that you want them to do, and NOT like it when they do things you don’t want them to do.  It is reasonable for you to have hopes and desires and wishes.  It is reasonable for you to want certain outcomes.  It is reasonable for you to prefer certain things over others.  It is totally legitimate for you to have likes and dislikes.

So, let’s say you’re involved with someone who is married.  You don’t have any other relationship going on.  You’re involved with this person who is married and that’s it.  And your married affair partner has been telling you for the last four years, at about this time of year, that the upcoming holiday season will be the last one they spend with their family.  They’ve told you, for four years in a row, that they are fully committed to leaving their marriage so that the two of you can be together without any infidelity factor, and that they’re going to start making changes as soon as the holidays are over.  And so for four years running, you’ve tolerated not being able to spend the holidays with your affair partner, and you’ve tolerated them spending a lot of time with their family and thus not being able to spend much time with you, even though you really LOVE the holidays and you really want to be able to spend the holidays with the person who is your affair partner, without them being your AFFAIR partner anymore.  You really want them to be just your partner, and you want to have them all to yourself, during the holidays, and throughout the rest of the year, too.  

But each year, after the holidays have come and gone, your married affair partner has had all of these things come up that have thwarted their plan to extricate themselves from their marriage.  And you’ve found this extremely disappointing, but you’ve also been sympathetic.  You know that leaving a marriage can be a big deal, and you think the reasons why your person hasn’t left their marriage yet are fairly okay reasons.

BUT.  This year, as we’re on the brink of the holidays yet again, you’re starting to freak out a little.  You’re at the point where you’re like, “Wait a minute, what if this person of mine NEVER leaves their marriage?  Here we are, on the cusp of the holidays again, and I know my person is going to tell me that they’ll leave their marriage after the holidays, just like they told me for the last four years, but at this point I don’t know if I should believe them.  And I don’t even know if I should wait for them.  Maybe I should just break things off with them right now, even if they ask for one last chance.  But I don’t really want to do that.  What I really want is to get through the holidays knowing that this time, my person REALLY WILL leave their spouse in January.  What I really want is to know for SURE that this is what’s going to happen.”

It's fair enough to want this.  But the fact is, we won’t know for sure whether our person will leave their spouse until they actually do it.  We may sort of recognize that, on some level, but we also might NOT really recognize that, and even if we do, we might not like that idea AT ALL.  We might just want ASSURANCE that things are going to happen the way we want them to happen.  We want to KNOW that after all the waiting we’ve done, we are finally going to get what we want.  We want a guarantee that we aren’t going to be disappointed this time.  We want certainty.

And so what we may do is attempt to EXPLAIN to our person who is married that we’ve been very tolerant of their previous failures to deliver on their promise to leave their marriage, so we really NEED them to PROMISE US that they really are going to leave their spouse this coming January.  Or maybe we’re a little more riled up, and we have decided that we actually want our person to leave their spouse BEFORE the holidays this year.  They’ve been dragging their feet for long enough, so they owe it to us to get their shit together and finally leave their marriage like they’ve been promising to for years.  So we tell them that.  We tell them, “You owe it to me to leave your marriage before Thanksgiving so you have to do that.”

Now, some people would say that counts as an ultimatum, even though there’s no threat attached to the demand.  Some people would say that if you tell someone, “You have to do this thing for me,” then that’s an ultimatum.  Whether it technically fits the definition of an ultimatum or not, I think this kind of statement and a statement that might more fully count as an ultimatum are coming from the same place.  And that’s from a place of believing that our happiness, or our OKAY-ness depends on someone else doing something that we want them to do.

You may anticipate that if your person doesn’t leave their spouse, you’re going to feel really sad and disappointed and probably a whole bunch of other emotions too, which you may not really want to feel.  You may already feel a whole bunch of emotions you don’t really want to feel, and that may be related to the fact that your person hasn’t left their spouse YET.  And it’s legitimate for the feelings you’re feeling to feel really uncomfortable, and it’s legitimate for you to not like the idea of feeling the feelings you think you might feel in the future if you don’t get the outcome you want.

But trying to coerce or cajole your person into doing what you want them to do is not the solution.

So what IS the solution here?  The solution is twofold.  You have the opportunity to get really clear on what you are and are not willing to participate in, at this point in your relationship.  If you’ve been involved with a person who is married for four years, and you really don’t like the idea of going through another holiday season with them still in their marriage, you get to decide what you want to do about that.  Or put differently, you get to decide what boundaries you set.  The key point is for you to get really clear about what you are and are not willing to do, and to be willing to uphold your own boundaries.

So for instance, you might decide that you actually are NOT willing to stay in your relationship with your married person through another holiday season.  You might decide that you would rather let them go before the holidays than wait until January rolls around to see if they’ll leave their marriage this time.  You might be happy to maintain a relationship with your person if they were to separate from their spouse before the holidays, but if they aren’t going to do that, you’re just done.  You have every right to choose that for yourself!  You don’t get to choose what your person does, but you get to choose what YOU do.

AND, you have every right to convey this to your person.  You could tell them, “Listen, I have decided that I’m not going to go through another holiday season waiting for you.  I’m just not up for that.  If you initiate the process of leaving your marriage before the holidays, then I’d be more than happy to continue our relationship, but if you aren’t ready to do that, then I’m going to consider this relationship over, and I’m going to begin my process of moving on.”  When you tell someone that, you’re telling them what you have decided.  You’re not telling them what to do.  And by letting them know what you’ve decided, they gain the opportunity to decide what they will or won’t do in response.

Now here’s a really important thing.  When we set a boundary, we need to be ready to uphold it.  Otherwise, what’s the point?  Sometimes, we think we’re setting a boundary, but we’re really kind of trying to cajole someone into doing what we want.  We’re hoping that by setting a boundary and informing someone of it, that will get them to change their behavior.  Technically, we may not be giving them an ultimatum, but we’re really hoping that the effect of stating our boundary will be that our person does what we want them to, and that we won’t have to follow through with taking the action we’ve said we’ll take.

And it is possible that when we state a clear boundary, our person will decide to do the thing we want them to do.  That’s totally possible.  Sometimes knowing that someone has set a clear boundary is enough to spur us into action.

But what you’ve got to remember is that even if spurring someone else into action may happen when you set a boundary, it is not the objective of setting a boundary.  The objective of you setting a boundary is to take responsibility for the things you have the power to control.  You have the power to choose how you respond to your person’s actions.  More specifically, you get to decide if you want to spend another holiday season as the “other person,” or not.  You get to decide how you deal with your emotions.  It may not be possible for us to avoid feeling sad.  That may not be one of the options on the table.  If we don’t like the way things are going in our relationship, we may not be able to avoid feeling sad about that.  But we can be WILLING to feel sadness, instead of resisting feeling sadness.  We can take responsibility for digesting the emotion of sadness, or moving through the feeling of sadness.  And when we’re willing to take responsibility for these things, we’re free.  

So if you have been issuing ultimatums, or you’ve been thinking about issuing ultimatums, I encourage you to do two things.  First, recognize that wanting your person to do the things you’d like them to do is a totally reasonable thing to want.  And second, consider that if you aren’t getting what you want from your partner, your power lies in deciding how you are going to deal with that, rather than trying to force or cajole your partner into doing the things you’d prefer they do.  And in the short term, you might not like that.  But in the longer term, taking responsibility for what you can, rather than trying to get other people to do what you want will ultimately get you far more of what you want in life.

Now, what does all of this mean for you if you are on the receiving end of an ultimatum or two?  What if someone has said to you, “If you don’t leave your family by Thanksgiving, our relationship will be over, and I’m going to forget you ever existed”?  How are you supposed to deal with that if you don’t want to lose your affair partner, but you also don’t really want to leave your family before Thanksgiving?

What I DON’T recommend you do is explain to the person giving you an ultimatum that it’s not really your actions that create their feelings, and tell them that they really need to understand that it’s their thoughts that generate their feelings, not whatever you do or don’t do.  YOU may know that!  And it might be really nice if they knew that too!  But attempting to explain that to them may not be all that helpful.

Let me offer a few alternate suggestions.  

Remember your person is probably hurting.  There’s a good chance that they are issuing ultimatums because they are hurting, and they are hoping that if you do the thing they want you to do, they won’t have to hurt anymore.  You don’t have to debate their logic with them.  You can CARE immensely about their pain, and you can sympathize with the fact that they think that getting you to do something they want you to do is going to relieve them of their pain.  We’ve all been there!  We’ve all has moments of believing that if only someone else would do something differently, we’d be able to feel better.  So we can sympathize with our fellow humans when they’re in that spot.

To that effect, if someone is issuing you an ultimatum that you consider totally unreasonable, like for instance, “If you don’t tell your spouse you want a divorce and move out of the house you share with them within the next ten days, we’re over,” I don’t encourage you to respond to that directly, at least not right away.  Getting into a debate with them about whether or not their request or demand or ultimatum is reasonable probably won’t get you too far if your person is hurting and worked up.  Remember, when emotion is high, intelligence is low.  It may behoove you to recognize that they may well be hurting a lot, and therefore, their thinking may be somewhat clouded.

You may want to start by sympathizing with their frustrations – if you want to.  If you have told your affair partner for the past four years that you were going to tell your spouse that you want a divorce as soon as the holidays were over, and you haven’t done that, you may be totally sympathetic to the fact that your affair partner is getting agitated now that the holidays are coming up again.  You may completely understand why they’re saying the things they’re saying.  See if you can meet them with understanding before you try to deal with the specifics.

Now on the other hand, you might NOT be sympathetic to whatever they’re asking for.  You might be like, I don’t like what they’re asking me to do, or trying to get me to do, and I’m not going to do it, and that’s all there is to it.  I don’t care that they’re hurting, I just don’t want to deal with ridiculous requests or demands or ultimatums of any kind.  And if you don’t want to, you don’t have to!  The same thing I said earlier applies to you, too.  When someone behaves in a way you don’t like, you get to choose how you respond.  Even if your affair partner is convinced that you are in the wrong, and convinced that you owe them something because you’ve promised to leave your spouse for four years running and you haven’t done it, you do not have to agree with them on these points.  You can do as you see fit, even if your affair partner doesn’t like that.

All of that said, if your partner is issuing an ultimatum, or something pretty close to that, you may want to consider that a pretty good reason to take a clear look at what you want in regards to your relationship with that person, and what you want to do about that.  If you’ve told your affair partner that you were going to leave your spouse after the holidays for four years in a row, and at this point you’re not really all that sure that you’re EVER going to leave your spouse, you might want to take the ultimatum they’ve issued as a nudge to cut the shit.  If you care about your affair partner, but you’re not sure you’ll ever be willing to leave your spouse, you might want to acknowledge that to yourself, and you might want to give this message to your affair partner.  

And that’s not because you ever HAVE to respond to an ultimatum someone gives you.  You don’t.  You don’t HAVE to do anything!  But if we interpret ultimatums as an indication that someone may be hurting – and I think it’s often very appropriate to interpret ultimatums in this way – we may want to take a hard look at our own actions and decide if we feel good about our own behavior or not.  Regardless of how your affair partner feels, regardless of what they want, how do YOU feel about not letting them know that you don’t think you’ll be able to leave your spouse anytime soon, if ever?  YOU might not want to withhold that information from them because it just isn’t the way you want to treat someone you care about.  If you’ve been arsing around, so to speak, with your infidelity situation for months or years and your affair partner issues an ultimatum, you might want to use treat that as an impetus to make some decisions.  

You don’t have to take the ultimatum itself literally, but you may want to take the fact that your person is at a point where they’re issuing ultimatums seriously.

And to that effect, if someone gives you an ultimatum, or sets a really clear boundary about how much longer they’re willing to deal with something you’re doing, you also might want to consider that it could be time to go for it and do whatever you can to pursue a relationship with that person.  Some of us NEED someone to say to us, “Listen, I am only going to stick around for so much longer so you better come get me if you want me” in order to actually mobilize towards that relationship.  If that’s the push you need, so be it!  Just be aware that there’s a difference between taking someone’s threat or boundary seriously and acting on it because you really want to maintain the relationship, and acting on it because you’re afraid of disappointing them.  If you’re married, and in order to chase your affair partner in the way they want to be chased, you may have to leave your marriage, and that may mean that you end up disappointing SOMEONE.  So beware of the potential to cave to ultimatums out of a desire to avoid displeasing someone you care about.

There’s no way to get out of the human predicament of feeling hurt by other people’s actions at times, and being the occasion of other people’s hurt sometimes.  There are going to be times when you don’t like what other people do, and there are going to be times when other people don’t like what you do.  If you’re trying to solve for other people’s hurt feelings by attempting to keep everyone around you happy, it’s not going to work.  You AREN’T going to be able to make everyone happy, and in attempting to do so, you’re probably going to create a lot of suffering for yourself.  

So.  What do you do if someone gives you an ultimatum, and you’re really sympathetic to what they’re asking for, and you really want to do what they’re asking you to do, but you just think you need more time?  What if you are as sure as you can be that you really WILL leave your spouse after this round of holidays are over, even though you said you would do that for four years running and you didn’t?  What if you just want your affair partner to hang in there with you for a few more critical months?  In other words, what if you do want to take the ultimatum you’ve been given seriously and literally – but you also want to negotiate the terms?

You can of course try to negotiate if you want to.  That IS an option.  Your person might say no, I’ve decided what I’m willing to do and not do here, and you’re either on board, or you aren’t, and of course, it’s their prerogative to say that.  Or they might say sure, we can negotiate a little, but only if you’re negotiating in good faith.  And that’s what I want you to consider most seriously.  If your partner issues an ultimatum, or sets a clear boundary, and you think you might want to try and get yourself a little more wiggle room, I want you to ask yourself WHY.  So often we think we need more time before we can do something, or we think we need to think it through a little more, or we think there’s SOME reason why we can’t make a decision or take action right away.  But is that ever as true as we think it is?  A lot of the time it isn’t.  So I want to encourage you to be really honest with yourself about WHY you want to negotiate if someone draws a clear line in the sand.  If you’ve been telling your affair partner you’re going to leave your spouse after the holidays for four years in a row, and you find yourself wanting to ask your affair partner to just let you get through one more holiday season, be willing to bust yourself.  Do you really need to spend the upcoming holidays with your spouse?  If you believe you do, are you really willing to do things differently this time, after the holidays are over?  

Even if it is not incumbent upon us to respond to an ultimatum or a boundary by doing whatever it is our person asks us to do or hopes we will do, we can still use the ultimatum as impetus to get clearer about what we want and what we’re going to do about it – and this is for OUR SAKE, not just for our person’s sake.

All right.  If you would like to talk to me about setting or upholding boundaries, or giving or receiving ultimatums, or anything else related to your infidelity situation before the end of this year, now is the time to get yourself on my calendar.  As of this recording, I still have openings for introductory coaching sessions between now and the end of the year, but those spots are disappearing, so if you want to work with me, schedule your first coaching session today.  I know taking the step to book an appointment can seem like a really big one, but once you book that first call with me, you are one step closer to finding relief and a clear path forward.  You can book that introductory coaching session with me through my website, mariemurphyphd.com.  I offer confidential, compassionate coaching via Zoom, so we can work together no matter where you’re located.  

Thank you all so much for listening!  Have a great week.  Bye for now.

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