I Gave My Partner of 3 Years an Ultimatum, and Now I'm Single
In November of 2021, I was officially three years into a relationship with my former partner. While the first year and a half of the relationship had progressed well, the second half had grown stagnant. As cliché as it might sound, I began to feel as if we were moving in different directions. So I got prepared to have a difficult conversation. I decided to give my partner an ultimatum.
For couples who meet at university, it can be hard to gauge how much your respective careers will define your lives after college. I began working when I was 16 and secured a job in my industry five months post-graduation. My former partner, on the other hand, struggled in his job search and was still without employment two and a half years after graduating. For me, this became a barrier to the goals I had for the future, including moving in together, getting married, and having kids.
While I had always been open about my desires for marriage (I drunkenly shared my wedding Pinterest board about six months into dating) as well as my plans to have kids (including that I didn't think I'd be financially ready until I was 35), my partner had always remained a hard shrug on all of the above. Everything was "I don't know" and "maybe," which became stress-inducing as I started to lay out my future. His answers to these questions often felt like a cop-out - a way of keeping his options open. "I don't know" if I want to marry you because what if I want to marry someone else? "Maybe" I want kids, but maybe not because then we'd be linked forever. Needless to say, his lack of commitment to a future together preyed on my insecurities.
By November 2021, I decided that I could no longer live with the idea that I would "maybe" need to sacrifice the things I really wanted out of life if I stayed with this person. So I told him I needed firm commitments about what I could expect in the future: a commitment to one day getting engaged and one day having a child. In that conversation, I voiced that I feared his lack of employment would be a barrier to us taking the next step in our relationship.
Related: How to Have That Uncomfortable Dealbreaker Talk, Because Compromise Isn't Always the Answer
He immediately grew defensive and insisted that "I don't know" was an answer, and that I should be understanding of that. I pointed out that I had been understanding for several years, but that he was now 27 years old and it was time to at least have an idea of what the future would hold for us. After he tried using "maybe" a few times, I finally said, "I need a 'yes' or 'no,' because I cannot keep relying on 'maybe' when maybe could mean no, and no could mean I don't get my dreams." I told him that if it was a "no," I would be leaving.
The ultimatum revealed what he had been too cowardly to say all along. He was not going to give me the life that I wanted.
When faced with an ultimatum, my partner said that he was pretty sure he didn't want to get married or have children. I was shocked to hear him say, "I think if I had kids, I would resent them." The ultimatum revealed what he had been too cowardly to say all along. He was not going to give me the life that I wanted. Instead, we would live the casual one that he desired as he continued to shoot down my requests with "maybes." When I asked why he didn't think it was important to share his intentions with me, he simply replied, "I thought you loved me enough to not need those things." It was then I knew that I was right to propose the ultimatum. The person I thought I would one day marry saw my dreams as trivial. He prioritized himself and the things that made him happy while actively deceiving me. He knew that I would never get what I wanted out of the relationship.
Suddenly, I was single, and yet I felt free. The ultimatum had revealed that this relationship wasn't the right fit. My partner didn't share my goals for the future, nor did he respect me enough to tell me that he didn't intend to get married or have children. If I had stayed in the relationship, I would have wasted years of my life only to get my heart broken anyway. And, if I had chosen to simply break up with him without getting my questions answered, I probably always would have wondered if we would have eventually gotten married had I just stuck it out.
The ultimatum and subsequent breakup may have hurt, but it gave me the information I needed to heal and to know what to look for in my next relationship. It really was like ripping off a bandage. I hated how it felt when I got the answer, but the quickness of it prevented drawn-out pain. I feel at peace knowing that I made the right choice to ensure that I have a chance at the future I desperately want.