'Marry Me or Else': Do Dating Ultimatums Work?

The amount of time a person is willing to date before committing to marriage is entirely individual.

I know people who have waited eight years to get engaged and people who have been engaged after six weeks. Both have very happy marriages. But for some, different timelines lead to a controversial part of dating: the ultimatum.

For those who haven't encountered this, it goes something like this: boy meets girl. They date. Girl wants ring. She waits. Boy does nothing. Girl waits more. He does nothing. Girl tells boy, "I expect to be engaged in X amount of time and if it doesn't happen, I walk." He either proposes or they break up. The end.

This is an oversimplification, of course. There are a variety of ultimatums and the sexes are probably flipped as well, but for explanation purposes, an ultimatum is a threat: "Marry me or I leave you."


They work, too. I've seen a few women employ this tactic and get the ring she wanted and walk down the aisle. But is bullying someone into marriage really the way to go?

I get the timeline thing. I really do. I knew I wanted to get married and have children before I was 30 so I didn't really date to just have fun. I ended up getting engaged twice before I finally re-met the person I really wanted to marry -- an old childhood friend. In retrospect, maybe I should have chilled out a bit instead of being in such a rush. On the other hand, I've been happily together with my husband (and best friend) for a decade, so it did work out.

Because of all this, I really can't judge a woman who wants to get married and tells her boyfriend as much. I've seen far too many women wait men out and never be clear about what they want and then end up alone and unable to conceive the child they always wanted.

Even with the advances we're making in egg preservation and the fact that I personally know dozens and dozens of mothers over 35, the behind-the-door secret my doctor (and many other doctors) gives is that the optimum time to conceive and carry a child is between the ages of 20 and 35.

I wish it were not so, but women do have a biological timeline.

I get angry when men lead women along with promises of marriage and children that never come to fruition. On the other hand, I wouldn't want to enter a marriage with a man who I had to threaten into it. My husband knew I had a timeline. If I wasn't feeling that we were headed into serious territory after a year, I would've started to think about leaving. He proposed on our one-year anniversary. I wanted it, but I didn't bully it out of him.

Even if an ultimatum does work, you're ultimately with a man who committed under duress. Is that really the best way to start a marriage?

Communication is probably the best bet. I would be clear about expectations, but avoid threats. I would also have an internal timeline. If he was not moving us forward, I might propose myself (radical!) or leave. I'm not advocating waiting forever, but patience is an individual thing.

Either way, ultimatums seem wrong and like a dangerous way to begin a lifelong commitment.

What do you think of ultimatums?


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