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Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Powerful Statement

Help me out here... There's something that often happens in relationships that I just don't know how I feel about. It gives me very conflicting reactions every time I hear it. It's just one sentence. Not even that, it's just half a sentence. Yet it's one of the most powerful things that can happen in a committed relationship. I've only ever heard it said by girls, but I'd be interested to know if any males have said it too. The sentence is this:

"I don't think I can continue to be with you if..."

It's been said for a large number of reasons. One partner will say to another that if they believe a certain thing or behave a certain way, they'll have to end it. I'm very conflicted about that idea, because on one hand, we've all got the right to break up with people for whatever reason we wish. yet on the other hand, it sounds like a form of emotional blackmail. A declaration of "If you don't change who you are, I'm leaving."

It may depend on the reason it's being said. I've had conversations with people who have used that sentence before. In those cases, their partners were:
  • Watching pornography.
  • Play-fighting with the kids in their family.
  • Not wanting to go to University and just work hospitality jobs to get by.
  • Constantly describing their exes and how great they were.
  • In the case of a long-distance relationship, refusing to spend the money and time to come and see them and insisting that they always be the one to do it.
I think the line should be drawn at the separation of actions and beliefs. When the concern is over an action such as the last two examples above, the person should be congratulated for making a stand and not just taking it. It's when it's done over a difference in beliefs that it gets murky. If one partner believes pornography is wrong and the other doesn't, is the first partner allowed to say "Please change or I'm leaving"? Is it a refusal to sacrifice who you are for the sake of a loved one? Or a refusal to allow opposing viewpoints into your life?

With the play-fighting scenario, two people were in a committed relationship that they were thinking would lead to marriage and kids. But when partner one saw partner two play-fighting, that brought up the issue of how they wanted their own kids raised.
"I don't want our kids to be brought up fighting like that."
"It's what kids do, it's natural."
"Well if you want your kids to be like that, I'm not sure I want to be a part of it."
 
Perfectly reasonable or mean and unfair? Help me out with this one guys.

62 comments:

  1. Ultimatums are seldom effective and generally create serious problems; you're right, it's very controlling.
    However, unless a person is into being manipulative for fun, the fact that they're considering issuing an ultimatum is a big clue they need to step back and have a serious think... about themselves, the other person, expectations, and if the relationship will work.

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    1. So basically the phrase is an indication of an unhealthy relationship?

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    2. Or an unhealthy mode of thinking by one of the people in the relationship.

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  2. I'm just wondering... Is saying ""I don't think I can continue to be with you if..." asking for change or just giving a reason of why you will be leaving soon? It's normal to have certain things you find inacceptable in a relationship. But I also believe you should ask someone to change. Maybe in that case two people are just not meant to be together.

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    1. You might have hit on the more pertinent question there, which is "Should one partner ask another to change". Or maybe even "Do they have the right".

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  3. I don't understand the play fighting thing. It doesn't make sense to me. But if one person decided that was a deal breaker, it's best for the other not to raise kids with a weirdo.

    I'm thrown out the 'dealbreaker' card at times when I shouldn't have. Other times, it was well past its expiration date.

    I agree that there's generally a difference in action vs philosophy. I'm regularly working on my acceptance of George's differing political beliefs.

    Good discourse material, Michael.

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    1. Hahaha thanks Robyn :) One of my favourite things in the world is when someone who doesn't necessarily share my beliefs accepts them anyway. It leads to a wonderful exchange of ideas.

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  4. As I get older, I find myself believing less and less in "working at" relationships in the beginning. Now, later on, when you have a life together or when challenges arise that are difficult to bear - yes, you may have to work to get past it.

    But in the beginning when you are dating with the idea of finding a life long mate, the likes or dislikes or needs of an individual are frequently ingrained. It's really hard to change a person from the inside out. I don't believe you should try to change someone, especially so early on.

    That might sound harsh, but I have known a slew of people who date a person who they think can be changed into someone they'll have a life with one day. They're looking at it like they have raw clay in their hands and they can shape it into a fine piece of pottery that they could live with. People just aren't like that.

    So, back to the question: No, I don't think you should provide an ultimatum, ever. If you're at that point, it's time to say, "this is not the one." No crime in not being "the one." A vast majority of people in the world aren't "the one."

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    1. So that would lead to the question of "How many differences should a person accept between them and their partner before it becomes clear that they're not right for each other?" I imagine the answer is vastly different for every couple.

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    2. They should accept every difference that they can live with forever and not bring up later. It's counterproductive to beat someone up (not literally, of course) for being the person they always were.

      I'm not saying we have to be 100% the same; we just have to see the whole person as they ARE. And I don't really think you decide as a couple what you can or can't tolerate. It's personal.

      Hubzam and I are different; I'd even say we are the opposites in some areas, But it works because we know exactly who we are - the good, bad and ugly.

      Besides, being with someone exactly like me...well, heck, I do that alone. Why do I need someone else for that? ;-)

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    3. Oh yeah, I'd want someone very similar to me but not exactly. I think where I'm very self-absorbed, I'd want her to be very me-absorbed ;)

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  5. I think it's important to remember that people all have differing opinions about issues, and it takes a lot of give and take in a relationship. You may need to weigh the negatives and positives and determine what you can and cannot tolerate, as sometimes these things kind of define the person. Best to ferret them out in the beginning before a long term commitment.

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    1. Yeah, because then at least if it doesn't end the relationship, it has a much better chance of building something strong.

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  6. Cherdo's answer is very good. The scrapheap of busted relationships is littered and overflowing with people (more often women) who hung in there because they thought they could change another person and everything would work out eventually.

    Certainly there's nothing wrong with letting someone know if they're doing something that disturbs you in a major way. But presenting it as an ultimatum probably isn't going to help change the behavior. If the simple fact that the person has already been told that a certain thing really disturbs you (once, or twice, or even a third time) but it continues, then clearly that person doesn't really care that it bothers you so much. And... there's your answer right there. Now, how strongly do you feel about it? Strongly enough to leave the relationship? Then do it, rather than threaten it.

    As Cherdo also said, "A vast majority of people in the world AREN'T 'the one'. Why waste time when there are other people to meet and this one's not that one you wish to be around every single day for the rest of your tortured life. ...Or something like that.

    And my personal belief is that "pornography" is ALWAYS a bad idea. In fact, a person close to me ended her marriage due in large part to the fact that her husband was regularly viewing pornography after about 20 years of marriage. I understand her feelings about that: It's a form of cheating and sends the message that "you aren't enough for me; you aren't a good enough partner, so I'll see others."

    ~ D-FensDogg
    'Loyal American Underground'

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    1. Pornography's an interesting one again, because plenty of people have left others for watching pornography, but no one's ever left anyone because they DON'T watch it. That probably means you're right, it's best just to avoid it.

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    2. Awww...thanks, Stephen....

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    3. Remember, spending time with the wrong one keeps you from the right one.

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  7. Sometimes people aren't just meant to be together. If something stupid like play fighting with kids is a big deal then kick them to the curb anyway. I can understand the porn one as it could lead to the other partner thinking they aren't good enough and said person has to look at porn to get a thrill. You are never going to like 100% of another person though, there will always be something that irks you. But to the little nonsense just let it go and enjoy each other. If one attempts to change or hopes to change the other it will only end in divorce.

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    1. So for you it depends on the size of the issue?

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  8. I think the statement itself is mean and unfair no matter what the topic.

    As the others have said, there's a huge difference between expressing a concern and using the future of your relationship as leverage to change something. If I don't like something my wife is doing, I'd never threaten her with divorce or act like I'm going to leave her. That's BS. Yes, something may be extremely important to you, but you can still present it in a way that's not angry and passive aggressive.

    Option A: I don't think I can continue to be with you if you play fight with the kids.
    Option B: I'm concerned with how you're play fighting with the kids. Can we talk about this, so you can hear my side?

    Both of those are going to start a dialogue, but option b is much, much more likely to start an actual conversation, where option a will probably just start a fight.

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    1. I think the phrase is usually used after the fight's already been going for a while. The person gets frustrated that their partner just doesn't get it and considers bailing out. But as we all know, it's pretty darn hard to bring up problems without causing defensiveness and resentment :P

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  9. Sadly I think this is a trend more common in women.
    Aisle. Altar. Hymn.
    I'll alter him.
    Sad and bad.
    A Beer for The Shower nailed it. Open a dialogue. Talk about what bothers you. Get both perspectives. Or you have indeed started a deal breaker.

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    1. If we all knew how to have dialogue with people, the world would be a better place :P

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  10. Dating is all about learning more about a person you care about, or could come to care about, I think. If that person's NOT the right one, you'd better hightail it out of there, and hope they do the same for you. Marriage, which dating can def. lead to, is hard work even when you love 'for better or for worse.' If you don't love for better or for worse, better to get out while the getting is good, regardless of which excuse it is that leads you to go. ;)

    That being said, my two older boys (21 and just turned 27) playfight with each other (unrelated, but your note above reminded me) and my oldest son's MIL had a FIT about it when they did it at her house over the holiday. Still shaking my head, and glad my son's MIL has a daughter who is much more reasonable (i.e. embraces a fun spirit). ;)

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    1. So it sounds like you still think the sentence is a bad idea, but for a different reason - if there's something that's upsetting you, don't wait for the person to change first, just leave them and let them search for someone who accept them fully.

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    2. There's a lot of times hubby and I could have used that sentence but we never, never did. And I'm glad for it. ;)

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  11. I think it's important to be on the same page in a relationship. In a dating situation, seeing things that aren't in agreement to your beliefs or lifestyles, are caution flags. You can't change someone. So if you know you can't live with those things, the best thing is to move on. If you're already married, a conversation is needed to work through the issues. If they can't be resolved, and the issues are too much, you will need to get out of the relationship.

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    1. That's a fair call. I tend to be a little bit different (and having this conversation with my Mum, I found she was the same) where once I like a girl, she could believe practically anything she wants and I'll accept it (short of being a white supremest ;)). But that begs the question: If there are too many differences between me and this particular girl, why am I drawn to her in the first place?

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  12. I think it's important to be on the same page in a relationship. In a dating situation, seeing things that aren't in agreement to your beliefs or lifestyles, are caution flags. You can't change someone. So if you know you can't live with those things, the best thing is to move on. If you're already married, a conversation is needed to work through the issues. If they can't be resolved, and the issues are too much, you will need to get out of the relationship.

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  13. I've been on the other side of, "if." It was cruel and unfair to me. You'd think after four years of dating, you'd know someone. I tried the method as suggested by "Beer for the Shower" guys, but it ended in his choice being maintained, which is okay. I didn't go the ultimatum route, he did. It was sad for a while, but I let go, and let God. I didn't wish for either of us to live miserably. I think we made the right decision to end the relationship.

    I think everyone here has offered excellent suggestions/advice. Best to you!

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    1. Yeah everyone so far has been amazing! I'm glad to finally hear about a situation where a male has done it and I'm also glad you felt empowered enough to say "Well thanks, but I think I'll keep looking" ;)

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  14. With many relationships, there is compromise. People only change if they want to though, so throwing down that ultimatum for something that isn't dangerous, harmful, or life-threatening isn't going to work anyway. if you're not jiving with someone, just say so and call it quits. People need to communicate more before taking that final plunge of marriage.

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    1. Well the two things that drive people's actions are fear and desire. The person may not want to change, but they do so anyway out of fear of losing their partner.

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  15. I think everybody has to be accepting and forgiving in a relationship. When people end a relationship, most times it isn't really for the reason they say. It could be an excuse they are using instead of flat out saying "I really am not happy with you" or "everything you do makes me want to scream". It's way easier and less hurtful to say "I simply can't get over the fact that you leave the toilet seat up.".

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    1. That's interesting, I've never thought of that before :) Have you done that in the past?

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    2. Yes...my ex was a little psycho, so instead of me saying that, I used a less insulting excuse.

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  16. I think everyone has the right to set whatever limits they are comfortable with. If they know that the relationship won't work because of it, it's better to end it sooner rather than later. Having said that, though, I think a lot of people miss out on what might have been a wonderful relationship because they are so inflexible or judgmental.

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    1. YES, totally agree. Especially in the very earliest stages, when anything could be a dealbreaker. I almost lost interest in someone because they didn't like The Simpsons :P

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  17. So, watching pornography is bad? What about STARRING IN pornography?
    Frankly, I'm thinking of marketing a whole line of pornos starring me...targeted exclusively to blind people.

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    1. Well contrary to popular belief, blind people need love too :)

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  18. Well I think it can be reasonable depending on what the other person is doing to elicit those words. For instance, 'I don't think I can continue to be with you if you keep being a serial killer" might be legit :)

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    1. Hahaha so that brings us back to "actions versus belief". But then again, my partner doesn't have to be a serial killer, but if she thinks serial killers have the right idea, she's probably not for me.

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  19. Wait, you probably wanted a serious answer? Okay. Seriously, a couple should be on the same page and, if there are differences, they should be identified as early as possible. That way, the rest of their lives isn't one huge, shrieking ball of suck.
    But, also seriously, if you happen to know any blind people, have them contact me via Twitter.

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    1. Let's hope your partner's okay with you running a blind pornography empire ;)

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  20. What about discussion and compromise? When we start dating someone and think we're in love, but we're really infatuated, we tend to think that everything the person does is perfect. We need to slow down a bit and try to keep the infatuation under control as we learn what the person is really like. An ultimatum seldom leads to anything good.

    Love,
    Janie

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  21. I am just guessing here, but I think most of the time if an ultimatum like that is given, then the relationship will probably break up. I think someone giving an ultimatum like that is looking for someone who they can control. They will only stay with the person if they can control them. So who wants to be in a relationship like that anyway?

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    1. Actually, I probably should have mentioned in the post that of those five examples, only one of them are still together. It's also important to note though that often the people saying it really do still want to be with their partner so it causes them pain to say it as well.

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  22. Look, I've been with my husband for 18 years. I knew when we started this journey that I wasn't going to change him and he wasn't going to change me. I had to accept him, flaws and all, or walk away. Same for him. He's picked up some annoying habits over the years, and I'll nag from time to time "Jesus Christ, I just swept the floor. Learn to stop wiping your crumbs off the counter or you're doing the house cleaning!" But never would I issue an ultimatum. They don't work and only cause resentment.

    Now, I did have two things I made very clear from the beginning. "I don't care how sorry you are, if you ever lay a hand on me or cheat on me, I'll be packing up our kids and leaving. Absolutely no second chances." As much as I love my husband, if he came in today and told me he cheated or smacked me, we would be done in a heartbeat.

    The roughhousing with kids thing is a bit weird, but if it's something that bothers one, best to end the relationship early and find another lunatic to put up with your weird shit.

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    1. I love this answer! I was having a discussion with some friends over Facebook and it seems to me the most suitable couples are the ones that aren't smoochy all the time. They disagree, pay each other out and sometimes yell at each other, but under it all there's a complete acceptance of everything the other person is. Acceptance may be the key.

      Another interesting point - If my partner cheated on me and became really guilty and told me what she'd done and was really really remorseful about it... I'd probably forgive them. She'd probably get one chance because any time after that means either she has a problem or she's not as sorry as she says.

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    2. I can't stand smoochie couples and want to gag when I see newly coupled folk always sending "I miss you" and "I love you" posts to their other on Facebook. I always think "Well, these are the kind of couples that don't make it past 5 years." Maybe my relationship works because we keep it private? We don't yell at each other either. There's been a few silent days over the years, but never shouting.

      As for the cheating, I can't forgive because I look at that as my partner putting my health at risk. Who knows if the person he cheated with has a disease?

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    3. Hahaha those smoochie couples just make me jealous :P

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  23. Me and my husband play fight with our kids all the time. They laugh at me because I'm a mom trying to do the Karate Kid type thing. I think it's good for kids to wrestle around. It gets their energy out.

    As far as relationships go...sometimes you just know when the person is right for you, or not. It just clicks, or doesn't.

    When it clicks you and the other person can't be picky. You each have to learn to choose your battles. When you find out something bothers the other you have to try and not do that thing if possible.

    My husband is not working still. Do you know how many times I went home, and the dishes were in the sink. I'm thinking, Really? You're home all day! I haven't said a word. It only takes 5 min. to take care of them. He's under a lot of stress. So fine, I'll do his dishes. Give and take, take and give.

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    1. I really admire the way you run your household. It seems to be a very harmonious relationship between the four of you.

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    2. I like her answer too! The give and take, take and give is a big part of it. I love that my husband pumps my gas. He knows that I hate doing it, and has made sure that I have gas in my car all the time. I only really do it about once a year myself, and that's if I forget to remind him I need it. In turn, I do things he doesn't like to do. Give and take, take and give. It's all about compromise to keep things running smoothly.

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    3. Yes, each partner takes up a role. If the person you're with covers your weaknesses, you've got a winner ;)

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  24. Hmm, interesting topic. It's hard to say & it depends on the situation, for instance is an addict and refuses to get help etc. But other times it can come off as sounding controlling.

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    1. So that probably means it's a case-by-case situation. Like pretty much everything in life :P

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  25. It might not a good idea to stay with someone who says that to you, because if you accede to one demand there'll probably be a few more down the road. I'd make an exception is the sentence ends "you keep farting in my face".

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    1. No one should have to deal with that :P

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  26. you really take these issues to heart and break them down and I love that! You make some excellent points here.I'd say it's mean and unfair in the scenario you brought up about the rough-housing kids. However some issues do warrant that reaction, such as differing religions or what not. either way, it sucks!

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    1. Thanks Caitlin :) Yeah it's reasonable (probably even expected) to not want to be with someone because of differing religions. But if two people could accept each other over a difference like that, they could work through anything ;)

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