Updated: Jan 21
Here we explore just how incredibly SUPER-IMPORTANT healthy boundaries are to retaining a sense of control in our lives.
So, have you ever set an ultimatum? No? You sure?
What about those kind of sneaky, masked ultimatums, that are hidden behind what sounds like a “request” or a passive demand?
Me? Guilty as charged. It’s an uncomfortable admission if I’m being frank.
My first response was “Me? Give an ultimatum? Absolutely not!”
But the reality is, I can definitely reflect on moments in my past when I’ve set consequences that I’ve known I wouldn’t follow through on....
We tend to use ultimatums when we feel unsafe, when we fear some kind of jeopardy. Relationships, family, friends.
”If you put me down in front of our friends again, I‘m leaving!“
“If you keep answering back, I’m not buying you those trainers you want!”
On the surface, these may seem like reasonable statements. No-one wants to be made a fool of by their partner, or wish for their teenager to be rude (good luck there!!).
So what, if anything, is problematic about these ultimatums?
I mean, you MIGHT finish with that partner the next time they do it I guess. Or maybe you’ll argue about it, AGAIN, sort of make up... then feel the same anxiety or resentment the next time you go out with friends.
MAYBE you‘ll hold true to your word and won’t buy your teen those “kicks”.... maybe. Chances are a day or 2 will pass and you’ll renege on your threat, the trainers get bought, and all is ok..... till the next time.
So, how could healthy boundaries come into play in these situations?
When we use ultimatums we are “demanding” a particular behaviour or change from someone else, using threats and consequences as “punishment”.
When we set boundaries we are defining exactly what WE want, what WE need, what is ok, for US. We’re also accepting it’s someone else’s absolute right to do what they think‘s right for them.
Maybe a healthy boundary for the first scenario would be never spending time with people who put you down or are unkind.
Similarly, for scenario two, you may decide that you only spend your money on/reward respectful behaviour.
With boundaries, you’re coming from a place of YOUR limits.
With ultimatums, you’re coming from a place of trying to LIMIT SOMEONE ELSE.
The difference may seem subtle but it can have a profound impact on how you feel.
This doesn’t mean we should never set ultimatums. They will often be the outcome of boundaries not being respected.
BOUNDARIES first, always. Respect your limits, respect your needs and your wishes.
ULTIMATUMS are a final resort...
Hope this is useful.... feel free to get in touch if you’d like some guidance on setting healthy boundaries in any area of your life.