July 27, 2010
Tip of the Week: March 21st, 2010

Should You Give YourSpouse an Ultimatum?
By Mort Fertel

Have you thought about givingyour spouse an ultimatum? Something like, "If you don't stop XYZ, thismarriage is over."

Is your spouse having an affair, hooked on porn, an alcoholic, aworkaholic, or obsessive about a hobby?

How do you get your spouse to stop behavior that's destroying yourmarriage?

An ultimatum is an interesting idea. I bet a friend or family membereven suggested it. I'm sure it's crossed your mind. Maybe it was evenadvised by your counselor. But will it work?

If you want to restore your marriage, do not give your spouse anultimatum. It will not work. Let me explain why. And let me explain howyou can get your spouse to end their affair or stop their addictive orobsessive behavior.

In a sense, it's empowering to think, and even say to your spouse,"Your behavior is unacceptable. And if it doesn't stop, I'm leavingyou." An ultimatum offers the ultimate role reversal. It puts you, thevictim, in control.

Understandably, that's appealing. And there's no doubt that in theshort run, you'll feel better. But it also feels good to eat dessertafter every meal. Just because something feels good does not mean it isgood. The question you have to ask yourself is: Will an ultimatum giveme the result I want?

The answer is no.

Now I know what you're thinking, "Mort, what about tough love?Shouldn't I set borders and boundaries?"

If you give your spouse an ultimatum, you'll establish clear rules foryour marriage. You'll set borders and boundaries. But where will themotivation come from for your spouse to live by the rules? In otherwords, the rules will be clear, but why would your spouse want toadhere to them?

You see, if your spouse is a workaholic, an alcoholic, having anaffair, into porn, or involved in obsessive or destructive behavior,the problem is not a lack of rules; it's a lack of motivation to liveby the rules.

Your spouse knows their behavior is wrong. Even if they won't admit it,even if they justify it, deep down they know that their behavior isimmoral and that it's destroying your marriage and soiling their soul.The problem is that they don't care. The problem is that they lack aninternal motivation to do the right thing.

Your spouse has to want to stop. The key is their inner motivation,their will. An ultimatum imposes rules from the outside; it doesnothing to address the lack of motivation on the inside.

Bottom line: although giving an ultimatum feels good, it misses yourtarget.

Your target is your spouse's inner motivation. And how do you affectsomeone's inner motivation? The secret is to connect with them.

Life begins as a connected experience in the womb of our mother. Whenwe're born and that physical connection is severed, we yearn to connectagain. How we go about creating that connection and how well we succeedbecomes the story of our life.

People who make healthy and meaningful connections with other peoplefeel fulfilled. People who lack an emotional connection with othersgrasp at anything in an attempt to fill that void. That's what leadspeople to sex, alcohol, hours of mindless TV, or an obsessivecommitment to money, success, work, or a hobby. These trappings offer amomentary filling. But the cause of the emptiness your spouse seeks tofill is a lack of a meaningful connection in their life.

When you create that connection with your spouse, you accomplish twoprofound things. First, you eliminate your spouse's desire for theirdestructive behavior. You take the wind right out of its sail. You cutit off at its source. There's no more hole to fill. You filled it!

Second, you offer your spouse a permanent filling for a hole that'sbeen insatiable probably since their childhood. And their desire foryour connection will trump any momentary interest in seductivepleasures.

So how do you get your spouse to stop their destructive behavior? Youcreate a connection with them.

Now don't misunderstand, I'm not saying that your spouse'sinappropriate behavior is your fault. It's not your fault you need marriage helpeither. But it is your responsibility. Meaning, that you can choose todo something about it. You can impact your spouse's choices. But you'llneed to learn to forge a real connection with your spouse, and you'llneed to learn to do that without your spouse's cooperation.

Mort Fertel is a world authority on the psychology of relationships andhas an international reputation for saving marriages. He's been afeatured expert on NBC, the Fox News Network, and in Family Circle. Clickhere for Mort's FREE report "7 Secrets to Fixing Your Marriage."
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Posted by Staff at 7:21 PM