ul·ti·ma·tum[uhl-tuh-mey-tuhm, -mah-] Show IPA
noun, plural -tums, -ta [-tuh] Show IPA.
a final, uncompromising demand or set of terms issued by aparty to a dispute, the rejection of which may lead to aseverance of relations or to the use of force.
a final proposal or statement of conditions.
No one likes ultimatums. Feeling like you're being forced to choose when you're simply not ready to do so is an anger inducing experience. Giving someone an ultimatum is often a sure way to get exactly the opposite of what you want. Force someones hand and see how spiteful they get. It isn't pretty.
But isn't life a series of ultimatums whether they are spoken or not? A romantic partner accused me of giving him an ultimatum regarding our "relationship" once. I don't recall ever telling him that there was an either/or situation in play, but perhaps he was right. By expressing how I felt about him and stating that I am worthy of being loved said volumes about where our relationship was going. He immediately told me he does NOT answer to ultimatums and did not speak to me for weeks.
Though it wasn't said, it was painfully obvious to me that the feelings I shared with him were not mutual and that he believed my statement meant, "I deserve to be loved and you're either going to love me or I will find someone who will". Maybe it did. I still haven't, but maybe it did. All I had hoped was to finally be able to say how I felt and get an idea of how he felt. Perhaps refusing to always settle for less than love, random spare moments, and half-hearted attempts at affection really is an ultimatum... to someone who has no interest in being the person who gets your love.
I recall having a very similar conversation with an ex. He said "Do NOT rush me or give me ultimatums because you will NOT like what you get." That was in response to me asking him if he had any intentions of going back and finishing the divorce he was supposed to have gotten before we first began dating. Was there an ultimatum? No, but if he didn't get the divorce and the relationship could not move forward I couldn't stay.
Maybe it's only an ultimatum when you want to have your cake and eat it too. To me that is exactly how it felt. I wanted to know where I stood. I laid my cards on the table and with them my heart. He didn't have anything to give back and it became his way of telling me I should look elsewhere. Sort of like all of the unspoken ultimatums of the world (progressing through choices), the immediate defensive stance spoke volumes.
I can think of a few other unspoken ultimatums... most people just call them common sense.