Have you thought about giving your spouse an ULTIMATUM? Something like, "If you donít stop XYZ, this marriage is over."
Is your spouse having an AFFAIR, hooked on PORN, addicted to DRUGS or ALCOHOL, a WORKAHOLIC, too emotionally close to an OPPOSITE SEX FRIEND, or OBSESSIVE about a hobby or activity?
How do you get your spouse to STOP behavior thatís destroying your marriage?
An ultimatum is an interesting idea. I bet a friend or family member even suggested it. Iím sure itís crossed your mind. Maybe it was even advised by your counselor. But will it work?
If you want to restore your marriage, do NOT give your spouse an ultimatum. It will NOT work. Let me explain why. And let me explain how YOU CAN get your spouse to end their affair or stop their addictive or obsessive behavior.
In a sense, itís empowering to think, and even say to your spouse, "Your behavior is unacceptable. And if it doesnít stop, Iím leaving you." An ultimatum offers the ultimate role reversal. It puts you, the victim, in control. Understandably, thatís appealing. And thereís no doubt that in the SHORT RUN, youíll FEEL better. But it also FEELS good to eat dessert after every meal. Just because something FEELS good does NOT mean it is good. The question you have to ask yourself is: Will the LONG TERM effect be good? Will an ultimatum give me the result I want? Will it lead to the renewal of my marriage?
The answer is NO.
Now I know what youíre thinking, "Mort, what about TOUGH LOVE? Donít I have to set borders and boundaries?"
If you give your spouse an ultimatum, youíll establish clear RULES for your marriage. Youíll set borders and boundaries. But where will the MOTIVATION come from for your spouse to live by the rules? In other words, the rules will be clear, but why would your spouse WANT to adhere to them?
If your spouse is a sex addict, a workaholic, an alcoholic, having an affair, into porn, or involved in any other type of obsessive or destructive behavior, the problem is NOT a lack of rules; itís a lack of MOTIVATION to live by the rules.
Your spouse knows their behavior is wrong. Even if they wonít admit it, even if they justify it, deep down they know that their behavior is immoral and that itís destroying your marriage and soiling their soul. The problem is that they donít care. The problem is that they lack an internal 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 does nothing to address the lack of motivation on the inside.
Bottom line: although giving an ultimatum feels good, it misses your target.
Your target is your spouseís inner motivation. And how do you affect someoneís inner motivation? The secret is to CONNECT with them. Let me explain.
Life begins as a connected experience in the womb of our mother. When weíre born and that physical connection is severed, we yearn to connect again. How we go about creating that connection and how well we succeed becomes the story of our life.
People who make healthy and meaningful connections with other people feel happy and fulfilled. (Research proves that the single most important factor that determines happiness in life is CONNECTEDNESS.) People who lack a real emotional connection with others will grasp at anything in an attempt to fill that void in their life. Thatís what leads people to sex, drugs, alcohol, hours of mindless TV, falling in love over and over again with new people, or an obsessive commitment to money, success, work, or a hobby. These trappings offer a MOMENTARY filling. But the cause of the emptiness your spouse seeks to fill is a lack of a meaningful CONNECTION in their life.
When you create that connection with your spouse, you accomplish two profound things.
First, you eliminate your spouseís desire for their destructive behavior. You take the wind right out of its sail. You cut it off at its source. They donít need it anymore. Thereís no more hole to fill. YOU filled it!
Second, you offer your spouse a permanent filling for a hole thatís been insatiable probably since their childhood. (Your spouseís destructive behaviors can probably be traced back to a disconnected relationship they had with their mother or father). And their DESIRE for your connection, a REAL and LASTING filling of that hole, will trump any momentary interest in seductive pleasures.
So how do you get your spouse to stop their destructive behavior? You create a connection with them.
Now hereís the kicker.
The chances are very good that YOU have no clue how to deeply CONNECT with your spouse.
Disconnected people tend to marry disconnected people. In other words, you picked your spouse BECAUSE theyíre disconnected, and that was safe and familiar for you. (Your spouse is probably like your mother or father.) You didnít have to make a real connection to your spouse and thatís why you fell in love with them. Your spouse didnít need what you couldnít offer. Do you see how that worked? Itís totally dysfunctional, but itís true.
Now donít misunderstand, Iím not saying that your spouseís inappropriate behavior is your fault. But it is your RESPONSIBILITY. Meaning, that you can choose (if you want) to do something about it. You can impact your spouseís choices. But youíll need to learn to forge a real connection with your spouse, and youíll need to learn to do that WITHOUT your spouseís cooperation.
Author & Founder of Marriage Fitness