Boundaries or ultimatums?
February 16, 2012 8:56 AM Subscribe
What is the difference between an ultimatum and a hard limit?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (44 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
An item of contention has come up between my spouse and I and in discussing it, I told him this manner of thing could not happen again or I would not be able to continue the relationship. The issue concerns an ex-girlfriend—let’s call her X— that I have never been comfortable with (in part due to some of the things he’s told me about her, and in part due to the limited experiences I’ve had with her). I found, quite accidentally last week, that my spouse was named in X’s will as the guardian of her child in the event she should die. The child is not my spouse’s child. She is from X’s previous marriage and the ex-husband is still alive and living in our state as far as I know. This will was made a few years ago, definitely during the time my spouse and I were together, in a relationship and planning marriage.
This is the second time I have learned things about his relationship with this woman from someone else. At first, he presented X as “a girl I used to date when I was in college.” I learned from other people much later that he’d basically been with her in some form for the past ten years (we are both in our 30s), had lived with her rather recently, she was considered a member of his family by his parents. Fine, but I wasn’t in the market for someone with this much baggage and he knew that and later admitted that he kept some of that from me because he thought I’d leave him over it. He told me that the relationship had been a difficult one that he'd had lots of trouble extracting himself from. His descriptions of her behaviors sounded a lot like someone with untreated Borderline Personality Disorder, but he claimed that she was finally getting treatment and was much better now. I got over it in time because in every other way he puts my needs first, respects my emotiona and is a loving and supportive partner. I chalked this up to his general cluelessness about how relationships work since he’d been in a very unhealthy one for quite some time. He further limited his contact with her and prevented her from starting a lot of drama between us by enforcing his boundaries. She no longer calls him in the middle of the night threatening to kill herself, so I do believe that he’s made an honest and sincere effort to limit her place in his life.
This recent fact throws me, though, because he accepted this commitment while we were planning our wedding and never told me about it. His defence is that he forgot about it and it’s not likely that he would ever be in the position to be X’s child’s guardian anyway. I say that doesn’t matter and that when you’ve made a potentially life-altering commitment you at least inform the person you’re married to about it. He thinks I’m overreacting because it involves X. I have had no problem with his interactions with X, what I’m opposed to is when it looks like he’s hiding his relationship with X from me. It also concerns me that he claims he’s not close to X anymore, yet he agreed to be responsible for her child. And since I am now his wife, I could potentially be responsible for a child whom I’ve never met and had no awareness I might have to raise. I told him that it doesn’t matter whose child it is, it’s the fact that he concealed this from me that I find so upsetting. But, so far X is the only person I’m finding these important things about second hand.
In our discussion of this, I told him that I could not continue finding out from third parties about these entanglements between himself and X, and that if it happened again, I would consider our relationship broken. He claims I’m making threats and ultimatums. I say I’m telling him that I cannot allow another breach of trust like this and still consider him a trustworthy partner. In part, this is because I know that once I know I can’t trust someone, I cannot have tender feelings for them. It would be impossible for me to have a relationship with someone I thought was betraying me.
But, is it an ultimatum? I’m not asking for anything except honesty regarding his role in X’s life. What is the difference between a threat and a warning that you’re nearing your limits? And am I making too much of this? Anon because he knows I read Ask.Me.