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Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016 12:13 am

Shove hurts

Amy Alkon
I’ve spent hundreds of dollars on a relationship coach who instructed me to cut off all sex and even all contact with the guy I was dating until he agreed to marry me. I knew he loved me and wanted to marry me; I just wanted him to do it faster. Sadly, my ultimatum to him blew up in my face; he is done with me. My roommate, who thought the coach’s advice was terrible, just moved in with her guy, despite his being kind of a commitmentphobe. Her approach was to just be loving and patient with him and give it some time (about a year). She said she realized that she had the option to bail if the waiting became too much. I’m confused. Men supposedly don’t get hints. Why doesn’t saying what you want work to get the guy? – Direct and Dumped

Is your dating coach 8 years old? Because “I refuse to speak to you till you propose!” is a (slightly) more adult version of “I’m holding my breath till you buy me that Barbie!”

Welcome to Ultimatum Frisbee. A highly risky game. We tend to freak when our freedom is threatened – including our freedom of choice. In fact, social psychologist George A. Youngs finds that when a potential loss of freedom looms, it unleashes a “motivational state,” compelling us to try to preserve that freedom and fight off any attempts to yank other freedoms. In other words, the more you go all petty despot on somebody – overtly trying to force them into doing your bidding – the more likely they are to rebel and maybe even do the exact opposite of what you want.

“Overtly” is the key word here. Your roommate also wanted to wrangle a commitment from her boo. But note the difference in tactics: making it attractive for him to stick around, as opposed to leaving a note on his pillow, “Put a ring on it!” – along with the severed, bleeding head of My Little Pony.

This isn’t to say you should keep your mouth shut about what you want. But consider the difference in controllingness in making a statement versus giving an ultimatum. A statement tells him what you have to do: “I feel bad that you don’t seem to want to marry me, and I can’t continue in this much longer.” An ultimatum, on the other hand, tells him what he has to do: “Marry me or nothing, bucko!”

Also, consider that with “marry me or nothing,” you’re very distinctly putting “nothing” on the table. And maybe at a certain point, this is a trade-off you’re willing to make. But, again, stating it in those terms is probably a bad idea. Keep in mind that typically, a man commits to a woman because he loves her and is better with her than he is alone – much as he might admire her for her attempt to re-enact the Iran hostage crisis on a very small scale.

©2016, Amy Alkon, all rights reserved. Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave, #280, Santa Monica, CA 90405, or email ( Weekly radio show: Order Amy Alkon’s new book, “Good Manners For Nice People Who Sometimes Say F*ck” (St. Martin’s Press, June 3, 2014).


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