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Boundary vs. Ultimatum

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 fournlau (original poster member #71803) posted at 1:08 AM on Thursday, October 7th, 2021

This morning I brought up to my WH that I wanted to discuss him answering my questions (I have several that have not been answered yet because I haven't asked) because it's getting further and further from the A (almost 3 years since Dday 1) and I don't want the answers to start being "I don't remember".

He asked how getting these answers would help me move forward. I don't really have an answer for that and I told him that. I said that it had nothing to do with "us" and moving forward in the M. That it had to do with me still having an unclear picture of the A.

He also asked "What if there are some questions I don't want to discuss?". I said that I had thought of that too and asked him if there could be any questions he might not answer, for whatever reason. He said he didn't know, it depends. To which I said, "then the answer is yes." Because if "it depends" then there are some questions that he would not answer depending on the circumstances or the specific question asked. I said that that was the wrong answer. That if that was the case, and he refused to answer my questions (even just one), that was a dealbreaker for me.

He said that he didn't like ultimatums, to which I responded that it wasn't an ultimatum, he still had a choice. He disagreed, and added that he didn't like that I kept adding "dealbreakers" to the "list". Yes, he said that! I told him that for me, him not answering my questions (all of them) for any reason (shame, not wanting to hurt me more, protecting himself, it might make me angry, it could set us back several steps, etc) meant that he was not willing to be completely open and transparent. I said that he had this whole other "relationship" with another woman and they BOTH knew its secrets and him refusing to answer meant that he would rather protect those secrets (whatever they might be) instead of being transparent. To continue to keep me out of the loop. Which, to me, meant that he would rather keep protecting himself over me. He didn't like that.

He asked that we do the question and answer with the MC, which is fine with me. Unfortunately, we can't get an appointment until Jan!

He feels it's an ultimatum, and I feel that it is a boundary. I will no longer tolerate him "choosing" for me what I "need" and "don't need" to know. It's infuriating! I'm not a child! And if it's his fear that I will divorce him because of his answers, well, that's a consequence that he can't stop! This M was over the second he made the decision to stick his penis where it didn't belong.

What say you SI? Am I accurate that this is a boundary? Or is it an ultimatum?

posts: 291   ·   registered: Oct. 10th, 2019
id 8691894
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Wanttobebetter ( member #72484) posted at 1:43 AM on Thursday, October 7th, 2021

IMO, boundary or ultimatum just semantics at this point. The real question to ask is What would you do if he refuses to answer your questions when the time comes.

Your mentioned him not answering is a deal breaker which means you are willing to walk away and D? If so, and you better back that up should he follows through and not answering your questions in the MC session.

Good luck.

posts: 151   ·   registered: Jan. 6th, 2020
id 8691900
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This0is0Fine ( member #72277) posted at 1:45 AM on Thursday, October 7th, 2021

Boundaries are often a sort of ultimatum.

It's just an if then statement.

If you contact ap, then we are getting divorced.

If you refuse to answer any question I have about the affair, then we are getting divorced.

Generally the difference I see in an "ultimatum" is asking for a change in behavior you previously accepted, but have changed your mind on. Say you both smoked. You quit, and say "if you don't also quit, we are getting divorced". I mean it's a boundary too but you moved it from some previously accepted state.

Since the affair broke a boundary, it is inevitable you need to set a series of new boundaries because you did not accept the conditions then change them. That doesn't make them ultimatums.

Another way to parse the difference is safety vs control. Boundaries are set to keep you safe while ultimatums are set to control someone else's behavior. So there can appear to be an overlap of your boundary requires an unsafe person to change their unsafe behavior.

In this case the ultimatum could be a disagreement over how he spends his free time if it is unrelated to keeping you safe. "if you go on a hike without me, we are getting divorced" "if you watch a show we are getting divorced" "if you get lunch at a fast food place we are getting divorced".

Love is not a measure of capacity for pain you are willing to endure for your partner.

posts: 1386   ·   registered: Dec. 11th, 2019
id 8691901
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Stevesn ( member #58312) posted at 2:12 AM on Thursday, October 7th, 2021

I said that he had this whole other "relationship" with another woman and they BOTH knew its secrets and him refusing to answer meant that he would rather protect those secrets (whatever they might be) instead of being transparent. To continue to keep me out of the loop. Which, to me, meant that he would rather keep protecting himself over me.

This was exactly the right point to make. It’s the absolutely most salient point when it comes to revealing all items on the timeline. Every conversation, every interaction, every feeling, every touch between them.

I’d feel as you do. If my wayward partner were to protect anything from the affair then R would be off the table. I would divorce and not pause the proceedings til I had everything I had asked for.

In my opinion there is no negotiation when it comes to what is needed to heal. And the risk of D anyway is one the WS must accept unconditionally.

[This message edited by Stevesn at 2:13 AM, Thursday, October 7th]

fBBF. Just before proposing, broke it off after her 2nd confirmed PA in 2 yrs. 9 mo later I met the wonderful woman I have spent the next 30 years with.

posts: 3199   ·   registered: Apr. 17th, 2017
id 8691902
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Hippo16 ( member #52440) posted at 3:04 AM on Thursday, October 7th, 2021

Seems you both got hitched to young -

You say - "I am in limbo, watching, waiting, wondering… "

How much more waiting?

How much more watching? - seems not much has changed

Having you translate his "love letter" - an ultimate disregard and disrespect for you!
Flabbergasting!


Has anything really changed for the better in your story?

Not Just Friends

posts: 557   ·   registered: Mar. 26th, 2016   ·   location: OBX
id 8691908
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Seeking2Forgive ( member #78819) posted at 4:23 AM on Thursday, October 7th, 2021

We had this debate in another thread recently. I agree that it's mostly semantics. I think the key is that a boundary focuses on what is acceptable to you in a relationship. Naturally violating a boundary has to have consequences for it to be meaningful. In that sense you could call it ultimatum.

WSs calling BSs controlling when they set appropriate boundaries in their relationship is a tactic that they use to prevent their BSs from setting boundaries and enforcing consequences. He can call it what he wants but you should focus on what you need in a relationship.

Stick to your guns on this. I made the mistake of giving up far too easily when my then WW made getting answers too painful to endure. I cared more about her pain than my own so I stopped asking and swept it all under the rug. We've been happily reconciled for 18 years but that was built on my willingness to keep all of that pain and sadness bottled up. After a massive trigger I went right back to looking for answers just like D-day+1 and naturally it's much harder now.

Fortunately, my FWW understands and is supporting me through a rigorous Timeline/Q&A process. If you think three years later is hard, imagine 18. sad

In trying to understand why seeking answers is such a powerful force for the BS and so important in the healing process, I've found two answers that resonate. The first is the growing understanding that relationship betrayal is a traumatic event. The way it destroys the reality of a BS creates a unique trauma that drives them to seek answers to understand their new reality in order to feel safe again. These concepts are well explained in the Helping Couples Heal podcast with Stan Tatkin.

The second is the fact that secrecy and intimacy are simply incompatible. I intuitively understood this during R and told her the only secrets that I had kept from her (things from before our relationship) in an effort to offer up that level of intimacy and vulnerability as a way to show her it was safe. It went for naught at the time and she kept her secrets.

In many ways we did re-establish intimacy on every front but this. But there has been a wall around that period in our lives that we do not approach. At this point in my life, I'm tired of it. We were supposed to share a life, not a life minus a year or so where we lived in different realities.

Me: 59, BS
Her: 58, FWS
Dday: 11/15/03
Married 37 yrs
Reconciled

posts: 85   ·   registered: May. 18th, 2021
id 8691909
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The1stWife ( member #58832) posted at 7:22 AM on Thursday, October 7th, 2021

Based in his response you don’t have the full truth from him.

How sad!

Survived two affairs and brink of Divorce. Happily reconciled.

posts: 10687   ·   registered: May. 19th, 2017
id 8691928
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Buster123 ( member #65551) posted at 8:36 AM on Thursday, October 7th, 2021

Tell him you want the truth NOW not in Jan, that's just another tactic and manipulation from him, maybe to see if you can forget about the questions, tell him you want answers TODAY and might even ask again TOMORROW and whenever you feel like, another consequence of his huge betrayal.

posts: 2440   ·   registered: Jul. 22nd, 2018
id 8691933
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BreakingBad ( member #75779) posted at 12:09 PM on Thursday, October 7th, 2021

Sorry, double post.

See below please.

[This message edited by BreakingBad at 2:37 AM, Friday, October 8th]

Me=BW
WH had online affairs
Married 30 yrs now
2 kids, both in HS
Dday#1=2/7/20
Dday#2=2/12/20
Dday#3=2/17/20
Dday#4=11/25/20...1st A with cOW was actually 2 1/2 years
BW & WH in IC & MC. Working toward R, but day by day

posts: 63   ·   registered: Oct. 31st, 2020
id 8691939
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BreakingBad ( member #75779) posted at 12:11 PM on Thursday, October 7th, 2021

I said that he had this whole other "relationship" with another woman and they BOTH knew its secrets and him refusing to answer meant that he would rather protect those secrets (whatever they might be) instead of being transparent. To continue to keep me out of the loop. Which, to me, meant that he would rather keep protecting himself over me

Early in the conversation with him, you say you don't have a reason for wanting all of your questions answered--but THIS (above) is your reason. And it's a good and valid reason.

He demonstrated secrecy and betrayal of trust by having his affair. To rebuild the trust, he needs to demonstrate FULL transparency to you as a way to rebuild the trust.

You are realizing that, by keeping back information, he is still not a safe or trustworthy partner to you.

Boundaries vs ultimatums may be semantics...but here is how I see it:

"You have shown me you are not a safe partner--and that was a shock. For me to continue this relationship, I need to see you demonstrate through actions that you can be and are WILLING to be a safe partner now and as we move forward.

I'm telling you what I need. Are you willing to meet that need?"

To me, the focus on what you need to be safe is a boundary. If he chooses not to demonstrate his willingness to be a safe/trustworthy partner who doesn't keep secrets that are damaging to the relationship, then he has made his own decision. You can then decide if you are serious about not wanting to be part of a relationship that isn't emotionally (and maybe even physically [with STI risk]) safe for you.

You've already figured it out:

By continuing to keep (control) information, he's trying to control the outcome. He's worried that, if you knew it all, you might leave. And you might.

What's interesting is that by not telling you everything he is still risking that you'll leave...yet he seems more okay with that risk. He's protecting himself from more shame/guilt. Choosing himself over you yet again. Still self-focused, still self protecting. Not willing to see that you need to heal more than he needs to protect himself. 🚩Big Red Flag 🚩

BTW: I emphasize willing to do what is required to demonstrate he is a safe partner for a reason. I learned the long and painful way that, if the BS is having to do more work than the WS to get them to demonstrate they are trustworthy (if you have to drag info out of them with carefully crafted questions and justifications and coaxing or if you are just flat out working them in the healing process), they aren't really safe.

If they aren't WILLING to show you they are safe, they aren't safe.

*edited for spelling/grammar

[This message edited by BreakingBad at 2:34 AM, Friday, October 8th]

Me=BW
WH had online affairs
Married 30 yrs now
2 kids, both in HS
Dday#1=2/7/20
Dday#2=2/12/20
Dday#3=2/17/20
Dday#4=11/25/20...1st A with cOW was actually 2 1/2 years
BW & WH in IC & MC. Working toward R, but day by day

posts: 63   ·   registered: Oct. 31st, 2020
id 8691940
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HardKnocks ( member #70957) posted at 3:17 PM on Thursday, October 7th, 2021

What BreakingBad said.

Every word.

BW 30 year marriage.
DDay2 2/20 5 month PA
My Ducks are Aligned and I'm Good to Go! :)

posts: 319   ·   registered: Jul. 7th, 2019
id 8691965
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13YearsR ( member #58259) posted at 3:25 PM on Thursday, October 7th, 2021

Yes, ditto Breaking Bad.

And what Buster said about not waiting until January. What's his reasoning for wanting to do it in MC?

The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off. ~ Gloria Steinem

The grass is greener on the other side of the fence because you're not over there messing it up.

DDay 2004. Successful R. 33 years married

posts: 547   ·   registered: Apr. 13th, 2017   ·   location: TX
id 8691967
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sisoon ( Guide #31240) posted at 4:50 PM on Thursday, October 7th, 2021

It's pretty natural for a WS to see an ultimatum where you see a boundary.

If you look at the meaning of a boundary, you'll see it's the same as the meaning of an ultimatum - if he does X, you'll do Y. IOW, it doesn't matter what it's called.

Admitting there are questions he won't answer is admitting he has not become honest. That's a deal breaker IMO.

Is there anyone who can play the role of neutral observer - your IC, his IC, another MC, pastor?

Maybe it's worth giving him one more chance. Ask him what questions he doesn't want to answer, and tell him to answer them. If he won't answer except in an MC session, my reco is to tell your MC it's an emergency, and you may get a slot a lot sooner than January.

I'm really sorry your H is in this place. I'm very sorry he's caused you more pain.

fBH (me) - on d-day: 66, Married 43, together 45, same sex ap
DDay - 12/22/2010
Recover'd and R'ed
You don't have to like your boundaries. You just have to set and enforce them.

posts: 26130   ·   registered: Feb. 18th, 2011   ·   location: Illinois
id 8691986
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DevastatedDee ( member #59873) posted at 5:00 PM on Thursday, October 7th, 2021

You are allowed to have boundaries and ultimatums. You are entitled to honesty in your marriage. He doesn't have to like it or feel comfortable with it. He has choices too. He can be honest or he can leave. If it's really worth losing you to keep his secrets, that's on him. He has all the freedom in the world to be that stupid. What you're asking of him isn't trivial. It's necessary. He is continuing to pile damage onto you and the marriage by avoiding this. Until not causing damage is more important than keeping his secrets, he'll be pushing you further and further away emotionally.

He is a grown adult man. He can speak words to his wife without a therapist there to hold his hand.

DDay: 06/07/2017
MH - RA on DDay.
Divorced a serial cheater (prostitutes and lord only knows who and what else).

posts: 4531   ·   registered: Jul. 27th, 2017
id 8691989
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ChamomileTea ( member #53574) posted at 5:11 PM on Thursday, October 7th, 2021

If you can turn it into a Boundary Statement that's about you and what you're willing to tolerate in your life, then yeah.. it's a boundary. ie. "In my reconciled marriage, I will no longer tolerate secrets, particularly those which are connected to the earlier betrayal and which interfere in our emotional intimacy."

posts: 4569   ·   registered: Jun. 8th, 2016
id 8691994
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PSTI ( member #53103) posted at 5:17 PM on Thursday, October 7th, 2021

Seeing boundaries vs ultimatums as semantics demonstrates a fundamental lack of understanding of the difference between the two. One is about controlling others; the other is about controlling oneself. One is about giving power to the other person; the other is about empowering oneself. You can use a boundary poorly to make it an ultimatum but this is not a healthy way to manage issues, nor does it mean that all boundaries are ultimatums simply because the user doesn't understand the difference.

I generally believe that ultimatums are unethical. They are used to attempt to control another person. I don't believe we should be controlling another adult. That isn't a healthy behaviour and will not provoke a healthy response, so by default an ultimatum will not create healing or build a better relationship.

Boundaries are about oneself. Basically, they are that you decide what you are or are not willing to participate in for a relationship, and if that need is not met, your only option is to remove yourself from that situation. There is no pleading or begging or trying to force a change, because it's about you, not the other person. Boundaries take back your power because you are choosing to act; ultimatums remove your power because you are waiting on the other person to act.

That being said, there is absolutely nothing wrong with deciding that honesty is a necessary part of any relationship you're in. It's not an ultimatum. But how you choose to handle it renders the difference between an ultimatum and a boundary. If you're insisting repeatedly that he comply, and having arguments about it? Yeah, that's not going to solve your issue, and it's going to show him that it's not a boundary because you aren't enforcing it. Having an argument or getting upset is not enforcing a boundary.

I would not wait until January to have this conversation. Honesty is the basic building block in a relationship. If he's not willing to give you this without a fight- what do YOU want and need, and what are you willing to accept?

Me: BW, my xH left me & DS after a 14 year marriage for the AP in 2014.

Happily remarried and in an open/polyamorous relationship. DH (married 3 years) & DBF (dating 2 years). Cohabitating happily all together!! <3

posts: 710   ·   registered: May. 6th, 2016
id 8691996
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3yrwait ( member #29907) posted at 6:24 PM on Thursday, October 7th, 2021

As someone who waited 3 years (see my username) to get information…and then faced the "I don’t remember"s.

This is not about definitions. You shouldn’t even be having these negotiations. He has no place to make these demands.

This is about him wanting to controlling you, controlling your reaction and controlling the conversation. By not answering your questions, he preventing YOU from making decisions about YOUR livelihood.

There is a Letter to Waywards posted on these forums somewhere that explains why the wayward should be completely open and transparent, how they can not expect you to forgive them for the whole picture without revealing all the puzzle pieces.

Me: BH (early 40s)
Her: WW (early 40s)
Married 15 years
1 daughter, under 10
DDay July 2007

posts: 527   ·   registered: Oct. 21st, 2010   ·   location: 3yrwait
id 8692006
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DIFM ( member #1703) posted at 8:33 PM on Thursday, October 7th, 2021

The difference to me is a boundary is written in "I" terms and an ultimatum is in "You" terms. For example:

Boundary: I will not stay married to someone who is not committed to honesty and transparency.

Ultimatum: If you do not tell me the truth, we are over.

Semantics in large measure, to be sure. The end result is very similar, where both are followed through that is. But a boundary is yours and what you will or won't allow in your life. An ultimatum is what some other person must do to comply with your expectations.

posts: 1729   ·   registered: Jul. 14th, 2003
id 8692029
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KingRat ( member #60678) posted at 8:52 PM on Thursday, October 7th, 2021

A boundary is what you find acceptable and not unacceptable. An ultimatum is a demand for compliance and a consequence suffered if not. The key difference is making the demand to comply or suffer consequences. Boundaries can be broken, but if there is no demand to or break down of the relationship/negotiations then it is not an ultimatum. In this case, you gave him an ultimatum.

posts: 665   ·   registered: Sep. 18th, 2017
id 8692033
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gmc94 ( member #62810) posted at 9:05 PM on Thursday, October 7th, 2021

Sooo many gems in this thread! My favorites:

He can call it what he wants but you should focus on what you need in a relationship. Stick to your guns on this

This sounds like a good starting point to me. One can interpret it (boundaries? Or ultimatum? ) anyway they like - AND:

how you choose to handle it renders the difference between an ultimatum and a boundary. If you're insisting repeatedly that he comply, and having arguments about it? Yeah, that's not going to solve your issue, and it's going to show him that it's not a boundary because you aren't enforcing it. Having an argument or getting upset is not enforcing a boundary.

Another way to parse the difference is safety vs control. Boundaries are set to keep you safe while ultimatums are set to control someone else's behavior. So there can appear to be an overlap of your boundary requires an unsafe person to change their unsafe behavior.

I think this is the perspective that (for me) works best. It inherently creates the "I" statements. I need safety, therefore, I need X, because:

secrecy and intimacy are simply incompatible.

To me, this is the crux of the specific issue, why timelines are important, etc. IOW, there is no emotional intimacy (for me) when there are also secrets. Some folks are simply not able/willing to stop with the secrets - whether about an A or something else (this is my WH). Indeed, early after dday, it dawned on me that I think much of his As were more about the SECRETS than the ego kibble or even the sex. I guess it gives him some sense of control, but I dunno (cuz that would require him doing work on his side of the street).

There is a Letter to Waywards posted on these forums somewhere that explains why the wayward should be completely open and transparent, how they can not expect you to forgive them for the whole picture without revealing all the puzzle pieces.

I suspect this is "Joseph's Letter" which you can find online. I loved it bc it validated ME... yet it made not one lick of difference to my WH's continued keeping of secrets.

And I agree - waiting until January is ridiculous.

[This message edited by gmc94 at 9:05 PM, Thursday, October 7th]

M >25yrs/grown kids
DD1 1994 ONS prostitute
DD2 2018 exGF1 10+yrEA & 10yrPA... + exGF2 EA forever & "made out" 2017
9/18 WH hung himself- died but revived

It's rude to say "I love you" with a mouthful of lies

posts: 3428   ·   registered: Feb. 22nd, 2018
id 8692037
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