My new date has a habit that is a deal-breaker for me. She knows it bothers me generally, but doesn't know it bothers me enough to break up with her.
My questions is, how do I tell her that without it sounding like an ultimatum?
I started dating someone new. It's going well, but she has one habit that's a deal-breaker for me. The actual thing is a bit more serious, but I'll make up a silly example. Say she is an hour late to every date. She knows it's bothering me and apologizes every time, but she doesn't know how much it's bothering me. She feels it's OK for a woman to be a bit late, so it's not a big deal and an apology is enough. While it might be fine for some men, for me it's a deal-breaker and we won't continue dating if that goes on.
My question is, how do I tell her that without it sounding like I'm giving her an ultimatum.
The usual recommendation in these cases is to say "your behavior upsets me", but in this case, she knows it upsets me, she just doesn't know how much.
If I say "it upsets me so much I'm considering breaking up with you", that sounds like an ultimatum.
I don't want to demand any particular action from her, that's why I feel like I'm not giving her an ultimatum. If punctuality isn't really her thing, it's totally fine. I just want to give her information about how much this bothers me because currently, she doesn't have that information. It's totally up to her to decide whether she wants to act on it.
I want to strike more of an "FYI" tone. Kind of like "this car is for sale" sign. If you want to, you know you can call and ask for details. If not, it's obvious that the sign doesn't obligate you to do anything.
Consider these two situations:
- Situation 1: I'm a smoker. It's a conscious, deliberate decision on my part. Yes, I've read all about what first-hand smoke does to me and what second-hand smoke from my cigarettes does to other people. I still choose to smoke. It's part of who I am. I won't quit smoking for any prospective girlfriend.
- Situation 2: I visit the gym on Wednesdays and Fridays. But there is nothing really special about those days. I just like having a schedule, so I picked two days at random and put them on my schedule. I'd easily change these to any other two days for the slightest reason or for no reason at all. It's just not very important to me.
If her lack of punctuality is like Situation 1, i.e. something that she doesn't want to change or is difficult for her to change, then it's not fixable. I wouldn't even consider asking her to change her behavior for me.
But there is a chance that it's more like Situation 2. I.e. maybe she could stop doing that fairly easily if she realized that I perceive her behavior not as playful teasing but as a deal breaker. I'd like to give her that information so she can decide what she wants.
The reason I don't want to sound like I'm giving her an ultimatum is that I consider ultimatums, especially this early in a relationship, to be a big red flag. To continue with my "Situation 2" example. If I somehow learned that it's more convenient for my gf to meet up on Wednesdays, I'd gladly move my gym to Tuesday instead to make more time for her. It wouldn't be a problem at all. But if she told me "move your gym session to Tuesdays, or else we're over", I'd probably break up with her pretty soon. Even though I could easily satisfy that particular request, I'm not happy with the idea of someone thinking they are entitled to control my schedule.
So essentially what I want is to communicate to her how seriously I view her habit, while making it clear that I'm not trying to control or manipulate her and it's entirely her decision.