Netflix's New Show, 'The Ultimatum,' Shows The Pros And Cons Of This Controversial Tactic

By Sabrina Kosmas··  7 min read
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If you thought “Love Is Blind” was a wild concept for a dating show, just wait until you watch Netflix’s latest experiment in marriage, and quite frankly, humanity: “The Ultimatum: Marry or Move On.”

Nick and Vanessa Lachey host a new social experiment that pushes love, romance and relationships to the next level by taking six couples who have been together for about two years and forcing them to make a decision to get married, break up, or start a new life with someone they just met. 

The premise is that one person in each relationship has given their partner an ultimatum, so to resolve it, each couple splits up and not only dates someone completely new for three weeks but actually lives with this new partner. They even go as far as to introduce them to their friends and family in order to fully immerse themselves in what it would feel like to be in a serious relationship with someone else. After that time, they go back to their original partner for three weeks and then ultimately make the decision to get married or go their separate ways after seeing what else is out there. Just a totally normal and realistic scenario, right?

I want a ring ultimatum

The Drama That Is The Ultimatum 

My initial thoughts when watching The Ultimatum were: Wow, none of these people are ready to get married, and quite frankly I don’t even know if any of them like each other enough to stay together, because who would ever put themselves or the person they love in this position?! 

All of the contestants were young, attractive people in their early 20s who had been together for about two years or less. In the first episode, I thought they were more interested in being on a reality TV show than in their actual relationships. Both those who gave the ultimatums and those who received them clearly had their own emotional baggage they were bringing into this experiment, and they all seemed a little too excited by the prospect of dating someone else and being on camera. Then my mind was completely blown… 

SPOILER ALERT: Skip to the next section if you haven’t watched the show yet and don’t want me to ruin it for you. 

After a week of dating everyone else involved in the experiment, the couples all attended a “Picking Dinner” where they’d each go around the table and choose who their new partner would be for the next three weeks. Bizarrely enough, two couples ended up engaged at this dinner and chose not to move forward with the experiment. Apparently a week of dating other people was enough to solidify that marriage with their original partner was better than the alternative. 

falling for somebody else ultimatum

While this scene was definitely dramatic, it felt fairly real and both couples are still together to this day and in the process of planning their weddings. The other couples proceeded to date each other, and while some seemed to have genuine connections with their new partners, most seemed to really miss their original significant others. Four out of the original six couples are still together to this day: one married, three engaged, and one broke up but got back together. This is actually a significantly higher success rate than most mainstream dating shows like The Bachelor and Bachelor In Paradise. However, on The Ultimatum they also started off dating as opposed to contestants on these other dating shows who are total strangers, so it’s not quite an apples to apples comparison.

Why Give an Ultimatum?

If you’ve been in a long-term relationship and hope to get married and start a family one day, you’ve probably thought about giving your boyfriend an ultimatum at least once…a day. Just kidding! But really, even I can admit that I thought about giving my now-husband an ultimatum back in the day. We had been dating for almost five years and had talked extensively about marriage and kids, but for some reason, it felt like he was dragging his feet when it came to actually proposing. 

I never wanted to “force” him to be with me by giving him an ultimatum, but I also wanted to know if there was something keeping him from wanting a future with me. If so, I’d want to give myself time to move on. I never gave him the ultimatum, but I did decide that if we hit five years and still weren’t engaged, I would need to have this difficult conversation and mentally prepare for the worst case scenario: a break up. Then funny enough, just a few months before our 5-year dating anniversary, he popped the question, and we are now about to celebrate our 5-year wedding anniversary. 

surprised-alexis-maloney ultimatum

The biggest benefit to giving an ultimatum is that you won’t waste time because you’ll learn pretty quickly whether or not your boyfriend is serious about a future with you. Unfortunately, women do have a faster biological clock than men do when it comes to reproduction, so if you’re like myself and want to be married before having children, you probably want to know whether your boyfriend is the right person for you sooner rather than later.

Best case scenario is that you give him an ultimatum and he realizes he's ready to marry you and was simply afraid of taking the leap of faith. This conversation could also make him realize that he needs to work through some issues of his own when it comes to dealing with his parent's divorce or past relationship trauma.

However, the biggest negative is that it could definitely put stress and pressure on your relationship, which is often not a good thing. Your boyfriend may end up resenting you if there are other legitimate reasons why he hasn’t proposed yet. You may end up resenting him as well, even if he does pop the question, because then you'll think to yourself, "did he really want to marry me or is he just doing this because I forced him?"


In my opinion, the most important factor in all of this is the length of your relationship because giving an ultimatum too soon or too late can both lead to unhappiness. If you give an ultimatum in a relatively short relationship or while you and your boyfriend are still very young, you may not know your spouse as well as you think you do. You and he may not even be ready for marriage, let alone marriage to each other. On the other hand, if you’re older, waiting too long can also be a dangerous tactic depending on your fertility and vision for a family.

Ultimately, I think it’s more beneficial to take your time getting to know someone fully because it’s better to end a relationship or even an engagement than a marriage, especially if kids are involved. Having an open line of communication about your expectations and, depending on how serious your relationship is, coming to an agreement about your five-year goals and vision can be extremely helpful in avoiding an ultimatum altogether.

Closing Thoughts

I’m not an expert on marriage or what's best for your family, but I definitely don’t encourage you to take inspiration from Netflix’s The Ultimatum. That being said, as a self-proclaimed reality TV expert, I highly recommend watching it for some mindless entertainment! 

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