When She Gives an Ultimatum, Fellas, Take It Seriously

There can be a lot more at stake than just your freedom.

Jenny McCarthy and T.J. Holmes on The View, March 18, 2014
Jenny McCarthy and T.J. Holmes on The View, March 18, 2014 Screenshot of The View

I wasn’t sure if I’d get out of there alive. Sitting onstage with four women, in front of a studio audience of nearly 200 women, I made this statement: “We [men] know exactly what to say to keep y’all hanging around just a little longer.” Oh my.

I had the pleasure of guest-hosting The View this week, and one topic of discussion was actor Jason Statham’s relationship with his Victoria Secret model girlfriend Rosie Huntington-Whiteley. They’ve been dating for four years, and reportedly, Huntington-Whiteley’s friend is telling her to give Statham an ultimatum: “Propose or I’ll leave you.” To which I replied on the show, “He should go ahead and leave her first.”

The reaction to my comments from the hosts and audience was incredulous, and there were a few jeers as well as some stunned looks. The conversation went on for a bit, but what I didn’t get to explain to The View audience is that my statements were swift and definitive because of personal experience.

I’ve been on the receiving end of what you’d call a marriage ultimatum, and as I saw it, these were my options: 1) Accept her ultimatum, propose but then resent her for it; 2) Call her bluff, ignore the ultimatum and stay together, but then she resents me; or 3) Realize that something must be wrong with this relationship in the first place if we need ultimatums at all.

I went with option No. 3 and ended the relationship a short time after she issued the ultimatum.

I’m glad I took that marriage ultimatum seriously years ago. I knew I wasn’t ready, although it’s possible that I could eventually have proposed. I just knew I couldn’t meet her deadline. But even if she was bluffing in her ultimatum, I didn’t want to be responsible for costing her more time if things didn’t work out. That doesn’t make me a good guy—in fact, you could argue that it’s pretty selfish of me. My decision to walk away, however, was driven in large part by an underlying element of the ultimatum that guys don’t always consider: children.

While the conversation on The View about ultimatums was lively and good-natured, it belies what can be a very serious subject matter, particularly for women of a certain age. Of course, some women don’t want kids. For many others who do, a husband isn’t necessary or desired to reach that goal. We have seen a huge cultural shift in this country in attitudes about marriage and children, and today, kids are being born to unwed mothers at historic rates. But there still exists a population of women out there for whom marriage is preferred or of paramount importance before having kids.

For those women, waiting a little longer to find the right mate seems to be an option. Women are having kids at later ages. The birthrate for women between the ages of 40 and 44 is the highest it’s been since 1967. For women in their late 30s, the birthrate has seen slight increases over the past few years.

Even though women who get pregnant in their late 30s and early 40s overwhelmingly have healthy babies, that biological clock is real! And here is why, more than ever, I plead to my fellas not to string a woman along if kids are important to her.

Without a doubt, the scariest moment of my wife’s entire pregnancy was when we went in for the first ultrasound. The ultrasound was fine, but the excitement of seeing our child for the first time was tempered when the doctor recommended that we have advanced testing because, at my wife’s age of 35, the pregnancy was considered high risk.