Contracts in relationships exist between every couple. They can be explicit and talked about, or implicit and assumed. If not talked about, they’re based on hidden assumptions. These hidden assumptions are usually wrong because they’re formed on hopes, dreams and expectations rather than on an agreed reality. Contracts create clear boundaries. Boundaries help us deal with our differences and the different ways we can use relationship skills.
Two people in a relationship must have a shared understanding of what’s going on. This is needed on every level of relationship – from issues like cooking & tidiness, to the big things like money, sexual faithfulness & contraception. It’s recommended to review your shared understanding about your relationship at least once a year.
What’s the type of relationship you want?
The type of relationship you want is a fundamental question in your contract. If you want a monogamous relationship & your partner wants an open relationship, this is a major disconnect. It is often unworkable. It needs to be discussed & made crystal clear in the contract between you & your partner. A successful relationship requires a team approach, a joint vision for your relationship & a solid friendship.
It’s essential to know what the relationship means to your partner & whether it has the same meaning for you. That’s what a relationship is about! It’s an ongoing interaction between two people based on an expectation that certain behaviours will be continued. This shared understanding is the contract – what we expect of the other & what they expect of us. No human relationship can exist without these and the clearer contracts are, the better we interact. Abiding by the contract is fundamental to building trust.
Contracts and commitment
Most misunderstandings & problems in couples arise from unclear contracts. In addition, many people today fear commitment. This is based on a common misunderstanding that commitment has to be made in one go. This is scary. It leads people to think that they’re signing away their freedom or that they’ll have no ground left to stand on. In real life, commitment grows in small stages. It’s like climbing a mountain, one step at a time.
Contracts also help couples deal better with their disagreements and differences. For example, if they have a clear contract about what is and is not allowed to be said and done in a fight, the inevitable conflicts that all couples have become healthier. Healthy conflicts help individuals and couples to grow. For example they can contract that during a fight:
a) neither of them will walk out or end the relationship, but they can take a responsible time-out and go to another room for a specified amount of time
b) that neither will touch, walk towards or threaten the other or threaten the relationship in any way.
Contracts in relationships
Because today there are many different types of couple relationships, each couple needs to evolve their own contract, one which works specifically for them. We now have the freedom and opportunity to make our own conscious, transparent arrangements. These arrangements are contracts, commitments about what we will say and do or not say and do, in the interest of honouring our self, our partner and our relationship.
The great news about contracts is that they make us freer & safer, because we know exactly where we each stand. Long-term contracts grow in small steps & take time to evolve. Devising a clear contract that is right for you, your partner and the relationship is a positive move towards things working out well. How to pick your life partner, if that’s what you want, and to make your relationship work well, takes effort and commitment.
Regularly update your contract together
You learn to adapt the contract together, as your needs change and as the relationship develops and deepens through the five stages of intimacy. A contract is open to change after an agreed amount of time. This way it remains appropriate to each couple’s unique desires, personalities, ages and changing circumstances.
If you are worried about contracts, make them short term. For example, you may contract to stay together for three months, no matter what happens. This makes it safer for you to disagree and work on sorting out differences without an underlying threat of one of you walking out. At the end of the three months, you can decide whether to extend or to change the contract in some way.
You deserve the best trained relationship coaches if you’re planning to invest time and money in your relationship. If you’re not ready to book an appointment, call us on 0421 961 687 to book a FREE 15 minute phone consultation to discuss how we may be able to assist you.