" episode of the Big Bang Theory, in which Sheldon drew up a “relationship agreement” for his girl Amy, relationship contracts/agreements have been all the rage. So much so, that my partner now thinks that we need one for ourselves.
But before I spend a weekend working away on a binding agreement and sacrificing my Netflix and chill, it’s time we explore why these agreements mean so much to non-fictional successful relationships like Mark Zuckerberg
and his wife Priscilla and to fictional fucked up relationships like the one in Fifty Shades of Grey
Fifty Shades of Grey
What Is A Relationship Contract?
Well, if you asked Sheldon of Big Bang Theory, a relationship agreement is a vital step before making any big decisions in a relationship, a manifesto of 31 pages that outline the do’s and don’ts of a union. But if you asked his girlfriend Amy then she would remark it as an absolutely ridiculous exercise but also kinda secretly romantic. I guess this makes me the Amy of my relationship.
Nevertheless, simply put, a relationship agreement gets written up and sometimes signed by a couple as a document that is not a prenup, not legally binding but a simple step towards having a super honest conversation about what you need from the relationship you are in.
You can sit down together over a hot cup of coffee, or if you are in a long distance relationship like me, then over Skype and open up a word document beginning to detail out what you relationship means to you and what do you need from it to feel happy, secure and loved. Sounds cheesy? Actually, it’s not.
When do we ever in our day to day life, stop and stare our partner in the eye and straight up ask for more reassurance, more dates and more gifts? Rarely. We are busy going through the motions and trying not to ruffle any feathers with our honestly. But if we mutually type/write it down to include all our custom needs and take responsibility for our role in creating happiness then we can truly have a satisfying relationship.
The Benefits Of Having A Relationship Contract (Explained)
- Less Headaches, More Honesty
: As stated above, we are programmed to manoeuvre around conversations to be politically correct. But to build a fulfilling a partnership, being honest about your wants is key and the relationship contract gives you an opportunity to do so. This is where you belt out/write down all your desires and by doing so, set in motion less internalizing and frustrations early on in your relationship. E.g. We are going to have two dates a week. One at home and one at a semi-nice restaurant, so that I don’t kill you in your sleep.
- Power In Knowing Needs
: There is nothing more satisfying than your partner knowing what you want and what you need. And the relationship contract highlights this in a BIG way. E.g. We are going to have a few hours of physical space during the day, the plan for each anniversary is to travel and blowjobs are only a special occasion affair. Knowing your partner physically, emotionally and sexually? Done, done and done.
The Trickle Down Effect
: Once you open up the can of worms that is honesty, it spreads like a very welcome virus into other aspects of your relationship. You will find yourself being more open in everyday moments and hence being lifted of social obligations in the long term. Soon after, you won’t need a contract to remind yourself to relay your needs. You will begin to do it organically and on an ongoing basis.
- Aligning Areas Of Concern
: Alignment in mutual desires is the name of the long term relationship game. And to get there, you need to get to penning down your long term and short term goals and make sure they align. Ideas around sex, money, children, politics and religion make or break a relationship, and a relationship contract can be the stepping stone to clarity and alignment within these topics. Avoid the “I didn’t know you never wanted to get married” drama and future resentment by discussing these things out loud now.
- Arriving Vs. Sliding
: There are two types of people in the world with two types of psychological impacts. People who just slide into milestones like moving in together or marriage and other who choose to. The first kind rarely last in their decision because they didn’t actively chose to arrive at that point in their life. They just got there by circumstantial progression. In short, mindless next steps don’t make a relationship great. Thinking through your choices (e.g. with a relationship contract) is the clarity you need which has so far been suppressed with vague and unspoken “just go for it” next steps in pop culture.
What Should You Include In Your Relationship Contract?
Before you begin your relationship agreement journey, a few things to consider: ask yourself why do you need one of these at all? What’s the benefit (you and your partner are aiming to derive) and what is the primary intention of this brainstorming session? There is no right or wrong answer. It just helps define the categories you need to consider and focus on. Some of which could include:
- Date Nights: the w
hen, where, how and how much. E.g. who’s planning the dates and are they doing it every single time?
- Personal Responsibility:
responsibility for your own physical and mental health and how this affects the relationship. E.g. if your goal is to travel more to discover yourself then is your partner going to accompany you? Or what if your career takes you to another city...then what?
- Independence Vs. Intimacy:
how much personal space is too much? E.g boys night out vs. relationship time. What’s the priority?
- Agreeing To Disagree:
how will you deal with arguments? E.g. will you go to bed angry? If you do something wrong, how should you come clean?
- Never Threatening The Relationship
(e.g. never hinting at a breakup every time you have a fight)
- Division Of Work:
who does what and how much of it?
what will happen and how much will be the budget for gift giving on birthdays, anniversaries, etc.
(agreeing to not keep any).
Here’s a sample relationship agreement
What Happens When You Breach A Relationship Contract?
The short answer? Nothing. A relationship agreement is not set in stone. It’s more of an intentional exercise. Sometimes, for example, during fights, it’s going to be hard to follow the rules set in place (not because you don’t want to but because you are still working on doing the same and the emotional mess is at an all time high). Instead of metaphorically spanking the person for not upholding the agreement 24/7, just gently remind them of the intentions you guys have set in place and what it means to follow them. Your relationship can go on without an agreement, but the guidelines just help point you in the right direction. When you stray, just remember to read it back and alway continue to evolve it as you both evolve as people.