Last week, there was an column in the beloved Modern Love section of the NY Times in which the author Mandy Len Catron described the ‘relationship contract’ she has with her boyfriend. The name pretty much describes what it is, but basically, the idea is that you create a contract between you and your significant other that details terms of your romantic relationship.
Here’s a bit from the article:
The terms range from the familiar (“We will take care of each other when one of us is sick”) to the fanciful (“If we’re both sick, it’s all up to the dog”). In fact, Roscoe gets an entire section, detailing his walking schedules, vet visits and even how sweet we think he is.
We have a houseguest section (guests can stay for up to two weeks but must be mutually vetted) and an item that deals with Mark’s sweaty running clothes (“He agrees to hang these up in the spare room or on the back of the bathroom door but he wants Mandy to know that this may be a fairly common occurrence”).
We agree to split the bill when eating out with one exception: “Special meals (date night, celebrations, etc.) will not be split so one person can treat the other.”
Most couples would probably tackle these types of issues in their contracts:
- Frequency of date nights
- How often they see other friends alone
I love the idea of this! So much can go unsaid in a relationship, and these unexpressed feelings can eventually cause resentment and even worse – a breakup.
So. Would you create a relationship contract?
At this very moment, it seems a little too formal for me. It’s not even that I find it unromantic. It’s more that I tend to fluctuate in what I need from month to month. And I hate the idea that I don’t have fluidity in my relationships, especially one of the most important ones. But I realize I also have a problem in firmly sticking to plans; I like the idea that I can change my mind if the mood strikes (maybe that’s selfish, I don’t know?).
While the contract idea seems a little too rigid for my taste, I LOVE the idea of creating a couple mission statement. In the article, Len Catron writes:
Our contract addresses much of what must be negotiated in any relationship, especially when cohabitating. It begins with our reasons for being together: “We aspire to help each other be more ethically-minded and generous friends, community members and global citizens.” I know it sounds idealistic, but I’ve had relationships that left me feeling lonely and small. This time I wanted to be more intentional about looking outward as much as we look in.
This is beautiful. I often wonder what my boyfriend and I can do together to make the world a better place. As in, what benefits do we bring to the world when we are united?
In my relationship, my boyfriend pushes me to reach out to people more. In fact, just this afternoon, I was feeling lonely and depressed about my life in LA, and explaining to him how I don’t have the same connections I do in NY, and he reminded me that I’ve met a few women who I really liked and thought had close-friend potential. But I didn’t reach out enough to make that connection blossom. He encouraged me to reach out to them which is something I might be too timid to do on my own. Because of our relationship and his values that prioritize family and friends and loyalty, I’ve made a stronger effort to overcome social insecurity and connect more with people.
So, our mission statement would probably include helping each other foster connections and build a community in Los Angeles.
What are your thoughts on relationship contracts and mission statements?
I first heard about the “relationship agreement” on The Big Bang Theory and so thought it was funny at first, but after contemplating it I actually considered creating one with my husband. My thoughts were more along the lines of what we would do (or not do) once we had children. Everything you mentioned would need to be planned for once we have children: money, sex, cleaning, etc, but also how we want to raise our children. In the church, private school, strict, the cool parents, etc. A relationship agreement is definitely something to think about for a long term arrangement.
Hi. Thanks for writing about Mandy’s relationship contract. She was inspired by the marital contract in the book I co-wrote, “The New I Do: Reshaping Marriage for Skeptics, Realists and Rebels” (Seal Press). The contract is based on the couples needs, values and goals, so it’s a very individual thing. If you’re interested in learning more, I’d be happy to have Seal Press send you a copy. Thanks!
Hi Vicki, sorry for my long delay in replying to this comment. I would love to learn more and would love to have Seal Press send me a copy. I’ll reach out to you via email.
Also, I’m engaged and getting married next June, so I’m extra excited for this!