We frequently take for granted that our relationships operate through many spoken and unspoken relationship agreements.
When relationships break down, more often than not, an important relationship agreement (or rule; and often what is really an inaccurate assumption) has been broken.
Can you think of some of the relationship agreements that are operating in any of your significant relationships?
Some common examples of agreements in romantic relationships are:
1. monogamy (although it’s the norm it doesn’t work for everyone so talk about it and don’t assume)
2. how much time is spent together and apart (how much time with family, friends, sports, hobbies…)
3. amount of privacy allowed (e.g. do you share your password privacy for email, social media or smartphones)
4. daily telephone contact (how much is enough/too little)
5. how much help you would offer without me having to ask, if you really loved me (*Please always ask your partner for whatever it is you need, this is a very common, damaging false belief about love and relationships*)
6. sharing or splitting expenses (should everything be split equally or shared based on percentage of income)
Make a point of expressing your assumptions and stating the obvious in your relationship.
When an unspoken assumption (i.e. ‘rule’ or agreement) is broken this can be more difficult to handle because it’s never been discussed or even promised. One person in the relationship might have come to rely on something that the other person didn’t even consider was so important.
In order to work it out, consider that the other person usually has positive intent, or the desire to please you. Although it may seem intentional, the other person is usually unaware that the breach has hurt you.
So, speak up in a direct and friendly manner and be willing to verbalize the unspoken agreements operating within your relationship(s).
With cooperation, relationship agreements can easily be renegotiated and strengthened. In fact, in long-term committed relationships in particular, consider setting time aside to renegotiate your relationship agreements every 6 months.
Ultimately, your relationship rules or agreements should always be spoken about out loud, clarified, negotiated and agreed upon.
Get comfortable speaking up and putting difficult conversations on the table. This courageous and vulnerable stance will serve you well in your relationship.
I’d love to hear about your experiences with relationship agreements! What are some of the relationship rules that you’ve been successful with negotiating?