Have you heard of a relationship contract? The concept is making waves amongst couples everywhere. Many partners, who are not legally married, are feeling the need to establish certain boundaries and expectations within their relationships. They then decide to draw up an agreement that will spell out the terms of these mutually beneficial decisions.
Relationship experts, too, are in favor of unmarried couples, whether in a new or serious relationship, adopting such dating contracts to increase the longevity of their connection. This could be an unwritten agreement but let’s be honest – a written contract just feels more binding.
Now, you may either think this is all too much too soon or are intrigued with the idea of an agreement that may lead to a healthy relationship. The truth of the matter is that making such an agreement at any point in your union can prevent unnecessary misunderstandings as well as improve communication with your partner. Win-win, we say. So, let’s delve deeper to understand what a relationship contract is all about and how you can draw one up.
What Is A Relationship Contract?
A relationship contract is a document that is signed by a couple outlining the rules and expectations of their relationship. It is also known as a cohabitation agreement if the couple is living together but not married. While a relationship contract is not legally binding, it can help make the terms of your partnership more explicit and easier to achieve. Look at it this way – being open and frank about your needs in a relationship is tough enough.
A relationship contract offers both partners a way of bringing their expectations to the table and discussing their value in a mature, reasonable manner. This could involve things such as:
- Who does what housework
- The amount of emotional support required
- How many date nights are needed a month
- Who takes care of what living expenses
- An open dialogue about sex and intimacy
5 Benefits Of A Relationship Contract
One non-threatening way of looking at such an agreement is to regard it as a setting of relationship goals. When you get into a relationship, you are automatically invested – emotionally, physically, and mentally. The biggest benefit of drawing up a dating contract is that it implies thoughtfulness and mutually beneficial decisions that will help the partnership go the distance. Now, where’s the problem with that? Besides this, here are the top benefits of having a relationship contract:
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1. It helps you communicate better as a couple
The very act of sitting together and expressing your needs openly is a huge accomplishment for any couple. Keep in mind that such relationship terms are not a binding agreement or a way of putting one partner’s needs over the other’s. It’s not about ‘you’ – with a dating contract, it’s always about ‘us’. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that only couples who are not getting along would sign such a contract. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.
Unmarried couples who take the time and energy to sit together and explain to each other what matters to them are already way ahead of the game. When you have a safe space for communication in a healthy relationship, you can express fears or fantasies that you might not have had the guts to be honest about before. And when you do this on a regular basis, the benefits are even greater.
2. A contract provides clarity in your relationship
Imagine this – you are going about your day when your partner does something that irritates or angers you. For example, one partner may not have done their share of the housework or may have spent too much while shopping. It’s only human to react with disappointment or aggression. Now, take a breath and think of the relationship contract you signed.
If you and your partner have already spelled out the terms and conditions of what is and what is not acceptable in your relationship, you will have a fuss-free way to tackle this situation. It’s easy now to understand both sides of the story without spending hours sulking or in tears. And no, contrary to popular opinion, such relationship agreements are not a way to impose a “my way or the highway” situation. Rather it’s a means to accept each other’s fallibility and respect the other partner’s expectations. It can’t get clearer than that.
3. It is a powerful tool for alignment
A relationship contract can’t solve all your problems. It’s not a magical tool for success. What it can do, however, is provide you and your partner with a roadmap for the future. In this way, you can work towards unnecessary internalized resentments. If you and your partner need to dig deeper, there are open relationship contracts, for example, that list the dos and don’ts of a polyamorous relationship. You can find relationship contract examples for any and every situation.
These dating contracts are just a way to create a safe space, where both partners’ needs are acknowledged and met. By exploring relationship contract samples (there are several available online) and putting down on paper what is important to both parties, there is an automatic alignment of shared values and desires. What it, in turn, creates is an innate understanding that both partners want to invest heavily in this shared experience and plan to go the distance together.
4. It can protect you financially
While a relationship contract or cohabitation agreement is not legally binding, it can protect both parties in multiple ways. For example, if the relationship ends, your contract can help ease you out of a potentially messy situation. Maybe the contract stipulates who leaves, who still pays the rent, or who gets what items from the shared home.
A female-led relationship contract can also help reassure both partners of an equitable distribution of jointly-held assets or how you both plan to split your living expenses. And yes, we understand that this may seem very cut and dry and unemotional but it’s important to acknowledge that relationships change, and the only way to make it through these changes is to create a living situation, which helps avoid unnecessary misunderstandings from the get-go.
5. It can be fun
Hey, we get it, listing out what you want and need from another person and your relationship may not seem like a fun task. The actual process of exposing your heart’s desires and being open with what you expect in a relationship can be daunting for sure. But think of the ease that will follow. No longer will unhealthy expectations turn into an unhealthy relationship because of problems related to household chores and living expenses cause unnecessary stress.
With a structure within which to maneuver, you and your partner can now concentrate on the fun parts of being together. That said, not all relationship contracts have to be heavy and ponderous. If you want to lighten the situation, maybe look for a funny relationship contract or a template for a cute relationship contract. There are several relationship contract templates available online that you can tweak to fit your unique needs as a couple.
Do You Need A Relationship Contract? 10 Ways To Decide
For many people, the idea of verbalizing their needs and desires is tough enough. Add to it the implication of putting all these requirements down on paper can be downright daunting. However, as the author of the controversial New York Times piece, To Fall in Love, Sign on the Dotted Line, Many Len Caron states, “Every relationship is a contract, we are just making the terms more explicit.”
Whether you are just starting out in a relationship or already five years into one, it’s always worthwhile to examine your feelings and expectations. If you are still wondering whether your relationship would benefit from a dating contract, ask yourself the following questions. If you answer ‘yes’ to five or more, you definitely need to list out your dating terms and conditions.
- Do you feel shy and have trouble expressing your feelings?
- Do you regularly feel resentful about the imbalance of effort put into your relationship?
- Do you have strong desires that need to be fulfilled?
- Do you want to discuss finances, children, partnership, families, and your living situation in a calm, non-threatening manner?
- Do you earn more (or less) than your partner and want to have an equitable lifestyle?
- Do you see your relationship lasting five, 10, or 15 years?
- Do you want your relationship to include more fun activities such as date nights and weekend getaways?
- Do you need to draw boundaries around ideas of fidelity, honesty, and commitment?
- Would you like to spend more quality time and date nights with your partner but don’t know how to ask?
- Do you want to maintain your own sense of identity and encourage the self-care of your partner?
How To Draw Up A Relationship Contract
Still confused about making a contract? Here are 4 relationship contract templates to help you put your feelings on paper. We’ve got relationship contract examples for all types of agreements. Whether it’s a lighthearted agreement or a serious one concerning major life decisions. Just make sure you spell out the following relationship terms in your contract:
- Your name and your partner’s name
- The start date and end date of the agreement
- State the specific items that are being agreed upon
- You can break these up into subsections such as love life, sex life, finances, fidelity, household chores and the division of labor, religious factors, and methods to deal with conflicts
- As an addendum in your relationship contract sample, you can also discuss and decide what would the consequences be in the event of any rules being broken
Related Reading: Prenuptial Agreement – How It Can Protect Your Future
1. Funny relationship contract template
A funny relationship contract is lighthearted and humorous but at its heart, it’s still handling some pretty potent suggestions. However, it could be one way to lessen the stress and expectations associated with such contracts.
2. Female-led relationship contract template
There are several situations in a relationship, where the female partner feels like she’s been left with the short end of the stick. A female-led relationship contract can help address these issues and protect both parties’ interests.
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3. Open relationship contract template
For couples thinking of an open relationship, the best way to deal with all those niggling doubts and fears could be to spell it all out in an open relationship contract. Such contracts also help create an atmosphere of transparency and honesty at the beginning of a relationship, thus avoiding any future misunderstandings.
4. Cute relationship contract template
Everything is not always about rules and regulations. Relationships are also about having fun and sharing a laugh. Cute relationship contracts can be just the ticket to keep things sweet and humorous.
5. Serious relationship contract template
At the opposite end of the cute relationship contract is this, the serious contract. If you and your partner abhor cutesiness and play, then this cut-and-dry contract is the one for you. Everything is to the point and leaves no room for error – music to the ears of all you Type A personalities out there. Also, if you’re headed for a serious relationship, you may need a more serious contract to navigate it.
- A relationship contract is a way to make your expectations felt and understood
- Dating contracts can be used to define boundaries, prevent misunderstandings, and increase communication
- There are different types of relationship contracts. These range from cute and funny ones to serious versions with detailed instructions
- Relationship experts suggest revisiting your contract every one to five years. This examination of feelings on a regular basis will do wonders for your partnership
Let’s get real for a moment and accept the fact that relationships change. Both partners have needs that evolve over time. It could be a few months down the road or five years later. When that happens, a relationship can benefit immensely from a clear, concise, dating contract. And while nothing can be set in stone, any efforts made toward harnessing mutual respect and deeper communication only increase your chances of enduring love.
Keeping this in mind, it’s always a good idea to sign a dating contract at the earliest in order to protect yourself and your relationship. As your partnership progresses, it is essential that you revisit your contract and amend the clauses as per any new requirements or situations. Don’t let the minutiae overwhelm you. What’s important is to take action. And do so immediately. Call your partner. Bring up this conversation. And get things started.
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