Why Couples Should Have a Shared Life Contract

Posted by on Oct 31, 2019 in Couples Counseling | Comments Off on Why Couples Should Have a Shared Life Contract

Couples usually have some general plan for the future, but they don’t always anticipate potential unexpected events. Geographic relocation, layoffs, or a new baby can throw a wrench in those plans and cause couples to struggle with relationship problems.

Couples who best navigate these issues have discovered and mapped out a plan for their future together. This comes in the form of a shared life contract.

The contract explicitly outlines what their goals are and what direction they want their life to take as a couple. Designing a shared life contract can help couples navigate those unexpected twists and turns that come up in life.

A well-developed shared life contract will include three important areas. These are values, boundaries, and fears.

1. Values: What Makes You Happy and Satisfied?

The first part of a shared life contract focuses on the values of a couple. These are the attributes that make you happy, experience satisfaction and, in the end, matter the most to both of you as a couple. Usually, there is some overlap between partners when it comes to values.  However, each of you will also have differences in values too. Having healthy and open discussions will help address these differences.

When couples are clear on their values, it can help them with making decisions for the future and letting go of the things that don’t align with their shared values. So, for instance, if you and your partner value family time, it might not be a good idea for one of you to take a job that requires 70-hour workweeks.

2. Relationship Boundaries:

Having a discussion about which lines should not be crossed in a relationship is the second part of the shared life contract. For example:

  • Identify places that both of you would or would not want to live
  • How many hours per week of work is considered too much?
  • Is there a cap on the number of kids you both want to have?

This is helpful because it allows you and your partner to make informed choices based on the parameters you have set. It’s been shown that people make better decisions when they have fewer choices.

Thus, discussing where those boundaries lie helps couples can make better decisions individually for the sake of the relationship. Therefore, if you are offered a great promotion at work but it conflicts with one of your agreed-upon boundaries, it will be easier to turn it down.

3. Identify One Another’s Fears

It is incredibly important for couples to talk about fears and potential problems before they arise; failing to do so puts couples at risk for developing a strained relationship.

For, instance, one partner might have a fear that the other partner’s career will overshadow them. Or, a partner might worry that what they believe is their personal failings will doom the relationship. Often these partners struggle with worries that are not actually based on reality.

Being given the chance and permission to talk about their fears helps with changing these perceptions. It can also help couples with taking preemptive action to ensure that these fears do not become a reality.

The best time for couples to have these conversations is now.

Even if you have been together for a very long time, it’s still good to talk about these issues. These discussions can be informal and occur whenever you spend time together, seven over morning coffee or while taking the dog for a walk. Also, be sure these conversations should happen more than once, as values, boundaries, and fears can change over time.

If you and your partner want support for developing a shared life contract, consider couples counseling for help.

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