Many couples want to test the waters or stay together under common law marriage rather than walk down the aisle or sign a contract that’s supposed to bind them together for life. They don’t want to be dragged into the pitfalls of “irreconcilable differences,” alimony and endless paperwork that could affect not only themselves but their future children. It happens. How many marriages fail on average every year? Too many to bother not being jaded or losing faith in it altogether, unfortunately. You can also see Agreement Templates.
When you and your partner decide to live under one roof outside of marriage, granted none of you are married to someone else, of course, and start sharing more than just the space but all financial obligations from the rent to the bills, things can turn sour. Where money is involved, it almost always does. Some couples can agree quietly on what their shared responsibilities are, but to be on the safe side, consider writing a relationship agreement with the following elements:
1. Transparency: Couples who know what each other is doing get to have a sense of security about their relationship. It’s so simple to answer the door, the phone or send each other a message, letting him or her know where you are and whether or not you’ll be able to make it on time for dinner. Transparency also lessens potential issues since no one has to guess or doubt and make up baseless stories.
2. Communication: There are things you sometimes cannot discuss with your partner yet, for personal or deep-rooted reasons but talking to one another supports the idea of being transparent and open. Humans are gifted with reason and a symbolic language that translates to another but we fail to say things the way they’re supposed to be said sometimes. We’re not really at fault for this entirely since there are times when we ourselves fail to find words to what we think or feel and that’s also something you have to let the other person know.
3. Laying things on the table: If you’re going to be open about yourself, you might as well lay everything there, because truth and honesty goes a long way than walking without knowing where to tread or constantly questioning your every move or second-guessing yourself around your partner.
4. Sacred Space: Date nights are nice but even better is your sacred space; setting aside time each week to sit without distraction, and talk about the relationship or think of where it’s going, whether or not it’s growing or even just making time for yourselves in between busy schedules. Share a coffee, have a quiet conversation, talk about your days at work, breathe together.
If you would like create your own relationship contract, you can hire a marriage counselor or an expert. You’re also free to write your own and get it signed. Before finalizing the contract you draft, here are some basic steps you should consider:
1. State the purpose of the agreement: In the first parts of your agreement, you have to include a reason why it is being created. For instance, you can say that both you and your partner want your rights and obligations (especially financial) established clearly, as well as any asset or income you may acquire within the relationship, either individually or as a couple.
2. Avoid including the past in your agreement: Commit to not mentioning events in the past that may have had painful circumstances for both of you, unless you have a mediator present. You don’t have to include provisions regarding past events that are irrelevant to the purpose of the agreement being drafted.
3. Include a provision about disclosures: Before entering a relationship, and this doesn’t only apply to a romantic relationship-make sure that both parties have been completely honest to each other about what they have and don’t have such as finances and existing debts, trouble with the law if there’s any, children from a previous relationship, and whether or not he or she has been married before. These are just some of the things you need to be honest about, to avoid misunderstandings.
4. Commit to spending time with each other: This goes without saying since you may be living under the same roof or room, but for the same reason, your careers and other commitments might take a toll on your relationship, so much so that you won’t get to talk to each other anymore and drift apart without even realizing it. A certain number of hours a week doing leisure or creative activities you both enjoy doing together will help ensure that you stay stronger together and remain committed to each other.
There’s nothing wrong with discussing your expectations of a relationship and how you’ll generally divide up duties and such before you decide to live together, and it helps drive your points home, regarding what you expect from each other or what you can “negotiate.” Here are some tips to help you decide and write your relationship agreement:
Although there are states that recognize contracts made outside of marriage for two people in a relationship, a relationship agreement isn’t necessarily a prenup. It’s different because prenups are always legally binding contracts which are usually meant to divide conjugal assets and property rights when married couples file for a divorce. Relationship agreements can be legally binding but they often aren’t. They’re just a good way to keep a written record of an agreement you’ve made with the person you’re in a (romantic) relationship with.
That depends on what you want to establish. Some couples can agree how they want to commit to a relationship without fuss but if you’re the type who prefer to have things written down, a relationship agreement can be a great way for being clear about what you value. After all, any successful relationship, personal or professional, requires honest communication.
It doesn’t have to. You don’t want the pressure of reading each other’s expectations and referring back to it when one of you makes a mistake, because you’re bound to make mistakes, written agreement or no written agreement. It’s not your ticket to a long and lasting relationship but it helps to have something that will guide you both when you don’t have any existing paperwork about your “union.” It’s also practical.
We can’t all be Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan whose relationship contract did the rounds on the internet and what may work for them isn’t applicable to some of us but it helps in establishing the things that matter most to you and your partner, even if it’s far from being a romantic gesture.