The Backbone of Every Relationship

Ryan Ginn Relationships

Agreements are definitely not the sexiest of topics, but they do build a sense of trust and relaxation in a relationship, all of which are prerequisites to a great sex life. They are incredibly important for a host of different reasons and form the backbone of any solid relationship. My wife and I have our agreements posted up in our kitchen so that we repeatedly acknowledge them on a daily basis and this has helped us become more aligned and clear on our relationship.

Why are agreements in a relationship important?

Human beings sometimes get very into their own trips of naturally selfish desires and agendas and lose sight of the relational field that they live in. Having agreements spelled out as a couple allows both partners to show up for each other. They should be made explicit, otherwise, you may think you’re on the same page as your partner but you’ll have different interpretations and expect different things and this obviously leads to conflict. Having agreements sets the relational system right.

Here’s a taste of our agreements, and why we decided to agree to them.

Number 1: Our Relationship Comes First Above All Matters of the Self

The first agreement my wife and I have is that the relationship comes first, above all matters of the self. Some people raise their eyebrows when I bring this notion forth in workshops—they wonder if it’s codependency, but it’s not codependency when both parties agree that the relationship comes first. If we slip into the pattern which places the self first in a relationship, it leaves the relationship very vulnerable. I used to do this unconsciously by telling my wife what I wanted to do, rather than discussing it with her first, and it did not go over very well. What I should have done is approach my wife and say, “I had this idea, I want to go do this workshop this weekend, how do you feel about that? I feel like it would be really good for me and I’d have made the intention of bringing back all that good energy into the relationship”. I really encourage you to try this agreement with your partner, even for a day, and actually think about what you’re doing and how you’re moving through life doing things not just for yourself but for the greater role of the relationship.

Number 2: We Tell Each Other Everything

The second agreement my wife and I have is to tell each other everything and anything. I can’t tell you how many couples I’ve worked with who bring forth multiple examples of the damaging consequences of not being completely transparent and open with their partner in a timely manner. These tend to sound like, “well I didn’t want to bother you” or “I didn’t want to hurt you”. And yet, I ‘m sure we can all agree that it actually hurts a lot more when you find the truth out weeks later that your partner failed to tell you something important. Now you don’t literally need to tell each other every single thought, it’s simply that you consider that there should not be anything you don’t confide in with your partner. By being open and honest it builds a sense of trust, which continues to grow and develop as the relationship evolves. Do the brave and honest thing and the relationship will continue to become more resilient. Talk with your partner and consider how it could help create more intimacy by having a deep sense of interdependence within the relationship.

Number 3: We Move Together or We Don’t Move at All

The third agreement, we move together, or we don’t move at all, is your classic win-win solution. If I want to move forward in a direction, the agreement is that I include my partner as well as myself. Saying something like, “If I go up to the workshop, I’m going to make it possible for you to go to the workshop in two weeks”. We move together to make significant life choices, or we don’t move at all. We find a way to collaborate, negotiate and sweeten the pot on both sides. There should be a win-win for every movement and choice in order to keep things in balance. 

Number 4: We are Experts of Each Other

My wife and I have been together for 15 years and yet I don’t see my development of understanding her and what she needs ever stopping. Human beings are infinitely complex and always growing by continuing to integrate new experiences. This agreement is that you actively take on the role of becoming an expert of your partner so you know what they need in certain situations or what might be the impact of certain behaviours. It’s about recognizing that maybe they have a trauma around a particular topic so you don’t force a conversation or an action that might cause them extreme discomfort. You can then come up with creative solutions that will help them feel safer and more cared for because they would do the same for you. I love it when my partner knows even little things, like adding whipped cream to my mocha and knowing that will bring me joy. We want to feel like the other person is an expert of us and that they’re tending to us in a way that makes us feel seen and loved.

Number 5: We Are in Each Other’s Care

This one goes through my mind a lot, particularly when it’s inconvenient. If there is a real need to care on her end, I will do my best to provide the support she needs, knowing she would do the same for me. Then we can both relax knowing that if that’s the case, we have somebody in this life to take care of us. I had a recent experience, where I could just feel how much I needed both my wife and my daughters’ care. It made me feel so grateful that I had sustained a family that I cared for and in turn, received care back. I can be very self-reliant a lot of the time and think that I don’t need that level of care, but in that moment, it was a deeper truth that fully revealed to me that I do at times really do need someone to care for me. This agreement allows you both to recognise the depth and beauty of interdependence. 

A Practice to Get You Started

A great place to start is with the PACT Agreements. Consider whether any of these feel true to how you want to guide your relationships, and what you like and don’t like about them. At very least, this will be an insight-generating session for your realtionships.