By Ky’lea Wright – Baltimore, MD
With the rise of “Fifty Shades of Grey” and other “mommy porn” books, the idea of relationship contracts might not seem that crazy if you’re looking to add a little spice to your between-the-sheets life. However, for those of us who still walk on the vanilla side of the bedroom, a relationship contract might seem a little far fetched.
That is exactly how I used to feel, but then I meet and fell in love with a guy who had some non-traditional relationship views and I started to re-examine what I truly wanted in a relationship and the best way to get it.
If you think about it objectively, viewing a relationship as contract makes sense – two people have things they agree to do and if one person doesn’t fulfill their terms, then the other person can terminate the contract. Both partners must agree to the terms for the relationship to exist, but only one partner has to be unhappy to have grounds for termination.
When I first started dating my partner he knew his terms. He wanted to be able to see other women. Judge away, but he was always upfront with me about this being something that was important to him and I respected him for it. In the beginning, our relationship was extremely casual and I was seeing other people as well. Once I realized I wanted something more, I knew I needed to figure out what exactly that ambiguous “more” was.
One morning, we found ourselves lying in bed together and I told him it was no longer a casual thing for me. Instead of instantly assuming I was going demand radical change to the causal terms of our agreement he simply asked me what I needed.
I told him I wanted to feel like I had a place of importance in his life, I wanted to be a priority and I wanted to feel secure in our relationship. Other people might say, “Duuh – you wanted to be his girlfriend.” But I wasn’t really sure what those things meant to me.
I started to ask myself what those things looked like in practical terms. What is being “important”? What does it mean if I am a priority?
I came up with a list of things that were tangible. I wanted to see him at least twice a week, and it had to be a weeknight and weekend night. Being a priority to me meant I didn’t want to feel like I was being fit into his schedule around other girls. I wanted to get the days that worked best for my schedule, not just his. Having security meant I wanted to feel like I could make long term plans with him and not have to worry the nature of our relationship would change before those plans happened.
I was nervous when I presented these terms to him. I didn’t know if they were things he would agree to, and to be honest I wasn’t sure they were really what would make me happy. So we had a conversation, I set out my needs like terms of a contract…and to my surprise, there was no negotiation. He wanted me to feel secure, important and like a priority, and he said if that’s what I needed that’s what we would do.
We never look at our contract as a stagnant thing. Relationships grow as the people in them grow. The most important thing is whenever I need something different, looking at our relationship like a contract gives me the language I need to voice my feelings. Instead of being stuck in emotional turmoil, unable to explain what I want or how I am feeling, we can just have a conversation.I’m able to make specific “asks” and so is he. The better we know and communicate our wants, needs and limits the stronger our relationship is.
I often find that language falls short of what I need. Simply saying I am sad or that hurt me or show me you care about me falls short of the whole picture. Humans emotions are infinite, and our linguistic expression is so finite by comparison. The contract is not important because of what it is, but because it gives a more effective way to communicate with a partner. It’s what I use to break down my emotions and wants into real things he can then fulfill instead of ambiguous ideas.
While I know the terms of my relationship would not work for everyone, I encourage you to ask yourself: “What is it I really want, and what do those wants look like as actionable items?” It’s different for each of us. Some of us need spontaneous shows of affection for no reason, some of us just want to know our partner will be there at 8 p.m. on Tuesday night to watch Netflix with us.
But if you really don’t know what makes you happy, how can you expect anyone else to know?