As a matchmaker, I’m always on the lookout for new information that can get my clients from “single” to “In a relationship” ASAP. So when I saw the NYT article, To Fall in Love With Anyone, Do This, with 36 questions that are supposed to fast-track the falling-in-love process I almost lost it.
I shouldn’t have gotten so excited because, so far, I haven’t been able to get any client to do the full 36 questions on a date. At first, the push-back frustrated me but now I get it: The problem is people get weirded out by doing something as structured as asking each other three dozen pre-selected questions that are supposed to make them fall in love. It feels contrived, presumptuous and a tad desperate.
But, see, it’s not. It’s intentional and systematic. And as unromantic as it sounds, that’s exactly what you want to be when you’re dealing with one of the most important questions you’ll ever have to answer: Who am I going to spend the rest of my life with?
Last week, the writer (her name is Mandy Len Catron BTW), wrote another article: To Stay in Love, Sign on the Dotted Line.
If you’re not a fan of the 36 questions you’re probably going to gag at what she’s suggesting now: A relationship contract.
Now, before I give you the lowdown on what is a relationship contract, I want to make one observation: A lot of people like to say that love should be effortless and shouldn’t take work. Ignore them — those people are probably single.
Love, in all its manifestations, takes effort and work. Actually, anything worth having takes effort and work. And, the closer you are, and the more you depend on each other, the more effort you need to put in.
The relationship between two romantic partners requires equal-ish effort from both parties. It doesn’t matter if you have period cramps or heartburn, final exams to cram for or a deadline to beat, a crying baby or despondent teenagers. Life doesn’t stop because of sub-optimal circumstances but we still have to put in effort.
So here’s the deal (literally!): This couple’s relationship contract is “a four-page, single-spaced document that we sign and date, will last for exactly 12 months, after which we have the option to revise and renew it, as we’ve done twice before. The contract spells out everything from sex to chores to finances to our expectations for the future.”
Does that sound old-fashioned and stiff?
Not. At. All. It’s modern and while the contract is black & white it allows the couple to be flexible.
Think about it, in the past, heterosexual relationships were pretty binary. If you were a woman you knew what was your remit and same for the man. Now, everything is more fluid and we have to decide what is our remit and when. But if you have to figure out every night who does the dishes or every week who puts out the recycling, the relationship is going to sag from the weight of all those discussions.
By being intentional and systematic, and hashing things out once a year, you will know where each of you stands on the responsibilities and obligations that come with being alive and in a relationship. To boot, the contract helps us know where you can pick up the slack when your Better Half is dealing with the inconveniences and curveballs life likes to throw.
Maybe you think it’s totally unromantic? You know what…I completely agree. It’s not romantic at all. But being in a relationship isn’t always about candle-lit dinners and bubble baths. But if you want to increase the amount you spend feeding each other grapes, sit down once a year and hash out what’s in the contract and what’s not. You’ll find yourself with more time & energy to pour each other champagne and massage each other than dealing with and deciding unromantic chores.
It also gives you another reason to be romantic – without knowing what your partner is doing, chances are you’re going to think you’re doing the bulk of the housework. When psychologists put couples in separate rooms and ask them to estimate how much they each contribute to their relationship, three out of four couples add up to more than 100%. It’s not because they have big egos, it’s that they literally don’t know how much the other is doing. I can’t think of a bigger buzz kill.
But beyond romance, life is best lived when it has a purpose, an intention, a goal – don’t you think? Life isn’t just a bunch of random days sewn together. Sure, it has its serendipitous moments but a lot of planning goes into having a life lived well.
For instance, you don’t throw your money into any old investment. You do your research, invest with someone you trust and periodically check in on how the investment is growing. You don’t say yes to whatever job comes your way. You think about your career trajectory and then look for a job that moves you toward your goal. If you want to grow a garden you don’t throw seeds onto the grass in a haphazard fashion and hope for the best. You plan your garden to maximize the natural elements and you tend to it regularly so it grows the way you want it to.
So why wouldn’t you take the time and effort to understand the dynamics of your relationship and have a sit-down with your Significant Other to figure out what’s the best way to make your relationship the best?
I hope I’ve swayed some of you to consider a relationship contract. Hopefully, Ms. Catron will update her article with a template. If not, I’d be happy to draft something up for you.