People yearn for relationships they can trust. They want to be able to depend on people. They want relationships characterized by ease, clarity and harmonious cooperation.
The hallmark of an enlightened partnership is intentional design. Great relationships don't just happen, mediocre ones do. If you are like most people, you yearn for relationships you can trust. You want to be able to depend on people. You want relationships characterized by ease, clarity and harmonious cooperation. The good news is it is easier than you think. With a little bit of education and skill you can design relationships that foster trust through clarity and agreement.
Clarifying the purpose of your relationship and crafting agreements is a foundational part of the design process for generating trust. The conversations you will have will illuminate what is truly important to each person. This knowledge is essential in creating relationships that work well over the long term. If you create agreements that reflect the authentic motivation of each person and you plan for predictable breakdowns in a way that fosters accountability you can relax into a new certainty and trust in your most important relationships.
What Is an Agreement?
What is an agreement really? An agreement is a method for coordinating action between two or more people. It is supposed to smooth the way for efficient harmonious interaction. But why do people so often not live up to their word? Usually an agreement fails because it does not reflect the true desire and motivation of all the people making the agreement. People who agree to something because they are afraid of what will happen if they don't agree, will more than likely not follow through, unless they are pressured to do so.
It is important to know that agreements alone will not secure the safety and dependability we all yearn for. For an agreement to be effective the internal motivator that drives it should be so compelling that the people involved are aroused to fulfill their part of their own volition. In other words, an agreement you can count on has to come from the right place.
Why Am I Agreeing to This?
That means that each person must answer the question, "For the sake of what am I agreeing to this?" This reason needs to be explicit. You can't assume the same thing motivates everyone. You have to question, discuss and clarify. Successful agreements are always driven by a clear purpose that inspires action. There are two very important things that need to be part of a process for creating agreements that will work, a clear and inspiring purpose for your agreements and a process for restoring trust when an agreement has been broken.
A good purpose statement for sharing household chores might be something like, "We agree to share in household chores so that we can enjoy a relationship that is free from resentment and filled with trust, intimacy, passion and fun!" For business agreements something like, "The purpose of the following agreements is to ignite an unstoppable force for imagination, creativity and collective accomplishment." It is also a good idea to post this declaration in a place where it will be seen frequently by the participating members, e.g., refrigerator, coffee room, bulletin board.
Once you have crafted an inspiring purpose statement for your agreements and you have listed the agreements, check to see that all the agreements are consistent with your purpose. Then you need to determine a protocol for handling the inevitable broken agreement. This protocol needs to be something everyone accepts and is willing to use.
Agreements Aren't Always Kept
Yes, it may be sad but true that even with the best intentions, sometimes agreements aren't kept. You agree to be on time and you get a flat tire. You agree to handle dinner tonight and you feel ill or exhausted from the day. The best kind of protocol is one that quickly restores trust and completely neutralizes any disappointment or hard feelings. This is important because we want to make sure the memory of the event doesn't carry forward any resentment, blame or guilt. Any of these feelings are toxic to a harmonious future.
We have found that using amendments to restore broken agreements is a stellar solution. When someone does not keep an agreement for whatever reason, they offer an amendment to the other person. It is much better if someone does not have to ask for an amendment, but the person who did not keep the agreement readily offers it.
Apologies and Amendments
An amendment is different from an apology. An apology includes saying "I'm sorry" and how you will handle things differently in the future. An amendment is something you do to make up for whatever disappointment or bad feeling happened when the agreement was not kept as promised. An amendment is not a punishment. It is an opportunity to restore trust. What you offer for an amendment depends on the intensity of inconvenience or distress the other person experienced because you did not keep the agreement as promised.
Imagine someone who is late for a meeting and says upon arrival, "I apologize for being late. I'm sorry you were kept waiting and wondering. How about I bring flowers for the front desk tomorrow to make up for it?" Offering an apology and an amendment is a winning combination. It is a very grownup move that rekindles trust and allows everyone involved to bounce back to a very high level of teamwork.
Amendments work best when they are pleasurable for everyone involved. Treating someone to lunch is a better amendment than cleaning their car, unless of course you enjoy cleaning cars. Buying flowers tomorrow is better than doing a big thing in two or three weeks.
No Big Deal?
Sometimes people want to pretend that the agreement being broken was "no big deal" and an amendment is not necessary. We caution you against reacting this way consistently. It sends the wrong message. It is important for people to keep their word, to be accountable for their promises. The ill feelings that come from broken agreements can build up over time. Using amendments is a great way of averting the kind of disastrous blow-ups that happen when people get fed up.
It is a good idea to bring a light heart, a sense of humor and your creativity to the amendment process. Remember the purpose of an amendment is to restore trust and harmony to a relationship.
Written Agreements or Verbal Agreements?
Sometimes people balk at the idea of written agreements. It seems like too much trouble. But if you take a step back and look at most of the failures in your relationships you will probably notice most of them came from lack of clarity and alignment. How many times have you had a different recollection of a conversation than the other person having the conversation? It is one of the most common problems in relationships, having different perceptions of the same event. If the agreements are written down, you won't spend time arguing about them. Also, if everyone involved in creating the agreements is clear enough to write them down, chances are they know what they are and understand them. We are not talking about every agreement you ever make in the relationship, but most certainly the ones that lay the foundation for your relationship.
Here is an agreement crafted by two clients with the help of our coaching. We think you will agree that the clarity and strength shines through.
The purpose of our relationship is to love, trust and nurture one another so that we both grow and achieve our full potential as soul mates, lovers and friends.
We promise to ...
- Have fun together
- Share passion and fulfill each others sexual desires
- Focus on things that we appreciate about one another and acknowledge them
- Experience the things we have loved as if we were doing them for the first time
- Treat each other with kindness and respect
- Create a relationship where we can experience peace and contentment
- Be lighthearted and not take ourselves too seriously
- Experience unconditional love
- Appreciate our strengths and accept our faults
- Communicate openly and freely with ultimate trust and truth
- Celebrate the relationship as the most important thing in our lives
- Laugh a lot!!!
- Share trust, love, intimacy to the deepest level possible
- Have dreams together and share the journey of them coming true
In order to fulfill these promises we will...
- Make time for that "Start the Day Hug"
- Spend 10 to 30 minutes a day for Couple Time and Alone Time
- Make our love visible with notes and cards
- Spend a minimum of 2 weekends per month alone together
- Have 1 relationship night per week
- Enjoy regular "Holding Time" - 5 minutes or more each day
- Share 2 energy or visualization sessions per week
- Have 2 Heart to Heart Talks per week
- Weekly "Support Review"
- Review our triggers once a month
- Pick a picture on the relationship creation boards and talk about what it feels like to achieve that
- Take turns planning a "Date Day" twice per month
We agree that we both will ...
- Make our relationship a priority
- Do whatever it takes to make our relationship mutually satisfying
- Acknowledge each other frequently
- Be emotionally supportive to one another
- Be personally responsible for our own experience
- Be honest in all ways
- Have the right to say no without losing each others love
- Create an environment conducive to love-making
- Have a period of intimate sharing before sex
- Be sensitive to each others needs and desires
- Be responsible for our own sexual satisfaction
- Communicate through any upsets until they are resolved to our mutual satisfaction
- Always tell the truth about our thoughts and feelings
- Be responsible in our communications, i.e. to speak in "I" sentences and to not cast blame
- Clear our resentments and upsets daily with each other
- Spend time looking into what's going on with ourselves first, e.g., using the CURE Upset Resolution Process in order to avoid blaming the other
- Seek outside support when we are stuck
- Learn from an upset
- Work on resolving unresolved issues from the past
- Agree that it is OK to disagree
- Not use these agreements to control or manipulate each other
- Be responsible for keeping these agreements and to use an amendment system to restore trust and harmony in case they are broken
We know that the purpose of these agreements is to help us continually enjoy the precious treasure that our relationship is with out any distracting discord or hurt feelings.
Clarity is Power
Can you imagine the conversations these two people would have had to write all that down? Do you think those conversations would have assured they were both on the same page with one another and they had a pretty good idea what they could count on one another for? Do you think they would have enjoyed a superior level of trust in their relationship with one another? You bet! And so would anyone else with the foresight to plan for success.
The whole process of crafting an agreement for your relationship should be enjoyable. Don't try and do it all in one day. Gather information through informal conversations that are mostly about getting to know one another. Then as the relationship is maturing you will see the right time to have a more formal conversation about designing your relationship for trust.