What is a couple contract
A couple contract (or relationship contract) is a contract that helps couples discuss and decide on key topics that affect the relationship, understand each other’s expectations, and put down the decisions in writing.
The benefits of having a couple contract:
- Honesty, openness, both are being heard
- Stronger & better functioning relationship
- Navigate transitions and crises better
- Take out guesswork and uncertainty
For some, it might sound off-putting and too formal. If this is the case, maybe you do not need to have a written contract – it can be great to just discuss the topics covered by the contract. However, we strongly advocate writing it all down as a proper couple contract.
How to craft your couple contract
The starting point is to identify topics that have a significant impact on your relationship. We have identified nine key topics for us and we are sharing them with you below for your reference with some key pointers for each of the topics.
Then, for each topic, we recommend each partner to first reflect on their individual stance on their own. The next step is to discuss each topic as a couple. If it is your first time, we recommend you to discuss one topic one week at a time to break it down to more manageable bites.
Having an individual reflection is important to be in tune with your own expectations and needs. For each topic you should write down (1) your core values/goals (2) your fears (3) your boundaries. Be honest with yourself.
When you are ready to discuss the topic as a couple, both will share their answers on the above three areas. It is important to stay true to yourself, discuss openly, and compromise to reach a middle ground. At the end of the discussion, you will define your stance and resolutions on the topic as a couple.
It is great to re-visit the contract and re-assess it periodically to make sure that both of you remain on the same page. We review our contract once a year or when there is a significant life event or some new enlightenment comes our way. This could be for example a new idea learned from a book (check out our couple book reviews) or a previously hidden expectation discovered through experience.
Areas your contract should cover
A good couple contract should be fairly extensive and cover most if not all areas of your relationship. That can be intimidating to do at once, so it might make sense for you to break it down a bit and fill it in chunks. We found it nice to go for nice coffee spots or picnics to work on our contract to set the mood right.
The main areas we covered in our contract are as follows.
Trust & commitment
The trust and commitment discussion can start with understanding each other’s behavior that assures commitment and love (love language), behavior that triggers trust issues, or any baggage from previous relationships that affects perception of trust and commitment. It is also good to discuss what kind of topics are ok to share with friends, what should be kept between the two of you, and which trusted friends/family members the two of you can go to for any relationship issues.
Discuss and decide how you can handle conflicts in a good way as they are a part of any relationship. Include topics such as how and when you should tackle conflicts (e.g. not good to talk when sleepy/grumpy), limitations (e.g. save hard discussions for a safe space at home vs. outside).
Sex & intimacy
Discuss and decide goals for your sex and intimacy needs. This could include understanding each other’s preference on sex such as how often you want to optimally have sex, intimate language, how much intimate time you want to spend with each other per week (e.g. at least one date night per week).
Work & career
Work greatly affects the relationship as it touches important areas such as work/life balance, financial stability, and individual fulfillment. Topics to be discussed can cover your general happiness with the current job, an acceptable work schedule, current priorities (e.g. financial/money, time with each other, the fulfillment of growing a start-up).
Furthermore, we made a pact to always consult each other as a team in case any of us is considering moving to another company or making a career switch. As an international couple, we also discussed how comfortable we are with relocating and which countries are on the YES/NO list.
Misalignment in money management can break a relationship. We encourage couples to build the comfort to have transparent discussions about money. Some of the topics you can discuss: your priorities in spending money, any money management/lifestyle mismatch you might have with each other, how do you manage bank accounts as a couple (e.g. joint account, individual accounts, joint account + individual accounts), your retirement aspirations, your ideas about monthly/yearly savings, your assets, debts, and medical insurance plans, and so on.
We break this topic down into (1) existing family (2) future family. This will involve important questions such as the degree of closeness and boundaries you want to maintain with your parents/siblings, the degree of closeness and boundaries you want your partner to maintain with your parents/siblings, the big baby decision: children or no children, when, how many.
Leisure time & friends
Discuss and decide on topics such as what do you like to do to have fun? What are the things you want do together, what should you do separately? How important are friends to each of you? How do you manage and grow those friendships?
Come up with a list of the chores you need to do on a regular basis. Discuss which chores you each particularly like or despise. Then based on the discussion write down how you should share the chores and which tasks you might want to outsource to a cleaner for example.
Discuss how each of you views spirituality and how that is a part of your lives. Then decide together how you approach it as a couple based on your individual preferences. Discuss if there are any game stoppers for either of you (e.g. if the other one becomes too cuckoo then there might be a problem).
Discuss what are each of your dreams in life and how are you working towards them. Discuss what are your dreams as a couple. Then discuss how you can reach your individual and couple dreams together.
Copy our template
We have made our couple contract template available so you can copy it and use it as a starting point for your very own couple contract. It is shared as a public Google Spreadsheet, which you can access via the link below.
For us, drafting our Couple Contract has been great. The process helped us build a deeper connection and understand each other’s core values and boundaries. Writing it down as a formal couple contract is a good reminder of where we individually came from and where we are aiming to go as a couple.