Why and How to Write a Relationship Agreement

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "How to Not Die Alone" by Logan Ury. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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What is a “relationship agreement”? What are some things you should agree on with your partner before deciding to be in a relationship?

A relationship agreement is a contract that lays out the rules and expectations that partners have with regard to their relationship. It may seem oddly formal to sign a contract that binds your romantic relationship. But if you don’t set an agreement, it will exist anyway—in an implicit, presumptuous form.

Here’s why you should write a relationship agreement, according to dating coach Logan Ury.

What Is a Relationship Agreement?

A relationship agreement articulates your relationship values and how you’ll express them. Revisit this agreement regularly at intervals that work for you—whether that’s yearly or biannually—to review and update it as needed. By doing so, you’ll deal with potential issues early instead of letting them fester and damage your relationship long-term.

For example, if you value time together, you might initially write that you’ll spend 12 hours one-on-one each week. Once you have kids, you may realize that you regularly only spend 30 minutes together one-on-one and work on adding more couple time to your lives. By doing so, you maintain your connection instead of growing slowly distant and thus unhappy. 

How Dual-Career Couples Should Write Relationship Agreements 

Jennifer Petriglieri, author of Couples That Work, suggests that dual-career couples may find relationship agreements especially helpful, but her recommendation differs in both purpose and content. She contends that the purpose of a relationship agreement is to clarify your long-term goals, which will give you a guideline for navigating various career transitions—like whether to move for one spouse’s career. This may explain why she doesn’t recommend regularly revisiting the agreement. 

Moreover, in addition to your values, Petriglieri recommends including the following in your agreement: your limits (like where you’re never willing to move to) as well as your fears (like your worry that you’ll be relegated to doing all the domestic work) so that you can pre-emptively address those fears (such as by hiring a housekeeper).
Why and How to Write a Relationship Agreement

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Darya Sinusoid

Darya’s love for reading started with fantasy novels (The LOTR trilogy is still her all-time-favorite). Growing up, however, she found herself transitioning to non-fiction, psychological, and self-help books. She has a degree in Psychology and a deep passion for the subject. She likes reading research-informed books that distill the workings of the human brain/mind/consciousness and thinking of ways to apply the insights to her own life. Some of her favorites include Thinking, Fast and Slow, How We Decide, and The Wisdom of the Enneagram.

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