Have you been asked to agree to a relationship contract? Or have you hoped to have a cohabitation agreement or a polyamorous-relationship agreement in place with someone you are involved with?
Alternative relationships may include people who do not want marriage or who are denied the option of marriage legally. Rather than looking to the state or church to officiate the terms of their bond, they choose to design their own relationship contracts.
Polyamorous and open relationship contracts work for people in non-monogamous relationship styles.
Some experts advise that all couples should have a relationship contract, regardless of the nature of their relationship.
What Is a Relationship Contract?
A relationship contract is not a legally binding document, but rather an expression of agreement and clarification of needs, expectations, values, boundaries, deal breakers, and other negotiable and non-negotiable aspects. It is basically the agreed-upon rules for that particular relationship.
A relationship contract helps couples articulate their needs and expectations. Just as importantly, it allows each individual the opportunity to reflect and process on the subject of their needs and boundaries.
We don’t always think things through, or think about them at all—we just jump in. And even if we do know what we want and expect, we don’t always communicate that to our partners!
A relationship agreement helps us think through, articulate, and communicate important information about our hopes and desires for the relationship. It gives us an opportunity to express what we are willing and not willing to do.
Just a few of the things that might be subjects within a relationship agreement include financial expectations, willingness to relocate, options if there are career conflicts, rules for outside sexual relationships, strategies for health emergencies, bank accounts, issues with in-laws or metamours.
A relationship contract can include anything from how much you expect to spend on grocery or travel, sleeping arrangements with other lovers, to whether or not you can have a dog.
A cohabitation agreement is a sort of relationship agreement that differs slightly in that it is often legally binding or intending to be contractual about nitty gritty legal affairs, such as wills, power of attorney, property rights, and more.
Countries and states differ on the legalities of cohabitation and common law, and polyamorous cohabitants have different legal implications in different parts of the world as well. Cohabitation agreements for a polycule may not be legally binding, for example, but nonetheless, each individual’s articulated expectations can go a long way in resolving potential disputes in a range of affairs.
Sometimes the words “cohabitation agreement” are used in the polysphere to be synonymous with relationship agreement or relationship contract, and that just means “our rules” for the relationship, rather than a contract about common law.
Open Relationship Contracts
Do you expect to share weekends together, or do you want to use weekends to explore other romantic opportunities? Are you cool watching your wife kissing and touching someone else, or do you prefer a hands-off approach to extras? How do you expect to divide holidays and share them with metamours and in-laws? What about safe sex? And who pays for what?
An open-relationship contract helps sort out some of the challenges that are unique to non-monogamous relationships, as well as the things that might be relevant to any couple.
Polyamorous Relationship Contracts
A polyamorous relationship contract may be between a couple, throuple, polycule, or a couple and their metamours. Basically, it is about uniquely designed rules to live by in that particular polyamorous relationship.
When we are in multiple relationships, each relationship may have different boundaries, rules, and needs, and then the interconnectivity of all implicated is also important. This kind of contract helps each person and relationship articulate their needs and expectations, which helps others honor the needs of all parties.
The Benefits of Having a Relationship Agreement
There are many benefits to having a relationship contract. Simply thinking about and processing what your own expectations and desires are in that relationship is a clarifying experience. It helps you reflect on what might happen and how you want that to go, ideally.
A relationship agreement helps you communicate those needs and ideas to your partners.
It makes it easier for you to understand the needs of your partner, too, and may make you aware of positions, boundaries, expectations, responsibilities, or needs that you weren’t aware of.
It saves you from doing guesswork about how to act in a certain situation.
It lets you see more clearly whether your needs and desires are aligned in your relationship, and how you might work out conflicts or obstacles before they become big problems.
It can help keep you from making mistakes or hurting your loved one. We can easily hurt someone when we do something we aren’t aware will hurt them, because we didn’t know how they felt about a specific issue.
Working on the contract gives you both or all of you a safe space and platform to express hard-to-discuss ideas and issues, and giving you the peace of coming to some kind of agreement.
Another benefit is contract flexibility. A relationship contract is a living document, one that should be revisited and discussed periodically, as needs and circumstances change.
How to Create a Relationship Contract
A relationship contract starts with a discussion, and that discussion is ongoing. Everyone involved gives some thought to a number of issues and where they stand on them.
You and your partners will focus on the most important aspects of the relationship. Think in terms of designing your relationship the way you want it, and making a kind of “ten commandments” or “rules to live by” inside that relationship.
Relationship agreements might itemize rules with terminology such as “We agree that…” Others meticulously traverse each important theme and all the rules that go with that theme. Others outline general subjects, sticking to the most important basics. Yours will reflect what works best for you.
Check out these different relationship contracts and templates:
Have you ever used a relationship contract? Please share your experience!