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Relationship Agreements: I Love You, Sign Here

Relationship Agreements: I Love You, Sign Here

Before marrying Mark Zuckerberg, Priscilla Chan was a pre-med Harvard student contemplating whether or not to take her relationship with the Facebook founder to the next level. When Zuckerberg asked Chan to relocate from Boston to Palo Alto, she wanted to know exactly what she was getting into and made Zuckerberg sign an agreement detailing expectations for their relationship and life together.

While most of the items in their relationship agreement  have not been made public, one item that has surfaced is a provision about how often the couple would spend time together:

“One date per week, a minimum of a hundred minutes of alone time, not in his apartment and definitely not at Facebook.”

To some people, the idea of asking your betrothed to sign an agreement like this may sound like an extreme step, even though it is not legally binding. But given the fact that Zuckerberg is a man who is so busy that he doesn’t have time to choose what clothes to wear in the morning, having an agreement for a certain amount of “couple time” was probably a wise move on Chan’s part.

Gaining in Popularity

When news of Chan’s relationship agreement first broke, an online dating site polled its users to gauge how they felt about using a written agreement to get their significant other to commit to a date night. Three-fourths of respondents said that they loved the idea. It wasn’t a scientific poll, but it certainly appears that the idea of a relationship agreement resonates with some people.

You see them in pop culture too, from The Big Bang Theory to Fifty Shades of Grey.

At Shake, our users often tell us that they use the “Create Your Own” contract template to make their own relationship agreements. Some of the types of agreements they tell us they create are:

  • Establishing date nights
  • Agreeing that they will never go to bed angry at one another
  • Detailing how they will celebrate anniversaries
  • Describing how they will divide holidays between families
  • Dividing household chores
  • Agreeing to what religion they will raise their  children
  • Saying what sports teams will rule supreme in the household

Any successful relationship, personal or professional, requires honest communication. Creating a relationship agreement can be a great catalyst for a conversation with your significant other about what they value.

Is This A Prenup?

When a lot of people hear “relationship agreement,” they automatically think of prenuptial agreements and failed Hollywood marriage settlements – but they’re different. Prenups are legally binding contracts. A prenup usually focuses on the divisions of marital assets and property rights in the event of divorce. Relationship agreements  are not legally binding – they’re just a useful way to arrive at and record an agreement you’ve made with your partner. It’s less about what happens if things go wrong and more about mapping the way to a stronger and healthier relationship.

Do I Need A Relationship Agreement?

Any successful relationship, personal or professional, requires honest communication. Creating a relationship agreement can be a great catalyst for a conversation with your significant other about what they value. In the case of Priscilla Chan, the agreement probably helped drive home the point to Zuckerberg that she expected him to be around.

And while it’s great to have these kinds of conversations verbally, there are advantages to getting them in writing. People take verbal agreements less seriously. Also, memories fade, people forget specifics and (especially in business) verbal agreements can cause problems down the road. By creating a written agreement, you ensure that everyone is on the same page now and in the future and reinforce the idea that the agreement is an actual commitment that you are making to one another.

Relationship Agreement Tips

If you decide to create your own relationship agreement, here are a few starter tips:

  • Be honest – What do you really want your relationship to be? What are the hot-button issues in the relationship? Take this opportunity to think about what you actually want from your partner. Be upfront about your needs and expectations. It’s much better to express it now than five years down the road.
  • Listen to your partner – The agreement is meant to benefit both of you, so really make sure you hear what the other person is saying.
  • Give and take – It’s OK to negotiate for items you want but it’s important for both parties to feel as though they won.
  • Actually commit – If you have no intent on following through with an item, don’t agree to it.
  • Consequences – Don’t worry about repercussions. The relationship contract is less about forcing the other party to do something and more about communication.
  • Evolve – People change and relationships change. Don’t be afraid to add or alter items as your relationship grows.

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While at first it may not seem like the most romantic of gestures, working with your partner on a relationship agreement is an excellent way to facilitate communication on the things that matter to you — something that is key to making any relationship succeed.