The Relationship Agreement
If you personally know me, you know that I am a huge geeky fan of the Big Bang Theory. I have watched every episode multiple times, I quote it in my counseling sessions (when appropriate) and I definitely cried at the series finale. One of the biggest take away moments that I learned early on from The Big Bang Theory, is about having a “roommate agreement.” So, in the context of the show; eclectic Sheldon had a passion for writing contractual agreements and made his roommate, Leonard, agree to the terms of living together. This included items such as; temperature of the thermostat, dinner options and who does what chores when. For Leonard and Sheldon, the roommate agreement brought relief during many times and also for our comedic relief; challenges when Sheldon thought that Leonard was breaking a rule.
When it came time to take “the next step” in my relationship with my now husband, we jokingly and seriously decided to draft a version of the roommate agreement. As I look back, it was our first time living with a significant other and we navigated it day by day. Learning each other’s habits, learning how to divide up the chores and how to communicate with one another in a way that was different than before living together. The roommate agreement slowly became our relationship agreement and drifted away from a written document to help us remember everything, to intentionally discussing and solving problems in real time.
Here are some ideas to implement into your unspoken relationship agreement:
Hear your partner’s concerns when expressed and make an effort to work on it
If your partner is frustrated enough with a situation to say something, hear them, acknowledge their frustration and make a conscious effort to change that. An example of this is, “ I get really upset when I walk in the house after being at work all day and XYZ.” A response, “ Ok, I can understand that. That happens because ABC but I will try to be more aware of it. I don’t want you to feel that way when you come home.”
When you are having a disagreement, establish rules around it.
Conversations about a disagreement should stay on that specific topic. Be aware if you are the one to bring other minor issues into an argument. This can escalate the issue at hand.
If emotions become escalated, take a break. Notice after an argument, do you feel bad because it went too far? This can hurt your partner’s feelings. Taking a 10-20 minute break before continuing the discussion will allow for emotions to calm down and for the conversation to stay focused on the topic at hand.
Spend Quality Time
Living in the same house does not count as quality time. Plan specific time where your undivided attention is on your partner. This could be a date night, or nightly during dinner where there are no distractions or electronics. Relationships take conscious effort.
Praise each other
Living with a partner is teamwork. From taking out the garbage to making the bed, both parties have a role in making a house a home. Notice what your partner is doing to make your life a little bit easier and give appreciation. Saying something like, “ Thank you so much for taking the trash out before I got home, it makes the night so much better.”
Express gratitude for the person in your life that has been through it all with you.
Discuss Finances, beliefs, religion, etc.
In a relationship, nothing should be off the table, so to speak. If your beliefs differ, it does not mean that it shouldn’t be talked about. Everyone is allowed to have their own opinions. Talking about the hard things needs to be integrated into a relationship.
At the very end of the day, respect the person that lives with you and loves you. When you are having a bad day, be honest, and try not to take it out on the other person. Utilize self-care so that being present and loving comes easy.
We are all human and express a full range of emotions. Sometimes we have bad days and sometimes we have good days, but every day, express gratitude for the loved ones in your life.