May 30, 2011
The Invisible Marriage Contract
Married couples enter into a contract when they apply for a marriage license although many people don’t realize it. When you sign your marriage license you THINK you’re agreeing to the same thing to which the other person agrees. But like millions of couples before you, it won’t be long before you’ll discover you were mistaken.
We all enter into marriage with the assumption that the other person knows the ground rules as we understand them. These assumptions are not written down; of course, although some of them are discussed in the process of dating most however are kept firmly stored in your mind. In fact, you aren’t even clearly aware of some of them. Nevertheless, they are powerful blueprints you expect to follow as you go through life together.
The assumptions concern your relationships with friends, the achievements both of you will accomplish, who will have the power to make major decisions, the role sex will play, how you will spend leisure time, how money will be spent, how much you will share of yourself or expect the other person to share, how you will raise your children, to name just a few of very important expectations.
Sometime in the marriage this contract will rear its possibly ugly head over some fairly trivial matter. It may begin when you try to fulfill some need of your partner in the belief that he or she will take care of your need, very possibly a need you haven’t verbalized. But if your partner doesn’t know the conditions you thought were in the contract — although they were never agreed upon in the first place — you are likely to feel angry, hurt, betrayed, and confused. You’ll be convinced your spouse deliberately didn’t fulfill his or her part of the bargain.
Initially you may forgive this “infraction,” but as months and years pass, the pieces of the broken contract will pile up and eventually your marriage may be in trouble — all because of an invisible marriage contract.
Remember, however, that your partner also has a secret contract, one you may know little about. But you’re expected to live up to it. Every time you don’t, your failure may easily be held against you, just as you count up the times he or she hasn’t lived up to your contract. Why doesn’t each of you know more about what’s in one another’s contracts?
Becoming more aware of what you and your partner expect from one another is easier when you consider the types of expectations that make up the base assumptions in your marriage contract. There are three types: verbalized – the desires and needs that are discussed openly but perhaps not truly understood; conscious but not verbalized – you know, the parts of your contract that you are aware of but don’t tell your spouse because you fear he or she will get angry, disapprove, or think they’re silly or unreasonable; and unconscious and only vaguely understood by you. You become aware of these expectations when the other person says or does something you don’t like and it throws your relationship out of kilter in some unfathomable way you can’t clearly explain — but you sense the other person isn’t doing what they “should.”
So next time you and your spouse have a quiet moment together, bring up the subject of your marriage contract and be on your way to a successful marriage!