We’ve been together for the past four years. He’s my third partner, and I, his fourth. We’re both in our twenties this year.
While we aren’t each other’s first partner, we still had an almost childlike innocence when we first got together. That’s the only reason I can think of as to why we did what we did.
You see, barely two months into our relationship, we both drafted a contract, stipulating the Terms & Conditions for our relationship.
Why We Came Up with A Relationship Contract
I suppose I saw the contract as a bonding opportunity. We were still in our honeymoon phase, but I wanted to know my partner more. After all, how long can a couple stay in their honeymoon phase before the thrill dies down?
I wanted to be ready to face the challenges of our relationship once the high wears off. I’ve seen friends complain that the spark of their relationship has died. Many aren’t even sure if they’re still interested.
I wanted to know what was important to him in a relationship, and what were some of the things he wanted from me. I also wanted him to know what I expected of him as my partner.
Perhaps, most of all, I wanted us both to have something to show that this relationship is for real. It’s not a date, not a fling, not a let’s-just-try-and-see-where-this-goes.
When a contract is signed, it’s black and white. It’s official.
So, I suggested for us to write our own relationship contract, and he agreed.
That evening, we each created our own clauses for the relationship. We didn’t reveal our Terms & Conditions until we each got two copies printed out and exchanged it with each other.
Mine spanned over four pages – his only had two.
We had a few common clauses. One of them was that we both wanted him to quit smoking. Another was for us both to only drink when we go to our friends’ parties together. Others included staying loyal to each other and to be absolutely transparent with each other.
We promised that we would be there for each other through thick or thin, and that we would speak out when something is making us unhappy.
I also included several other clauses –
- No sex until marriage,
- All arguments had to be resolved within 24 hours. We were not going to sleep while being mad with each other,
- When monthly anniversaries come by, we would treat ourselves to a slice of cake and coffee at a nearby cafe.
I know, I know. Even now when I look back at my signed copy, these just look plain dumb.
Here’s what happened four years after these terms and conditions were signed.
T&C Item: All arguments have to be resolved within 24 hours.
Nope. That absolutely did not happen. We only had two types of arguments – those smaller misunderstandings which were resolved within minutes, or full-blown arguments that would last anywhere between two to three days.
We had those once every few months.
These bigger arguments would almost always happen the same way; we get mad, we ignore each other for a day (or more), one of us speaks up about it, we argue a little more, and then we cool down.
In fact, the clause was broken in the very first argument we had after signing our copies.
Perhaps it was because we didn’t know each other that well when we created the T&C Agreement. We had just been together for two months. The clause didn’t quite work out.
Now that we both know each other better, I suppose I can change this clause to ‘All arguments must be resolved within three days’.
Honestly, we don’t even know if what we’re doing is normal because we’ve each never had arguments this big in our past relationships. We look at other couples resolving their arguments in less than a day and wonder, “How?”
This clause still turned out to be a healthy goal for us. It might sound weird, but we do argue more constructively now, even if we still can’t resolve anything on the same day yet.
T&C Items: Monthly anniversaries should be celebrated at a cafe.
I have no idea what I was thinking when I wrote this in my T&C paper. We would have wasted a lot of money had we stuck to this clause.
To be fair, we did enjoy our desserts & hi-tea sessions in the early days of the relationship. That was the honeymoon stage when we still frequently went for movies, arcade sessions, and visited cafes together.
Now that the honeymoon phase is over, we barely even take note of these silly little ‘monthversaries’ or whatever people are calling it now.
Today, we celebrate only major occasions – birthdays and annual anniversaries for the most part. Even for these, we only celebrate with small tokens of appreciation.
I mean, I only received my first bouquet of flowers from him on our third year together. I was so touched, I had to hold back tears because we were never that couple.
Anyways, about the cafe – now we just get food from anywhere that isn’t McDonald’s or KFC, which is our usual routine when we’re too lazy to head out. We’re totally comfortable with it now.
T&C Item: We will only explore sexual relationships after we’re engaged or married.
I know you’ll be scrolling ahead just to read what happened to this one. Well, that turned out to be one of the biggest BS clauses we had in the agreement.
Barely three months after writing that, we lost our V-card to each other. In fact, we kind of hopped all the way from his first kiss to everything else within those few months.
Yes, my precious boyfriend still hadn’t had his first kiss when we got together. That was how conservative and downright traditional we both were!
My first kiss was the only thing that I couldn’t give him – I lost mine a little unwillingly in my first relationship when I was 16. The rest of the first-times? Those were nothing less than awesome experiences & memories which made us closer.
Breaking this clause might have turned out to be for the better, even if it was one that we least expected to break.
Did the Contract Hold Up?
We haven’t actually looked at the contract a lot after our first year together, much less changed anything in it. The major arguments we had towards the end of our first year together happened quite often, and I suppose we just neglected the contract after that.
At the time of writing, I brought out copies of our agreements. Re-reading it almost four years after writing it gave me a sense of nostalgia; a weird feeling I can’t quite describe.
It felt as if I was opening a memory capsule that contained our initial hopes and dreams.
There were some T&C items which stood out to me more than the others, from both his version and mine; I think it’s because I really wish we stressed on these clauses even more than we had in the past:
- We are to support and take care of each other in every way possible.
- Never stay silent if either party did something wrong. Bring it up.
- Arguments happen. Get over them and don’t keep bringing up old arguments. Not all arguments have to be resolved with a black and white answer.
- Communication is highly encouraged, but space and privacy should be respected in instances where one partner needs to work, study, think, and so forth.
- Never threaten to break up in any argument.
This would have been a nice bonding moment for us both if he was here, reading it with me. It’s a good opportunity to revisit our past memories. I’m thinking that maybe I’ll bring out these contracts again the next time we meet, just so that we can read through what we promised each other.
Even if we were to check on this contract only once a year, it would still have been be a clear reminder on what we want in the relationship. I sure wish we did that, but I don’t know if that would have changed what we went through.
I kind of expected that there will be a lot to change in our contract, but after reading it again, it feels like most of the clauses still hold true – aside from those that were initially written as a joke.
My Verdict of Terms & Conditions Agreements for Couples
Some of the clauses in our agreement weren’t entirely realistic or easy to achieve for any couples out there. Nevertheless, our contract did help manage our expectations early on in our relationship.
These terms & conditions, regardless of how silly it might have been, consisted of what we were hoping to get from each other and where our focus lied; it helped us to get to know each other better.
I’m still thankful that the clauses that really matter are still retained – he no longer smokes cigarettes, and our drinks are limited to the couple of drinks we have for New Year celebrations and other occasions like it.
We’re also still transparent with each other – we basically know the details of everything that’s going on with each other’s life. Hell, we can even unlock each other’s phones anytime we want to.
Looking back, writing and signing these silly pieces of papers turned out to be an interesting experience, even if we didn’t really stick to it afterwards. Perhaps it’s time to rewrite a revised contract which is a little more logical and tuned down as compared to the honeymoon-phase promises.
I’m sure that both my boyfriend and I have newer concerns in mind now.
Couples Should Totally Write Their Own Relationship Contracts
While it didn’t exactly work like I thought it would, I still think it’s great practice for couples. I definitely recommend all couples to try this exercise if they haven’t. The best things I learnt from our contract were:
- A couple’s contract helps manage expectations early in the relationship.
- The contract also lists out common goals for both parties to reach together.
- The clauses should be straightforward and clear. Don’t be afraid to list what you want/expect.
- It doesn’t hurt to put a few joke clauses in the contract. The cafe visit clause still makes me laugh because of its childishness. You’ll laugh when you read yours in the future too.
- There’s no need to revisit the contract every week or every month. Revisit it for special occasions or when you feel like the relationship isn’t working out.
It shouldn’t matter if you and your partner aren’t good with flowery language. All you need to do is to think about what you want and pen it down.
So, what will you write in your contract?
For more articles on how to develop your relationship read 5 Ways to Know If You Have a Future with Your Partner in Malaysia, and Surviving Your First Fight: Tips for a Sustainable Relationship.