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Relationship Contracts

By: Garry Crystal - Updated: 18 Nov 2015 | comments*Discuss
Relationship Contracts Marriage

Although relationship contracts are not legally binding contracts they are a useful tool for people who are living together but may or may not be contemplating marriage. Although they may have some similar terms and conditions, relationship contracts are not the same as co-habitation contracts but are agreements that are more focused on the emotional nature of a relationship.

The Purpose of Relationship Contracts

One of the main purposes of relationship contracts is to set down in writing the intention to commit to each other for a period of time. The agreement is seen more as a means of communication between couples rather than a binding document. Of course the contract cannot make couples stay together but it aims to help couples communicate their needs and requirements by referencing and renewing the contract on a bi-annual basis.

The Contract's Time Frame

Over any length of time the emotions, needs and requirements of any couple will change. For some people it is difficult to talk about these changes but a contract may help, or rather force people to look at exactly how their relationship is progressing.

With relationship contracts the set amount of time is usually a minimum of one year from when the couple begins to live together. Choosing a time frame for the contract makes each party aware of exactly when the contract expires. The contract should also be referenced bi-annually and any changes or discussions can be made at that time.

Who Needs Relationship Contracts?

There are many people who are not effective communicators and may find this tool a reassurance of both trust and commitment within a relationship. Some people will naturally find the idea of any sort of relationship contract to be unnecessary. But with any relationship a contract of understanding usually exists between both parties regardless of whether it is set down in writing or verbally communicated. Some people do actually need set in stone terms and conditions before they can find peace of mind within a relationship.

Financial Details

With a relationship contract financial details are not set in stone. The recommendation is that when the contract is drawn up, each person lists all of their financial details and assets. When or if the contract is terminated each person will still be entitled to their own assets and also entitled to split evenly any assets that were accumulated during the relationship or length of the contract. Each couple will have to use their own judgement as to whether this is a fair decision or not.

What Details are in Relationship Contracts?

Again there are no set in stone issues that are placed into relationship contracts. A couple can actually decide what goes into the agreement. There should be a brief description of the intention of the contract, and then there will be a set of questions that each party can ask the other every six months. The answers to these questions may indicate which direction the relationship is taking. The answers may also indicate whether the relationship has come to an end and whether or not the contract should be terminated. Questions can include:

  • How are finances affecting our relationship?
  • Name three things that you like about me?
  • Name three things that you don't like about me?
  • Do I take you for granted and if so, why?
  • Have your intentions changed towards me?
  • Do you have any new requests for this contract?
  • Is this relationship going in a direction you like?
  • Should we renew this relationship contract?
  • Both parties will also be required to sign and date the contract.
This is by no means a definitive list of questions and each couple can place as many questions in the contract as they like. Some couples, once the contract has been drafted, will hold a ceremony with friends and family and will exchange rings and gifts. For some it is a similar commitment to marriage but it will not be recognised by the church or by law.

With statistics showing that religious marriages are on the decrease, relationship contracts may be the way to go. As an alternative to marriage, relationship contracts may have more terms and conditions that are a fair balance towards both parties, rather than the love, honour and obey rules favoured by some religious wedding vows.

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