Agreements are the glue that helps us stick together. The contracts of what we expect to get and to give in order to get along. Our agreements are the contracts we write to try to ensure that we get what we need. (See last week’s article on needs here.) The problem is they are seldom written but rather assumed and unspoken. That makes it an expectation. We expect a lot from our relationships and when we don’t get what we expect, what we get upset!
In fact, every conflict in a relationship comes from a lack of an agreement or the breaking of an agreement. This does not refute my assertion that beneath every conflict is an unmet need but rather reinforces it.
The very roles that people play in your life are defined by expectations. Whether you realize it or not you may expect that a mother is loving, that a husband is faithful, that a daughter is honest, that a professional has integrity. And when it comes to your closest relationships there are countless assumptions about what they will do and not do. Make an honest inventory. Don’t you expect your partner to come home every night or tell you where they are, clean up their own mess, have sex, be faithful, speak nicely to you? And again, wherever there’s an upset, you’ll find an expectation unmet.
That’s my unified-field theory: Wherever there is a conflict there is either a broken agreement or none at all. Here’s a story.
He and she had a big fight. It wasn’t clear what started it. They were just exchanging the usual hostile words and feelings that their arguments had devolved into. As I worked with them to deconstruct the conflict we found the source. He had made an online investment in cryptocurrency and gave it to her as a gift. She became very upset and he did not understand why but felt attacked and demeaned. It escalated into their usual fight pattern which I will not detail here.
Here’s a list of agreements that needed to replace unspoken assumptions in order to keep the peace.
-How much money can we both spend without asking the other? ($50, $500, $5000, $50,000?)
-Are there things that always need to be discussed? (Risky investments?)
-Does everything we do need to be disclosed?
Then there are deeper underlying issues that are seeking reassurance:
– How much do we trust each other?
– Do you believe in me?
– Will you abandon me?
These are matters of the heart and soul that are both difficult to ask for and harder to answer and be certain. Ultimately this is the level of existential questions that souls come together to answer. It’s a rich relationship that can plumb these depths; the spirituality of relationship. You can go there by asking the hard questions and challenging each other to live to high standards of word and deed. Make relationships noble again!
Meanwhile, practice making it clear what you expect and what you both actually agree to; who’s responsible for what in the finances, who is supposed to initiate romance, who takes out the trash? Have some fun working it out!