The secret agreements that sabotage your relationship

Do you create secret contracts with your partner that they don’t even know about?

The other day I was talking to a friend who was frustrated. He came home from a crazy day at work, helped his wife clean the house, put the kids to bed, offered her a foot massage...

Then he got super upset when the evening didn’t result in sex.

“Why should I keep doing this stuff for her if I never get what I want? I thought relationships would only work if both partners go in 100%. If she won’t meet my needs, how is this going to work out?”

“Did you ask her for sex?” I asked.

“Well… no… but I shouldn’t have to! I mean, she didn’t ask me to clean the house and take care of the kids or to give her the massage. Why should I have to ask for what I want when she doesn’t have to?”

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Can you relate to this?

My friend had what author Robert Glover calls a “Covert Contract” with his wife.

His Covert Contract stated, “If I anticipate your needs and give you what you want (clean house, put kids to bed and a massage), you should anticipate my needs and give me what I want (sex).”

Want an example of another Cover Contract? How about, "If I plan an amazing birthday party for you, you'll plan an amazing birthday party for me."

A really common one is, "If I work out, eat healthy and take care of my body, you'll work out, eat healthy and take care of yours."

In a nutshell, a Covert Contract says, "I will do this ______ for you so that you will do this_____ for me. And we will both act as if we have no awareness of this contract.”

The problem with covert contracts is that they undermine the goal of relationships: Partnership

How can you work as a team if you don’t clearly communicate your goals, desires, and intentions with your teammates?

Covert contracts set your partner up for failure, not success.

They rob your partner of the ability to make you happy.

Not cool.

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One of the best ways to determine whether or not you use Covert Contracts is to think about whether or not your partner regularly lets you down.

If you constantly feel like your needs go unfulfilled, or you’re disappointed with unmet expectations, you probably have some Covert Contracts in place that your partner doesn’t even know about.

How do you get rid of a Covert Contract? Terry Real says it best in his book, The New Rules of Marriage:

“You’re not allowed to complain about not getting something you’ve never asked for.”

If you want to 1) Get what you really want and 2) Set your partner up for success instead of failure, you need to speak up! Let your voice, and your needs be heard.

It’s easy to be mad about not getting your needs met.

It’s also easy to avoid to risk being vulnerable and owning what you want.

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“If I don’t tell him about it, and he doesn’t do it, I won’t get it… but at least there will be no surprises. I won't have to get TRULY rejected when I ask for it and he STILL doesn’t give it to me. What’s the point of asking when I already know the response?”

But when you take the easy path, you’re selfishly putting your partner in an impossible situation of either needing to read your mind to give you what you want, or being in the doghouse for not giving you what you want.

This is what we call a lose/lose scenario.

This is not what marriage is about!

The best partners want their partners to be happy.

The best partners set their partner up for success.

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The best partners take risks for the well-being of the relationship.

If you have needs and desires, trust that if you make them known, your partner will do what they can to help meet those needs. Trust that if they can’t meet those needs, that it’s not personal or an attack on you.

This is how you level up your love. This is how you grow in marriage.

What Covert Contracts do you have in your marriage? Tell me in the comments!

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Nate BagleyComment