10 Most Important Things To Include In A Relationship Contract

A relationship contract can sound unromantic, but there are several benefits to creating one. Explicitly stating your needs, expectations, and deal breakers with your partner in writing can help to strengthen your relationship and your understanding of each other. If you’re ready to make your own relationship contract, these are the 10 most important things to include.

  1. How to make quality time No matter how long you’ve been together, quality time is important to keep your relationship fresh. And quality time isn’t just sitting on the sofa together or eating dinner in front of the TV. Quality time is intentional time devoted to your relationship. It’s a chance to focus on each other, talking or trying a fun activity together, without distractions. For some busy couples, setting aside one date night each week is enough. For others, planning for quality time might include full days together or even planning trips together. For long-distance couples, quality time might involve scheduling when to talk online or on the phone. Make sure to discuss your expectations for quality time with your partner, and decide together how to fit that time into your schedules.
  2. How often to check in Aside from spending quality time together, keeping in touch is also an important way to stay connected and keep each other in the loop. In a world where everyone seems to constantly be glued to their smartphones, it can be a little unnerving when a partner hasn’t messaged or checked in for hours or even days. Clearly state your expectations for how often to message and update each other. And be willing to negotiate—some people are just not good at texting, and it’s often not personal if they don’t want to message all day, every day.
  3. A clear definition of cheating You and your partner should be on the same page about what counts as cheating. But are you? Many couples never discuss how to actually define cheating. Don’t be afraid to discuss everything from hook-ups to casual flirting. Discuss your boundaries and what behaviors feel like cheating to you, and include that definition in your contract.
  4. Your sexpectations Wouldn’t it be nice if sex always just, you know, happened? Your partner just swoops you off your feet or you have energy at any given moment to jump in bed? When it comes to our sex lives, most of us have hopes and expectations for how it should go. But in reality, busy schedules, lack of energy, roommates, and many other factors can get in the way. Your relationship contract is your opportunity to discuss your desires, how often you want to have sex, and even how to initiate.
  5. Rules for conflict Every relationship will have conflict, but discussing how to have conflict can give you an advantage. Arguments can get heated, and fights can get messy. Before that happens, discuss with your partner what your rules are for fighting. For example, come up with an agreement for how to bring up a problem. And talk about how to end an argument that isn’t going anywhere. Will you keep talking until the problem is resolved, or is it okay to go to bed angry? Get to know each other’s preferences for navigating conflict in your relationship contract.
  6. Boundaries with friends and family You and your partner each have other relationships. But how do those relationships impact the one you share? If you have any issues or concerns about the other’s family or friends, bring it up gently when creating your relationship contract. Are friends allowed to join on date nights sometimes? Can family stay over? How often is okay to drag your partner to dinner with your mother? These kinds of questions can be answered in your contract.
  7. Love languages No contract would be complete without discussing love languages. If you don’t know each other’s love language already, now is the time to find out. Discuss your love languages and how you like to be cared for. Then, agree to show love to each other in a way that fits your respective love languages and that feels comfortable for both people.
  8. Home matters Sometimes, home is not where the heart is. A lot of arguments can start over chores and home habits. Whether you live together or not, it’s crucial to discuss your rules and expectations for time at home. If you live apart, discuss any rules for staying over: how often is okay, and how can you best respect each other’s homes? If you already live together, make a section of your relationship contract to outline who will do which chores and errands.
  9. Future goals A relationship contract is the perfect way to start discussing your future goals and aspirations. From your career goals to getting married to family planning, talk with your partner about what you hope to accomplish. Your relationship contract doesn’t have to include promises or strict agreements for what the future holds. Instead, it can be a way to talk about what you can agree to do together now to have the future you want later.
  10. Spontaneity In each section of your contract, make space for some spontaneity. Life happens, plans change, and sometimes a little flexibility can go a long way. Not every moment together needs to be scheduled, and not every loving action has to be discussed beforehand. A date night may get canceled during an exceptionally busy week. But on the other hand, an unplanned quickie or surprise trip can make up for it. Leave a little space in your relationship contract for some inevitable changes, and some happy surprises too.
Relationship educator, writer, host of the Relationship Reminders podcast, and mental health advocate hailing from the US and currently based in Tokyo