Class Seven: July 8, 2020 7:30-8:45 pm PST “Wonder Couples: Promises to last!” How to create mutual agreements that act to support your relationship.
Opening Exercise [Carolyn]:
Sit facing each other, breathe together, looking into each other’s eyes. Breathe for a moment and allow yourself to settle into this moment. Close your eyes and think of your partner, in your imagination. Imagine them smiling at you. Imagine them thanking you. Imagine them being excited for you. Now open your eyes. Breathe together. As you sit looking at each other, take the next moment and silently bring to mind what you have gained from these classes, whether you have come to 2 or 8 classes….Think of your favorite part. Maybe it was your shared time together. Maybe it was joining in how weird it is to have a class online. Maybe it was an exercise. Just bring to mind your favorite part. Now, take a moment and silently express gratitude to your partner for coming with you to these. Breathe together and then bring your awareness and attention back to the class.
Today we are going to be working on agreements. The opening exercise was intended to bring your awareness to the gratitude and positive experience you have had in putting effort into your relationship. Hopefully, in the process, you realized some of the things that have helped and will help your relationship.
7:45 Agreements Talk/Exercise: [Jason starts but then we go back and forth]
Agreements are the rules of engagement. They are the container that keeps us on the road together, keeps us from going into the ditch. It keeps us safe and keeps us healthy.
They serve to hold us accountable when things get hard, to remind us what we need to do to take care of each other. When we marry, we often write a form of agreements in vows, though those often end up as symbolic reminders. In concrete agreements, we develop a mutual understanding of the actions we need to take on a consistent basis to keep things healthy.
Power of agreements:
Shared understanding of what our relationship needs.
Help us from feeling lost when things get sticky between us.
A road map to achieve our goals
Something like a health plan for our relationship
Most couples have implicit agreements that have never been discussed. Like, a common example: “We don’t sleep with other people.” “We are honest with each other.” But the challenge is that these are often not actual agreements which are made in collaboration with each other, they are ASSUMPTIONS.
The challenge of these assumptions is that they do not have ground. They are not in integrity with the connected relationship. Without this integrity, when that ground inevitably shakes the couple is less likely to stay connected. That’s why we stop to make solid agreements that are based on shared understanding and full commitment and as such, relationships are far more likely to stand the test of time..
So tonight, we are going to help you make explicit shared agreements. We will help you with the process to write one or two clear agreements so that outside of here you can create a thorough set on your own.
When we spend time developing real agreements that are based fully on understanding and on care for each other and the health of the relationship, these agreements help keep us safe and grounded in our and in our goals together.
So to create these, you want to first get grounded in what your relationship needs, which we know is a process of focusing on what your partner needs. So in this next brief guided process, as we ask the following questions-- answer for your partner. What do you imagine your partner would say. Take turns answering the question and then check in.
For example, the first question to look at together, is “When we are working well together, we…” and you fill in the blank. So I, Carolyn will go first: “When Jason and I are working well together, we are in communication a lot. Is that right Jason?” Jason, “yeah, checking in by text or phone helps me know we are on the same page.” Now Jason goes. “When we are working well together, “there is a lot of laughter. Is that right?” Carolyn”Yes, definitely! The laughter helps offset the hard work and feels connecting.” So for us the answer is: “When we are working well together, we have communication and laughter”
Exercise: [Jason Intro and then switch off w/ prompts]
In this exercise, you are going to think through what your relationship needs and how the two of you go about making it happen. This will be brief and not overwrought or overthought. We are going to give you questions and you will think about about your partner’s needs and some actions, then you will check it out with your partner. After you get clear that your answer is correct for your partner, write it down for your relationship.
1: When we work well, we are…..(happy, connected, communicating, laughing)
(How does the relationship feel?)
2: When we work well, we DO….(check ins every day, we have coffee in the morning, talk to each other, we have date nights_
(What are the actions we take?)
3. When we work well, we say….(I love you. Thank you. I am sorry)
(What are the words and phrases my partner needs) )
4.When we are taking care of each other, we…
(Actions to support each other)
5. When we struggle, we….
(How we take care of ourselves when things are harder…)
This process was to help you come to the overarching needs and experiences you want and that underpin your success. Now we will turn those into actual agreements.
8:10 Discussion of how to do it: [Jason]
The underlying structure of solid agreement -- What we need, Why we need it and How we make it happen.
Successful agreements are based on a deep commitment to make sure your partner gets what they most need. When feelings of insecurity come up for my partner (For example: they will leave me/they will fall in love with someone else/I am not good enough), I know what they need to feel secure. I know what is most important for to my partner to have enough oxygen to breathe and be their best self in this relationship. (BTW: This means that they will also be the most well resourced to put your needs first.)
The Why: [Carolyn]
We should be able to articulate and understand why the agreement is important to our partner. For an agreement to work, it has to support both of you. If it doesn’t work for one of you, it won’t succeed. Additionally, for an agreement to hold, it needs to be fully understood-WHY is this important for the relationship for us to be monogamous? Why does our relationship need this?
If my greatest need is to feel a deep and dependable connection in order to feel understood and safe, my partner needs to know that this should be incorporated into their agreements. If on the other hand, my partner’s greatest need is in personal freedom and autonomy to feel loved and respected, I know to incorporate that into my agreements.
The How we covered in the last exercise through knowing the actions that make it clear that you are both doing what was promised and showing up for what was agreed to.
8:15 Process; [Jason]
Now we will come up with one or two agreements between you.
In this exercise:
Come up with an agreement that you already have, like we are monogamous or we don't go to bed mad, or any other implicit agreement you already have established.
“Jason and I check in on Monday morning.” (Was implicit, not explicit.)
Okay, great so you have “The What”, Now, like we did in the last exercises, get clear on why it is important for your partner.
For Carolyn it is to make sure there are not tasks that need to be completed because she feels best when she has a clear sense of how things are going to unfold, and for me it is to get settled together because I really need to know that we are in a good place to feel my best.
And now discuss how you maintain your agreement. This is the how: What actions and words do you need to support that agreement.
Take a final moment to discuss: Will it be hard or easy?
Questions about that agreement and how to do it?
Next, using the same process and information gathered earlier, you will come up with an agreement you do not have but need. Come up with one that has never been discussed and that you think your relationship needs to be healthy.
Bring to mind what you thought about before in what your relationship needs to be healthy, and use that to guide creating one. If you struggle, pick something that you have done here that has felt good and helpful.
Focus on suggesting something your partner needs, such as ‘We volunteer information about our day.” “We offer each other daily space to do our own thing.” “We spend 5 minutes a day just looking at each other and breathing.”
Articulate what the agreement is and why you need it: Space=time alone. “Why we need it-because otherwise, she feels controlled and then our time together is constrained and negative. When she has space she is happy to come back to me.”
What have you learned your relationship needs?
So hopefully you have one or two clear-ish agreements and a sense of how to create more. This is meant to be a brief guide to help you have your own process and that you take additional time over the next couple of weeks, before the final class, to come up with a few more to support your relationship.
Closing Exercise 8:35: [Jason]
Come into each other’s eyes, breathe together, and share a promise based on your agreements made. Express gratitude for the time spent working on this way of keeping your relationship healthy. Spend the last few minutes relaxing together knowing you have done something important to keep your relationship safe.