Relationships – What’s Binding? Heart, Soul, or Contract?

My blogging friend, LA, recently wrote a couple of posts about one of the traditions surrounding the marriage contract. And yes, while the piece of paper a couple signs says “marriage license” it’s actually a contract with a lot of implied terms and conditions.

The tradition LA had focused on was that of the men asking parental permission to marry their daughter. This question provoked some good discussion on the possible drawbacks of maintaining such a tradition in modern times.

At the same time this discussion was transpiring, I came across an article suggesting that married couples needed an additional contract, a “relationship contract,” especially if they were a dual-career couple.

Now, I’m not sure if the author recognized the implications of using this language or if they were just trying to speak figuratively, but when we attorneys hear the word “contract,” well, that means all kinds of things. What are the terms, what consideration is given by each party, what constitutes a breach, is there a liquidated damages clause, is there a forum selection clause, will any ensuing conflicts be decided by binding arbitration?

I could go on and on. Contracts are fun for attorneys 😊

I would have to think that this author was in the figurative realm as here is the general gist of the “contract” she spoke of:

[We] . . . “agreed that our relationship would come before everything. We would never live apart. We would share all our feelings, good and bad, pride and jealousy, delight and annoyance. We would share all our money and books, and only the latter would never be enough. We also committed to investing in each other’s professional dreams, and to keeping each other from turning those dreams into obsessions. We committed to pushing each other to live up to our potential. We would be freer together than we could ever be alone.”

This sounds to me to be more in the nature of a commitment to honestly and fully communicate, as well as sharing the material aspects of combining resources. And indeed, effective communication on all aspects of relationship is key to building and maintaining that relationship.

But I wouldn’t willy-nilly throw the word “contract” around. Personal relationships are far more complicated than business relationships, and the context the author introduced her piece with implied there being a business relationship. One where the terms had to be hammered out least the marriage fail should one partner’s career goals shift or one term be violated.

I think we’ve all seen some marriages, especially in the political arena, that were more business than personal. The couple shared some ambitious goals involving achieving some collective power positions and possibly wealth, but not necessarily a commitment to each other – no clauses about infidelity, or sharing non-material dreams, or even maintaining heart ties.

I believe the author’s intentions were good, but I’m not sure that adding the pressure of another binding legal agreement is the best way to ensure the success of a marriage.

I’m diverging a bit from my usual writings and storytelling today by piggybacking on LA’s discussion, but tell me what your thoughts are on this.

I’m truly interested in what people think will aid in maintaining a successful relationship. One that grows with the individuals that is based upon mutual respect and understanding, not cold terms written on a piece of paper about career goals.

I’m, perhaps, more curious now than in the past because there seems to have been a growing shift to material consciousness. For example, all I’ve encountered in the new world of internet dating seems to be focused on a persons wealth – that, and maybe credit rating, has become the major determinant for if a person wishes to establish a relationship, and this concept of adding a “relationship contract” seems to feed into that notion of becoming partners in a business enterprise as opposed to building a truly loving relationship.


Photo: I chose the Sandhill Cranes in flight today because the cranes mate for life with one partner. They don’t require contracts to be faithful or share career goals. Since there are three in this photo, I will assume the third one is their juvenile child, or perhaps their attorney 🙂

Whitewater Draw - 3+C2+SPFx2

Reference: The Key to Bliss for a Dual-Career Couple? A Contract

25 thoughts on “Relationships – What’s Binding? Heart, Soul, or Contract?”

  1. Good post. I agree that the author had good intentions, but is it supposed to be like a pre nup? We all change, some intentional, some not, but do we penalize someone for growing and experiencing? I know we throw around the term “you’re not the person I married” but isn’t that true of all people, no matter what? You hope you grow with your partner,and accept the new dynamics of a relationship, but should their be punishment if you don’t?

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks ! And thanks for your great points! I did get the sense that the author would classify this as a pre nup. And it seemed she wanted to account for the fact that people change and their career goals may change, but contracts generally don’t increase flexibility, they decrease it. So how do you bind another party to be flexible?? How could a person, in advance of knowing the future, say they will give up their career for the sake of their partner’s career. Or commit to moving to follow a partner’s job. There’s no crystal ball, so how can a couple even consider locking in something like this for a life time? And as you note, should there be a punishment and what’s the punishment for a breach?

      Liked by 3 people

  2. “We would never live apart. We would share all our feelings, good and bad, pride and jealousy, delight and annoyance….” bla bla bla. What fantasy planet does this blogger live on? You’ve heard of crowd-funding? I’d like to figure out how to do “crowd-blogging”–seriously–so I could invite older men to share their experience of marriage. I’m confident I could convince younger men to NEVER get married. There’s nothing in it for them. (There is a growing awareness that marriage, as a business contract, takes everything away from men–and this statement comes from a woman! The women get the house, kids, alimony, etc., so what’s the point?) Anyway, you can run the statistics. Most marriages end in divorce, bla bla bla. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been researching older men’s experiences. Go out and TALK to a few older men and get their experiences of marriage. It gets ugly. Haven’t you, Earthwalking, been married and divorced? Sure, most marriages start out pie-in-the-sky lovely dovey, but they don’t end that way. Anyway, your friend’s post is extremely naive. But I was that way once.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Just for clarity, my other blogging friend didn’t write the article I was referencing to – sorry if I left that a bit confusing. But the other author may, have indeed, been naive. Then again, writers look for things to write about and the casual ideas do float in that may not have been given much in-depth consideration. What’s interesting is that LinkedIn chose to highlight that article, but I see a profound bias on that platform that is looking at the world totally in business terms so it’s no surprise they would feature an article businessfying marriage 🙂 Oh yes, I’ve been married twice, and lost it all with both divorces. And with the last one, we were 50-50 on everything, until the divorce and then she wanted 80% 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I have been having difficulty understanding the idea of a contract relationship, even though I was married for twenty years. My ex and I maintain a good friendship after the divorce and have had conversations about the topic and agree on the ambiguity of marriage. Here’s my opinion. Maybe the contract needs to set stipulations for difficulties. To pursue divorce, qualifications should be met, couples counseling, meditation, for instance. It’s a simple thing that may save the marriage or at least help one or both people in future relationships. Ultimately, it seems like a contracted relationship is somewhat antiquated, based on property. And it might be that the focus of property is returning, on another level.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks for visiting and for your insights! The conditions you talk about are specific and make sense. It’s much harder to try to lock in the unpredictable or have some agreement as to future goals unrealized; as the author from the Wall Street Journal was trying to do. And you are right, the marriage contract itself is a bit ambiguous and antiquated. It’s not been modernized at all.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. If only a relationship contract could guarantee success! The idea stems from our wanting certainty, but life and love are ever-changing. If we could create a contract that works, I’d love to add in that not only do my beloved and I have a no BS zone, but that neither of us dies first. Sounds far-fetched, but I think it’s just wishing for certainty. Life changes. We love and lose for various reasons. Maybe better that a relationship contract would be a yearly stat-of-the-union address.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I think it would help if there was training on what a healthy relationship is, that is mandatory in society, especially before marriage. I have no clue what that would look like, but like in sex ed., we learned about getting pregnant, the consequences of that, STD’s, etc.

    There’s so many broken people coming from broken families, not even knowing what a healthy relationship is and basing a relationship on shallow things, like how good looking they are – then get into trouble later when it doesn’t work out.

    I think that would be a good preventative measure on preparing people for what marriage is and what can happen if not fully prepared. It may be a better option than a contract.

    I realize it’s up to us to determine if a partner is good for us, especially now after going through some tough lessons of my own. But many people, especially when young don’t have a clue and think they’re in love because of hormones, then jump into marriage and ruin their lives because they didn’t know what a healthy relationship looks like because it wasn’t modeled to them at home.

    Anyway, I say no to contracts and yes to mandatory education on healthy relationships.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for reading and for sharing your insights. I totally agree, many people don’t have any concept of what a healthy relationship is. They enter relationships based on very superficial or material reasons and our society, sadly, places great emphasis on those shallow reasons. Requiring some type of training is a great idea, and maybe even a waiting period before you can get a marriage license. I also agree that there are a lot of “broken” people out there, and many are searching for things or relationships (external things) to heal them, instead of healing themselves first, before entering a relationship.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, so many broken people looking for external things to heal themselves, and not even knowing it. I can say this because I was one of those people but in retrospect I see what I was doing in the past – I was avoiding my issues and filling voids, but had no clue I was doing this. I guess we learn after a heartbreak or two. But it would be great to have that understanding to prevent the heartbreak. If the world had better relationships, it would be a better place.

        Liked by 1 person

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