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Communication & Commitment

Written by Dr. Marty Klein

Agreements are necessary in every secure, healthy relationship. But you should be careful what you agree to for your sanity and your partner's.

Trust is an important part of relationships. Building and maintaining trust requires making and keeping agreements.

An agreement isn't something you give someone; it's something you share with them.

Bypass the road to divorce

If you realize you don't want to continue the agreement you've made, discuss it with your partner. Don't undermine the agreement or be miserable.

When you feel angry that your partner has let you down, ask what his understanding of your agreement was.

Good agreements bring stability and predictability to the everyday world of a relationship. It's great to feel you can count on a partner, whether it's to take out the garbage or to safeguard your petunias from the neighbor's dog.

But some agreements should not be made. The first is the kind that people feel obliged to make. They think, "If I don't agree (to be monogamous, go to the Opera), she'll go nuts."

The second is the kind that people don't really plan to keep. They think, "I'll agree (to go to her high school reunion), but by then she'll forget, or I'll talk her out of it."

And the third is one that involves "trying," as in, "I'll try to remember," or "I'll try to do it." The problem with this is that your partner will be counting on you to do the thing, when you haven't really committed to doing it. If you don't do it, even though you tried, your partner will be disappointed. You will feel unappreciated and misunderstood. "Hey," I often hear in couples counseling, "I said I'd try, and I did, but I couldn't get to it. Give me a break."

When it appears as if your partner has broken an agreement, be slow to anger. Find out what she thought the agreement was: If she thought she'd buy dinner and you thought she'd make it, the problem is your contrasting expectations, not that someone is lazy or stupid.

Every week I see couples quarrelling about what their mate didn't do, even when their mate didn't agree to do it. The criticized mate gets defensive or even attacks, and the couple is headed straight downhill.

Agreements are meant to be kept. Keep them, and enjoy the benefits.

Marty Klein, Ph.D., is a licensed marriage & family counselor and sex therapist for over 24 years. He has published over 100 articles in magazines such as Playboy, New Woman, and Parents. You can read more about his books, tapes and appearances on his Web site, www.SexEd.org.

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