Couples join forces with one another by forming agreements. Agreements are expressed in writing or verbally during very intentional conversations.
Most of us have never learned how to craft effective, explicit agreements. It is a skill we were never taught, even though it is fundamental to all relationships and a basic life skill.
Below is a method I believe every committed couple should learn and use over and over again. It also works beautifully with any two or more people who wish to make agreements that honor who they are and their relationship, and ensures that they end up with a *Win-Win* outcome.
15-Steps to Elegant and Effective Agreements:
1. Create and clearly articulate your joint vision with as much rich detail as possible. Be sure that both of you participate with eagerness and passion.
2. Be sure that both of you are creating the agreement with intention and with a belief that you are well served making and honoring the agreement.
3. Make a list of each person’s strengths, gifts, skills and talents that are available to be drawn on by each of you.
4. Identify, with as much detail as possible, all the aspects of what it is you are coming to agreement about. A joint plan works best when you are both working toward the same joint vision.
5. Be certain that each of you understands and acknowledges the actions (behaviors), attitudes, and responsibilities that are associated with the agreement for yourself and your partner.
6. Decide together if the actions and attitudes are sufficient to result in the desired outcome(s). If no, identify what additional actions and attitudes must be included and by whom.
7. All agreements must have specific time deadlines for each part of the agreement to be completed or finalized. These are “by whens”—by when will you do this, and by when will you do that. In addition, the time period the agreement will be in force must be specified.
8. Does the agreement as a whole and do all the parts of the agreement forward the joint vision?
9. Clearly identify the evidence or positive outcome(s) that you expect to result for each person from making and honoring the agreement.
10. Does the agreement as a whole and do all the parts of the agreement truly satisfy each person and result in each person being whole? Being whole refers to being sure that neither person experiences a loss or losses as a result of pledging their time, attention and commitment to the agreement.
11. Bring all your concerns and fears to this discussion. This can often minimize the disagreements that may occur during the process of crafting the agreement. This discussion will deepen your commitment to the agreement and to your partner or reveal a problem that might already be brewing in the relationship.
12. No matter how optimistic and clear you both are when you craft an agreement, one or both of you will likely come back to the table and ask for the agreement to be renegotiated or changed in some way at some time. This is not a personal failure or a failure of the process! This is an expected, anticipated part of crafting and honoring agreements!
It is critical to include a mechanism that will take into consideration the many changes that normally and naturally occur over time in a couple’s relationship. Being realistic about this at the beginning enables the relationship to evolve and prosper. It is imperative to provide each person with a way to accommodate change—an exit strategy you can both follow with dignity. Anyone who feels imprisoned in an agreement, commitment or relationship will not be his or her best self or offer all possible personal contributions to forward the joint vision.
13. It is inevitable for conflicts and disagreements to arise, and perhaps, one of you will not honor the agreement. Establish an attitude of good will and good intention and a plan to repair hurt feelings and disappointments.
14. Both people must be responsible to ensure that the agreement is honored.
15. Unless and until you are satisfied, do not move into action. Do not agree. Be sure each person is satisfied, ready to take action, and that outcome will be worth it and the joint vision becomes more a reality.
Remember, only YOU can make it happen!
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