Last time we asked the question all America’s been dying to have answered: What if relationships came with an expiration date? Because...what a huge difference it would make if every, say, 7 years we were automatically OUT of our relationships and had a chance to walk away from them or renew them.
Which raises the question for today: HOW do you renew your relationship? This really is a question millions of couples have asked themselves. Can we find a way to start over? Can we just clear away the crap and have one big do-over?
Well, you can do it, you should do, and today I’m going to show you how to do it. But folks, please: you gotta follow the recipe, okay?
Step 1. Pretend you’re not in a relationship now. You’re setting up the relationship you’re going to be in.
Step 2. Making agreements. You’re going to try to come to agreement about a bunch of things. No bullshit hoping things will work out somehow. This is about knowing what you needfor things to work out. And making sure you’re in agreement about them. And being ready to walk away if you can’t come to an agreement about the things that are really important.
And now for the agreements themselves.
Step 3. No more talking about the past. By which I mean, no more re-hashing all the terrible things each of you did or failed to do to the other. This is poison. EVERY couple’s past is littered with disasters. Get over it. Fuggedaboudit. No more “if only’s.” The only kinds of thoughts in your heads should be “next time...” Every bad thing that happened can be translated into needs for what you want in the future.
Step 4. Okay, so what DO you need? Think of this not as Needie McNeedster’s Pathetic Needs List. Think of it more as a kind of owner’s manual. “Here: this is how I work, and if you want to get optimum performance from me and minimize the risk of breakdown, you’ll consistently do a, b, and c, and avoid doing x, y, and z.”
You’ll think of all kinds of things. Fine. Now whittle your list down to the top seven things. The seven mission-critical things to your being able to purr along happy in this relationship. Things you need to feel loved, to feel respected, to feel cared for, to feel understood.
Step 5. The boiler plate. There are 3 big items all couples should put in their agreement.
I agree that what’s important to you will be important to me.
I will always try to find the kindest way of saying or doing anything that needs saying or doing.
I will always be clear about what is going on with me. I will never go along with something I don’t like and then get you for it later.
Step 6. The big pow-wow. So now you come together and share your lists. What you’re doing—and this is crucial—is making a contract! Which is exactly what marriage has been historically anyway. “For us to come together fruitfully and happily, these are the things we both need...”
So talk about all the items on your lists. Take your time. No rush.
And for God’s sake, don’t agree to anything you’re not prepared to deliver on consistently. Don’t accept any promise from the other person to deliver on something you know they can’t deliver on. You’re MUCH better off with a solid agreement for an imperfect arrangement (“This isn’t perfect but it’s good enough, and I know we’ll both be able to follow through on this.”) than with a flimsy agreement for a perfect relationship (“This is would be a design for a beautiful relationship, but neither of us will be able to follow through on our promises and it’ll all turn to crap pretty soon.”).
Step 7. Celebrate. Because you’re done. Now you have your best possible chance of your best possible relationship.