What are relationship agreements?
Relationship agreements or sexual agreements are arrangements you make with a romantic or sexual partner about whom you date or have sex with outside of the relationship. A relationship agreement is a commitment partners make to one another which outlines important aspects of a relationship like expectations and infidelity. There are many different types of relationship agreements, but the main ones are monogamous, monogamish, and non-monogamous. In a monogamous relationship, partners agree to only date and/or have sex with one another. In a monogamish relationship, partners are mainly monogamous with some exemptions, like having sex with other people together. In non-monogamous relationships, partners agree to date and/or have sex with other people with some rules, like when, where, and with whom outside relations can take place.
Why are relationship agreements important?
We all have needs when it comes to relationships. These needs can be things like quality time, intimacy, personal time, and sex. These needs become expectations and assumptions for how our relationship should look like. A common expectation is that our partners want the same things as us, like commitment and monogamy. For instance, one partner may assume that they are in a monogamous relationship because of how long they have been seeing each other, whereas the other partner may assume that they are not monogamous because there has not been an exclusive conversation regarding monogamy. Regardless of the type of relationship you have or want to have, it’s important to have a relationship agreement with your partner(s) so that you can be on the same page as them. When we’re on the same page as our partners, we can be happier, feel that our needs are being met, and avoid things like misunderstandings and hurt feelings.
How can I create a relationship agreement?
Creating a relationship agreement can be uncomfortable, but it does not have to be difficult. It may make you uneasy to communicate and voice your needs to your partner, but communicating our needs builds trust and is the foundation of a healthy relationship. A relationship agreement should be specific regardless of the agreement, and it should be an ongoing communication as the needs we have can change (which is normal). If you and your partner decide to be monogamous, you’ll need to agree as to what is considered infidelity (e.g., kissing, flirting, etc.). If you and your partner decide to be monogamous, you’ll need to agree on what situations you will involve outside partners (e.g., only having sex with other people when you’re together). Finally, if you and your partner are non-monogamous, you’ll have to create and agree rules for your relationship (e.g., with whom can you have sex/date, where can you have sex, when, and whether you discuss these outside partners with each other). With any agreement, it’s also important to discuss what happens if an agreement is broken. Once you have discussed your agreement, it can be helpful to physically write it out so that you both feel comfortable with your agreement and have something to refer back to if you decide it’s not working for you later on.
This page is part of the Roamers Therapy Glossary; a collection of mental-health related definitions that are written by our therapists.
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