Breaking unwritten contracts in relationships

All relationships are contractual. Often these contracts are unwritten and unsaid- yet they control most of the experiences of the relationship. We are typically not consciously aware of what we have agreed to with this person. During this winter time of introspection, we may become aware that a relationship that is not working for us. We seek to change the relationship.

When we change the way that we act in a relationship, we break the existing contracts that we had with this person. The person that has the contract broken on them usually feels betrayed, hurt, or angry. The person that breaks the contract often feels guilty. These dynamics tend to happen even if the contract that you are breaking is unhealthy for you and the other person. They were likely comfortable with the way that it was. The other person will often try to convince you to return to the way that it was. They may let you know how painful and inconvenient that this new way is for them.

If this is change you really want, it is essential to allow the other person to have his or her feelings, but not get seduced or talked into returning back into the way that it was. You will likely feel guilty. They will feel hurt. When I was part of a support group that was challenging contracts, we use to welcome the guilt as a sign that we were progressing in challenging our old contracts.

You replace the old contracts with new parameters on how you want the relationship to be. Parameters give you and the other person clear signals on where you are willing and not willing to go in the relationship. You then respond to the person based on your new parameters instead of the old contracts.

Over time as new grooves get established, the parameters become the new contracts. Only this time they are consciously chosen by you- so you can have the experience that you want to have with that person.

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