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Twelve Crucial Agreements That Nurture Intimacy

All couples have their own unique set of these mutual agreements.

RANDI GUNTHER Clinical Psychologist & Marriage Counselor

Successful romantic partners have a sacred bond that ensures they will keep each other safe and beloved. That bond is made up of mutually trusted agreements that both people commit to honor at all times.

All couples have their own unique set of these mutual agreements, but there are some that seem to be universal in most all of the lasting relationships I’ve witnessed in my forty-plus-year career. Though there are many overlaps from relationship to relationship, the following twelve agreements are made by both partners, and encapsulate those that I feel are the most commonly represented in both genders. They are a true personification of the compassion and understanding that exist in these collaborative, quality partnerships. The statements below come from a compendium of hundreds of similar expressions I have had the privilege to witness.

Number One - Support of the other partner’s goals and experiences “I want you to know and trust that I fully support you in your endeavors, even if they sometimes compete with mine. Your fulfillment in the experiences and things that mean the most to you is a high priority for me. I know that we won’t always agree on which of us should get what we want and which should sacrifice for the other. That is as it should be. But I always want you to feel that what you need is as important to me as it is for you. Sometimes we’ll have to decide together which of our wants or needs take precedence and prioritize them at the time, but I know we can work them out. What counts is that you feel my support for the things that matter to you.”

Number Two – Acceptance of faults “I believe that you want to be the best partner you can to me. That doesn’t mean that you don’t make mistakes, or do things sometimes that make me feel sad or disappointed, or even angry. I need to share my feelings with you when that happens, but I never want you to feel worse than you already do when you make mistakes. I also know that I have my own issues to work on and sometimes they trigger the way you act towards me. I do want you to tell me when that happens, but to also try to change those behaviors that are hard on me. I want us to both be on the same side and work on forgiving the things that we have trouble changing, no matter how hard we try. I want to be on your side when you are making mistakes, and not make it worse by reacting critically or being impatient.” Number Three – Welcoming each other’s social circles “Some of your friends and family members can drive me crazy or make me feel erased when they’re around. But, if these people mean something to you and you want to keep them close, I will do everything I can to find things I like about them. I’ll also tell you how I feel and why I do, and trust you will try to understand if I don’t always do it the way you’d like me to. Many of your friends and family are great and I need to remember to tell you how I feel about them as well. That way you will know why I can more easily welcome some more than others. I know that the people you care about are important to you and you have the right to spend time with them. Even if they are sometimes not my choices, I want to support you in making them. Number Four – Honoring of each other’s past experiences “When you tell me about people who have hurt you in the past, or those you’ve loved as well, I promise that I will try to listen without judgement. I want to help you work those issues out if they are still affecting you, especially if they are negatively affecting our relationship. I know that would be hard for you to do if you anticipate that I could be judgmental, but what is important to you is important to me and I will do everything I can to stay objective. I also realize that some of the people who have caused you distress in the past are still in our lives and I know you have to work those relationships out. I will do everything I can to support you in those processes, and not take them personally.

Number Five – Positive Focus “I absolutely recognize that it is all too easy for both of us to sometimes focus on the negatives of our relationship, especially when we are going through hard times. I know that we wouldn’t still want to be together if the negatives outweighed the great connections we still have. I pledge to you to keep reminding you and me of what is precious, sacred, and valuable in our relationship. I don’t mean just echoing superficial reassurances to make things more okay in the moment, but actually paying attention to how important you are to me and how sad my life would be without you.” Number Six – Unconditional Support “When you are in trouble, I am here for you in whatever way you need me. Though we won’t always agree on your rationale for distress or your feelings about those who are upsetting or disappointing you, I will always listen and be there to help you through the hard times. Though there may be times that I’m not immediately supportive, or have my own opinions about the situation, in the long haul, I have your back. That commitment holds even if the situation is conflicted for me.

I want to suffer your sadness, frustration, fear, hurt, anger, or disillusionment along with you, but still be your voice of reason when you’re asking for a different perspective. Even if I sometimes don’t immediately respond the way you need me to, please trust that I’ll come around.” Number Seven – Consistent presence “Whether I am actually in your presence or not, I will always have you in my heart and thoughts. That means that you will never have to worry that, just because we are not together, I will do or say something that I know would hurt or disappoint you, were you to actually be there. I know that there will be times when I slip and do something that upsets you, but I’ll do my best to share those behaviors with you as soon as I can. I don’t want you to ever feel like I am a different person behind your back than I am to your face.”

Number Eight – Willing Sacrifices “I know that willing generosity and sacrifice are part of every quality relationship and I want to be able to put myself aside whenever you tell me that you need me for something important. If, for whatever reason, I can’t do what you’ve asked with honesty and love in that moment, I promise I will share my feeling with you when my own needs are more pressing. But, if you tell me you’re truly in trouble and ask me to sacrifice for you, I will do all I can to make you a higher priority. I fully understand the difference between giving from my heart and responding in an obligated or resentful way, and I will do my best not to do the latter to you. I want you to trust my support without worrying that I will hold it against you at some future time.”

Number Nine – Resilience “I know how easy it can be for me to keep score and to bring up the past when I’m angry, or haven’t worked out my resentments or disappointments ahead of time. I want to be able to bounce back more quickly when we’ve upset each other and not rehash the past. Sometimes, I’ll need your patience and support to keep focusing on recovering more quickly rather than staying upset longer, but I’ll do everything on my part to reconnect. I’ll also try to tell you how you can help me do better in the moment, or let you know how long it might take me to fully come back. I don’t want you to feel insecure or self-doubt, or to take on my issues when they are not about you.” Number Ten – Communication “I want to be aware of what you are thinking and feeling when I am sharing my experiences with you. That way, I won’t inadvertently say or do things that are insensitive or unempathetic as I’m sharing my thoughts and feelings with you. I know those are hard rules for both of us to follow when we’re in conflict, but I don’t want you to think that you don’t matter at the time, even if my delivery feels like I don’t care. I know that you are much likely to keep talking if I don’t interrupt, invalidate, or detract you from what you’re trying to share. Sometimes it is hard for me to stay centered and non-reactive when things heat up between us, but I promise to keep working on changing that behavior.”

Number Eleven – Unequal Appetites “Even at the best of times, I can want things more than you do, or at different times. I want us to be a team in negotiating those differences and not blaming each other just because we have competing needs at the time.

I want us to agree on how we negotiate those differences and come up with agreements that we both feel will work. We’ll need to be authentic with each other about how we distribute our time, energy, love, money, social connections, physical touch, spiritual devotions, and any other interests that might compete with our commitment to each other. I commit to you to prioritize our differences in any of these areas, and create the best balance we can. That way we can stay as close and mutually supportive as we can.”

Number Twelve – Respect “I know that respect must be continually earned by both of us and that we need to be clear with one another as to what we each need. I also know that respecting each other is more likely to happen if we are honest, transparent, and self-accountable. I promise you that I will tell you the things about you that I respect and honor, and that I will earn your respect by doing all I can to be the kind of person you will honor in return. Promise me that, if you ever feel a lack of respect for my choices, you will tell me so that we can resolve those dilemmas together, and I will do the same. I want to look to you as my partner and feel proud of being with you for as long as we are together. I also want to respect the way we interact together, both privately and in the presence of others.” * * * * * * *

When couples honor these twelve agreements, they ensure that they will be loving and connected friends in addition to being fully committed partners. When they know that each of them feels and acts within these mutually agreed-upon vows, they will automatically form the kind of bond that can weather most all challenges to their relationship. Dr. Randi’s free advice e-newsletter, Heroic Love, shows you how to avoid the common pitfalls that keep people from finding and keeping romantic love. Based on over 100,000 face-to-face hours counseling singles and couples over her 40-year career, you’ll learn how to zero in on the right partner, avoid the dreaded “honeymoon is over” phenomenon, and make sure your relationship never gets boring.

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