10 Agreements for a Happy Relationship

On Marriage
Kahlil Gibran

You were born together, and together you shall be forevermore.
You shall be together when the white wings of death scatter your days.
Ay, you shall be together even in the silent memory of God.
But let there be spaces in your togetherness,
And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.

Love one another, but make not a bond of love:
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup.
Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf
Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,
Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.

Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping.
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.
And stand together yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.

The keys to a successful relationship are based on the concept poetically described by Kahlil Gibran that when we enter into partnership or marriage as whole individuals–as adults who can take care of themselves–we are each responsible for our own path and we are each responsible for our own happiness.

The relationship path is separate from our individual path, and we don’t give up our individual path because we enter into relationship. It’s important to continue walking our own path and to also walk the path of relationship out of choice, not obligation. The path of relationship is created together, as equals.

That doesn’t mean that we don’t sometimes step off our path to help our partner or sacrifice some things we like to do to be with our partner as long as we do so out of love, by choice, and without resentment. It also doesn’t mean we give up our path for the sake of the other. We agree that we each need to have our own path regarding work, career, hobby, past times, interests, childcare, friends, as long as we are respectful of the agreements we have made with respect to our marriage.

When we walk on the path of relationship together we do so out of choice, knowing we are not abandoning our individual paths. Our individual paths are of our own making and are important to our sense of well-being and wholeness. Determining our individual path is up to each of us. Neither partner has the right to define the other’s path or take the other off their path to meet his or her needs. We at all times endeavor to support and respect each other’s path.

10 Agreements for a Healthy, Happy Relationship:

1. I have chosen to be in a relationship with a partner for which there is mutual respect and equality. I agree that no one is “the boss,” and that we will agree on how to live together and will communicate and negotiate our differences. I will at all times endeavor to accept, honor, and respect those differences even when I don’t see eye to eye with my partner.

2. I am responsible for my own thoughts, feelings and actions. I cannot make my partner feel or behave a certain way and my partner is not responsible for my feelings or actions. I don’t get to blame my partner for my feelings or my choices. I can only take responsibility for me and I can only change my behavior.

3. I am responsible for communicating openly and honestly with my partner. I have the right to express my feelings in a way that doesn’t demean, diminish or destroy. I will use good communication skills, including using “I statements” to express my feelings without expectation that my partner do anything other than listen, acknowledge, and accept them.

4. I accept my partner’s feelings. There are no “bad” or “wrong” feelings. I have the right to my feelings and my partner has the right to his or hers (as do our children have the right to all of their feelings). I will not tell my partner what he/she should feel; nor will I negate, belittle, or disrespect his/her feelings. I do not need to correct, take care of, or fix my partner’s feelings. I will take my partner’s feelings into consideration and attempt to do what I can to improve my own behavior.

5. I have the right to ask my partner to do something for me or to help me, but I don’t have the right to expect or demand it. I ask, using words like, “Would you? Could you? and Please…” My partner has the right to say no. If my partner cannot help me when I ask, it is my responsibility as an able, independent adult to take care of myself and to meet my own needs or to seek help elsewhere. If my partner asks me for something and I can’t give it at that time, I may offer a time when I can, and I’m good to my word. I don’t expect my partner to meet all of my needs or desires.

6. I am with my partner out of choice, want and desire, not need. I do not need nor do I expect my partner to prop me up, make me feel good about myself, take care of me like a parent would a child, make me whole, or otherwise be responsible for me and my well-being. I am responsible for loving and taking care of myself as part of my own path. As part of our relationship path, we may agree to a division of labor that includes one person working and providing income while the other is the primary childcare provider; this does not change the equality of the relationship.

7. I refrain from telling my partner what he/she “should” do. I attempt to eliminate the word “should” from my vocabulary as it conveys an expectation and a judgment that I, as an equal partner, do not have the right to project onto another adult. I can express my feelings, tell my partner what I would do if asked, or say what I would like, without expectation that they will do what I want.

8. I agree to make my partner and my children a priority over the needs of parents, friends, family members, or others who might want or demand my time and energy. I will help others and give my time and energy to others out of choice, not out of obligation or by demand, and, as my partner and I agree is in the best interest of our relationship and our children. I will share my feelings with my partner about family members and endeavor not to sit in judgment of them, and to do my best to get along with them (even if I don’t agree with them or like them).

9. I have the right to disagree with my partner, to say no to my partner, and to choose my own path. However, I will at all times endeavor to work with my partner to resolve conflict, come to a resolution, or reach a compromise. In doing so, I will not hold onto the past and hold grudges. Once a conflict is resolved or we agree to disagree, we will let it go and move on unless the conflict becomes a destructive pattern, in which case we will seek help.

10. I agree to honor and respect my partner’s path as long as it doesn’t step outside of the bounds of what we agree we want for our partnership or marriage. I have the right to leave or end the partnership if there is: adultery, addiction or abuse and my partner is not willing to seek help, change the destructive pattern, and make amends.


On Discipline: The Do’s and Don’t’s of Parenting

Having taught and counseled parents for some time, I have noticed that parents ask more questions about discipline than anything else. They want to know what’s too much; what’s not enough.

If you are a parent at one extreme or the other — either too strict and over-controlling or too permissive and unable to set limits, bear in mind that you could be setting up a variety of problems for your child which may continue into adulthood.

The answer, as you might expect, lies somewhere in between these two extremes.  Parents need to find a balance. Children need a few limits, but not so many that they are constricted and kept from learning from their mistakes.

Why do we discipline? To give guidance and to help our children learn responsibility. Children learn naturally from experience if we allow them to have a natural consequence.

Here are a few basic dos and don’ts:

  • Don’t discipline in anger.

If you lose control you appear weak to the child. It may be important to look at your own anger and determine if you are trying to get even for your own childhood and how you were parented (you may need to deal with your anger issues first).

  • Don’t Say no unless you have a good reason to.

Be mindful not to say no all the time to your child out of habit, reflex or convenience. Otherwise let your child be curious and explore, climb on things, play in the water, etc., (as long as it doesn’t place your child in danger).

  • Don’t hit, yell at, name-call, shame, or otherwise demean your children when they misbehave. Give them a “natural” consequence for their behavior or one  that is logical and naturally follows the infraction.

A natural consequence for pushing another child is not being able to play with that child until he uses words instead of hurting and amends are made. If the behavior is repeated, the child learns no one wants to play with him; and his parent won’t let him play with friends until he’s “safe.” A natural consequence for not doing homework because the time was spent watching tv, would be no tv until homework is done.

  • Do set a good example by modeling the kind of behavior you expect of your children.

Hitting your children teaches them that it’s okay to hit and that violence is a way to

solve problems. Do you clean up your own messes? Do you admit when you are wrong? You can’t expect your child to do as you say but not as you do.

  • Don’t set limits without following through with consequences.

Repeated warnings only tell your child you don’t mean what you say. Weak or inconsistent limits with no consequences create a mean, inconsiderate, angry child who continually pushes the envelope. This child will grow up to be narcissistic, demeaning and arrogant.

  • Do let your children know what you expect and set limits without guilt.

Children understand fair rules and reasonable expectations and need limits. Explanations and communication are used only when necessary. Unnecessary explanations and lecturing imply you don’t recognize your child’s ability to figure things out and learn from her mistakes. (You need never say, “I told you so.”)

Do get help if what you’re doing isn’t working.  Children are mirrors. Your child’s behavior is feedback about how you’re parenting. Parenting is a learning process — for both children and parents.