after the affair relationship contractDoug had some minor surgery done yesterday, so I took the day off to be with him.  After we returned home, Doug decided to take a nap as he was feeling tired from the procedure.  While he was asleep I started to delve into “How to Survive an Affair” again, and decided to re-read the section that dealt with preparing a Relationship Contract after the affair.

We have blogged before about keeping your marriage safe by building a fence around your relationship after you have accepted the affair.  The premise being to keep the good things in and the bad things out of your relationship in order for it to be safe, and to help ensure that another affair will never happen again.

One aspect of this fence building that quite frankly I had forgotten about, was the idea of preparing a Relationship Contract.  The idea of coming to an agreement with your spouse after the affair defining your relationship, writing it out, and signing it. 

Dr. Frank Gunzburg states that, “This contract becomes a symbol of your renewed relationship and the practices that you intend to institute throughout your relationship.”

What a great idea!  Now Doug and I can sit down and discuss everything about our life together, and come up with an actual document that can represent not only the challenges that we have gone through together, but also the agreements and the boundaries that we have established.  (I’m sure this is just what Doug wants to do!)  😉

As Gunzburg puts it, the contract becomes the “gate” in our relationship fence.  It is a physical piece of evidence, if you will, that represents all the different components of our relationship.

What goes into a Relationship Contract?

Dr. Gunzburg’s course takes you through the healing and recovery process after the affair to get you to the point where you can be ready to formulate a contract.  What you include in your contract is totally up to you, but you will probably want to address issues such as individual needs, communication, transparency, boundaries, conflict resolution, sex, parenting, household obligations, etc.  Whatever you feel you want to include.  After all it’s your contract and your relationship.

The contract can be as simple as an outline, notes on a scratch pad, or it can be a business type contract.  You can download an example of a contract taken from the course workbook  by using this link. The important thing is that you both agree to it and commit to it.

After Doug’s emotional affair, I felt as though our old marriage kind of dissolved, and a new one has begun.  This is the perfect opportunity to cement everything we have learned about ourselves, our marriage, the good the bad, and all the potential hurdles and pitfalls that we now know can cause problems.  This will make each of our expectations clear and will formally establish our future plans for our relationship.

I think the process itself of formulating the contract is the best part.  It is an effective communication tool promoting honesty, transparency, understanding, and agreement of all the various aspects of our future life together.

I realize that many of you may not be to the point where you feel you have accepted the affair and are ready to move on, but if you are, I suggest you do something like this.  If nothing else, at least go through the communication process to formally define and agree upon what your future relationship together will look like after the affair.

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    10 replies to "After the Affair: The Relationship Contract"

    • Jennifer

      I think this is a fantastic idea. I’m all about writing things down. I’m not so sure my husband is ready for it though. I have been debating having “the talk” with him lately. I just know that if I bring up anything serious about our relationship that he will get mad or flippant and I will get depressed again and nothing will get accomplished. Things have been going so well with us the past couple of weeks, I don’t want to ruin that. At the same time, I’m going insane not knowing what it is he wants out of this strange relationship arrangement. Know what I mean?

      • Doug

        Jennifer, I know it can be tough to bring things up at times, especially if he gets mad or flip. Face it, he doesn’t want to talk about stuff, and that’s pretty normal. Maybe try to start off doing it in small portions. That is, just talk about one or two points at a time, and I wouldn’t bring up the affair. Maybe ask him something like, “Where do you think you would like to retire…” or some other similar type question that fits your situation, and then go from there. Hopefully, he will open up and talk a bit more. Just don’t try to have a three hour long discussion–break it up in pieces.

      • Eileen

        I am in the same position as you and feel your pain. I had to overcome this and bring this out in the open because it did occur and needs to be address no matter what. You cannot go on and heal if you don’t talk about for me but others may heal differently.

    • SallyJane

      Jennifer, I’m having a bit of a time myself. Things have been going so well between us, but a conversation yesterday with a girlfriend of mine just dragged me back to the depths of hell. She told me about all of her husband’s affairs (ugh, of course, he and my h are c0-workers). So, I stewed all day, and last night, I went off telling him I couldn’t trust him fully until he had shared all of his email correspondence he’d had with the ow. He said he deleted them, and won’t share with me what was said between them because I’d get into “weird shit.” I asked what kind of things had been said between him that would do that to me, to which he replied “I liked her. We talked about our interests in life and what we wanted in another person.” Ugh … knife to the gut … but, I guess I asked for it. He says he doesn’t believe I’ll ever be able to get over this, and I’m starting to believe him. How could I get him to negotiate a path for the future of our marriage when I can’t trust him and he won’t be completely transparent? I feel sick, because there has been so much love between us lately … such a renewal … but, even with that I just don’t know that we can make it.
      I’m sorry, I know I got off track a little … I just needed to vent.

      • Eileen

        People in that position get “comfortable” because if you have not draw the line in the sand what you need in this marriage then he has the potential in doing this again. I told my husband to pack his things and leave and it was a punch in the face because he finally realized I was serious and I did not react. Now that he wanted to be back in my life and move forward from this I have put an infidelity contract together that states I get everything if he commits this again, I need transparency so all cell phone, email and social media access. He has to pay half the bills in the house and has to come home to his family. This was a shocker because he felt he did not “have a life” I informed him that his life is his family and if this is not what he wants he can find life elsewhere. Being firm and confident in yourself is what I found to be successful in my situation and also putting God first of course.

    • Jennifer

      SallyJane: So nice to find a kindred spirit here. 🙂 When H first told me about the affair, he told me I could ask questions and he would answer honestly. At that point, I was so hysterical, I didn’t think things through and choose wise questions. Now, I find that my best defense against that gut-wrenching feeling has been NOT to ask about the affair. He hasn’t verbally committed to our relationship, but he is still at home and doesn’t stay out like he used to. I have mu suspicions, but I keep them to myself. I have also tried to confide in friends, but I struggle with having people know and most of my friends are stuck on the ‘take the kids and leave him’ train. I’m ready for solutions. I’m ready to improve me and thus improve our relationship. I’m focusing on the good things that happen between us. My biggest positive has been writing. I wrote a note recently thanking him for coming home one night and not staying out with his friends and for sitting beside me on the couch and telling me about his day. I hadn’t planned to give it to him, but on a whim I did. He didn’t say anything about it, but I was there when he read it. Positivity is the change I’m working towards. Being happy. Smiling. I’m starting with the little things because right now, that’s all I feel I can tackle. When those feelings creep up again. I just (out loud) tell myself that this is a bad moment and it WILL pass. I’m willing to give you my email address if you’d like to vent sometime. 🙂

    • Jeffrey Murrah

      Linda,

      The contract mentality is one of the things that produces the affair mess in the first place. A contract is a business agreement, that people often feel that they can ‘break’, when it no longer meets their needs.

      If they didn’t respect the first contract, what will make them respect the second one?

      Rather than contracts, I prefer the covenant approach. It does not have the limitations of a contract. It does not have wimp-out clauses.

      Covenants are life-long agreements, that are not revocable. In a covenant the two parties pledge their resources, talents, and strength to each other and the relationship. In previous generations, couples realized that marriage was a covenant rather than a contract. The no-fault divorce and contract mentality eroded those old ideas.

      After an affair, the relationship definitely needs a new foundation. I typically tell couples that the new one needs a foundation based on communication, since the old one based on trust did not function for both. I agree that a dialogue is needed on re-negotiating the relationship. I view this as finding more workable ways of fulfilling the covenant rather than a ‘contract’.

    • Rocco

      I would like to talk with the two or you but not on boards or posts? You mentioned we can e-mail you, what is your email address?

    • Kristine

      This is a great idea. I like this and will present this to my husband one day at an appropriate time.

      One thing I am learning is that I have to give my husband space to do things HIS way. I’m very expressive with words and imagination. I love creative ways of showing him how much I love him. My husband isn’t so much. Never have been. It’s one of the things I imagined about the affair. I imagined my husband being completely opposite of himself, being romantic and giving cards and flowers. No, he never gave her one thing which was helpful to know because for some reason, us betrayed spouses think everything is WONDERFUL and PERFECT during the affair. We think the affair partner made our spouse into the man of OUR dreams (or woman).

      Anyway back on track to the post, I will def point out the affair contract *but* I have to give my husband space to express himself HIS way as well, not just for how I want it to be done.

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