In every relationship and in every interaction of every relationship there is a contract. Sometimes the terms of the contract are explicit, sometimes they are not. Whether made clear or not, each party brings to the relationship their idea of what the terms of the contract are.
Most personal relationships develop organically, and each may expect that the other is operating according to the same terms, although they may not be. It’s often in what has not been expressed, and in which the partners have different expectations, that conflicts occur.
We learn to relate in our earliest relationships, and we carry with us into every later relationship, the imprint of what we learnt before we had the language or understanding to filter it. Everything will be shaped by that imprint: how we see others, how we relate about money, about sex, about security, and about every aspect of our lives.
So what might be in our contract? We may be offering our love, our caring, our support. We may be bringing our intellect, our interests and our skills. We may be willing to offer our loyalty, our companionship, our intimacy, and our friendship.
And what do we expect in return? Do we expect others to bring the same things? Or do we expect them to fill the gaps we might have?
Only by looking at what our unwritten contracts might be saying, can we really begin to understand what is being negotiated between us in our relationships.
Jude Fay is a counsellor and psychotherapist at AnneLeigh Counselling and Psychotherapy, Naas and Celbridge, Co Kildare.