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What Are Relationship Secret Contracts?

It started with asking myself, “Should I harness the power of the internet to bring great shame upon my husband so he changes his ways.” And the answer was “Yes, yes I should.” The toilet paper standoff began. I decided to stop changing the toilet paper to see how long it would go without Penn noticing. I documented everything to make a video. The days went on and honestly, I wasn’t actually sure how Penn was wiping his butt. In the end, it led to a fight that we took straight to our marriage counselor, Christopher Edmonston.

Christopher shared the problem in two words: secret contracts. Secret contracts are agreements we’ve made with our spouse that we’ve never spoken out loud. They are tasks we assume the other will do. For example, Kim does the grocery shopping and Penn takes out the trash. Duh. However, sometimes we aren’t cool with the role that had been assumed upon us. It also leads to great resentment when these secret contracts are broken. Secret contracts can go on for years and lead to a build up of annoyance and frustration.

How to Move Forward

Secret contracts can be started easily enough, as simple as gender roles in chores, and turn into a huge source of resentment in your relationship. Learning about secret contracts helped Penn realize that his role as “golden retriever” in our family wasn’t working for him anymore. Saying what was “secret” out loud turned it into something that was negotiable and could be agreed upon, closing off resentment. It also allowed us to have an open conversation about how we were feeling. 

Learn more about secret contracts and hear another excerpt from our book on this week’s podcast. If you want to pre-order our book Everybody Fights (WE WROTE A BOOK!) – head over to everybodyfightsbook.com.

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