A MARRIAGE CONTRACT
by Dr. Lawrence Wilson
© June 2018, L.D. Wilson Consultants, Inc.
Many people want to be married. However, they are not affiliated with a church or synagogue, or are uncomfortable with these institutions for some reason. They know, however, that “shacking up” often does not work out well.
Shacking up is just not as good, not as committed, and can cause unwanted pregnancies, and rape. It is also frowned upon by the general society. This article offers an alternative – the marriage contract.
PRINCIPLES OF THIS AGREEMENT
1. A relationship involves bringing together two people who have very different past, in many cases, and who are moving toward each other in the present, and who believe they wish to be even closer in the future. Thus, parts of this contract are divided into sections dealing with the past, the present and the future of the relationship.
2. The goal is to bring up for discussion, at least, many areas that two in love may forget or skip over. The idea is to plan your fun and your life together. The goal is not to be too legalistic, although sometimes this is important.
3. The following is also a type of do-it-yourself premarital counseling. It is not meant as a substitute for excellent pre-marital counseling, which we recommend for everyone. However, if you do not have someone to assist you with pre-marital counseling, working through this contract with you fiancé can help.
THE BASIC IDEA
You and your partner will write up and sign a simple legal contract. The purpose is to enhance communication, to get to know each other better, and, to a degree, to help keep each other honest. Below is a sample contract. It can be altered a little, but do not change the basic rules if you want it to work correctly.
THE BODY OF THE CONTRACT
It is best to think of this contract as binding in a legal sense. If one or the other partner violates it, the marriage, at one level, is over. This is how contract law works. It does not mean the partners must separate, but the contract needs to be renegotiated.
1. DESIRE AND INTENT. Our desire for this marriage needs to be clear and completely agreed upon for the best chance of success.
A. We agree to always love each other, no matter what occurs. We also agree to always assist each other in every aspect of our lives.
B. We will never knowingly harm each other in our thoughts, words or actions.
C. If we harm the other accidentally, we agree to 1) apologize immediately and 2) learn not to repeat it. This is one of the most important habits we both want to learn if we are to be happy together.
D. We will listen deeply and attentively to each other’s words.
E. We will learn to be respectful, kind, considerate, and patient in all situations.
F. We will care for each other as much as we care for ourselves. Learning to be unselfish in a relationship is one of the most important lessons any couple can learn.
2. SEXUALITY. Sex is a very important area in most marriages.
A. Our relationship is completely exclusive and private in the sexual area. This means:
1). No thinking about or even considering extra-marital sex, and no flirting or other overtures outside the marriage.
2) We will dress, speak and act at all times to make it clear to everyone that we are in an exclusive sexual relationship.
3) Our friends should be of the same sex, or happily married couples. We will have no friends of the opposite sex unless they become friends of both of ours. Friends of the opposite sex are often a problem for marriages.
We will attend all social events, parties and other social engagements only as a couple. Plans to attend these must be agreed upon by the two of us. If one is ill or cannot attend, we will discuss that to do.
Work situations may present some temptations. We will take all precautions to reduce sexual temptations in this area.
4) Of course, absolutely no sexual encounters with anyone other than each other, not even joking about it.
B. In our sexual relationship, we agree to always exercise the utmost care, consideration, cherishing and respect for each other. We will discuss our needs or wants in this area openly, as often as needed, and will never make demands of each other in this area. Marriage is not about making demands in the sexual area.
C. We agree to discuss how often we want sex, how we want it, birth control and any other details that we deem important.
3. HEALTH AND NUTRITIONAL BALANCING. Differences in this area can break up an otherwise excellent marriage.
A. We agree to take excellent care of our bodies and our minds. This is part of basic consideration of the other person.
B. We agree to assist each other in caring for our bodies and minds.
C. We agree on how or what methods to use to take care of our bodies. For example, visiting conventional medical doctors is just one alternative. Ideally, both partners should agree to follow a nutritional balancing program.
D. This section will include our agreement about alcohol and recreational drug use. It also includes our agreement about engaging in activities that are dangerous or toxic in any way, such as taking dangerous jobs, racing cars, skydiving, hang-gliding, skiing, etc.
4. FAMILY AND FRIENDS. This is another important aspect of any marriage.
A. We agree that our partner is now our best friend and closest family member. All other friends and family are now secondary in importance.
B. We agree, therefore, to limit all of our other friendships and family contacts so they do not interfere with our marriage. This means restricting the number and length of all emails, phone conversations and visits to and from our friends and other family members.
C. We agree to discuss any problem we are having with any of our friends or family members openly and thoroughly to resolve it.
5. WORK/TEAMWORK. Marriages work out much better if both partners like the same types of work and play.
A. We agree to discuss our desires and plans in the area of work to make sure they are compatible. For example, if one of us wants to travel a lot, while the other wants to stay at home and tend a garden or farm, our marriage is not likely to work out as well.
However, if we both enjoy farming, factory work, a business, or music, then our marriage is much more likely to succeed.
B. If possible, we would love to work together as a team.
6. LIFESTYLE. We agree to discuss lifestyle in as much detail as possible, to help assure a happy marriage.
Lifestyle preferences include a wide range of subjects including:
A. Communication. We agree to devote at least 30 minutes every day to communication. We agree to sit or lie down together and allow each one to speak freely about anything having to do with our marriage.
We will not allow any distractions, such as children, phone calls or anything else to interfere with our communication time. We consider this vital for our marriage.
B. Children. Issues are whether to have children, how many children, and how to raise the children in terms of strictness, schooling, religion and other things.
C. Exercise. We agree to discuss what type of exercise we like, how much, how often, where we enjoy exercising, and whether we like doing it alone or with others.
D. Sexual habits. We agree to discuss the frequency and type of sex, type of birth control, what to do about unwanted pregnancies and any other issues that arise in this area.
E. Finances. Past issues: We agree to disclose to our partner all of our assets, source of income, expenses, debts and other financial obligations of every kind.
Present issues: We will then decide together how we will handle our financial lives together, including such items as paying bills, purchases, loans, household expenses, saving money, handling our debts and liabilities, making donations, allowances, buying insurance, and making house or apartment payments.
(Details should be spelled out in this contract. For example, a couple might decide to share all home expenses if both people are working. Some experts recommend that if one person earns 20% more than the other person, then the one that earns more money should pay 20% more than the other toward expenses, for example.)
We do not recommend that couples pool their money at the very beginning of a relationship, as in a joint checking account. This is hazardous in case one person is not responsible with money matters. It is better to wait a year or more, and see how things go.
Also, beware that if you get a marriage license from a government, you may be responsible for your partner’s debts.
Future financial issues. We will agree on how we will handle future financial issues such as savings, spending habits and debts that may arise. We will also discuss how we will handle finances including child support, if we separate, or if one person dies.
It is impossible to foresee all possibilities, but we agree to try to anticipate what could occur.
F. Recreation and vacations. We agree to discuss how we like to relax, where we like to go for vacations, and other aspects of relaxation and recreation.
G. Other. We agree to discuss the music we like, the television programs we enjoy, and any and all other aspects of lifestyle that we deem important.
7. RELIGION AND PHILOSOPHY. We agree to discuss thoroughly each of our political, economic and religious beliefs and philosophy to see if our values are compatible. We realize that we may need to learn about our partner’s beliefs and “try them on”. Areas that we agree to discuss are our beliefs about:
C. Who are we and why are we here.
D. What is life really about.
F. Who is the head of the household, and why.
A. GIVING NOTICE. To reduce confusion and temptations, we agree to inform all family members, friends, social media friends and others of our marriage.
We also agree to wear rings on the fourth finger of our left hands, preferably all the time, but at least in public places such as stores, banks, etc.
B. LEGALLY BINDING. We suggest signing the contract, but it is not necessary and is a personal decision. If it seems to draconian, it is not essential. However, by obligating the partners legally, it helps them understand the importance of this contract and of our marriage. By signing legally, there could be legal consequences if the contract is breached.
C. CONFIDENTIALITY. It is important to protect any marriage from busybodies and gossips who may destroy our marriage, even if they claim to be our best friends. Therefore, we agree that all matters relating to our marriage shall remain confidential, unless we both agree otherwise.
Also, if a breach of confidentiality occurs, we agree to heal it as rapidly and thoroughly as possible.
D. INTEGRITY AGREEMENT. At times, difficult problems arise within a marriage. Should we become embroiled in a dispute that we cannot resolve, we agree to first seek a mediator whom we choose together, to resolve our problem. If this does not work, we agree to seek out an arbitrator whom we choose together, and whose decision we will accept as binding arbitration.
We agree not to involve attorneys in our dispute unless both mediation and arbitration fail to solve our problem.
E. AMENDMENTS. We may amend this contract at any time by mutual agreement. Amendments must be dated and signed by both of us, and in the presence of at least one witness.
F. COMPLETE CONTRACT. This agreement constitutes the entire contract between us.
(Both parties must sign and date the contract. At least one witness is helpful for legal reasons. Otherwise, one party could say that he or she never signed the agreement – that it was a forged signature. Notarizing is not needed because all the parties are known to each other.
Some couples will need to include in this contract agreements about:
1. Children by another marriage. If your partner has children by another marriage, you must have an item about who will be in charge of discipline, how the child’s expenses will be paid, visiting rights of former mates, and so on.
2. Pets. Who will care for them, pay for their expenses, decide when to get rid of them or whether to have puppies, etc.
3. Homes and other real estate. If both people have houses, which will be sold, how the money will be divided, if it is, and so on.
Important Warning: Marriage does not require a government “permission” called the marriage license, at least not in America. In America, a marriage not licensed by the government is called a common law marriage.
History of the marriage license. Until 160 years ago, the government was not involved in marriage agreements at all. It was a sacred agreement between God and two people. Ministers and churches usually conducted marriages and sanctified them.
The first marriage “license” was issued in America around 1860 when a couple of mixed race wanted to marry. This marriage was forbidden under the common law of England, which still rules America unless superceded by statute. So a marriage license was invented to get around the common law prohibition.
Today, most people assume that a marriage licence is “normal”, but it is not. It is not the business of the government in a free society, and neither is the birth certificate.
Problems with the marriage license are:
1. It converts marriage from a right to a government-granted privilege. This diminishes everyone’s rights and opens the possibility that the government will someday decide whom you will or will not marry.
2. It is an adhesion contract. This means it sounds simple and is easy to get into, but is very difficult to nullify or get out of later.
3. The worst part is that it makes the government a third party in the marriage. This gives them power over the products of the marriage – the children. This can and often has serious consequences. For example:
- You may become liable for some debts of your partner, or even government debts. For example, the government could pass a law that all those with a marriage license must pay a certain amount toward the national debt.
- Other inheritance laws automatically apply to you. For example, in some states in America, half of your assets go to your partner automatically if there is a divorce.
- Upon the death of one partner, the government may step in and take away children, take money, or take other assets from you.
- Worst of all, the government can dictate what happens to your children, especially if you allow your children to have birth certificates – another adhesion contract. For example, the government can force your child against your will to have cancer chemotherapy, radiation therapy, drug therapy, and perhaps vaccinations, abortions, or other procedures the state deems best.
Also, Child Protective Services or other government agencies can invade your home and take your children away if they feel you are “harming your child” in any way. “Abuse” today may include educating your child at home or at a private school, choosing not to vaccinate your child, choosing not to follow conventional medical advice and instead seeking alternatives, or choosing to have your pregnant teenage daughter keep the baby.
OBJECTIONS TO THIS AGREEMENT
Doesn’t the contact mean I don’t trust my partner? No! It means you love your partner enough to discuss all the issues and put them in writing so things are clear. This will help guide your future to much more happiness. It is somewhat like consulting a minister or Rabbi who will bring up the issues that come up in marriage so you can think about them fully before marrying. This can save one from a lot of disappointment and heartache.
This contract is too scary and detailed. For example, my fiancé and I don’t know what we will want 10 or 30 years from now. The contract just doesn’t make sense.
In fact, the contract is just a basic starting point to what goes on in a marriage. If the contract seems too scary, marriage will be worse.
Many decisions will need to be made together. This contract outlines only the biggest ones. If you can agree on these, you have a much greater chance of success, and your success is the goal of this contract.
Can I really force my partner to adhere to this contract?
Isn’t a spoken agreement adequate? No! Writing forces people to express themselves much better than simply talking.
The legal nature of the contract also helps keep both partners honest, assists communication, and should help both parties to be more relaxed and clear about what you are entering and why.
Isn’t some of this contract obvious and therefore not necessary to include? No! Marriage means different things to different people. It is much better to spell out what you mean and your partner needs to do the same.
What if my partner won’t sign it? If your partner opposes the idea of this contract, find someone else to marry. This is harsh, but we feel it is by far the best idea. If the person loves you, then why not discuss and sign the agreement.
If your partner doesn’t like a section, discuss it and change it to both your liking. If you really cannot agree on a section, most likely you are not that compatible.
The goal of the contract is not to “ruin your relationship”. It is to see how compatible you really are, and spell out what you want in your marriage. It is really quite simple.