Natasha Feroze has narrated this article for you to listen to.
What makes a relationship work? I look at the happiest, most stable couples I know and wonder what the trick is. Did they spot problems early on and talk them through? Do they simply accept each other’s flaws? We all have foibles; a relationship is simply a matter of deciding which ones we can live with.
I came across a couple recently who had their own approach: a relationship contract. Americans Simone and Malcolm Collins are big names in the pro-natalist movement. They have made it their mission to convince people to take relationships more seriously, ideally with a view to having children. They are now married, but prior to doing so, they had in place their own contract. It comprised a long list of questions – more than 62 – about what kind of behaviour they were willing to tolerate. It wasn’t exactly romantic – there’s even a question about how much weight gain is acceptable – but it’s an intriguing idea.
The Collinses think that as society strays further from tradition, contracts like theirs will soon be the norm. They argue that every-one craves formality. They might be right. Hundreds of variations of relationship contract can be found online. You can even contract lawyers if you need a moderator.
I asked Simone what happens if one of them breaches the contract. There are no penalties, she explained. The contract has force simply because it makes explicit what each partner prefers. ‘If Malcolm was to break a commitment, he’d know it would hurt my feelings,’ she says. ‘And honestly, that’s enough for me.’
What the contract seems to offer is a sense of security.