A marriage contract stipulates what you expect to give to and receive from your spouse.

How to Write a Marriage Contract

by Kathryn Rateliff Barr

At a time when prenuptial contracts are considered almost routine in some circles, the idea of a marriage contract that spells out how a couple will conduct their lives might have some attraction, according to Emma Johnson for the “Huffington Post” in “A 10-Year Contract Will Save Marriage.” The contract can spell out when the couple negotiates new terms and details such as chores, finances, sexual contact, childcare and what you name the kids.

1. Determine Elements

The elements of your marriage contract will be those things most important to you, and will vary from couple to couple, according to Johnson. Both of you should make a list of what you want and expect in the marriage. Be open and honest about what you want and what you are willing to give, such as requiring your husband to assume part of the household chores, manage the car maintenance, participate in date night every week and engage in conversation and physical intimacy a specified number of times each week. Itemized agreements can reduce frustration and disappointment, strengthening your marriage, according to Mira Kirshenbaum, a psychotherapist and author of “I Love You But I Don't Trust You." Spell out elements you find toxic to your marriage and declare them off limits for the duration of the contract.

2. Negotiate

Sit down with your lists and negotiate terms. He might readily agree to cleaning the kitchen four nights a week in exchange for a night out with his friends twice a month or time on the golf course several times a month. You might specify that he records your favorite shows when he is setting up the DVR to record his shows. In the "Redbook" article "Should You Sign a Happy-Ever-After Contract?" Erin Zammett Ruddy suggests that both of you should feel like you have great terms when you are done. Determine how long you want the contract to run, although you can always come back and renegotiate if something isn’t working the way you thought it would.

3. Assess

Revisit the contract before the end of the contract date and assess where you are. Your priorities might change as your kids get older or you approach retirement. You could find that your relationship has run its course and it’s time to amicably end your marriage, that you want to spice up your marriage by opening it up for you to share intimacies with others or that you like things fine the way they are, with a little tweaking. It’s up to the two of you to determine where you go with your relationship, writes columnist Dan Savage in a “Huffington Post” article, “Infidelity Is The ‘Lesser Of Two Evils.’” He writes that negotiating options such as an open marriage can prevent divorce.

4. Final Words

Knowing what is expected and that you can negotiate encourages communication and cooperation for the duration of your contract, according to Kirshenbaum. She helps clients write marriage contracts to save their relationships. She advises married partners not to agree to anything they can’t stand by. Once you have a contract you can embrace, finalize it with signatures and a celebration. The contracts might not stand up in court, according to certified financial divorce analyst Nancy Kurn, but it might not have to if it keeps your marriage together.

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