Zed’s Relationship agreements

Dear humans, Herein lies what you might expect or hope for from me. This is my statement of intent. I do not expect reciprocity, but I encourage you all to think and perhaps share your pledge to others, and not to assume to know how others intend to show up for you. Please take and use, rework or edit any of these words, ideas or references in the name of creating your own agreements.

Written for those that I love, for those who have left me in a better state than in which they found me. You know who you are.

A U T O N O M Y : & : C O L L E C T I V I T Y

I pledge to help steward our collective autonomy

I pledge to respect your agency. By this I mean I will strive to ensure that I never to try to persuade you to do something you don’t want to do, use emotional manipulation to get you to do something, never make it difficult for you to say no to me or others.

I will strive to maintain boundaries over exerting rules

I will learn to know my own emotions and internal boundaries, and will not have any non-consensual expectations of you [1]. Rules determine what others are allowed to do, whereas boundaries tell you what is important to me. You can decide what to do with that information and on the basis of this we can mutually decide how close to be.

Love, intimacy and sociality are abundant, rich and diverse - I will not render them scarce.

I recognise that love is not a limited resource and that love can manifest in many diverse relationships. “We all have capacity to love more than one person, and one relationship and the love felt for that person does not diminish love felt for another. I will not rank and compare people or relationships — I will cherish the individual and my connection to them. Each relationship is independent, and a relationship between autonomous individuals [2].” Likewise, I will steward and encourage your friendships, collaborations, projects and relationships, and strive to ensure that my connection with you doesn’t preclude these blossoming with others. I do not actually believe that all relationships are fully independent — I believe that each exists in an ecology of togetherness. I believe that we should all care for how our relationships affect each other, whilst maintaining independence— that is, I value community centric relationships, as opposed to, or as well as, couple centric relationships.

I pledge to steer clear of entitlement

My feelings, history and experience with you does not render me entitled to you, or to control or compel you to behave in any way. Our past does not determine our future. What we have been is over, but what we could be is one of infinite possibilities.

“Deciding to not base a relationship on a foundation of entitlement is about respecting others’ independence and self-determination. Your feelings for a person or your history together does not make you entitled to command and control a partner to comply with what is considered normal to do in a relationship. Explore how you can engage without stepping over boundaries and personal beliefs. Rather than looking for compromises in every situation, let loved ones choose paths that keep their integrity intact, without letting this mean a crisis for the relationship. Staying away from entitlement and demands is the only way to be sure that you are in a relationship that is truly mutual. Love is not more “real” when people compromise for each other because it’s part of what’s expected [3]”

I pledge to consider the impact of the health of our relationship on our community

Our relationship does not exist in a vacuum. How we treat each other impacts those close to us. When things get hard, I pledge to remember this and to look to and involve our community in deciding outcomes. This might mean reaching out the community to communicate our struggles and request their help in stewarding me through difficult times. I recognize that our community is a commons that we have all created together. I shall strive to ensure that I am not possessive or territorial about these spaces and humans simply due to hurt, loss or rejection. If I can not process my emotions in a shared space, I will take responsibility for removing myself, not others, until such time that I can coexist with you once more.

C O M M U N I C A T I O N

To be impeccable with my word [4]

I pledge to do my best to speak with integrity. To say only what I mean. To avoid speaking against myself, yourself or to gossip about others.

I will strive to never take anything personally

Very little (or nothing?) that others do is because of me. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When I am immune to the opinions and actions of others, I won’t be the victim of needless suffering.

I will strive to not to make assumptions

I will find the courage to ask questions about what your intentions and internal states are, and do my best to believe you, not to project meaning onto your actions according to my internal model of the world.

I will strive to always do my best to assume the same of others

These are my intentions, and I shall strive to do my best to uphold these and my values in general, my best is going to change from moment to moment, there are times when I am less strong or have less resources. In these times I will avoid self-judgment, guilt, regret and shame.

To steer clear of the four horsemen of the relationship apocalypse

i. Criticism [to voice complaints (“I wish you had shared the cost of petrol”), but not criticize (“You’re so selfish you never think of me”)]

ii. Contempt [disrespect, mocking, mean forms of sarcasm, ridiculing, call names, and mimicking, eye-rolling or scoffing].

iii. Defensiveness

iv. Stonewalling

E M O T I O N A L : H Y G I E N E

I pledge to recognise that my emotions are my own and that others are not responsible for my emotions

To find non-violent ways to communicate about my emotional states when needed, to endeavor not to take action in a hot state, but wait until calmer times to discuss and make decisions.

I will consider these questions each few months and report back on what i discover

Relationship questions for any relationship

Identify a relationship steward who might be able and willing to be help oversee any initial struggles

Identify an exit strategy as a safeguard to eliminate rash or emotional decisions

There will be swings and oscillations in a friendship, these are inevitable and whilst they are scary, I pledge not to act from a place of fear, not to try and hold on to any version of ‘us’, regardless of what space might be needed. Instead to allow relationships to ebb and flow in a way that represents the people in that relationship at any given point in time. Exit strategy: I agree to take one week of time away to cool off before making any long term decisions or taking action about our relationship.

Where possible, I will try to move away from the model of breakups which are very socially violent and impact our communities, to relationship transitions

Should our hopes and dreams change wildly, the time may come for our current dynamic to die. In this moment, we might agree that the current relationship is over, but I will focus on what the next one might look like as well as mourn the past dynamic. (e.g. perhaps the goal will be to transition to ‘friends who go for coffee’, ‘pen pals who write to each other once a month’? How do we maintain our relationships with and to our community?)

To remember not to fear changing our dynamic, not to fall prey to the pitfalls of the escalator relationship [5], where the only options are to continue on the escalator or to jump off completely. Our past does not determine our future. What we have been is over, but what we could be is one of infinite possibilities.

I recognize that we are at our weakest when dealing with heartbreak and betrayal and I set my intentions for how i wish to act here in a cold state:

  • I will not idealize nor demonize you or others, but try to see you for who you are with all your wonders and troubles, loved and accepted in equal measure.
  • I will remember that heartbreak and hurt share all the hallmarks of traditional loss and grief: insomnia, intrusive thoughts, immune system dysfunction. I will look after myself and seek the social support that I need in order to recover and return to you in a recovered state. I will not engage in destructive or antisocial behaviors. In dealing with heartbreak, reason is my friend [6] — I acknowledge that in times of heartbreak and hurt, I should listen to the words and advice of my trusted community and feel wary of the tyranny of my own emotions.

Notes & references

[1] “We can’t pre-negotiate all our expectations (because most of them are subconscious!), but we can recognize when we have an expectation that has not been agreed on and then negotiate it without resentment for past lack-of-meeting that expectation. That means when your feelings are hurt by them acting in a way other than what you expected, asking yourself, “did this person agree to act this way for me?” and if the answer is no, saying to your person, “this is a thing I want in relationships. Are you comfortable with me relying on you to do this thing, and expecting it?” if they say yes, fantastic!”

[2] The short instructional manifesto for relationship anarchy

[3 & 4] Taken from the Four Agreements
“One of the hidden assumptions that people often make when adopting the Four Agreements is about time. Without awareness the mind makes the assumption that they should immediately be able to keep the Four Agreements 100% of the time. The mind completely ignores that there are already existing agreements and habits of taking things personally that have been in place for years.

With the expectation of the new agreement that we will not break any of the Four Agreements we are set up for failure. We have an emotional reaction and take something personally which feels bad. (but is completely normal part of our old habits) But then the inner judge reprimands us for failing to not take something personally. Now we feel twice as bad. The inner judge tells us that we failed and the voice of the victim in the mind accepts this proposal. The result is that we are not only upset, but we also feel like a failure. If you just look at your emotional state at this point it will seem like things are getting worse instead of better. It can seem like attempting to keep the Four Agreements is causing more problems and making you feel worse. If you are aware that you are judging your self for taking something personally, you can feel even worse. Your inner judge might use that awareness to judge and reject your self for judging your self for taking something personally. In the beginning the myriad of voices in your head are likely to use your new found awareness as material for self judgment. This is when the fourth agreement, Always Do Your Best, is most important. It gives you immunity from self judgment. Your best isn’t perfect practice of these agreements on day one. Your best will include a lot of stumbling in the beginning and improve over time as you practice. Just like walking, learning a language, or playing a sport, you can’t play at top level on your first day learning.”

[5] Relationship Escalator: The default set of societal expectations for intimate relationships. Partners follow a progressive set of steps, each with visible markers, toward a clear goal.

The goal at the top of the Escalator is to achieve a permanently monogamous (sexually and romantically exclusive between two people), cohabitating marriage — legally sanctioned if possible. In many cases, buying a house and having kids is also part of the goal. Partners are expected to remain together at the top of the Escalator until death.

The Escalator is the standard by which most people gauge whether a developing intimate relationship is significant, “serious,” good, healthy, committed or worth pursuing or continuing.

[6] https://www.ted.com/talks/guy_winch_how_to_fix_a_broken_heart

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