How to Negotiate a Successful Relationship Agreement

Are you thinking of leaving your spouse and possibly wanting a divorce? First learn the strategies of recognizing your own wants in life and discovering your partner's to strengthen your bound and work towards a happy marriage.

By Mari Frank, Esq.
Updated: April 02, 2015
Dating after Divorce

Are you contemplating divorce? Have you been considering reconciliation during the divorce proceeding? How will you approach a new relationship with the opposite sex? For your relationship to work, you must recognize what your own needs are and understand the perceptions and concerns of your partner.

Most of us didn't have the best role models for an effective relationship. We haven't had classes on building harmonious relationships in our schools. In order to establish a truthful, intimate, and fulfilling relationship between yourself and someone you care about, you must negotiate a mutual gain in the important issues of your life. The following strategy will give you the tools to build the golden bridge of a loving relationship.

When there's a problem in any relationship, you have only four choices to consider:

  1. Change yourself
  2. Negotiate for change
  3. Leave the relationship
  4. Stay and be miserable

We often forget that if we're unhappy, it is a choice we are making. If you choose not to be miserable, you have three choices left. Before you end a relationship that once was happy, you need to remember that you are 50% responsible for the problems -- no more and no less. So it is important for your own growth to work on yourself. If you work on yourself and do not engage in negotiation for change -- you lose the opportunity to collaborate and grow together. When you negotiate for change successfully, you make an agreement with your partner to change yourself by taking actions that you believe are fair and appropriate for you. You each can make a commitment to yourself and your partner. So it is important to problem-solve together, and not to agree to anything that feels uncomfortable. You must take responsibility to respond honestly and make your discomfort known to your partner when you cannot agree. It is critical to brainstorm solutions and create several options as proposals. A "take it or leave it" attitude will get you nowhere. Your willingness to jointly discuss alternatives for agreement will lead you to a mutual gain.

Love can be rekindled when expectations are shared, and there is an attitude of being willing to listen to each other's interests and concerns.

If you agree to negotiate for change, the following proven strategy will be your guide.

Your Strategy for Negotiating Change

1. Each of you individually will take time by yourself to write out honest, genuine, answers on the "Assessment" form at the end of this article.

Use the worksheet entitled "Self-Assessment of your Needs" to help each of you figure out what your basic needs are -- and how you'll go about meeting those needs. You must address these issues from your point of view -- not blaming the other person for what you do not get. Take a few days to think about these needs and write out your answers from your heart. Make an agreement to meet at a quiet place without interruptions to discuss and share your answers. If your interactions are volatile, agree to meet with a counselor or mediator who will facilitate these negotiations. Make sure you are comfortable with the third party, so you will allow yourself to speak honestly and be vulnerable. It is much less costly to hire a third party mediator than pay the price of a hostile divorce! Remember, if you've tried to understand each other's needs and your negotiations still fail, it may be time for each of you to assess the other choices. If divorce is inevitable, the conflict will be de-escalated after this process. No matter what, this process, if done appropriately, will help you clarify your issues, your needs, and your understanding of your partner.

2. Once you appear at the meeting place, start discussing those areas of concern that are least inflammatory first to insure success.

Make an agreement to listen carefully to your partner without anger, judgment, or interruption. When your partner has finished, repeat back what was said as closely as possible. You may ask open-ended questions such as: "What would you like from me? Why do you feel that way? Tell me more about that." Don't start negotiating until the other partner is heard. Only ask clarifying questions at this point. Repeat the process with the other partner, repeating and asking clarifying questions. No judgment, no put-downs: just effective listening and clarifying!

3. After both of you have actively listened to each other and clarified perceptions and misconceptions, it's time to brainstorm options for meeting each other's needs.

Write down on a piece of paper together (or a flip chart) all possible solutions. Do not judge -- keep adding options until you have exhausted your creativity.

4. Then go through each option and tell each other what would work for you, and what part of a proposal is uncomfortable.

Be clear about your discomfort. Do not get angry -- take deep breaths and slowly explain your feelings without attacking your partner. For example: A husband wants to make love more often before he goes to sleep. His wife tells him that she also wants more intimacy, but she is very tired at night. She is willing to get up earlier in the morning and make love when she's more alert and the children are asleep. They agree to try this for two weeks, clarifying rendezvous arrangements.

5. Once you are both comfortable with a proposal, commit to trying it as an interim agreement for a couple of weeks.

Follow-up by meeting in two weeks to assess and share feedback. Calendar a specific time and place. The process needs to continue as you each grow and change. You'll need to be honest enough to say what works for you and what does not -- without blaming the other person. Separate the person from the problem.

Self-assessment of your needs: What does each of you want from your relationship?

1. Physical Needs

These could include cuddling, romance, sex, helping each other with work, chores, exercise, movement, entertaining, entertainment. Think about your own physical needs, and list them below.

A. What does the wife want?

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

B. What does the husband want?

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

INTERIM AGREEMENT

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

2. Emotional Needs

These could include intimacy; sharing feelings; giving each other moral support; respecting each other's opinions and desires; willingness to disagree without anger, guilt, or blame. This category could also include issues with the children, other relatives and other third parties.

A. What does the wife want?

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

B. What does the husband want?

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

INTERIM AGREEMENT

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

3. Financial Needs

These could include spending styles, financial responsibility, what is our view of money, savings goals, what does money mean to us, household expenses, vacations, sharing of responsibility, economic choices.

A. What does the wife want?

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

B. What does the husband want?

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

INTERIM AGREEMENT

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

4. Spiritual, Religious, Moral Needs

These could include mutual respect for values, devotion, supporting each other's faith, spiritually growing, morally growing.

A. What does the wife want?

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

B. What does the husband want?

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

INTERIM AGREEMENT

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

THIS AGREEMENT WILL BE IN EFFECT AS OF THE DATE IT IS SIGNED. WE AGREE TO MEET AGAIN ON _____________________ TO DISCUSS HOW THE AGREEMENT IS WORKING AND FOLLOW THE SAME PROCEDURES FOR FOLLOW-UP AS IN THE FIRST NEGOTIATION.

HUSBAND___________________ WIFE___________________ DATE _________________________ DATE____________________.




Mari J. Frank, Esq. is an attorney, mediator, conflict management consultant, and Certified Negotiation and Mediation Trainer in Laguna Niguel, California. She has successfully taught thousands of people to utilize proven techniques to turn difficult problems into satisfying agreements and enhanced relationships. She has authored numerous published articles and a textbook called Negotiation Breakthroughs. She has 25 years of experience transforming adversity and conflict into dynamic opportunity.

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May 26, 2006

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