Category Archives: communication

Are You Breaking Your Marriage’s  Sex Contract?

Are You Breaking Your Marriage’s Sex Contract?

marriage, sex, wedding, marriage counselorWhen you get married, you sign a marriage certificate. This certificate says that you’ll live together as a lawfully wedded couple until death do you part. But along with this marriage certificate, you’re also signing a series of legal contracts as well. These contracts state that if you divorce (i.e. break the marriage contract) that you’ll split assets acquired together during the marriage, split custody of children, etc.These contracts also state what you don’t have to split if one of you is in breach of the marriage contract. For example, you don’t have to split assets that were acquired before either of you were married.

Everyone knows these legal contracts or is at least familiar with them. But as a marriage counselor, I see literally hundreds of other contracts that a couple signs when they get married, too. And the problem is that most couples don’t recognize these contracts they’re signing until after they’ve broke the contract. And the consequences are often a lot steeper than if you break one of the legal ones.

The Christmas Contract

For example, when a couple gets married, there’s an often unspoken contract about what happens at Christmas time. This contract usually says that my spouse will come with me to my families’ house during Christmas. There are even contracts about what my spouses’ behavior will be at the party. They won’t drink too much, they won’t talk about Uncle Carl’s drinking problem and they’ll tell our kids they have to go even if they don’t want to.

If a partner breaks this contract and doesn’t go, or decides to speak up about Uncle Carl’s drinking problem, then there’s all kinds of hell to pay. When that happens, there’s fighting,  arguments, silent treatment, and no sex for days. This is all to let your spouse know that they broke the contract and it won’t be tolerated.

The Unspoken Sex Contract

Another unspoken contract that couples often make is around sex – and this one gets broken a lot. Because you two have dated for a while and in one of the critical relationship phases you decided that you’re both compatible, so you decided to get married. And because you’ve decided that you’re “compatible” you expected that you’re expectations (aka contract) around sex is the same, too. In your mind, this sex contract says that my spouse will only have sex with me and I will get to have sex whenever I want, (or don’t want). Yousex expectations, good sex, bad sex, marriage counselor, denver think that this contract says that sex will always be spontaneous, that your partner will always want you sexually, and they will never have sexual desires for anyone other than you. Furthermore, this contract also says that your partner won’t flirt with, talk to or even fantasize about anyone other than you.

But did they know they signed this? I mean really, did you talk about each and every one of these? Of course you didn’t! How unromantic is that!? And you had other more important things to do, like planning the wedding. (There were lots of other questions you didn’t ask your spouse before you got married that you probably should have. Click the link to read my Huffington Post article about it).

It makes sense then, that you catch your partner breaking your sex contract sometimes by, say, watching porn or flirting with someone at work. And it makes sense, too, that you two argue about it EVERY time it comes up. Your partner is breaking your rules and you want to let them know that you won’t tolerate it. And in their mind, you’re breaking their rules as well and they want to let you know what their contract states.

How to Handle Contract Breeches

What I have found as a marriage counselor is that instead of reprimanding your partner for breaking a contract they didn’t know they signed, approach the topic with curiosity. This will save you two from a lot of fights and a lot of hurt feelings. It’s tricky because is a pretty taboo topic generally so make sure you’re addressing it sensitively, too. Instead of shouting “what on earth are you watching?” ask something like “what makes you want to watch porn right now?” or “Is that something you want to try with me or do you like to just fantasize about it?” Instead of proclaiming how big of a jerk they are for flirting with that person at the swimming pool, ask them if they think that is being unfaithful or not and what they see their limits of fidelity being.

Like I said before, sex is a pretty taboo topic and it’s also very personal. When you try to get to know each other sexually by talking about topics specifically and with curiosity, you’ll get to know your partner a lot better than by imposing your expectations based on unspoken contracts. And you’ll get to know your partner in ways that nobody else does regardless of who they flirt with or who they fantasize about. And kind of communication and understanding is intimacy at it’s finest.

About the Author

Aaron Anderson is the Director and Lead Therapist at The Marriage and Family Clinic in Denver, Colorado. He’s an avid father, husband and youth soccer coach. He doesn’t have time to write a clever bio because he is too busy doing one of those three things.

Healthy Boundaries = Healthy Marriages; How to set Boundaries with Parents and In-Laws

Healthy Boundaries = Healthy Marriages; How to set Boundaries with Parents and In-Laws

Hollywood is great about making “crazy family” movies where family members interfere in each other’s lives. It is funny to watch – if you are not in their shoes. But if your first thought when you see these movies is “Oh, I feel your pain”, then this article is for you. From career choices to… Continue Reading

From Dirty Fight to Clear Communication: How to Fight Fair During Conflict With Your Spouse

From Dirty Fight to Clear Communication: How to Fight Fair During Conflict With Your Spouse

A very common complaint that brings couples to counseling is wanting to know how to communicate better and fight fair. Couples always want to discuss an issue in an assertive way that allows both partners to feel understood and validated without it ending up in some big fight. Sounds awesome, doesn’t it? Well, it is in your… Continue Reading

5 Keys to Unlock Assertiveness in Your Relationship

5 Keys to Unlock Assertiveness in Your Relationship

Assertiveness is an effective way of communicating which is half-way between aggression and passivity. With passivity, you tend to “people please” then develop resentment down the line because you didn’t stand up for yourself. With aggression, you force your  partner into defensiveness and bring out their resentment towards you for making them do what you… Continue Reading

Communicating is Hard: 4  Tips to Make it Easier

Communicating is Hard: 4 Tips to Make it Easier

Communication. You do it everyday with countless people. So why is it when it comes to communicating with the person that is closest to you – something inevitably goes wrong? As a marriage and family therapist I have met with many couples and the number one complaint I hear from them is…poor communication. Poor communication… Continue Reading

I’m in a one sided marriage….what do I do?

I’m in a one sided marriage….what do I do?

Marriages start with a lot of expectations, dreams and plans. We usually fall in love with the person that makes us laugh, holds our hand through tough times and share our vision for the future. But things change with time, as they should –  and it is not always a good change. All of the… Continue Reading