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Dr. Bob Wright | November 8, 2022

How to Have Accountability in Your Relationships

We build trust when we are honest and accountable in committed personal relationships. But when we are not, our relationship suffers, and mutual respect wanes. Here’s why accountability is crucial in relationships and how to assess if you are taking enough responsibility for yours.

Are Your Relationship Contracts Clear?
How to Have Accountability in Your Relationships

Few things feel as nourishing as coming home to a partner who knows you. Who gets you. Who loves you just for who you are, as you are.

But that doesn’t just happen. The first years of relationships are often a power struggle that may never resolve itself, especially if you don’t have a relationship contract in place.

I’m not talking about a piece of paper that you both sign, although you could absolutely do that! I’m talking about verbalized and tacit agreements with your partner that lead to a minimum AND an ideal acceptable level of satisfaction for each of you.

These contracts or agreements need clarity on three primary functions: Limits. Boundaries. And expectations. What are your roles in this relationship? How ARE you going to deal with conflicts? What ARE your minimal acceptable requirements? What are THEIRS?

 

Accountability to yourself—know your yearnings:
Why the First Contract Needs to Be with You

When Judith and I first dated, we visited her family. One night we were going out to eat and packed like sardines and waited for her in their car. And waited and waited as they told me this was standard fare. They had long ago given up on her being on time. We were yet to marry or even talk about it.

Even though I did not like being late, her beautiful spirit and gifts outweighed any irritation. BUT I especially didn’t like being late to church, which was almost an hour away at that time. I got tired of slinking into the back. Eventually, I told Judith that I enjoyed going to church with her, but if we were going to go together, she needed to be in the car on time.

I made it clear that if she were not in the car at that time, I would go without her. If that sounds mean, it might be because, as I said earlier, too many of us would rather be unhappy and complain than commit to our satisfaction and honor our contract with ourselves.

 


“To know thyself is the beginning of wisdom.”

– Socrates


 

The end of the story is that I went to church alone only once. By clarifying my needs and actions, I was being authentic and trusting Judith to prefer being with me over being late. She could join me or not. Would it be inconvenient for her to get to church on her own? She only went alone that once. I yearned to be with her, and being angry at being late meant I was not with her anyway; I was with my anger, and I steamed through too many church services.

When you are in touch with your deeper yearning, you come to know yourself at the essential level. You become increasingly accountable to yourself. You take crucial steps to relationship satisfaction: being accountable to your relationship with yourself.

Once you can do that, the road to becoming accountable to someone else is much smoother.

 

Let Your Longings Guide Your Contracts

If you’re like most of us, you were probably never taught how to know yourself or even why you should. That’s why the most challenging contract to keep is the one with YOU.

Knowing your yearnings is no easy task. They emerge from the deepest longings of your heart—to love and be loved. To touch and be touched. To matter, connect, create, and serve. To do what we came here to do. They are not wants. Yearnings can be met all the time.

Everyone has them. Yearnings are universal, which is why they are crucial in creating relationship contracts. It’s important to understand because there’s a difference between basic wants and needs in a relationship and yearnings.

So, before you create a relationship contract, you need to:

  1. Know what you yearn for and what feels good to you.
  2. Share this information with your partner.

Next:

  1. Your partner needs to know what they yearn for and what feels good to them.
  2. They need to share this information with you.

THEN:

  1. You need to know what you yearn for together and what matters to you as a couple.
  2. How can you please each other?

Now you’re ready to discuss the three primary functions of a contract, as I stated earlier: Limits. Boundaries. And expectations.

These include: What are both of your roles in this relationship? How will you deal with conflicts, individually and as a partnership? What are each of your minimal acceptable requirements?

As well as:

Limits—how far can a fight go?

Boundaries—what are the no-fly zones?

Expectations—what are the minimally acceptable behaviors we can expect of each other and trust in personally responsible correction if there are clips

Honoring your yearnings in a relationship requires that you work out mutually acceptable limits, boundaries, and expectations. What does that mean? Here’s an example. It might make me sound like an ass at first, but if it helps you understand what I mean, then I am good with that.

I like my slippers by the door when I come home so I can kick my shoes off and put them on., but Judith would always put them by my clothes in the back closet. I fought with her for four years about this to no avail until I told her that having my slippers by the front door was symbolic and made me know that I matter. Knowing that I matter is one of my yearnings (plus, I do not like cold feet.) To which she replied, ‘Why didn’t you say so? I understand now.”

Why did it take me four years of fighting to communicate my yearning? That is for another blog.

 

Do You Really Love Me?
Trust Is the Heart of the Contract

How do you learn to trust your partner?

By trusting yourself first and learning to recognize your yearnings. Express those yearnings. Honor those yearnings. And then experience your partner honoring them as well. But don’t expect your partner to honor yours if you don’t honor theirs. Do unto others what you will have them do unto you.

A relationship contract means you are both conscious and committed to learning, growing, and being your best selves for yourselves and each other.

Judith and I knew that we both truly wanted to be partners in our relationship. We knew that did NOT mean each of us doing half the shopping, half the laundry, half the cooking, and half the cleaning.

We were not two halves. We were already whole. Being partners meant we would hold each other accountable for our relationship by creating a contract that evolved with us—a contract we could grow with so that we could each continually become a better version of ourselves.

 


“Don’t marry a man unless he lets you do something you couldn’t do without him. And you can have children without him.”

– Judith’s Grandmother


 

The truth is, we must marry each other exactly as we are. But if we can learn to keep our contracts with ourselves first, honor our yearnings and commit to our authenticity, then we have a great beginning.

 

Dr. Bob Wright is an internationally recognized visionary, educator, program developer, leadership and sales executive, best-selling author, and speaker. He is a co-founder of Wright and the Wright Graduate University. Follow him on Instagram and LinkedIn.

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