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Breaking Contracts

Nov 14, 2023

Video Summary:

A concept that I call contracts is very useful to understand some of the dynamics that happen in relationships. Contracts are agreements that we create with someone else in a relationship. This could be any type of close relationship including romantic, parent, child, sibling, work, or friend.

My premise is all relationships are contractual. When we create a relationship, we establish agreements or contracts in that relationship. Some of those contracts are conscious and some are unconscious. So you might ask, “How do you agree to a contract if you're doing it unconsciously?

To answer this, let's go back to the first contracts we created with our parents when we were little kids. As cool as they were, most of our parents weren't likely totally whole in themselves. Perhaps they had some regrets from their own life. Accordingly, they had a need for their children to be a certain way.

Unfortunately, parents typically need us to be something other than ourselves. Needing us to be something other than who we are creates conflict and issues. We learn at a young age that if I become more what my parents need me to be, they will accept me more and not emotionally abandon me.

So we learned to read people and become what they needed us to be at a young age. Back then it was for survival. It felt like if my own parent wasn't able to be there for me, I better creatively do something to make sure they were there for me. That's where we first learn to create unconscious contracts.

So fast forward 15 or 20 years, and now we're creating adult relationships. Say, I’m creating a romantic relationship. My instincts to read what the person needs me to begin to kick in. Maybe I'm dating someone who seems cooler than me or higher on the attractiveness scale than I see myself being.

Say I want to close this deal. I want this person to like me, and I'm afraid that she might get away. So I'm going to be putting my best foot forward. Then I'm going to revert back to that instinctive thing that I learned as a little kid, and I'm going to start becoming what she needs me to be.

If she's a single mom, I might say, “I'm great with kids.” This becomes my ticket in the door. I figure if I become what she needs me to be, she’ll stay with me and not leave me like my belief systems tell me she will do. In this way, I create an unconscious contract agreeing to be who she needs me to be.

And continuing, say I do some type of psychological or spiritual work to become more whole myself. I may start a spiritual practice, do codependency therapy, or read a Brene Brown book. I'm learning I can be more myself by being vulnerable and authentic. Now I'm becoming a more authentic version of myself.

However, now I have a bit of a serious conflict because I have this relationship to be what my significant other, family, and friends need me to be, and yet I'm learning that that's not really who I am. I'm also learning that it feels pretty damn good to be myself. So now what happens?

I say to my significant other, “Hey, guess what? I am becoming more authentic.” She may acknowledge or even celebrate this, but both of us are beginning to notice that the contracts we created with each other are getting challenged. I admit, “I know I said otherwise, but I'm actually not that crazy about kids.”

So she is left with, “Hold on here. We had this agreement that you were good with kids. In other words, we had this agreement that you would be what I needed you to be. Now you're saying the heck with that, I'm going to be myself.” We’re both beginning to see that I'm breaking the contract that I created with her.

Not only that, but I'm breaking the contract that I created with my parents and my other relationships too. If I was being a people pleaser with my significant other, I was probably doing that across the board. And now I saying to the people in my life in various ways, “Sorry but I cannot do that anymore.”

So here is one of the more critical choices of my life. Am I going to continue being what she needs me to be, or am I going to be authentic to myself? And... I make this choice knowing that there is a significant risk that if I choose to be authentic and continue to break contracts, the relationship may not survive it.

One possible solution is to say, “I want to create some new contracts with you because now I'm different than I was five years ago. I would love to connect with you and love you in this new way that is more authentic.” And then he or she can decide if they want to do that or not.

When we break a contract, we tend to feel guilty, and they tend to feel betrayed. I am betraying the contract, which is translated as betraying them. It's vital to acknowledge that we’re changing the deal. We said we'd be one thing, and now we're saying, “You know what? Now I'm going to be something else.”

As challenging as this is, breaking contracts has proven to be among the most powerful and liberating things I have done in my life. It’s a hell of a choice. My only suggestion is to make it consciously.

What do you think?

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