How it looks IRL.

Hey y’all: this isn’t really a “post” per se, but the publication of the oft-requested Relationship Operating Agreement that Eric and I live by.  Feel free to adopt/adapt your own with ours as the model.  We weren’t born this smart, either; we adapted it from the fabulous one you can see online here.

The (Exceptionally Wonderful) Marriage of Pamela and Eric Hutchins

Mantra: Make it all small stuff.

 Our relationship’s purpose is to create a loving, nurturing, safe environment that enables us to

  • make a positive, joyful difference in each other’s lives,
  • respect each other’s needs and differences,
  • encourage each other’s spiritual, emotional, and physical needs and development,
  • practice caring, open communication,
  • role-model loving relationships to our children, and
  • work as partners when we parent and make major decisions.

 Because we recognize that life is not always about the incredible highs, we are committed to these strategies:

  • Stop, breathe, and be calm.
  • Allow ourselves to cherish and be cherished.
  • Be positive. Assume a positive intent and give a positive response. Speak your mind as positively as possible.
  • Be reasonable. Am I being oversensitive? Am I dragging my own issues in unnecessarily?
  • Be considerate. Is there anything to gain from what I am about to say? Is this the right time to say it?
  • Be respectful. Don’t mope, don’t name-call, don’t yell, don’t be sarcastic.
  • Be open. Explain your intent.
  • Be present. Don’t walk away, physically or emotionally.
  • Be aware of time and energy. After 60 minutes, stop talking. Schedule another conversation for 24 hours later if there’s no resolution.
  • Make it safe to cry “calf rope.”
  • Be  it. Do the behaviors you’re seeking in each other within an hour of the first conversation.
  • Be loving. Don’t go to bed angry or with things unresolved.

Eric asks of Pamela

Pamela asks of Eric
  • trust  and have faith that I love you, enough that we don’t have to solve  everything the second it happens
  • assume  a positive intent
  • listen, don’t interrupt
  • don’t be sarcastic
  • come back to me faster and don’t drag things out, because I need you
  • speak your mind assertively, and don’t be sarcastic
  • don’t assume the actions I take are always because of you
  • assume a positive intent

Enjoy!  Feel free to contact me directly if you have questions.

Pamelot

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39 Responses to The “Couples Who Make You Want to Puke” Agreement

  1. LBDDiaries says:

    I’m SO glad you posted this! I am copying it, adapting it, checking out Allen Baugh’s info, and setting the standard even higher in our marriage here in the boonies! I also think it is time for you and me to do another challenge – whatta ya say?? Maybe not the same one, maybe something completely different – or the same but shorter – or something. Put your thinking cap on.

  2. It was fun to see one of the many things that help you and Eric be ‘you and Eric’. You two lovebirds inspire many, including this Old Bird.

  3. Tracie says:

    I’m loving this….but the “don’t be sarcastic” rule scares me. Does this just mean don’t be sarcastic during a disagreement, or does it even extend to “fun” conversations? Because it would be hard for me to live without my sarcasm!

  4. Eric Hutchins says:

    No fear Tracie, if I was not allowed to do sarcastic at all I think I would die!. Its really about being a not being a Butt head when you are in a disagreement. Not that that ever happens to me but……

  5. You guys continue to amaze me. I love that you put so much into your relationship….and it totally shows. This is good stuff that all couples should have a look at.

    Darryl

  6. Ally says:

    Wow, I love that agreement. I think it’s what we try for, but having it in writing, at least for me, would be awesome. Does it work during PMS? Cause sometimes I have no control of my mouth filter during that time. Just sayin’ 😉

  7. Adryon says:

    How lovely. I truly more people focused on their relationships like this.

    • Pamela says:

      Every time I start to indulge in destructive behavior, I just remind myself that I write this blog and publish this stuff so I had better live up to it 😉
      Wait, that’s still focusing on me.
      Seriously, I remind myself that my pride or my in-the-moment feeling is never more important than maintaining the absolute wonderment of my marriage. This document provides a touchstone for those moments, to help me overcome my selfishness.
      Thank you.

  8. I love the last part where you ask specific things of each other. I would love to do this with my husband. So simple but so direct. I especially like “assume positive intent.” That’s a tough one for me. I don’t always trust the one person who loves me the most. Thank you for this!

    • Pamela says:

      Man, assume positive intent is hard. I always go for the worst possible interpretation first. I find it hard, but he reminds me that um if i love you how could i possibly mean it THAT way? And I keep doing it. But so does he :)

  9. Eric Hutchins says:

    Assuming positive intent is one of the hardest for me, AND one that gets me in trouble the most often when I don’t. If you think about it rationally, this should be an easy thing to do with the person that you believe loves you and cares about you the most. And yet, its so easy to trip up on.
    And this is often not about big things, trouble rarely starts that way. 4 or 5 times a day your partner says something that you probably really did not completely hear, or understand. When that happens, instead of reacting immediately with your “best guess” on what a response should be, pause, ask for more information, do whatever you have to do to make sure that what comes out of your mouth is the BEST possible interpretation of what they said. You would be amazed at the results.
    (I am typing this as a means of self treatment :) )

  10. Elena says:

    Wow – this is really awesome! Think I’m going to do this with the hubs on the next date night in. Thanks for the idea!

    • Pamela says:

      Awesome! Let me know how it goes.
      I referred back to mine just last week.
      I was about to start a pity party because Eric was in the dumps, and I started projecting it on myself and to be about me or at least to be careless in how it impacted me. I got this sucker out (that we created 5 years ago) and reminded myself of the basic rules I had laid down for myself as commitments to him, and I behaved less selfishly. As a result, I was more supportive and loving, he turned it around, and it was a non-event. Five years ago, I would have thrown the pity party and told him HE was being selfish with how he was behaving. HE, in the dumps, would not have responded at his best. We would have argued, and the relationship would have received a wound. Much better result now, don’t you think?
      My gosh, maturity is awesome.

  11. Michelle says:

    I like this. I will use it if I am graced with the opportunity of another loving relationship in my life.

  12. Anonymous says:

    My husband and I have a pretty close to perfect relationship. Loving someone is a choice but there is something about what makes it work that is beyond our understanding. If we ever lost that natural joy, I would be saddened to seek a method like this, but I can anyway. I don’t see marriage as a job and I love my job. With what I do for a living, I hear that all day. If it’s a job than people would be happy getting another job instead of going home to someone they cherish. Where’s the romance in this kind of aggreement?

    • Pamela says:

      Thanks for commenting — your perspective is valuable and I applaud you for your great relationship. I sadly am a less than perfect creature who benefits from structure. But romance — ah, the romance — I never dreamed it could be as good as this is. It’s pinch me good.

      Please don’t be sad for us! We count ourselves daily as the luckiest people in the world. But I 100% x 10 agree that each couple needs to DO WHAT WORKS FOR THEM — and not fix what isn’t broken. :)

      Best wishes for years and years of happiness.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for your response. I did not mean I am “sad for you” at all. I regret it “sounding” that way. So far, our relationship has worked very well without such structure and when I stumbled upon this it stirred up questions and an early morning discussion in bed. .) Will we need this someday? How does it work? Maybe it’s immaturity on my part or lack of years being married, but the act of pulling out the contract seems quite humorous to me, (which may be your intent:)
    Have a nice day!

    • Pamela says:

      No worries! :)

      Yes, we do it in a humorous way. We’ve learned to laugh at ourselves, instead of taking ourselves seriously. Although I will admit that I have wadded it up and thrown it at him before when I was PMS’ing. Might not have been my most rational moment, ha ha.

  14. LIndsay says:

    Anonymous – you must have not been married very long OR your husband is a good listener/communicator. I am in a serious, committed relationship (we live together) but I was married before. My ex-husband and I had THE perfect relationship – we never fought, we didn’t yell at each other, we were best friends, yadayada but we grew apart because we got married young, we thought ‘happily ever after’ was a real thing, and we didn’t WORK at our marriage. After 4 years, there was no romance, no intimacy, no emotional connection. We were just co-habitating and hanging out! Well I can do that with my brother for Pete’s sake! Even if you are blissfully happy and you think your hubby hung the moon (which he did for you), you are probably doing things that are cultivating your relationship that you may not even realize you are doing. That is the ‘work’ part. As you are married longer and longer and more stress or responsibility is added to your life and distracts you from each other, you will have to work harder. It’s just the nature of the beast. I think the point of this agreement is to make sure the two people in the relationship are communicating. My current partner sucks at communicating whereas my ex was a rockstar at communicating. This would be something my ex and I would have never considered (much like you now) BUT this would be a great tool to foster better communication with my boyfriend now. The agreement is just putting communication on paper. Communication is important in every relationship – not just romantic ones.

  15. Pamela says:

    Lindsay, you had me at hello. Sniff. I’d happily enter a relationship agreement with you right now. Seriously, well said and important. Thanks for providing this perspective, which I feared would sound preachy or defensive coming from the owner of the document. I probably won’t be able to resist piling on later. Gotta feed teenagers first :)

    • Lindsay says:

      haha! it took me a while to figure that out. never in my wildest dreams did I think that I would wake up one day and not want to be married anymore. My husband was the perfect husband. I still miss him very much most days but I have identified that ‘missing’ as missing the best friend that he was to me. He was always supportive, encouraging, and pretty easy going. The military took a toll on us as well and wouldn’t you know I fell for ANOTHER military man?? what is wrong with me?? (a lot :) but anyway, I like this idea a lot…..going to wait for the right moment to show it to the bf. He is deploying in two months and we have found, we are really bad at communicating when we are not face to face. It’s hard for these guys to keep up a relationship when they have so many demands on them from their job. Not that other jobs in the civilian world aren’t demanding becuase they are!! But for some reason the military is just not as understanding of the fact that these dudes have real, breathing families and loved ones at home. I have gotten on a tangent now but thank you for sharing this!!! Well done!!

  16. […] and I are the proud owners of a relationship operating agreement (ROA).  Uh oh.  We’re “one of them”, those couples who make you want to puke.  […]

  17. CC says:

    I am also half of a couple that makes those who see J and I together want to puke! We are in our 40’s but feel like teenagers since we met 3 years ago. The way we look at each other like no one else exists, I light up like a Christmas tree when ever I see him. We get most knowing looks from the elderly and children who seem to sense the love emitting from both of us. I think all couples should make a ‘ROA’ agreement, thanks Pamela and Eric for giving us the outline on how to go about making one. May you always be in-love!

  18. […] love?  I’ve written on this before a la Couples Who Make You Want to Puke and the dreaded Relationship Operating Agreement (ROA) concept.  Our ROA does help, as does the ground work we put in creating […]

  19. Eric Hutchins via Facebook says:

    YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH Go Pamelot

  20. I lied. The BlogHer piece got the most clicks, but that was on their website, not mine. Just felt the need for total accuracy.

  21. Eric Hutchins via Facebook says:

    what is the little symbol thingy for rolling your eyes?

  22. I don’t know what it looks like but you spell it E-R-I-C.

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