Charlotte Hannah
May 06, 2013

Stupid Trend #234: Relationship Contracts

If certain sources are to be believed, a growing number of couples are writing up relationship contracts: written records of exactly how they intend to maintain their relationship, right down to the nitty gritty of life.

These agreements, allegedly used by married and non-married couples alike, mandate everything from how often the couple will have sex, to where they’ll go on vacations, to what penalties will be enforced if cheating occurs, to requiring one or both partners to stay under a certain weight. (The Daily Mail, laughably, suggests this weight might be 120 pounds.)

“I’m really looking forward to doing this with you twice a week for the rest of our lives OR ELSE.”
Photo credit: Kurhan / Shutterstock

For unmarried couples, the contracts are mostly symbolic, but the married folks are sticking these so-called “lifestyle clauses” in their prenups alongside legitimate financial stuff.

Sounds hecka romantic, right? I can just imagine it now:

“Not tonight, hon. I’m not feeling up to it,” he says.

“Now see here, Barnabus!” she scolds, pointing at his signature on the contract. “You agreed we’d do the wild thing two and one quarter times per week, and we’ve only done it once since last Wednesday! You will give me some of that sweet, sweet lovin’ forthwith, or so help me God I will take you to court!”

Later, in the courtroom.

“Your Honor, today’s case is Gertrude Higgenbotham versus Barnabus Higgenbotham. She’s suing him for not sexing her enough.”

And so forth.

“Good thing you never broke 170 pounds or we’d be divorced by now!”
Photo credit: Monkey Business Images / Shutterstock

Of course, that situation wouldn’t actually happen. Not because no one is actually named Barnabus, but because most of the terms of these lifestyle clauses have little chance of holding up in court.

“If someone wants a sex schedule, two times a week, or three times a week, I can’t take that agreement into a courtroom and ask that it be enforced,” says attorney Ann Margaret Carrozza to CBS New York.

Seriously, can you imagine trying to convince a courtroom that you’re owed something because you didn’t get the hot sex you were promised?

Now, obviously anything the Daily Mail and the New York Post (a.k.a. the American Daily Mail) says is a trend is to be taken with a grain of salt. This seems to me to be more of a rich, weird celebrity thing than a regular person thing. But, popular or not, the idea of relationship contracts is an interesting one.

I’ve read too many advice columns and threads on r/relationships not to agree that committing to have sex with one person for the rest of forever without having any idea how much and what kind of sex that might actually entail is probably a bad idea.

I also agree that sex is important to most people, and couples should talk about how they’re going to ensure they keep having it and how they’ll handle situations in which one or both people feel unsatisfied. This stuff is important. Like lots of other potentially touchy relationship issues like money and childrearing, it’s worth having multiple, ongoing frank discussions about.

But to involve a lawyer and agree to a hard figure (uh, sorry) in writing just strikes me as … kind of gross. Not to mention pretty dumb, since it involves paying a lawyer to draw up a contract that isn’t legally valid. If you want to make sure your sex life is going to stay sexy even as you both get all wrinkly together, spend that money on some counseling or a really good vibrator or something.

And don’t even get me started on the weight clause. Like, really, that’s a thing you’re going to try to enforce without even considering that uncontrollable future circumstances (kids, illness, disability, and so on) might make impossible to achieve?

Sure, yeah, if things like fitness and healthy eating – and yes, even weight to some degree, since physical attraction is real and important – are a priority for you, making sure they’re a priority for your future spouse is good practice. But slapping an actual number on that (your weight must not exceed 170, for example) and putting it in a legal-but-not-really-legal document for the purpose of having a third party (or the document itself as the embodiment of a third party) to enforce it? That’s whack.

What it comes down to is that having expectations of what a partnership, and your partner, will look like in the future is totally cool. But, since life is weird and unpredictable, those expectations have to be fluid. More importantly, they should come from a place of love, with the aim of being awesome together and pissing each other off as little as possible until one or both of you dies. Isn’t that the whole point of marriage?