Category Archives: Agreements Workbook

Reasons 3, 4, & 5 of the 5 Reasons Agreements Fail

Two stylized hands clasping, forming a heart. Copyright-free symbol designed by Ravi Poovaiah, Professor, IDC, IIT Bombay.This entry in my Agreements Workbook Series (aka “KISSable Agreements) series, [UPDATE: purchase the whole workbook here for only $10!] comprises Reasons 3, 4, & 5 of the Five Reasons (Most) Agreements Fail. Find out below what to do when you and your partner/s have differing interpretations of the Agreement, or there isn’t something new to do in place of an old behavior, or if you just shouldn’t have made that Agreement in the first place.

Questions or comments?  As always, feel free to comment below, contact me here, or on my Facebook Page, Love Outside The Box!

~♥ Dawn

PS: It’s after Valentine’s Day… but you can still get my Valentine’s Day coaching discounts. 🙂  Hurry though, since they’re going away at the end of February!

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3) Differing Interpretations of the Agreement

Sometimes you think you have an Agreement, but you really don’t. It’s like the classic situation portrayed so ably in Woody Allen’s 1977 film, Annie Hall. [see Figure, below]

Fig. ___
Alvy [Woody Allen’s character] and Annie [Hall]  are seeing their therapists at the same time on a split screen
   
Therapist: How often do you sleep together? Therapist: Do you have sex often?
Alvy Singer: [lamenting] Hardly ever. Maybe three times a week. Annie Hall: [annoyed] Constantly. I’d say three times a week.
   
—Woody Allen, in Annie Hall (1977). From IMDB “Memorable Quotes,” 2/11/13

Sometimes you’re even using the same words, but to each person they mean slightly (or radically!) different things. Perhaps you’ve found one of your ambiguous terms (see Tip #2a), or perhaps you and your Agreement Partner have different Secret Rulebook entries [see RelationDancing: Consciously Creating What You Really Want In Your Relating, by Mark Michael Lewis] Whatever the case, these sorts of fundamental misunderstandings do sometimes occur, even when everyone’s doing their best.

What to do?

Again, the action to take is most likely to revisit the Agreement, renegotiate it with the new information, and possibly clarify or change the wording. Other things that might be helpful are practicing compassion, assuming positive intent (and/or good faith), and remembering that different is not necessarily better/worse.

4) Agreement Was Not Additive

Remember that in Tip #3 (Make Additive Agreements) we discussed creating Agreements that gave new behavioral options when encountering old situations. So rather than agreeing to “stop spending too much money on your other partner/s,” you might wish to agree to “only spend $x on each partner per month.” The second option gives a concrete alternative to the behavior that’s being changed. Failing to provide a replacement behavior is one of the main reasons for an Agreement to fail, in large part because humans are creatures of habit, and habits are notoriously hard to break, once formed [http://www.spring.org.uk/2010/07/how-to-banish-bad-habits-and-control-temptations.php].

What to do?

By now, you know the refrain!  Go back to your Agreements with the new knowledge.  What sort of replacement behavior might work for this situation? Perhaps you need several options? (Remember to make the Agreements KISSable, though!) And remember that everyone involved needs to own their part of the Agreement. Scapegoating isn’t additive, either.

5) Agreement Simply Can’t Work

Sometimes, even if you’ve tried as hard as you can, checked all the assumptions, looked at all the options, reviewed and brainstormed, and generally done everything in your power… sometimes you discover that there’s some reason that the Agreement simply cannot work. Maybe there’s a pre-existing commitment standing in the way.  Maybe you were trying an experiment, and you’ve discovered something new that tells you it just isn’t going to work. Maybe it’s just more effort than you’re willing or able to put in, for not enough return.  Whatever the reason, sometimes, you just can’t.

What to do?

So what happens then? First and foremost, practice compassion. Finding out that an Agreement can’t work is a piece of data.  It might have been a mistake, it might have been a failed experiment, but in any case,  an Agreement that can’t work isn’t a judgment on any party to the Agreement, nor is it necessarily an indication of moral failure, nor the imminent demise of the relationship.  People make mistakes.  Sometimes people make big mistakes.  Remember that mistakes are part of learning.  Have some compassion for yourself and your partner/s, take a breath, and don’t panic.

Oops! Road signNext, do what you always do for a broken Agreement, just on a slightly bigger scale. A small amount of tweaking won’t fix this one, unfortunately.  Is there a different Agreement, or set of Agreements, that you can make? Do you need the help of a mediator, a counselor, or a physician? Evaluate the situation as clearly and calmly as possible, and see if there are clear next steps.

Sometimes those next steps might mean writing new Agreements… and sometimes they might mean changing the form of the relationship.  If you suspect that there’s something in need of fundamental change in your relationship, you might want to consult Appendix C (Is It Over?), or check with a counselor, therapist, or mediator (see the suggested Resources.)  In any case, remember that just because an Agreement or a relationship needs to change or end, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a failure… it could mean that you’re ready for graduation [ref Richard Bach.]

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[© 2013 Dawn M. Davidson]

Note that these entries are all rough drafts, and thus are probably missing things like references. If you know the perfect reference to add, feel free to suggest it! I always like to add to my resource collection.

 

[Previous Entry: Reasons 1 & 2 of the Five Reasons Agreements Fail]

[Return to the Table of Contents for the Agreements Workbook Series]

[Return to the first text entry in the Agreements Workbook series]

[UPDATE: purchase the whole workbook here for only $10!]

 

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Click here to get personalized help with your own Agreements!

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Reasons 1&2 of the Five Reasons Agreements Fail

Two stylized hands clasping, forming a heart. Copyright-free symbol designed by Ravi Poovaiah, Professor, IDC, IIT Bombay.This entry in my Agreements Workbook Series (aka “KISSable Agreements) series, comprises Reasons 1 & 2 of the Five Reasons (Most) Agreements Fail.  Do you sometimes forget your Agreements?  Or miss something that, in hindsight, seems like it should have been obvious?  If so, you’re not alone. Read more below, including some suggestions for what to do when these things happen to you.

Questions or comments?  As always, feel free to comment below, contact me here, or on my Facebook Page, Love Outside The Box!

~♥ Dawn

PS: Don’t forget to meet me at the  Academic Poly Conference in Berkeley, CA, this weekend (February 15-17)! I’ll be presenting on Agreements on Saturday afternoon.

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The Five Reasons (Most) Agreements Fail

So here you are.  You’ve worked through all of that stuff above, you’ve identified everyone’s needs, you’ve checked the caveats and assumptions, and you’ve made an Agreement. That’s great! Having an agreement is a good thing. Unfortunately, the sad truth is:  Nobody’s perfect! At some point your Agreement will likely fail. This in and of itself is not necessarily a bad or tragic thing.  It just is. Agreements are iterative, which means that it is normal to engage in “trial and refinement” a few times before you get it right. Often, all that needs to happen is a slight adjustment, a little re-negotiation, and you’re back in business. The good news is that — so long as everyone is being an adult, and negotiating in good faith — there are only five main reasons that things don’t go right.  Here’s what they are, and some ideas of what to do in each case.

1) Simply Forgetting

Especially when we’re learning new behaviors, we human beings have a tendency to forget things. For some folks this is more true than others, but even for people who have good memories, it can take a while to get used to something new.  In general, if someone forgets an Agreement once or twice, it’s no big deal.  If, however, this “forgetting” turns into a pattern, then it’s more likely to be a symptom of something deeper, perhaps one of the other Five Reasons.

monkey scratching head

Even enlightened bonobos sometimes forget their Agreements!

What to do?

Practice compassion and forgiveness. Remember that no one is perfect (including yourself.)  If this is not the first time that this particular Agreement has been forgotten, then consider looking deeper into the other Five Reasons, or the Caveats and Assumptions. Is there something else going on?  Consider re-writing or clarifying the Agreement, or brainstorm ways to support memory (e.g., do you need a reminder card? A shareable website? To write your Agreements in Limerick form?) Check the Learning and Memory section of the References/Resources for a few suggestions on where to start learning more about memory and learning (e.g., http://www.brainrules.net/the-rules)

2) Missed Contingency

A “missed contingency” means that something came up that should have been covered by the agreement, but wasn’t. Maybe you didn’t foresee this particular set of circumstances, or didn’t anticipate the particular outcome.

“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making
other plans.”

John Lennon, in “Beautiful Boy
(Darling Boy),” released 1980

What to do?

Revisit the Agreement.  Decide whether you need to add something specific to it, or change the wording. Remember, though, that you still need KISSable Agreements, so don’t make things more complex than necessary!

[Continues with Reason 3…]

∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥

[© 2013 Dawn M. Davidson]

Note that these entries are all rough drafts, and thus are probably missing things like references. If you know the perfect reference to add, feel free to suggest it! I always like to add to my resource collection.

[Next Entry: Reasons 3, 4, & 5 of the 5 Reasons Agreements Fail]

[Previous Entry: Cultural Clashes and Other Caveats to Agreements (3 of 3 on Caveats and Assumptions)]

[Return to the Table of Contents for the Agreements Workbook Series]

[Return to the first text entry in the Agreements Workbook series]

 

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Click here to get personalized help with your own Agreements!

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Cultural Clashes and Other Caveats to Making Agreements

Two stylized hands clasping, forming a heart. Copyright-free symbol designed by Ravi Poovaiah, Professor, IDC, IIT Bombay.This entry in my Agreements Workbook Series (aka “KISSable Agreements) series, is the third of three discussing some Caveats and Assumptions in making Agreements. Read more below about cultural mismatches and agency in making mutual Agreements.

And remember, I’ll be giving a short presentation on the topic of Agreements at the upcoming Academic Poly Conference in Berkeley, CA, this weekend (February 15-17). My presentation is currently scheduled for mid-afternoon on Saturday in the parallel non-academic track.

Questions or comments?  As always, feel free to comment below, contact me here, or on my FB Page, Love Outside The Box!

Oh, and Happy Valentine’s Day!
Happy Valentines Day Card with intertwined hearts

Remember, no matter what makes your love special, no matter how long or short that love is, no matter who and how many you love…

Love is always OK.  And so are YOU.

~♥ Dawn

PS:  Remember to check out my Valentine’s coaching specials before they’ve flown away like Cupid!

PPS: See you at the  Academic Poly Conference in Berkeley, CA, this weekend (February 15-17)? I’ll be there!

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Caveats and Assumptions (Part 3 of 3)

General alignment in cultural norms

Occasionally you’ll encounter a situation in which it appears that everyone is attempting to create functional Agreements, but things still aren’t working. Sometimes this can be traced back to a mismatch in cultural norms. There are some cultures (e.g, the Southern United States, or some situations in Japan, among others) where direct requests are often considered rude or gauche. This can make it extremely difficult to create functional Agreements using the patterns outlined in this book.  Especially if you’re dealing with people from two or more different cultures, you may want to get some help from someone who understands both/all cultures, to make sure that some fundamental misunderstanding isn’t occurring, or some unintentional slight being offered.  Other styles of negotiating or making Agreements may need to be employed.

All parties are able to negotiate freely

It’s also important that each person be able to make the Agreements in the first place. This is closely related to “Competency” above, but not quite the same thing. In particular, you’ll want to make sure that there are no pre-existing Agreements that interfere with the ability of each party to make and keep these Agreements, e.g., Agreements with a spouse or Primary partner, M/s Agreements that assign this ability to one party, and the like.  Even Agreements with bosses or other non-romantic relationships might interfere with some Relationship Agreements. You might also want to review the list in “With Whom Might You Make Agreements” at the beginning of the book [p. ___] to make sure you’re negotiating with someone who can negotiate with you.

Hands4

And if you’re the one in a pre-existing relationship, you’ll want to make sure that you’re clear what you can and cannot negotiate around.  Is there someone else that needs to be brought into the discussion? Is there another relationship that needs to change first? Or if permission or gatekeeping are chafing, and/or your power exchange isn’t completely by choice, then maybe you want to re-examine the structure of all your relationships. Remember that it is always about the Win-Win-Win, and the relationship needs your needs in order to succeed.

[Next up: starting The Five Reasons Agreements Fail (and what to do when they do!)]

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[© 2013 Dawn M. Davidson]

Note that these entries are all rough drafts, and thus are probably missing things like references. If you know the perfect reference to add, feel free to suggest it! I always like to add to my resource collection.

[Next Entry: Reasons 1 & 2 of the Five Reasons Agreements Fail ]

[Previous Entry: Agreements: Good Faith Efforts (2 of 3 on Caveats and Assumptions)]

[Return to the Table of Contents for the Agreements Workbook Series]

[Return to the first text entry in the Agreements Workbook series]

 

∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥

Click here to get personalized help with your own Agreements!

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Agreements: Good Faith Efforts

Two stylized hands clasping, forming a heart. Copyright-free symbol designed by Ravi Poovaiah, Professor, IDC, IIT Bombay.This entry in my Agreements Workbook Series (aka “KISSable Agreements) series, is the second of three discussing some Caveats and Assumptions in making Agreements. Read more below about Good Faith Efforts and why they’re so important in making mutual Agreements.

And remember, I’ll be giving a short presentation on the topic of Agreements at the upcoming Academic Poly Conference in Berkeley, CA, this weekend (February 15-17). My presentation is currently scheduled for mid-afternoon on Saturday in the parallel non-academic track. (You can still register here!)

Questions or comments?  As always, feel free to comment below, contact me here, or on my FB Page, Love Outside The Box!

~♥ Dawn

LoveOTB_DkPurp_72px_ClipPS:  It’s not too late to take advantage of my Valentine’s coaching specials! Want to know more? You can find out what other people have to say about my work here. 🙂

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Caveats and Assumptions (Part 2 of 3)

Good Faith Efforts Are Necessary

Back in Tip #2 (Clear Standards and Consequences), we talked about respect, and a little about negotiating in “good faith.”  What does that mean?  It means that for Agreements to work, all parties must be respecting themselves and each other, and being honest with themselves and each other (and by extension, the world.)  Yes, “stuff happens,” and Agreements aren’t always able to be kept. However, if one or more parties enter into the Agreement in “bad faith,” i.e., never intending that it be kept, or knowingly choosing a path that will hurt the other/s, then the Agreement was untenable from the first. No amount of writing and re-writing Agreements will ever produce one that will work for everyone.

“In contract law, the implied covenant of good faith is a general presumption that the parties to a contract will deal with each other honestly, fairly, and in good faith, so as to not destroy the right of the other party or parties to receive the benefits of the contract.

Wikipedia article on “Good Faith (law),” Feb. 11, 2013 (emphasis added)

HandShakeManAndWoman

Conversely, it’s generally important to assume good faith, in absence of evidence to the contrary. Suspicion breeds mistrust, and that generally leads to a downward spiral. This is because mistrust is usually met with defensiveness, which most people interpret (rightly or wrongly) as slightly hostile, which leads to more defensiveness and hostility, ad nauseum. Starting from a place of neutrality, or if possible, assuming good faith, will lead to the most positive benefits to be gained from the situation.

How can you tell if someone is negotiating in good faith?  One way that serves me well, is neatly encapsulated here by my friend (and curator of the Polyamory Archive Collection at the Kinsey Institute):

 “Listen Carefully to What People Do”  —Ken Haslam

In other words, in single dealings, it can be hard to tell, but in multiple encounters, a pattern of behavior will probably emerge.  Ultimately the most important thing, in my opinion, is that all parties are honest with themselves and each other. With that in place, the rest can be dealt with over time.

[Up next in the Agreements Workbook series: The 3rd of 3 entries on Caveats and Assumptions.]

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[© 2013 Dawn M. Davidson]

Note that these entries are all rough drafts, and thus are probably missing things like references. If you know the perfect reference to add, feel free to suggest it! I always like to add to my resource collection.

 

[Next Entry: Culture Clash and Other Caveats to Agreements (3 of 3 on Caveats and Assumptions)]

[Related Entry: Is It Over? (Agreements Appendix C) ]

[Previous Entry: When Agreements Fail: Competency (1 of 3 on Caveats and Assumptions)]

[Return to the Table of Contents for the Agreements Workbook Series]

[Return to the first text entry in the Agreements Workbook series]

 

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Click here to get personalized help with your own Agreements!

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Is It Over?

Two stylized hands clasping, forming a heart. Copyright-free symbol designed by Ravi Poovaiah, Professor, IDC, IIT Bombay.As I’m approaching the end of the Agreements Workbook Series (aka “KISSable Agreements), one topic that often comes up is how to tell when a relationship is well and truly over, or at least in need of some serious changes. In a “standard monogamous paradigm” relationship, it would be easy to know: one or the other of you has cheated, someone has filed divorce papers, or one or both of you is dead. But here in the Uncharted waters, we relationship explorers often don’t find it so easy to tell. Our definition of “cheating” is usually different, for one thing (it doesn’t just mean having sex with someone else, obviously!), and we don’t necessarily think every relationship is destined for eternity. It’s often said that relationships are “for a reason, a season, or a lifetime,” and that means death isn’t the only “acceptable” reason for a relationship to end, or change form.  So how do you tell?

To answer this question, I wrote a handout with some helpful tips, titled “Is It Over? or, When Might It Be Time to End or Change a Relationship?”  You can download that handout via this webform, if you like.  (Some of the formatting of this one is a bit tricky to do here, which is why I’ve made it a pdf.) Please remember to give me a valid email address, because I’ll need it to send you the pdf! You’ll also get added to my newsletter list (if you’re not on it already), but if you don’t want to stay on it after you’ve confirmed your address and gotten your pdf, you can always unsubscribe with the link at the bottom of every email.

By the way, one of the comments I’ve gotten from some folks who’ve read the handout, is that they found it reassuring, since it helped them to see that the issues facing them were not of the sort that portended the imminent demise of the relationship!  And even if it is time for the relationship to end or change, you don’t have to view that as a failure.  Instead, you can choose to view it as a graduation.

Questions or comments?  As always, feel free to comment below, contact me here, or on my FB Page, Love Outside The Box!

~♥ Dawn

love_is_ok_rainbow_heart_tshirtPS: My Love Outside the Box t-shirts, mugs, and heart-shaped ornaments would make great Valentine’s Day gifts! There’s still time to personalize them and get them to your sweeties before the big day!  And through February 8th, Zazzle is running a 50% off special on Premium Shipping (use code SHIPPINGLOVE.) Sweet!

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Is It Over?

…or, when might it be time to end or change a relationship?

Respect.  Honesty.  Communication. Mutual consideration for each other’s wants and needs. These are the cornerstones of a functional, happy, healthy relationship. When these break down, no amount of writing and re-writing Agreements will help; no amount of “working on your jealousy issues” will result in comfort.  But when is it time to quit?  Here are some things that might be good to consider in making this decision.

First, consider your models of success

In our society, we tend to measure the success of a relationship based on assumptions of monogamy and permanence.  Especially if you’re in any alternative relationship structure, that might not be appropriate.

Common Societal Measures

  • Staying together no matter what
  • If they’re jealous, they must love you
  • They never want anyone else
  • “You complete me”
  • “Till Death do us part”

Some Possible New Measures of Success

  • Both people being fulfilled and happy
  • Compersion—I enjoy seeing my partner happy
  • You both enjoy your time together
  • Learning about yourself and partner(s)
  • Commitment to working things through

Even if your relationship is not a success by societal standards, it might be a success for YOU.  Make sure you’re not unconsciously following a set of standards that don’t fit you.

Yellow flags

If any or all of these are present, it might be time to consider ending or restructuring the relationship.

  • Not operating in “good faith”
    Repeated broken agreements with no apparent intention to change; lying; cheating; making excuses; justifying bad behavior; always blaming someone else.
  • Lack of effort or interest in you or the relationship
    Are they trying new things, new ways of looking a it, or even just continuing to try at all? If not, or if you seem to always be the one doing the work, it might be a sign that something more basic needs to change.
  • Complete and/or repeated failure to make or keep agreements
    Remember, once or twice is normal, but “forgetting” more than that is probably a bad sign.  Failure to keep Agreements after repeated attempts at re-writing is a very bad sign.
  • Contempt – “The sulfuric acid of love”
    According to John Gottman, one of the foremost researchers on marriage and long-term relationships, the single biggest predictor of failure in a relationship is contempt by one person for the other.  If they are belittling you, making mean fun of you, not taking your needs or wishes into consideration, non-consensually humiliating you, or otherwise demonstrating a lack of respect, you should definitely consider ending or changing the relationship.
  • Mental illness or addiction, especially untreated
    We don’t advise abandoning your mate or partner at the first sign of trouble.  However, sometimes illness or addiction prevent them from being able to change in ways that are vital to your health, theirs, and the health of the relationship.  If you suspect that this is the case, get outside assistance, possibly in the form of individual, couple, or group therapy.  Expert advice and perspective can be invaluable in helping you to figure out if this is a phase, something that can be treated or worked with, or if it is intractable and ultimately toxic to you.

Red Flags

  • Abuse: Physical, mental, or emotional
    Non-consensual physical, mental, or emotional torture is Not OK.  Get out, and get help immediately.  (If you’re not sure if you consented, that is itself at least a Yellow Flag. Get help figuring things out from a knowledgeable professional.)

Keep in mind that ending a relationship is not necessarily a “failure”

“Leslie and I are no longer married. Soul mates, to me, don’t define themselves by legal marriage. There’s a learning connection that exists between those two souls. Leslie and I had that for the longest time, and then a couple of years ago, she had this startling realization. She said, ‘Richard, we have different goals!’ I was yearning for my little adventures and looking forward to writing more books. Leslie has worked all her life long, and she wanted peace, she wanted to slow the pace, not complicate it, not speed it up. Not money, not family, no other men or other women, separated us. We wanted different futures. She was right for her. I was right for me. Finally it came time for us to make a choice. We could save the marriage and smother each other: ‘You can’t be who you want to be.’ Or we could separate and save the love and respect that we had for each other. We decided the marriage was the less important. And now we’re living separate lives.

“I believe that Leslie and I were led to find each other, led through the years we lived together, and led to part. There’s so much to learn! When a marriage comes to an end, we’re free to call it a failure. We’re also free to call it a graduation. We didn’t say, ‘I guess we weren’t led to each other, I guess we’re not soul mates after all.’ Our graduation was part of the experience we chose before we were born, to learn how to let each other go.”

Richard Bach (in his now defunct personal website, originally penned on Amazon.com)

(Jonathan Livingston Seagull is “a story for people who follow their hearts and make their own rules.”  Sound like anyone you know??)

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[© 2013 Dawn M. Davidson]

[Next Entry: Agreements — Good Faith Efforts (2 of 3 on Caveats and Assumptions)

[Previous Entry: When Agreements Fail: Competency (1 of 3 on Caveats and Assumptions)]

[Return to the Table of Contents for the Agreements Workbook Series]

[Return to the first text entry in the Agreements Workbook series]

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Click here to get personalized help with your own Agreements!

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When Agreements Fail: Competency

Two stylized hands clasping, forming a heart. Copyright-free symbol designed by Ravi Poovaiah, Professor, IDC, IIT Bombay.This entry from my Agreements Workbook (aka “KISSable Agreements”) series begins the new section on “When Agreements Fail.” Before we can get to the 5 Reasons, we first need to discuss some caveats and assumptions. In this entry we cover issues of “competency,” such as “are all the parties to the Agreement adults, and ‘of sound mind’ at the time of making the Agreement?” There are more such warnings and assumptions as well, and I’ll cover those in the next post, starting with “Good Faith Efforts.”

Questions or comments about any of these Agreements Workbook entries?  Feel free to comment below, contact me here, or on my FB Page, Love Outside The Box!

~♥ Dawn

PS:  My daughter turns 16 today!  Oh my!

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When Agreements Fail

So here you are.  You’ve worked through all of that stuff above, and you’ve made an Agreement. That’s great! Having an agreement is a good thing. Unfortunately, the reality is that at some point it will likely fail. This in and of itself is not necessarily a bad or tragic thing.  It just is. Agreements are iterative, which means that it is normal to engage in “trial and refinement.” Often, all that needs to happen is a slight adjustment, a little re-negotiation, and you’re back in business.  However, there are a number of caveats and assumptions that must be considered first.

Caveats and assumptions

In order to make successful Agreements several very important conditions must be met.  (NOTE: Determining whether you and/or your partners fall into many of these categories is beyond the scope of this book.  A number of resources exist, both generally, and within the poly community, to assist you in finding additional resources, should you need them. See the “Resources” section.)

Competency

Each person making the Agreement must be competent to make that Agreement. So what does that mean? In short, that means they must be mentally, psychologically, and emotionally fit to make the Agreement at the time that it is made.

Mental capacity, aka intelligence

Some people, such as children, or those with significant mental and/or developmental impairments, cannot make Agreements because they just can’t understand what the Agreements mean. The good news is that most of the people with whom you, the reader of this book, will be dealing with do not fall into this category. This is because “approximately 98 percent of the population functions intellectually at a higher level than someone who is at the Mild (IQ of 50-70) range of retardation.” [ref]  So the high likelihood is that, so long as both/all partners are adults of at least “normal” intelligence, that they will be capable of understanding the Agreements.

Mental Health

Some folks cannot make and/or keep Agreements because they are not mentally healthy enough to do so. Folks in this category might be people suffering from certain kinds of mental conditions, ranging from simple “dementia” that affects the memory, to people on certain medications (ditto), to folks with long-term, intractable and diagnosable conditions such as severe and/or untreated mental disorders.  Please note that in some cases proper medication and/or treatment may make it possible for people with some of these conditions to make and keep functional Agreements.  But if you’ve been trying to make Agreements, have looked at all of the Five Reasons, and nothing seems to fit or to help… it might be time to ask whether one of these other conditions might be standing in the way.

NoAlcohol

Sobriety

It should probably go without saying that negotiating Agreements while mentally impaired due to chemicals, lack of sleep, or other temporary conditions is a very bad plan. Unfortunately, even I (who really ought to have known better!) have made the mistake of attempting to RE-negotiate a boundary while under less than completely sober conditions, so I’m going to say it again anyway: Do not negotiate or renegotiate any Agreement if you’re not reasonably well-rested, sober, alert, and able to focus on the task at hand. Attempting to make or re-negotiate an Agreement when you’re under the influence of chemicals (or lacking ones that you usually take!), sleep-deprived, or otherwise impaired is very risky indeed, and will often result in Agreements that fail on one or several of the Five Reasons (especially Reasons #1 and #5.)

This is analogous to the 12-Step Program acronym HALT, which reminds people to try to stay out of situations where they are Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired, because otherwise, they’ll be at high risk of falling into patterns they’re trying to break. And if they do find themselves in those situations, they’re advised to get help in keeping their commitments to themselves. The same is true for any Agreements, not just your own promises to yourself, of course. HALT until you have fixed any of those conditions, and until you’re not under the influence of other mind-altering things, before you attempt make or renegotiate an Agreement.

[We’ll pick up with the section on “Good Faith Efforts” next.]

∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥

[© 2013 Dawn M. Davidson]

Note that these entries are all rough drafts, and thus are probably missing things like references. If you know the perfect reference to add, feel free to suggest it! I always like to add to my resource collection.

[Next Entry: Agreements: Good Faith Efforts (2 of 3 on Caveats and Assumptions)]

[Related Entry: Is It Over? (Agreements Appendix C)]

[Previous Entry: Check In and Re-negotiate [Agreements Tip #10 ]

[Return to the Table of Contents for the Agreements Workbook Series]

[Return to the first text entry in the Agreements Workbook series]

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Click here to get personalized help with your own Agreements!

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2 Lists of 5 Ways to Fail in Polyamory

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“There’s no One Right Way to be Polyamorous, but there are plenty of Wrong ways!”
Miss Poly Manners

Polyamorous people are often known to proclaim that one of the advantages of being poly is that there is no “One Right Way” to do it.  This allows us the freedom to create our own “designer relationships,” that fit the needs and wants of the individual partners, rather than trying to shoehorn ourselves into a set of “standard” or “societal” expectations that don’t. This is great in theory, but sometimes falls down in practice.* And it turns out Miss Poly Manners is right about all the ways that there are to be wrong.

Deborah Anapol (author of Polyamory in the 21st Century: Love and Intimacy with Multiple Partners, in a recent article in Psychology Today, lists “Five Ways Polyamory Can Fail”:

Pitfall #1  Using the same words to mean different things
Pitfall #2  Taking on more relationships than you actually have time and energy for
Pitfall #3  Agreeing to polyamory and then having a “secret” affair
Pitfall #4  Making promises you can’t keep
Pitfall #5  Trying to transition quickly and smoothly from being discovered engaging in a secret affair to creating an open relationship

You’ll want to read the rest of the article for more detailed information, since (as usual) she has some good observations.  The first thing I noticed, though, is that Anapol’s list overlaps with my own 5 Reasons Agreements Fail (from my “KISSable Agreements” workbook series) in a couple of areas.  Here’s my list:

Five Reasons Agreements Fail (from “KISSable Agreements,” by Dawn Davidson)

1) Simply Forgetting
2) Missed Contingency
3) Differing Interpretations of the Agreement
4) Agreement Was Not Additive
5) Agreement Simply Can’t Work

You can see that in her Pitfall #1 and my Reason #3, we both talk about making sure that when you’re using the same words, you’re actually talking about the same thing!  I also cover some of this ground in Tip #2a, in the sub-section “Avoid Ambiguous Terms.”

Anapol also suggests in Pitfall #4 that “making promises you can’t keep” is a surefire way to have Polyamory fail.  I agree, and I think it doesn’t apply just to polyamory, but to any Agreements (whether it’s in a polyamorous context or not.) As you can see above, Reason #5 that Agreements can fail is the “Agreement Simply Can’t Work,” (aka “I just shouldn’t have agreed to that”.) It covers situations where you thought you could agree to something and found out later that it’s beyond your capacity to do so, or where some other Agreement got in the way (maybe one to another person that you forgot about in the moment, or that you weren’t completely clear about at the time.)  Whether or not you intended to keep the Agreement, though, the fact is that you can’t … and that means you made a promise you couldn’t keep (i.e., fell into Pitfall #1.)

The 5 Reasons posts aren’t up yet (sorry for the delay!), but all of the Agreements Workbook Entries I’ve already posted are here: http://blog.loveoutsidethebox.com/?tag=workbook. I’ll have the first of the 5 Reasons posts (on the topic of Caveats and Assumptions) up tomorrow (Sat 2/2). :^)

In the meantime, I’m very curious to know… what reasons have YOU experienced that caused your poly relationships or Agreements to fail? What did you do to recover when those happened?  As always, feel free to comment below, contact me via my webpage, or on my Facebook Page, Love Outside The Box.

relationships.demotivator

May all your poly (or other) relationships succeed more often than they fail!

~♥ Dawn

PS:  Did you know I’m running a Valentine’s Day special on my coaching packages? If you’d like to talk more about how your Agreements are working (or aren’t!), I’d be happy to set up a time to meet in person (in the SF Bay Area), by phone, or via some other remote means (e.g., Skype).

 

[*That brings up a favorite joke of mine: Q: What’s the difference between theory and practice? A:  In theory, there isn’t one, but in practice, there is!]

∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥

[© 2013 Dawn M. Davidson]

[See the Table of Contents for the Agreements Workbook Series]

[Return to the first text entry in the Agreements Workbook series]

Check In and Re-negotiate [Agreements Tip #10]

Two stylized hands clasping, forming a heart. Copyright-free symbol designed by Ravi Poovaiah, Professor, IDC, IIT Bombay.Here at last is Agreements Tip #10, “Check In Periodically / Re-negotiate If Needed,” from my Agreements Workbook series! Learn more below about checking in, keeping perspective, and what to do if someone is “pushing the envelope.”

Questions or comments about any of these Agreements Workbook entries?  Feel free to comment below, contact me here, or on my FB Page, Love Outside The Box!

~♥ Dawn

PS:  Like my Love Outside the Box logo? You can get t-shirts and other stuff with my logo (and other poly stuff) at Zazzle. There’s plenty of time before Valentine’s Day to order customized T-shirts, mugs, or heart-shaped ornaments for all of your sweeties. You can get bulk discounts on ornaments and mugs, too! 🙂

 

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Tip #10: Check in periodically/re-negotiate if needed

Check in as you go

One of the key points in consciously constructed Agreements is that in most cases they can be re-negotiated.  Remember that (in this workbook, at least!) we’re not talking about legally binding Agreements that require a judge or a lawyer to change. But how do you know when it’s appropriate to make a change?

To begin with, it’s important to keep in touch with the Agreements you’ve made. Especially with Time Limited Agreements (but also with any sort of Agreements), it’s very important to note when things are not working, and to address such issues as soon as possible. Don’t wait till things break down completely before talking to your partner/s about any issues!  That just courts disaster in the form of broken Agreements, and broken trust.

Be flexible and creative

Remember that these sorts of Agreements are not “set in stone,” so it’s important to remain flexible and responsible to your partner’s needs, while still honoring your own as well. (Remember that the relationship needs your needs, AND those of your partner/s! p.___) Be open to renegotiating from a collaborative space. The more flexible and creative that both/all partners are, the more likely it is that you’ll find something that works for everyone.

Keep perspective

As you check in and perhaps renegotiate, it’s important to keep perspective.  Not all Agreements will work perfectly in their initial form the first time!  Some give and take is probably necessary in the process, and sometimes one or another partner will need to “overlook” something that’s annoying, but not really all that important in the larger scheme of things. Take a step back and consider the Agreement in the context of your whole relationship, and each of your lives.  What’s important? What might be ok to let drop, or to negotiate a bit around? Here are a few ideas:

Probably important:

  • Safer sex boundaries
  • Doing what you’ve promised to do and/or someone else is relying on you to do
  • Getting the kids to school or yourself to work on time
  • Actions impacting the family finances to a great degree

Probably not that important:

  • The direction the toilet paper roll unrolls
  • Whether you squeeze the toothpaste in the middle
  • Forgetting to write down what you spent on your coffee date one time (unless, for instance, you flew to Paris to do it…)
  • Returning from a date five minutes late one time (again, a pattern of this could be a warning sign; see “Pushing the Boundaries” on p. ___[in a future entry].)

If one of you says something like “Damn it, you put the toilet paper roll on the wrong way despite the agreement! I’m moving out!” you can bet that that person has lost perspective. Consider taking a break from your negotiations for 20 minutes or more [ref] to let that person calm down and regain their equilibrium.

Pushing the envelope: A warning sign

While it’s important for all partners to remain flexible, it’s also important to recognize when an Agreement is not really working, and is in danger of getting bent or broken. One of the biggest signs of an Agreement in peril is “pushing the envelope. This means one or more partners are repeatedly engaging in “grey area” activities and/or violating the spirit of the Agreement, even if not the letter of it. Both of these are warning signs that something is not actually working, and are a call to renegotiate sooner rather than later, before the Agreement gets broken.

Example:

Let’s say TJ, Sandy, and Loren have an agreement not to kiss anyone else outside of their own triad.  One day, Sandy goes to an event and kisses someone on the cheek, and then justifies it by saying “it was just on the cheek”! Depending on the reasons behind that Agreement, TJ and Loren might be ok with this behavior once, or even occasionally. But if Sandy repeatedly “forgets” this Agreement, and/or pushes the envelope even further (e.g., “it was just a peck on the lips; we didn’t French kiss or anything!”) then this may indicate that Sandy really shouldn’t have made this Agreement at all (Reason #5 of the Five Reasons; see p. ___ [in a future entry]), or that there is some other unmet need of Sandy’s that needs to be addressed through discussion and negotiation. Failing to address the boundary-pushing behavior, and therefore the unmet needs, is entirely too likely to result in the Agreement getting broken, and in subsequent hurt feelings and broken trust, which are much more difficult to repair.

∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥

[© 2013 Dawn M. Davidson]

Note that these entries are all rough drafts, and thus are probably missing things like references. If you know the perfect reference to add, feel free to suggest it! I always like to add to my resource collection.

[Next Entry: When Agreements Fail: Competency ]

[Related Entry: 2 Lists of 5 Ways to Fail in Polyamory]

[Previous Entry: Time Limited Agreements (Tip #9) http://blog.loveoutsidethebox.com/?p=2222]

[Return to the Table of Contents for the Agreements Workbook Series]

[Return to the first text entry in the Agreements Workbook series]

 

Time Limited Agreements [Tip #9]

Two stylized hands clasping, forming a heart. Copyright-free symbol designed by Ravi Poovaiah, Professor, IDC, IIT Bombay.This entry about Time Limited Agreements is Tip #9, from my Agreements Workbook series.  Find out below how short term Agreements with built in review dates can help support your relationships.

Questions or comments about any of these Agreements Workbook entries?  Feel free to comment below, contact me here, or on my FB Page, Love Outside The Box!

~♥ Dawn

PS:  Do you want to pick my brain about anything to do with poly? Maybe get my help in creating Agreements between you and your partner/s?  If so, you may be interested in the package deals I’m offering on my 1:1 counseling/coaching services. Let me know how I can support your relationships and explorations! I’m happy to do a FREE consultation to get things started.

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Agreements Tip #9: Time Limited Agreements

One incredibly important tool in the Agreements toolbox is that of Time Limited Agreements. These are Agreements that are made with a specific, planned “review date,” at which time the Agreement “expires” and must be re-negotiated, renewed, or dropped (upon agreement of all partners.) I’ve also heard these described as “Time-Bound Experiments,” which is a great way to express it that emphasizes the short-term and experimental nature of these Agreements.

Whatever you choose to call them, putting a deliberate review date on the Agreement is incredibly useful in certain cases.  In particular it helps when one or more of the partners:

  • must give up something temporarily, in service to the relationship as a whole
  • need to agree to do something for the time being that they don’t like, find inconvenient, or would rather not do
  • are in the process of rebuilding trust (see p. ___ [in a future entry.])

Why Time Limited?

Trapped in an experiment?

Feeling Trapped??

Sometimes when making Agreements, one or more partners can end up feeling “trapped” by the Agreement, especially when that Agreement is seemingly “forever,” (e.g., a standard marriage Agreement with an assumption or explicit agreement for monogamy.) Sometimes these feelings can become so intense that it leads people to break or ‘bend’ the Agreement, because they feel (rightly or wrongly!) that there’s no way to ‘win’ or to negotiate something that might work better. Having a short term to the Agreement can help to alleviate these feelings, while still creating the safe container that other partner/s may need for growth or experimentation)

How Long?

Therefore, when using Time Limited Agreements, it’s important to choose an appropriate time frame for the Agreement to be in effect.  In general, these Agreements should be made for the shortest time possible that will suit the needs of the individuals and the relationship. Only you can know what that will be for you and your situation, of course. That said, I’ve rarely seen any Time Limited Agreement work for more than about 3 months at a time. Often, if an extremely long period is chosen (e.g., a year or more), partners can start to forget that the Agreement existed in the first place, forget details, or forget that it was time limited in the first place (and therefore start engaging in boundary-pushing and other behaviors that the Time Limited Agreement was created to help avoid.)

For most Time Limited Agreements, I generally recommend a time frame between a week and 3 months, with two weeks to a month being the most common.  This seems to give enough time to perform the experiment, test out the feelings, and come to initial conclusions, without triggering either “trapped” feelings, or having one or more partners start to forget aspects of the Agreement.

Keep in mind as well, however, that choosing a time-frame that’s too short can give the sense that you don’t trust your partner/s, or don’t understand what they’re already doing. As in so many things, it’s important to achieve balance.  Here are a couple of examples illustrating time-frames that are too short:

Example A
Suzie asked her partner Tom to forgo engaging in a particular activity for 2 days.  In fact, Tom had already been abstaining from that activity for a week by then, and felt insulted that Susie hadn’t even noticed! When Tom and Suzie changed the Agreement to reflect this, with Tom reporting back once a week to start with, Tom felt supported, not micromanaged, and Suzie felt confident that she was getting accurate information.

Example B
Pat asked partner Robin for help in learning to manage financial resources more effectively.  Robin’s response was to ask Pat to report back daily about activities, and in such detail that it felt utterly intrusive and controlling to Pat. Rather than rebelling completely (though it was tempting!) Pat asked for a different schedule (reporting back 2-3 times per week, using an easy check-off form), that allowed Robin to get the necessary information, without wasting Pat’s time on reporting that Pat felt could better be spent on creating new financial resources, for instance. By finding the happy medium, both partners felt happier and got more of their needs met.

Review

At the end of the period, the next step is to review.  Remember that the Agreement is neither presumed to go on forever (or it wouldn’t be Time Limited!) nor is it automatically dropped without comment. The review date is just that — a time to review, reflect, and possibly renegotiate.  Here are some things to ask during the review:

  • Was the agreement a full success, and it is no longer needed at all?
  • Did it work, but the conditions still apply, and it needs to be extended, exactly as it is?
  • Was the agreement partially successful, but a small change would make it better?
  • Was the agreement not successful at all? Perhaps it’s time to renegotiate a new agreement or set of agreements.  Go back to your Needs Inventory (p. ___) for ideas, if necessary.

All Time Limited, All the Time?

Some folks feel that all Agreements should be time limited ones. There’s definitely an argument to be made for this view.  After all, it’s hard to know what will change in life, and when. People move, babies are born, jobs are lost or won, and each of these things (and more!) can have an effect on relationships and Agreements. As a result, simply making it a habit to date each and every one of your Agreements, and revisit them periodically (say, every year or so, perhaps tied to an anniversary, or in a New Year ritual) can be a useful tool in keeping everyone from becoming complacent, or assuming a permanence to life that isn’t realistic in the modern age. It also helps to reinforce the fact that all relationships — ideally, and in today’s “modern world” — are a matter of free choice. By actively choosing our Agreements, and our partners, over and over again, we keep in mind that we have agency over our own lives, and the power to make new choices if the old ones no longer fit.

Man standing at mirror, trying on clothes

Check the “fit” of your Agreements….

∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥

[© 2013 Dawn M. Davidson]

Note that these entries are all rough drafts, and thus are probably missing things like references. If you know the perfect reference to add, feel free to suggest it! I always like to add to my resource collection.

[Next Entry: Check In and Renegotiate (Agreements Tip #10) ]

[Previous Entry: Agreements Tip #8: Write It Down ]

[Return to the Table of Contents for the Agreements Workbook Series]

[Return to the first text entry in the Agreements Workbook series]

Agreements Tip #8: Write It Down

Two stylized hands clasping, forming a heart. Copyright-free symbol designed by Ravi Poovaiah, Professor, IDC, IIT Bombay.This is Tip #8: Write It Down, in my Agreements Workbook series.  Whether you write them in a fancy book or keep them in an online file, it’s a good idea to write down the Agreements that you make. Find out why and how in the entry below.

Questions or comments about any of these Agreements Workbook entries?  Feel free to comment below, contact me here, or on my FB Page, Love Outside The Box!

~♥ Dawn

PS:  Do you want to pick my brain about anything to do with poly? Get my help in creating Agreements between you and your partner/s?  If so, you’ll be glad to know I’m running some holiday specials!  Contact me through the end of December 15th and make arrangements for sessions to be completed by the end of December. I’d love to help YOU design your own best relationships!

PPS:  I’m raising my rates in January, so you might want to call me Real Soon Now. ;^)

∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥

YES written in a notebook in pen

Agreements Tip #8: Write it down

One of the common issues with Agreements is that once they’re made, we eventually forget about them.  When you make the Agreement, you’re certain that you’ll never forget. But human memory being what it is — i.e., faulty! — eventually someone is going to forget something. (In fact, that’s the first of the Five Reasons Agreements Fail: Just Forgetting! We’ll come back to those on p.___.) Having a written copy will also help to avoid arguments about “that’s not what I meant!” The easiest way to deal with all of this is to simply write down your Agreements.

Keep Agreements all in one place

It’s a good idea to keep them all together in one place, whether that’s in a book, or on a computer, or up on the web somewhere.  The advantage of using (for instance) a bound blank book is that you can physically sign the page, to indicate that you’ve both/all seen and agreed to this. Having only one copy, however, can occasionally be inconvenient.

The advantage (and to some degree disadvantage) of having the Agreements in an electronic form is that it’s easier to make changes when you need to update things. If you want to keep a record of the various forms the Agreement has taken, it might be good to keep the document in some software that has the ability to “track changes” or keep a specific record of the revisions.

Keeping your Agreements in electronic form also makes it super simple to share your Agreements with prospective sex or relationship partners, for instance.  I have found that this sometimes reduces stress in those initial disclosure and negotiation discussions, as it’s clear that what you’re asking isn’t something that you made up just to annoy this prospective partner, but in fact are Agreements you came to regarding any prospective interactions with new partners.  It’s also helpful when negotiating with someone long-distance… or just someone who’s extremely busy!

hands writing in datebook

Date the Agreements

Writing the date on the Agreements will help with several things.  First, it provides a record of exactly when you made the Agreement. If you’re using a Time-limited Agreement (see Tip #9, p. ___), that’s crucial information so you know when to revisit the Agreement.  It can also help to show your progress, as you keep a record of the original Agreement and each modification. Sometimes it’s great to look back and see how far you’ve come!

Include Related Information

It can be very helpful to keep related information all in one spot with your Agreements.  You might want to include things like:

  • Your List of Needs (see exercise on p. ___)
  • Quiz and personality assessment results (e.g., Myers-Briggs, 5 Love Languages, Enneagram, astrological charts, etc.)
  • STI testing results
  • etc.

Include any information that you and/or your partner/s might find helpful in making future Agreements, or in explaining the existing ones.

 

∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥

[© 2012 Dawn M. Davidson]

Note that these entries are all rough drafts, and thus are probably missing things like references. If you know the perfect reference to add, feel free to suggest it! I always like to add to my resource collection.

[Next Entry: Time Limited Agreements (Tip #9) ]

[Previous Entry: Tip #7: KISSable Agreements (aka, Keep It Simple, Silly!)]

[Return to the Table of Contents for the Agreements Workbook Series]

[Return to the first text entry in the Agreements Workbook series]