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.,

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…]

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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 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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One thought on “Reasons 1&2 of the Five Reasons Agreements Fail

  1. Pingback: 2 Lists of 5 Ways to Fail in Polyamory — Uncharted Love

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