Strict girlfriend’s bizarre ban for fiancé
WHEN Trish Barillas' fiance is at risk of getting on her nerves - for example, by chewing loudly, protesting girls' night or insulting her new favourite song - she can shut him down in a word.
"I just say 'contract', and we kind of return to a natural calm state," says the 40-year-old life coach from New York, US.
Ms Barillas and Charlie Sandlan, who have been together for a year and a half, have a relationship contract - a 22-item pact outlining their desires and pet peeves.
The couple, now engaged, drafted up their pact just 15 days after their first date, the New York Post reported.
Mr Sandlan, 48, had read about them online and brought the idea up with Ms Barillas. She was immediately on board.
"Relationships get messy and confusing," she says. "Contracts are reliable - very crystal clear and concrete."
For Ms Barillas, that means starting her days on a less-than-ideal note. "I hate the radio," she says. But Charlie loves to have it playing in the background when he's getting ready for his day.
"So (he stipulated) in the mornings, he has to listen to the radio for at least 20 minutes," she says. For the good of the couple, Ms Barillas says, "I agreed."
She's also given him football Sundays, two date nights a week and a daily phone call - lasting at least five minutes.
"Normally, I would have felt suffocated by that much contact," she says. But the contract helped to take the edge off.
"This is just what he likes - (it's not) about something I did wrong," Ms Barillas says.
Besides, she points out, Mr Sandlan made equally important concessions for her: He's contractually obligated to support her yearly trips with her best friends, to let her pay for things once in a while and to work on not chewing loudly.
Relationship therapists say contracts like Mr Sandlan and Ms Barillas' can be helpful - depending on how they're written.
"A long laundry list of annoyances in the form of contractual obligations is not going to fix the relationship," says Jean Fitzpatrick, a marriage counsellor who works on similar agreements with her clients, usually during premarital counselling.
She believes the trend towards dating contracts likely stems from young couples wanting to split up tasks differently to their parents' generation.
The "emotional prenups" Ms Fitzpatrick works on with her clients focus on problems that would necessitate a return to counselling, such as an ongoing conflict or someone not doing their share of chores.
The couple recently re-evaluated their contract to reflect new changes in their relationship: moving in together and getting a puppy.
Some highlights: "Charlie needs to stop judging Trish on her choices of night-time TV"; "(Trish needs to) clean the tub after (she has) a bath, just a quick wipe-down."
It's helped the new roommates "understand each other's pet peeves, and who does what (around the house)," she said.
This story originally appeared on the New York Post and was reproduced with permission