7. Own your stuff How have you contributed to the breakdown of the relationship? Take responsibility for the part you've played in co-creating the relationship's breakdown, rather than playing the victim. When both of you are willing to own your own part in the dysfunction, you'll find an opening, a place for negotiation, an opportunity for change and healing arises. It will also diffuse some of the resentment, disappointment, or anger you may both feel.
8. Confess what isn't working for you Be willing to be uncomfortably, even painfully honest. Don't lead with blame, shame, criticism, or judgment. Make it about you as much as you can (use "I" language. "I feel ____ when you _____.") and avoid "You" language. "You did _____ to me.") If you're going to point out ways in which your loved one makes you unhappy (and yes, you must), deliver your message gently, with great compassion. Practice non-violent communication. Invite your loved one to confess what isn't working on his/her end.
9. Brainstorm solutions A sacred contract renegotiation requires compromise. Once you've laid your cards on the table, how might you fix what's not working? Remember, this is not an ultimatum. You are not making demands, nor is your loved one. You are merely making suggestions, and you can see how your loved one responds. If you can both agree on new terms based on a brainstorm that resonates with you both, write it down as a line item. This is a new term in your sacred contract.
10. Go the mat Assuming steps 1-8 have gone well, get brave. (If they haven't, consider hiring a therapist. I'm regularly in therapy with my husband, and I've also now been in therapy twice to try to save difficult friendships I cherish.) Once you both realize it's safe to be honest, take your confessions a vulnerable step deeper. Speak radical truth -- gently and with ownership of your part in it all. Don't hold back. Read your loved one and check in with how things are going. Be willing to take a break and come back later if one of you is hitting your wall. Determine the level of commitment both of you are demonstrating. Is your loved one willing to go to the mat with you? Or is one of you shutting down? Are you able to stay in a place of compassion and gratitude? Is your loved one? Can you get radically honest without getting triggered?
11. Be present with your own reactions Take breaks if you need time- and give your loved one permission to do the same, If you or your loved one needs to step back from the negotiation process, do what you can to reassure each other, since stepping back from the negotiation can trigger fears of rejection or abandonment. Ask for the space you need, but do what you can to reassure the one you love that you're not rejecting the relationship; you're just processing.
12. Avoid the tendency to exert control This is not a time to prove that you're right. Healthy relationships are not a power struggle. Be willing to be wrong, while simultaneously speaking your truth. If the relationship is important to you, make peace with your discomfort with being out of control in a difficult relationship.
13. Rewrite your contract Can you agree to new terms? Get it in writing so it's SUPER DUPER clear. Give yourselves permission to keep noodling the contract. Add to it or amend it as new thoughts come up. Print it out and sign it if you really want to make it official. But also acknowledge that the contract may be changed at any time. Give each other permission to initiate a "renegiating the sacred conversation" anytime one of you feels it is needed.
14. Celebrate! If your relationship survives this process, celebrate! It can be such a relief to just speak truth that you may feel 1,000 pounds lighter just from being who you really are. If it goes well, you're likely to feel a giddy sense of potential and feelings of hopefulness about the nature of your relationship.
What if it doesn't go well?
If your sacred contract negotiation doesn't go well, that's a good sign that it's time for both of you to determine how much you value the relationship. If the stakes are high — you're married, related, or BFFs, get a good couples therapist. If you're not that invested in the relationship, be willing to bless each other, thank each other for the spiritual lessons you've both learned, and say goodbye with grace and compassion. I'm the kind of person who wants to know, with 100 percent certainty, that I'll be close to the people I love when we're both 85 and in our rocking chairs. But I'm learning that sometimes, with grace, it's time to bless, honor, and thank the people our souls call into our lives to teach us lessons and then release them when the learning is done —with great love. I used to think that if a relationship didn't last forever, somebody f*cked up. But I now think differently. Maybe sometimes we show up in each other's lives to learn what our souls are here to learn, and then when the learning is complete, we can release each other — with love.
Me & My Friend
My friend and I just went through this process and we have 11 line items in our new contract. I was super nervous going into our sacred contract renegotiation because I value the friendship so much, and I was so afraid the process might lead to the end of our friendship. But that's not what happened. I feel so much gratitude for this person I love, who was willing to face the difficult process of a sacred contract renegotiation. We are on a new path. And I have so much hope for what lies ahead for us both.
What About You?
Have you ever been through a process like this? Is there a relationship in your life in need of a sacred contract renegotiation? Tell us your stories in the comments.
Written by Lissa Rankin for Care2.