3 Steps For Creating Marital Agreements

Love, Family

Prepare for a baby by discussing a variety of important topics for after baby.

Nothing stresses a marriage like having children. 67 percent of marriages become distressed in the first three years of baby's life. In all the exciting and joyful preparations for baby, we can often forget to prepare our relationship. For most of us, we just can't fathom what changes and challenges lay ahead.

After going through a super bumpy transition into parenthood with my husband, I have more clarity about what works to prevent trouble and heartache. As Jennifer Senior points out in her heavily researched book, All Joy and No Fun, couples who work on their relationship before a baby arrives fare much better than those who do not.

In my pre-baby bootcamp for couples, one of the tools I teach expectant parents is the concept of creating agreements. Not only do agreements help with expectations, but also the act of creating them improves your communication skills and brings you closer together. A recent article about modern day relationship stressors like social media, considers how such agreements can improve our love lives.

Here's how to do it:

1. Set a mutually convenient time. 

It is essential that important conversations be treated as such. Setting a time and date that is convenient for both of you sets the intention and protects your time from intrusions or distractions. It also allows both of you to consider the upcoming conversation beforehand so you can come prepared to share. 

2. Identify the areas for potential trouble.

Brainstorm the areas you might have trouble beginning with anything that already creates tension between you. If you already have disagreements or unresolved, recurring arguments about housework or how much one of you drinks or socializes — these are the areas you want to cover first.

Then there are the areas you can only just anticipate once baby has arrived. We had no idea how intense and exhausting it would be at home with a newborn. So my husband's weekly ultimate frisbee practice (yes, practice for a competitive team) became a source of great conflict for us (see the end of the article for a list of agreement topics and examples).

3. Both partners state their needs and wants.

You have to have all the cards out on the table before you can start playing. So both of you need to be able to state what you (think you) want or need as it relates to each identified area. Sometimes you will find that you have more in common than you think. When this happens, you still need to write these down because we often remember things differently.

When there is disagreement, even a seemingly vast rift between your expectations, you need to negotiate. Keep in mind that it is essential to be respectful of your differing perspectives and honor the position you each have as partners. You are two distinct people in this relationship so you will have two distinct points of view. This is healthy and not a sign that you are in trouble.

Covering all the areas you've identified as potential hot spots may take a few conversations. An important rule is that all agreements can be revisited. Once it's become a reality and not just a projection, if something doesn't work for one partner, then it doesn't work for both.


These essential agreements are a tangible tool for creating a shared vision of your future. Having clarity about what is important to each of you will minimize misunderstandings and conflict so you can enjoy your life together with your baby.

Suggested areas for agreements with examples:

  • Chores: Whoever does the cooking, doesn't do the dishes. Hire a cleaning person for every two weeks. In between, one does floors the other does toilets.
  • Sex: We agree to keep our sex life a priority. We take turns initiating. There is no pressure to have sex the first three months of our baby's life.
  • Extended family: Involvement is important, but we put each other first.
  • Time with family and time away: Each partner gets one night per week to go out. Anything in addition is discussed. I usually have dinner with a friend and my husband plays in a basketball/tennis league.
  • Social life/friends: We talk about all social engagements before committing to others. One of us can go out while the other stays home. We don't always have to do things together.
  • Recreational time: We will bring the baby along and keep up our lives or camping/travel may be on hold for awhile.
  • Communication: Agree on how you will tackle tricky conversations like this one. We agree to always ask for clarification before jumping to conclusions. If I need to remind you of something, it's not nagging.
  • Finances: Any purchases over $200 we discuss. Otherwise, go for it.
  • Additional areas: alcohol and other substances, screen time and privacy (how much you share with others).