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Covert Contracts Are Ruining Your Relationship(s)!

Updated: Mar 6, 2023


Do you feel resentment in your relationship(s)?

Do you feel burdened?

I’m not talking about kids and work and having to do laundry (just not the folding, please!!!). I’m talking about feeling burdened by the things you have to do to keep the relationship going.

Do you?

That’s a sure sign that you have entered into a covert contract with your other(s), and that’s never a good thing.

What’s a covert contract?

A covert contract is an agreement that you believe exists, even if you have not actually communicated it to your partner, and gotten their consent.

How about some examples?

  • You do the dishes (when you don’t normally), so your partner won’t complain about the game.

  • You take your partner out for Valentine’s day, you expect sex.

  • You keep the house clean in order to get recognition.

  • You give up sex to get more affection.

You agree to see THAT movie in the hopes that next time you’ll both/all get to see yours.

NONE of these are bad, except... when you don't communicate them. An easy way to recognize a covert contract: Whenever you're in an argument, and you want to bring up all the things you do for the other person, to point them out, because you feel that they have missed them. Some say...That those who enter into covert contracts are acting entitled.

Hell. I've said that.

To be fair, though, it's not always exactly true. Many times, it's just more "misguided," because most of us are never taught how to communicate or negotiate in relationships.

It's not that they think to get things handed to them.

It's just that they often think, "Well, if someone did this for me, I would respond this way." A covert contract is born.

This is why the Golden Rule - treat everyone as you would like to be treated - is misleading, and the Platinum Rule - treat everyone as they would like to be treated - is more informing, as it encourages you to ask, "Hey, how would you like to be treated?"

Here's how to avoid covert contracts... Using the examples I gave above:

  • "Hey, I'd like to watch the game this evening. I know you like to relax after cleaning up. How about I do the dishes, and you can relax in a bubble bath/in the garage with your car tinkering while I cheer for my team? I'll check on you during the commercial breaks to see if you need anything."

OR, better yet:

  • "I'd really love to watch the game tonight. Is there anything I can do for you, or help with that will make your night better?"

  • "So, I've got this amazing dinner planned, and all night, I'll be doing my best to rev your engine for some amazingly hot sex after. Any requests?"

OR, better yet:

  • "I'd really love to be intimate tonight, and it seems we've been out of sync lately. What would you like me to do, to make you feel amazing and loved and in the mood?"

  • "I've been doing an amazing job on the house lately, and it seems you haven't really noticed. Could you plan a nice date night for me, to show me how much you appreciate my efforts?"

OR, better yet:

  • "I'd really love to get some affection appreciation for the things I do around the house. I know we've both been crazy busy. Perhaps we can plan a date night for each other to relax and connect. What do you think?"

  • "I'd really like some cuddle time. How about tonight, we cuddle while we watch _____, and you can say sweet things to me, and after we'll have amazing sex?"

OR, better yet:

  • "I need some physical affection without sex. Can you give me lots of pets and hugs and such all night tonight?"

  • "______ isn't my first choice, but I'll see it with you. Next week, let's see my choice, ______, on date night."

OR, better yet: Actually, that one is pretty good, LOL!

Now, you may not like any of these options, and that's cool. The point is that you have to actually SPEAK the words to your partner for them to know what you want. Otherwise, you're busy fulfilling your side of a contract that the other party doesn't even know exists.

On the other side of things... If you feel awe and wonder and pure happiness and joy and thankfulness to be where you are, able to do the things that you do for your partner, you are not in a covert contract. Sometimes the shift is subtle, so you must be absolutely honest with yourself, so you don't let covert contracts ruin your relationship(s).


Remember it's all about having grace for yourself and your partner. It's harder to do that starting from a place of resentment. This requires forgiveness, active listening, and patience as you both adapt to this new paradigm together. -MH


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