One of the biggest problems with relationships are covert contracts.
Covert contracts are basically an agreement you have in your mind that if you do something, you’ll get something back in return. Typically you fool yourself into believing everyone understands the contract, but no one talks about it. Thus it’s covert and you can continue to believe it’s an unspoken agreement. In reality the other party may or may not know about it at all.
What invariably happens though is that eventually you complete your end of this supposed agreement and they don’t live up to theirs. Since you believe it’s a standing agreement, you feel cheated. You feel righteous indignation that they backed out on this deal you supposedly had yet never told them about and they never agreed to.
You can read more about covert contracts here. Today I want to address the attitude of giving to get.
Are you only giving to get something back?
Have you ever said “I love you” because you wanted your spouse to express their love for you? Ever done chores around the house in order to get brownie points? Or given a back rub expecting it to turn into sex?
I know I have. A lot.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with saying “I love you”, and there’s nothing wrong with wanting to hear it. The problem is when you say it in order to get them to say it. At best, it’s sincerity is diminished by your expectations. At worst, it’s manipulative.
Same thing goes with the back rub. There’s nothing wrong with giving your spouse a back rub, but when it comes with an expectation of sex, our spouse often picks up on that. They can again feel manipulated or feel that now they owe you sex, that it’s a duty to perform rather than an expression of love. It becomes more like a business arrangement more than physical intimacy.
So, what should you do instead?
Give without expecting to receive
But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. – Like 6:35
Now, your spouse shouldn’t be your enemy, so how much more so does this apply? We should be giving out of the kindness of our hearts, not because of some reward. Not only is it the best way to grow true intimacy in your marriage, but it’s the Christian way.
And I know, it’s hard, because sometimes you feel like all you do is give and give and get nothing back. Chances are, that’s not true.
It may be you’re not getting what you want, but it’s unlikely you aren’t getting anything back. Sometimes we need to look for the ways that our spouse is blessing us, especially if you are in the habit of using covert contracts. Your spouse is probably showing love and appreciation in other ways that are can’t see because your too focused on the one you’re not getting.
Also, if you are using covert contracts, your spouse may not know what it is you are wanting. It’s okay to have desires and to share them. It’s not okay to have desires and expect them to be fulfilled if you don’t share them.
Lastly, it’s also possible that your spouse feels so manipulated and controlled by your expectations that they are deliberately not meeting them because they feel offended or unsafe.
Instead we need to practice objective independence: giving without being attached to the outcome.
It’s not easy, and you may never perfect it, but it’s the best method. If you give without expecting anything in return, then your spouse feels that you are giving purely because you love them. If you combine that with making your desires known, then there’s a chance you’ll get what you want too. In practicality, it may net out to the same thing. But the attitude is completely different. Just as the attitude of a spouse who is having sex out of love is completely different than one who is only meeting a duty.
If you want to learn more about covert contracts, objective independence, declaring your desires, I’m working in a course to teach these concepts in more depth and more if them, to help you get the life and marriage you desire. Sign up here for more information as it unfolds.