Sometimes the unspoken expectations of two people line up, and then the relationship can hum along without drama, stress or misunderstandings. However, silent agreements can be problematic for our relationships.
‘Whether in alignment with others or not, in many cases the silent agreements we have with one another, are not acknowledged or openly discussed,’ notes clinical psychologist, Michele Owens. ‘This is largely due to the fact that we, ourselves, may not be consciously aware of the expectations we harbour. Other times, we feel that we have too much to lose if we talk openly, or, we regard silence as less frightening than what would happen if we tell the “real” story about what we are thinking and wanting from another person.’
“We convince ourselves that it’s safer to avoid bringing up sensitive issues in order to keep the peace”
We convince ourselves that it’s safer to avoid bringing up sensitive issues in order to keep the peace. After all, there are some things just not worth talking about, right? Wrong! Once you become more aware of the agreements that are keeping your life from flourishing, you can begin to uncover what is actually going on in your relationships. ??
CONSIDER THESE 5 AREAS
- Change and Stagnation ?People who have been dissatisfied in their jobs and stay anyway often create silent agreements resulting in missed opportunities. Perhaps they are loyal to a person or cause that no longer fits them. A more enriching silent agreement must acknowledge the challenge in moving on.??
- Flexibility and Inflexibility? He washes dishes and she cooks. Then one day he comes home and cooks and she doesn’t wash the dishes. The expectation that she would silently switch roles was part of his silent agreement but not part of hers. Here his agreement involves an exchange of duties, while hers is less flexible and focused on a predictable division of labour.
- Creative Freedom Some couples are inseparable, and yet that intimacy works to keep each from being their “best independent self.” Their silent agreement maintains the intense closeness by avoiding any pursuit of individual fulfillment. Consider how this agreement develops. She does not apply for the job promotion because of how it will make him feel. Later she resents him for it. We sabotage each other’s ability to explore enriching options and reach our true potential when we sign on to silent agreements that neglect the desire for creative fre4edom. ??
- Commitment ?The cheating boyfriend married his longtime girlfriend, each with different notions of their commitment to each other. He thought “now she’ll never leave me,” and she thought “now he’ll never cheat again.” They weren’t aware of their differing silent agreements, and were unable to talk about what they needed to feel secure in the relationship. So, he cheated and she left and neither got the relationship they sorely hoped for. When misaligned silent agreements are uncovered it can prevent outcomes like these. ??
- Self-Care and Neglect A silent agreement evolved with a couple that doesn’t talk about how their weekly baking of cakes impacts the husband’s diabetes. With this silent agreement they won’t have to face the fact that both of them have agreed to undermine his health. He blames her for baking and she blames him for lack of self-control. As long as they don’t cooperatively acknowledge their mutual investment in the neglect of his self-care, they can point the finger at each other for the chronic disease.