“Like litter on the side of the highway, most unhappy relationships are strewn with broken agreements in all shapes and forms,” said Charlotte Kasl, Ph.D., author of A Home for the Heart. From canceling dates at the last minute to “forgetting” to do something we said we would do, broken agreements cause an erosion of trust, the basic foundation of any relationship.
Giving our word and standing by it and being steadfast and reliable in our affairs are measures by which we evaluate commitment and integrity. For this reason, agreements—both spoken and implied—should be given thoughtful and careful attention.
Consider Marshall. Again and again he promised to come home early enough to share dinner with his family. And night after night, either he called to say he couldn’t make dinner after all, or he simply didn’t show until long after the dinner was ruined and the family was hungry and disappointed.
Or Deirdre. She and her husband had an agreement that she wouldn’t make any additional charges on their over-burdened credit cards. But every month, the bills arrived, fat with new charges and higher-than-ever balances.
In confidence, Sophia told Margaret about a problem. What an awkward surprise when Janice, a mutual friend, asked Sophia how she was coping with her difficulty.
In each of these instances, an agreement was broken and a trust betrayed. Everyone involved was tarnished by the experience—those to whom agreements were made, and those who made¬, and broke, the agreement.
Making and keeping agreements requires that we are honest and that we intend to carry through. Thoughtful and careful agreements require that we listen to our inner voices and pay attention to our bodies for clues to our feelings about the promises we make.
Whenever we make an agreement we need to ask ourselves, Is this a pledge I really want to make? Is it realistic for me at this time? What will it take or what will I have to do to keep the agreement?