How To Renegotiate A Sacred Contract
By Lissa Rankin on August 20, 2013
Lately, I’ve been bumbling my way through a relationship with a friend. She’s a little skittish, so I hold back and don’t always say what I think or ask for what I need. Then I get frustrated because I feel unheard and unexpressed and not validated, which is SO not her fault, because I’m the one not asking for what I need!
It got to the point where we were hooked into a really icky pattern. I had expectations that never got met. Then after spending time with her, I’d feel hurt and disappointed, and she’d feel terrible for disappointing me. The whole thing wasn’t working for either of us.
So I suggested we go through a process I’ve now been through with quite a few significant people in my life. I call it “renegotiating our sacred contract.” When a relationship just isn’t working, we have two choices. We can just bless each other, thank each other for the time and the teachings, and release the relationship with love. Buh bye. Or we can bring our grievances to the table, examine old patterns that aren’t serving us anymore, call out any unspoken agreements we’ve unconsciously agreed to, and mindfully and gently renegotiate the terms of the relationship.
Renegotiating a sacred contract is always a risk, because whenever you come to the table to redefine terms, there’s always the chance you won’t be able to agree to terms, and you’ll have to either end the relationship or make the decision to stay in a relationship that isn’t working, which can be pretty unsatisfying and self-defeating.
But in my experience, this process can be a life and relationship-changing experience. So far, it’s saved many of the relationships that were threatened as we grew and changed together.
So how do you do it?
How To Renegotiate A Sacred Contract
1. Take a moment in silence and tap into your highest self (what I call your “Inner Pilot Light” or what you might call your spirit.) Then tap into the highest self of your loved one. Allow those two selves to agree to bring into being whatever is in the highest good for you both during your negotiation. Invite the highest self of your loved one to communicate any messages you might need to know going into the conversation. Resolve to allow the highest good to come into being without attaching to any specific outcome.
2. Initiate dialogue. This is easiest when both parties are unhappy with the status quo. If one of you is clueless because the other has been faking it, it can take more moxy to admit that you’d like things to be different. Make sure you lead with compassion and gratitude, not blaming, shaming, criticizing, or judging. If you put someone on the defensive from the get-go, you won’t get far.
3. Establish safety. If this is a relationship you really wish to resuscitate, make it clear that you are not here to fight. You’re here to do CPR. Help your loved one reduce stress responses in his or her nervous system, so he or she doesn’t get all “fight-or-flight” on you. Remind the one you love of how much you care and are committed to saving the relationship.
4. Set clear intentions. Get clear on what you both desire from the relationship. Be vulnerable. Get brutally honest. What outcome do you wish to achieve? You are a master manifester when you, The Universe, and your loved one set clear intentions for co-creation. When your intentions are a mess, you’ll create a mess.
5. Lead with gratitude. Let your loved one know how much you care. This can be challenging when the relationship has broken down, because it’s easy to focus on built up resentment, unmet expectations, disappointments, frustrations, anger, or feelings of betrayal. List the reasons you cherish the relationship, even if it feels impossibly vulnerable to do so. When you both lead from gratitude, it will soften the process and remind you both why you’re doing this.
6. Determine what’s working for you both. Sign up for more of that. Break it down into clear line items and put it in your contract.
7. Own your stuff. How have you contributed to the breakdown of the relationship? Take responsibility for the part you’ve played in co-creating the relationship’s breakdown, rather than playing the victim. When both of you are willing to own your own part in the dysfunction, you’ll find an opening, a place for negotiation, an opportunity for change and healing arises. It will also diffuse some of the resentment, disappointment, or anger you may both feel.
8. Confess what isn’t working for you. Be willing to be uncomfortably, even painfully honest. Don’t lead with blame, shame, criticism, or judgment. Make it about you as much as you can (use “I” language. “I feel ____ when you _____.”) and avoid “You” language. “You did _____ to me.”) If you’re going to point out ways in which your loved one makes you unhappy (and yes, you must), deliver your message gently, with great compassion. Practice non-violent communication. Invite your loved one to confess what isn’t working on his/her end.
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