The Partnership Agreement

The law considers a marriage to be a legal partnership and unless you make your own agreement the courts will apply a ready-made set of partnership terms if the marriage ends. In the second stage of the Collaborative Marriage Planning process you work together to develop your own “Partnership Agreement”.  If you are committed to each other, but avoiding the “legal” partnership of marriage, the Partnership Agreement provides  the opportunity to formalize your understanding and intent for the relationship, including if the relationship were to end.

This is not the typical Pre-Nup. The Collaborative Marriage Planning, Partnership Agreement is not to be confused with the legal tool, commonly referred to as a Pre-Nup or Pre-Nuptial Agreement, although both are contracts between two people and both become effective upon marriage.

The Pre-nuptial agreement, and the Post-nuptial agreement, its counterpart made during the marriage, are typically agreements about the economic implications of marriage, and what each of the parties will receive (or will not receive) if there is a divorce.

The Collaborative Partnership Agreement is about how the couple wants and expects their marriage to work on a day-to-day basis. In this way it is more closely related to a business partnership agreement.

One of the major sources of conflict in marriage is disappointment. That is, one partner has an expectation of the other partner which is not met. Disappointments are a common experience in life. You will both cause and receive disappointments. Disappointments become problematic for two reasons: 1) the importance given to the expectation by one partner, that is not shared or respected by the other and, 2) a particular disappointment occurs with regularity.  As you work together to build a Collaborative Partnership Agreement, you can address both of these sources of disappointment by documenting your expectations of each other, and what each of your commitments to the other are..
As you build your partnership agreement you will focus on how the partnership works.  The general format is a) what does each of you agree to contribute to the partnership, b) what does each of you need/expect to receive from the partnership, and c) for which tasks and obligations of the partnership does each of you agree to take primary responsibility. In this way the day-to-day work of the partnership is allocated and the expectations of each of you are explicit.

A cautionary note:  Avoid using your partnership agreement as a straightjacket. Flexibility and creativity, spontaneity and deviation, are in themselves valuable assets and tools to help make a partnership work.

Collaborative Marriage Planning does not dictate that you use good judgment, any more that it would attempt to force you to adhere to, and follow through on, the agreements you make. Collaborative Partnership Agreements are not designed to be enforced in court. The Plan and the Partnership Agreement can, however, provide reference points for gauging whether your partnership is working. It provides you with an agreed upon basis for working to either modify your former expectations and obligations, modify partner behaviors, or, in the extreme, conclude that the partnership is broken.
It is a basic underpinning of Collaborative Marriage Planning (although you need not subscribe to it) that the sooner a couple is able to determine that they have made a mistake that cannot be corrected with reasonable and sustained effort on the part of both partners, the better. Life is too short, and strong, positive partnership relationships, too important to our happiness to remain committed to a dysfunctional or destructive relationship once it becomes clear that the patterns of that relationship are not going to change.

A cautionary note: “Over planning”, and “over defining” are legitimate concerns. The Collaborative Marriage Planning team is sensitive to this potential and will work to ensure that large and substantive areas of activity and responsibility remain for you both to work out, innovate, and play with, using the skills and tools you have acquired during the process of developing your Collaborative Marriage Plan and Collaborative Partnership Agreement.