We never dreamed there was a whole community of people like us out there, who wouldn't just not judge us, they would welcome us because we share in this lifestyle, and commend us for making it work so well, for so long.
One of things Husband and I have always done to help resolve arguments is sit down, talk out what we both wanted, come to a compromise, make an agreement, and then write it down. These contracts have always helped us to pinpoint exactly what is expected, and ensure there is no confusion later on over what was said, and what was agreed upon.
From the very beginning we did this, and it still works for us to this day.
Earlier in our marriage, the contracts handled big weighty issues, like childcare, housework, and budget. Often the contracts were only applied for a certain amount of time, like "until we can hire a babysitter twice a week" or "until Husband's big project at work is completed." Sometimes the terms stopped being relevant, and sometimes we found other ways to handle the underlying problem, so we put the contract aside.
But just going through the process of writing out our issues was always of benefit. It brought us both a sense of closure, and it reiterated our trust in one another. After all, a contract is basically a list of expectations, and you don't expect anything from a person you don't trust. The more you expect, the more you show your faith in the other person to follow through.
(Which answers the question, what happened if one of you broke the contract? These contracts were not about punishment or reward; they were about faith and trust. We both knew it, and we knew what that meant.)
Eventually, the need to write out our agreement into a formal contract wasn't always a necessary step in the negotiations. Obviously, we still negotiate with each other, and often, as couples need to; but we don't feel the need to put pen to paper and write out the details. Only sometimes, when negotiations get heated.
This is an example of a contract Husband and I wrote out a couple years ago. I found it hidden inside a notebook the other day.
"Husband agrees 100% with switching service from AT&T, or he will listen to Wife bitch about the poor service."
"Husband does not agree to pay more than he is paying now for cable, internet, and phone."
"and does not agree to wait 3 hours for the idiot man to come and not fix it."
The first part and last part is written in my handwriting; the middle is his.
As you can see, we were arguing about our poor cable service. I wanted to switch to Comcast, but Husband was afraid switching would mean higher prices, a contingency to which he did not agree. However, he also did not want to have to be the one waiting at home during the three-hour window when AT&T would send someone ("idiot man") to our house to try and fix our service (which they were never able to do, by the way, even after sending five people to try. Five people=fifteen "window" hours=fifteen hours I spent at home, seething).
When I look at this contract now, I crack up. I remember writing it out with him; I remember how angry I was that I was stuck waiting at home for these AT&T guys to show up, because Husband didn't want to "waste his time," (as if it was ok for ME to "waste my time,") but he also didn't want to spend a dollar more on our package service deal.
But now, when I look at this piece of paper, I laugh how self-righteous we were in our obstinacy. See how long that first black strip is? I had written out Husband's full name there at the top, to make the contract look more formal, and because, you know, he might later try to claim I had meant someone else.
At least we trusted each other enough not to sign it at the bottom...
...like we used to.
I have a stack of these kinds of contracts in my closet now, safe and hidden away. They are nothing but personal memorabilia, little keepsakes of our love. I look at them sometimes, and I remember.
Some people have love letters. I have old contracts.
I cherish them all the same. I wonder if only other kinky people can understand that.
(By the way, we did end up switching to Comcast. I got us a better package deal, and we ended up paying less, for better service. Husband was quite pleased with me for handling the issue in a way that satisfied both our demands.)