Sunday, September 11, 2011

shhhhh! this contract is silent!

I was challenged recently to look at my silent contracts -- you know, the agreements we're abiding by that we've never really acknowledged as agreements. Roles we may not have signed up for but that we're playing nonetheless. Things like being a "good daughter" or "the fat sister" or "the problem solver." Some of them may be roles we want (like "the smart one" or "the pretty one") and some of them may be Sisyphean burdens that we roll up the hill of our lives day in and day out (like "the smart one" or "the pretty one").

The thing about silent contracts is that sometimes they're so silent, we don't even know we have them. I spent 30 years playing the role of "peacemaker" and "perfect daughter" not realizing that my family didn't need peace, and actually preferred me with a couple of flaws. The contracts or the roles we play can be positive, but usually they're sneakier than that. We can have silent contracts with ourselves (in fact, one could argue that's the only person they're with) but usually they're experienced in relationship to someone else.

My specific challenge? To look for places where the silent contract of being "the single one" may, in fact, be keeping me single.

Much to my surprise, I found a few.

First: Two of my best friends are married to each other. They have two sons, and five seats in their car. When they go on an adventure, there's always a seat for me. But not for my boyfriend. Is this keeping me single?

Second: My sister and brother-in-law say that I'm the only non-parental visitor that they can really tolerate. They think I'm cool and easy to get along with. But what about my boyfriend? Could he live up to that, too?

Third: The bedroom in my apartment is only big enough for a double bed. (Any bigger and you wouldn't be able to get around the foot of the bed into the rest of the house.) It gets crowded with someone else sleeping in there. Is that keeping me single?

These revelations in and of themselves are somewhat meaningless. The real question is what I want to do with this information. I'm certainly not going to stop being friends with my friends, or become an unacceptable houseguest for my sister. But I'm acknowledging that there are things to gain and things to lose whenever we give up a silent contract. I think, in this case, the gains would enough outweigh the losses. Which makes it worthwhile for me to still look for a partner.

Watch out, sis.

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