September 2017


  • Featured Article
    15-Steps to Crafting Elegant & Effective Agreements
  • Ask Our Coaches
    My husband was "sexting" my best friend. Should I trust them when they say it's just a harmless flirtation?


15-Steps to Crafting Elegant & Effective Agreements

By: Dr Jackie Black

Couples join forces with one another by forming agreements.

Agreements are expressed in writing or verbally during very intentional conversations.

Most of us have never learned how to craft effective, explicit agreements. It is a skill we were never taught, even though it is fundamental to all relationships and a basic life skill.

Below is a method I believe every committed couple should learn and use over and over again. It also works beautifully with any two or more people who wish to make agreements that honor who they are and their relationship, and ensures that they end up with a *Win-Win* outcome.

15-Steps to Elegant and Effective Agreements:

  1. Create and clearly articulate your joint vision with as much rich detail as possible. Be sure that both of you participate with eagerness and passion.
  2. Be sure that both of you are creating the agreement with intention and with a belief that you are well served making and honoring the agreement.
  3. Make a list of each person’s strengths, gifts, skills and talents that are available to be drawn on by each of you.
  4. Identify, with as much detail as possible, all the aspects of what it is you are coming to agreement about. A joint plan works best when you are both working toward the same joint vision.
  5. Be certain that each of you understands and acknowledges the actions (behaviors), attitudes, and responsibilities that are associated with the agreement for yourself and your partner.
  6. Decide together if the actions and attitudes are sufficient to result in the desired outcome(s). If no, identify what additional actions and attitudes must be included and by whom.
  7. All agreements must have specific time deadlines for each part of the agreement to be completed or finalized. These are “by whens”—by when will you do this, and by when will you do that. In addition, the time period the agreement will be in force must be specified.
  8. Does the agreement as a whole and do all the parts of the agreement forward the joint vision?
  9. Clearly identify the evidence or positive outcome(s) that you expect to result for each person from making and honoring the agreement.
  10. Does the agreement as a whole and do all the parts of the agreement truly satisfy each person and result in each person being whole? Being whole refers to being sure that neither person experiences a loss or losses as a result of pledging their time, attention and commitment to the agreement.
  11. Bring all your concerns and fears to this discussion. This can often minimize the disagreements that may occur during the process of crafting the agreement. This discussion will deepen your commitment to the agreement and to your partner or reveal a problem that might already be brewing in the relationship.
  12. No matter how optimistic and clear you both are when you craft an agreement, one or both of you will likely come back to the table and ask for the agreement to be renegotiated or changed in some way at some time. This is not a personal failure or a failure of the process! This is an expected, anticipated part of crafting and honoring agreements!

    It is critical to include a mechanism that will take into consideration the many changes that normally and naturally occur over time in a couple’s relationship. Being realistic about this at the beginning enables the relationship to evolve and prosper. It is imperative to provide each person with a way to accommodate change—an exit strategy you can both follow with dignity. Anyone who feels imprisoned in an agreement, commitment or relationship will not be his or her best self or offer all possible personal contributions to forward the joint vision.
  13. It is inevitable for conflicts and disagreements to arise, and perhaps, one of you will not honor the agreement. Establish an attitude of good will and good intention and a plan to repair hurt feelings and disappointments.
  14. Both people must be responsible to ensure that the agreement is honored.
  15. Unless and until you are satisfied, do not move into action. Do not agree. Be sure each person is satisfied, ready to take action, and that outcome will be worth it and the joint vision becomes more a reality.

Remember, only YOU can make it happen!

Copyright © 2017 by Dr. Jackie Black and the Relationship Coaching Institute. All rights reserved in all media. Used with permission.

Dr. Jackie Black, is a Marriage Educator, Author and Coach; the co-developer of RCI's Couples Coach Training Program; and the creator of the new, 7-week, online, multimedia learning experience for couples facing life-threatening and chronic illness. She is a popular Internet syndicated columnist, a highly regarded relationship blogger and podcaster, and a frequent guest expert on traditional and Internet radio throughout the world. Connect with Dr. Jackie at

Ask Our Coaches

My husband was "sexting" my best friend. Should I trust them when they say it's just a harmless flirtation?

Dear Coaches,

I found out recently that my husband and my best friend were sexting each other. When I confronted them they both said they were just "goofing around" and it was innocent flirtation. I don't think it's innocent at all, but they both tell me I'm being too sensitive. Should I trust them?

Gary Robertson

Gary responds...

First, let me say, this would be a very hard thing to hear about and then to know how to respond. Many times such news is devastating, like a bomb just dropped on your life. So very often people are in shock, what I call, "Walking out of the crater of devastation" and trying to figure out what to do. Revelations like this can cause a person to feel scrambled and confused, so the first order is to take a breath, step back and give yourself time to think and catch up with yourself on this development.

Should you trust them? What does your heart and head tell you? If you’re still confused, try to look at the facts -  what's actually happened - which is your husband and best friend were sexting each other.

Here's my interpretation: A trust has not been kept, secrets have been in play, the defense is on (minimizing the reality of the sexting). You’ve probably already have asked yourself this questions: “How many friends sext to friends?” NOT!! Does not happen, right!? This behavior does not fit in the context of a friendship. So, I'd say, "Stick with the facts before you! It's the proverbial, " If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, it must be a duck!" Boundaries have been crossed. A trust has been broken. Unfortunately, you can’t trust them (for now). Evidence indicates they are not trustworthy.

Just a note on going forward: It's going to take some time to try to understand what has happened. You likely have questions like: How do and your husband go forward from this? How do you rebuild the trust and emotional safety needed in an intimate relationship? This is where a Relationship Coach can help! Also, Shirley Glass’ book, Not “ just friends.” is a very helpful resource that speaks to your situation.

Remember, it’s our pain points and failures that can become the foundations for understanding and new life. The good news is that many couples/marriages actually get through moments like this and rebuild their lives

Gary Robertson |

Leah Cochrane

Leah responds ...

First, I'd like to acknowledge you for the courage it took to confront your husband and best friend about sexting with each other, and also for reaching out for support for yourself in such a situation.

You asked "Should I trust them?"

To help you answer that question, let me ask you one: Do you trust them right now?

I noticed, in response to their claim that it was just an innocent flirtation, you wrote "it didn't seem innocent at all." How do you think you would deal with your sense that "it didn't seem innocent at all?" Would there be conditions that would have to be met in order for you to trust them?

You also noted that your husband and best friend told you that you were being "too sensitive." I'm wondering what your response is to being told you're being "too sensitive"?

Finally, suppose you did decide you were being too sensitive and that you would trust them as you had before, what do you envision your relationships with them would be like a year from now?

The truth is, no one can tell you whether you should trust another person. That is a deeply personal decision. But I believe you hold within you the answer that is right for you.

If I may suggest a strategy to find your answer: see if your answers to the questions above give you any clarity, and call upon the courage you have already demonstrated to ask yourself any other questions that need answering. Your answers to the questions may provide the clarity you are looking for.

You may also find having a Relationship Coach at this time to be a great benefit, to support you and help you to find the clarity you are looking for, and to identify your own needs, wants and requirements for your relationships.

I leave you with my best wishes, and a quote from Shakespeare-- "to thine own self be true..."

Leah Cochrane |

Wendy Lyon

Wendy responds ...

Thank you for reaching out to get a reality check on your situation. Perhaps it’s time to clarify appropriate boundaries in your relationships with your husband and best friend. Let them know that you are NOT comfortable with their behavior and request that they stop. Blaming and shaming doesn’t work well – you can just say “This doesn’t work for me. I feel...” Then it’s time to find out WHY this is going on. What do you and your husband need to feel safe and loved in your marriage? What do you need from your best friend? Perhaps you and your husband would like to speak with a relationship coach and learn how to create a rock solid, trustworthy and sensational marriage!

Wendy Lyon |

The opinions stated are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the staff, members, or leadership of Relationship Coaching Institute.

This column answers questions submitted by our readers. Submit your question here and it will be forwarded to our coaches all over the world. Each issue, we'll publish a few answers from our RCI coaches.


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