The New Relationship Agreement: Black gay love’s guide to relationship compromise

I am a dog person. In fact, my family has a 6 year old American Pit Bull Terrier named Honey that I absolutely adore. But Bae doesn’t really care for animals. 

When we dated, he’d come to my house to meet Honey many times and we even discussed what our new home together would look like with animals. 

Then came the day that Honey came to stay with us and everything changed. Honey, in her divine canine wisdom, gave us a crash course in compromise that we’d never expected. In some aspects we succeeded. In others we failed. But our relationship is getting stronger for it. 

The hardest part about compromise in a relationship between two men is that we both believe we are right. From directions to a destination to how clothes should be folded, we believe our way is best because it has worked well for us individually. But the art of building relationship is the joining together of yours and mine to discover ours. Yes. Discover. The common ground of your relationship is always there. Sometimes we have to allow ourselves the vulnerability to find something that we’ve never knew was possible. Enter the New Relationship Agreement.

Instead of just giving in to something to avoid a disagreement, or begrudgingly accepting Bae’s conditions of being, try collaborating with Bae to make something altogether new. Most couples understand steps 1-3. In fact, most of us thrive in steps 1 & 3. But follow the process all the way through to the end and you’ll find you and Bae can discover a way of being that not just accommodates both of you, but excites you too.

1. Acknowledge what you want/don’t want

The key to striking any deal is first fully understanding your position. That means fleshing out what you want/don’t want, and what have to offer to get it. 

The back end of your introspection is the part most of us forget: understand why you want it. It’s great for me to be a dog person, but why do I want to bring a dog into our home. This will be important to a good man.

2. Understand what Bae wants/doesn’t want

Every argument, disagreement and negotiation is a battle for understanding. The thing you’re debating over isn’t the objective. It’s really understanding why Bae wants it that he’s fighting for. For some, just taking a moment to fully understand Bae is enough to overcome a negotiation. But other times, it’s not. Regardless, the New Relationship Agreement can’t be fully realized until you understand what is most important to the other person and why.

3. Thorough and rigorous debate, when necessary

Most Black gay couples make huge, life changing decisions without taking a beat. When the stakes are high, like buying a house, or getting married, getting a dog or having a child, the debate is where you breakdown the fine print.

Have you ever seen the cringe-worthy proposals where Bae says no. Or, more personally, when Bae is always mad about something you love. Whether it’s nuptials or carpet color, the reason why both of you can’t get excited is because you haven’t taken time enough to discuss specifics. What will this NRA mean in real time. Steps 1 & 2 were about what and why. This step is all about how.

After you’re finished, sometimes it helps to write down your NRA. A good New Relationship Agreement will have a “but if you…” and a couple “I’ll take responsibility for…” and most importantly…

4. Markers of success

Whether it’s negotiating who will walk the dog at night, or when we will have children, living a compromise is difficult because it takes diligence and consistency. Give your relationship milestones so you both know you’re doing well. Then, TELL BAE HE’S DOING WELL. Nothing keeps Bae motivated in well-doing more than acknowledgement. 

5. Find something to love about your NRA

It’s one thing to give in to a compromise, then begrudgingly adhere to it. But that gets taxing for Bae to have to deal with your dismay every day. Like agreeing to that dog you really never wanted, or living in that house you don’t actually like. The teeth sucking and eye-rolling are manipulative, passive aggressive ways of getting your mate to eventually surrender his position so you can get your way. 

Instead, put your big-girl-panties on and take responsibility for your position in the negotiation. (inserts quick read) Bae didn’t come to an agreement by himself, nor are you a passive participant in your relationship. We each take an active role in everything that happens within our relationship whether we acknowledge it or not.

Try finding a single aspect of the new arrangement that you can fall in love with. Like our dog situation, find something about your relationship with a dog and make that your focus. Everything else is the gift with purchase you can’t change. Dwell on the blessing of your new agreement because there will come a time when Bae will have to dwell on his. 

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