Marriage Constitution: An Operating Manual
Love and management of expectations: A Marriage Constitution
Marriage Constitution: An Operating Manual
To You, Me, and Our Witnesses
This is a contract made in love, and in the expectation that whatever happens after the honeymoon years, we will honor the conditions written in this Marriage Constitution. We voluntarily made this to remind ourselves that once upon a time, we were in love with each other, and promised the heaven and the stars for each other. We also know that time and the grind of the daily living tend to erode the happy promises we made for each other, and witnessed by our friends and family.
Thus, the necessity of this “marriage contract.” It serves as a set of core operational principles that we pledge ourselves to live by.
And in times of stress during our marriage years, we pledge to bring this out again and read to each other the important provisions of our agreed promises for each other. May the fates smile upon us till the end of our years. Together.
Together, to face the future, with strength, kindness, hope, and love. With belief and trust on each other. Through the best of times, through the worst of times. In love and in faith, till death do us part.
How we treat each other
We pledge to ALWAYS treat each other with utmost respect, with unconditional positive regards. Even during those times that we seem not to understand each other’s point of view, of each other's reasons for doing things, we pledge to always keep the respect for each other. Never to put another down, promising to focus on the point of discussion and not on the character of each person. We know that perhaps love will fade, but never the respect for each other.
How we communicate
We pledge to practice kindness and patience when communicating with each other. To strive to always understand the other’s point of view first, before we make ourselves understood. Not to cut another in mid-sentences but instead practice a consideration and patience in sending our messages.
How we resolve differences
We pledge to settle differences using our logic more than our emotions. That we will not say anything hurtful,or decide hastily during those moments when we are in the throes of our emotions. We know that not all problems and challenges that we will encounter will not have easy resolutions.
Our pledge is to exert all our efforts to come up with a win-win resolution to the challenges at hand. Above all, to hold each other’s hands at the end of the day, despite lingering emotional stress and misgivings that each may have for the other. Because tomorrow is another day; a new positive possibility.
How we resolve non-negotiable principles and values
We agree to discuss our non-negotiable principles and values, and strongest with the following objectives:
1. That each will full respect the principles and values of another;
2. That each will not intentionally push or force the other to violate his/her principles and values for selfish reasons, nor for reasons that may seem to be valid yet have other options other than the violation of such principles and values.
3. That each will strive to find ways to deal with challenges and issues along the way that fully considers the values and principles of another, where the outcome is acceptable to both parties.
Our Non-negotiable principles and values:
Husband: family comes first, integrity, nurturing spirituality, going out with best friends, others….
Wife: family comes first, integrity, no cursing and using foul words at home or anywhere, taking care of my parents and siblings, fulfilling religious duties, others… (fill the rest with your own non-negotiables)
How we resolve non-negotiable activities
Husband: alone time, going out with close friends, engaging in sports/ hobbies, (others…. )
Wife: alone time, going out with close friends, … (others…)
How we will raise our children, and the principles we will use to raise them up
Our children our not ours, they are God’s gift to humanity. Thus, we will always treat them as souls equal to ours. To raise them in love and with love. To give them unconditional love, without asking anything for return. The things we will do and give for them are not premised on them reciprocating to us in the future.
These are the principles that will govern the way we will raise our children:
1. Love them unconditionally. It also means that when we give them gifts and stuff, those are not premised on their individual achievements or “good behavior” exhibited at home and at school.
2. Treat them as young adults, even if they are still toddlers. Acknowledging the soul within them as our equal.
3. Ensuring that they learn how to be independent in the youngest possible time.
4. We will not raise them based from how our friends raise their own children, but rather, by intentionally seeking scientific, research-based approaches in properly raising children, especially during their infancy and toddler years, where their core values and personality are being formed.
5. Corporal punishment is not allowed, and is not even a last course of action.
6. Cursing and using foul words, toxic words, sarcasm, and other words that put the spirit and self-esteem of our children, and other children as well, are never allowed.
7. We will not be “emotionally-hostaged” by our children, should they show tantrums in the future. However, we believe that if we raise them properly, throwing tantrums will not even manifest.
8. Always respect our children’s individuality. We will not compare them with each other(if we have more than one child), nor compare them with other children like their cousins, their playmates, their schoolmates.
9. Positive affirmation will always be given.
10. Holding them accountable by teaching them responsibilities as early as their toddler years. This is important since it will form their core values and personal character that will determine how they will function in society as young adults.
11. Raise them in a loving, respectful, joyful environment.
12. Raise them in an environment where learning and making mistakes are considered process for growth. And that these are given and dealt with love and affection.
13. Teaching them how to emotionally bounce back from “failures” and mistakes, letting them know that making unintentional mistakes are just part of the learning process. And that they are always loved and cared for despite the mistakes along the way.
14. To love and care for the environment, as steward on this earth.
15. To love one’s family system, and be proud of one’s cultural inheritance, including the utmost respect for one’s country and its history.
16. That we will not blame ourselves too for seeming mistakes that we will unintentionally make along the way, especially if those were done with love and good intention for our children. Because there is no operating manual that comes along with our children when they were born, and that we are just humans trying to do our best for kids.
How we will resolve differences, when they crop up, as we raise our children.
We will adopt a common, united approach in raising our children. Should we have differences in opinions and actual way of dealing with a particular situation, we will respect the action of each other. Especially when one is “forced” by circumstances to act on the spot. However, we will also agree to review the actions toward the child –whatever it may be; like permitting the child to do something adventurous, or not to allow the child to engage in an activity; or an act of disciplining the child for any reason. The objective of the review is simply to understand and support each other’s actions, not to find fault and blame.
How we will deal with our finances and manage expenses
We understand that this is one of the most sensitive matters between couples. Thus, we adopt the following principles when dealing with our finances:
1. When we share, when we give, we ask nothing in return. Thus, shared finances are given in trust and in love. We will not audit each other’s actions towards finances, whether shared or solely given by one or the other.
2. We pledge to adopt a sensible, fair, and fun way of doing budgeting, sharing finances, for better or for worse.
3. We will never make a big issue out of finances, nor making the other party feeling guilty of spending shared budget.
4. We will always make sure that the financial needs of the spouse are given priority. To give without asking anything in return is our mantra both in loving one another, and in financial provisions.
How we will engage with the rest of the family members
A. Husband and wife’s family members: They are treated with utmost respect like family members. We will spend effort to understand each one to better deal with them as part of our family. Birthdays and special occasions like baptismal and wedding ceremonies of the immediate family members of the spouse is given attention. Attending such events is almost a requirement. We will exert effort to make sure to attend such events,and to be of help to the immediate family members only in the individual capacity of the spouse to do so. It means helping through physical presence, or n financial sense.
B. Extended clan members on both sides are treated with the same respect as the immediate family members of the spouses. However,attending family events and celebrations of the extended clan is always optional. And not being able to attend to any of their events should not betaken against the spouse, or their children as well.
C. Financial support given in times of needs of one of the immediate family members of the spouse is expected to be given, but only within reason, and in full agreement of both couples. We pledge, now and later, not to make this matter a point of misunderstanding between us. We will always remember our mantra: When we love, we love. When we give, we give. And we ask nothing in return.
How we will engage with close friends
A. We will exert to know the close friends of our spouse as much as we can. Spending reasonable time and resources to do so.
B. We acknowledge that we may not exactly know fully each of our spouse’s friends, yet we will exert effort to befriend them as well. Enough to be comfortable in the presence of our spouse’s friends as the situation demands.
C. We respect the need of each other to be with their circle of friends, particularly childhood and school-based friends. We will never make an issue out of it, and respect and trust each other that having fun with old and new friends is normal and part of being who we are as individuals.
D. Financial support extended to friends, especially close ones, is understandable. And any support extended to friends of the spouse is given in love. Thus, giving and helping them, like the immediate family members, is almost accepted as given.
E. Any and all help extended to immediate family members, extended family members, and friends of the spouses are seen as act of love for the spouse. Respect for each other’s capacity to give should always be upheld. To give to the extent that each can, and not more than that. however small or big the help that is extended will always be appreciated with gratitude for each other.
How we will do house work
Housework is shared between us. One of us may take on more housework than the other, whenever one of us feels that we are better at it. In general, equal responsibility is expected from both of us. And if one volunteers to do more, out of love, then there should be no accounting of who does more than the other, nor make housework an issue between the couple. On the other hand, doing housework together makes the bond between us stronger than before.
How we will help each other’s personal and professional growth, and approach religion and spirituality
How do we grow personally and professionally? We will follow Gibran’s principle when he said “let there be spaces in our togetherness, where the winds of the heavens dance between us…. Sing and dance together and be joyous,but let each one of us be alone, Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music…And stand together, yet not too near together:For the pillars of the temple stand apart, And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other's shadow.
We will always support the professional growth of each other, even if it entails sacrifices and length of time being away from each other. We will give our support both emotionally and materially, never holding the other accountable, nor counting the cost, because when we give, and when we love, we ask nothing in return.
We will explore religion and spirituality both together and alone. For the call of the universe to each of our souls may be the same, or different. Yet we believe that even if the paths become different, the final outcome will be the same – to have our spirits uplifted in the service of humanity.
How we will treat our grandchildren
Our grandchildren will be loved more than our children. We will spoil them, to a certain point. However, discipline approach will be coming from their parents - our children - and we need to respect that. life choices will be influenced and determined by their parents, yet we will also give our suggestions. When it comes to values formation, we believe that a systemic effort needs to be applied. It means aligning our approach with their parents’values and “discipline” approach. “Divide and conquer” should be never be applied when it comes to the values formation of our grandchildren.
How our properties, if there are, will be handed down to our children.
Properties will be divided equally among our children. It will be hard to do it equitably, so fairly is better. It means equal distribution of properties and assets, and nobody will be deprived of their rights, regardless of however the relationship situation turns out in the future. This property and asset distribution need to be prepared as early as possible. Some people will say it might make our children “greedy” or anticipating our demise earlier. But with proper values formation, this will be the least of our concerns.
How we will guide our children on the career of their choice
Career guidance will be based on facts, data, and trends that are prevalent on that time. We will not force them to take on our own ideas. Rather, we will spend time and effort knowing our children’s strengths, weaknesses, potentials, and passion, and based our guidance and suggestions from there. In the end, we will always tell them that we will honor their individual decisions, based from informed decisions.
How we will deal with each other in moments of extreme stress and anger
In the event that this happens, we will agree to take time off by simply keeping our mouths shut. Or even taking the time to find our own personal spaces to unwind, to de-stress. We will give each other two days of cooling down. Then we will sit down and rationally discuss our options.
We will adopt a no-blame, no-judgment attitude, yet fully expressing our feelings. And agreeing to work out and give our relationship priority –remembering why we decided to tie the knot together in the first place.
We will be open to invite a mediator, a marriage counselor or family therapist, as needed. We will do this because, today, we promise with all our heart our fealty to each other, and the importance we are giving to each other. We will not simply give up on us and our relationship. We promise, today, to exert effort and persevere.
And in the extreme case where we reach the point of being in the state of irreconcilable differences, we will deal with it maturely, even if we are deeply hurt, with full consideration of the feelings of each other, and ensuring that each can function enough to survive in this world. Assets and properties will be divided, with the bigger portion provided for the wife.
How we will execute these agreements
We will execute all these points in a state of love, of mutual understanding, of maturity. As needed, the witnesses of this marriage constitution will be called to help mediate and smoothen possible differences between us. And we will respect their suggestions, honor their efforts, knowing that they are part of our lives and we asked them, today, in faith and in trust.
A promise to visit these agreements every year, and renew every five years, and amend as possible.
We promise to visit this marriage constitution every year, in a formal ritual, in front of our family members, close friends, and our dear witnesses. As needed, amendments will be done. We will affix our signatures on the original document every time we do so. It is a concrete, operational symbol of our love and fidelity, which we hope will last forever.
Today, in front of our family and friends, we are committing ourselves as husband and wife, to abide and live by these major agreements in our married life. We are doing this to manage our relationship better, in a state of love, trust, and commitment.
We thank all of you, from the bottom of our hearts, for witnessing this set of solemn and sacred agreement. May we all live and love well.
Signed with love and faith this 30th Day of June 2019, in the presence of our dear witnesses:
(full names of husband, wife, 2 primary witnesses (preferably family members or best friends, another two witnesses, if they're also close to the couple [ideally, witnesses should be more mature and in along-standing marriages/relationships too]).
About the author
Emmanuel F. Silan, PhD
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