There's a new trend in relationship management, and it's called the "relationship contract." How fun does that sound? As proof that this is a verifiable trend, it appeared as a plot device in the CBS show The Big Bang Theory, in which one nerdy character "ramped up his courtship," per The New York Times, with another nerdy character by way of a relationship agreement in which the rights and responsibilities of boyfriend and girlfriend were listed and agreed upon. That, essentially, is a relationship contract. Everyone (or, like, maybe six or eight or ten people) is doing it!
In the Times piece, Jan Hoffman writes, "Such agreements are hardly common. But many couples do make contracts, written or oral, delineating the idiosyncratic needs of their relationship: how much time they need to spend together and apart; who cooks and who cleans; who feeds the fish." (If the thought of someone putting your required fish-feeding schedule in writing and asking you to sign it makes you want to remain safely single and free from such harrowing enterprises forever, you would not be alone.)
But, actually, this may be less terrifying a prospect than it sounds at first and more a semantical matter. Haven't people, after all, been forming "relationship contracts" (and thankfully not calling them that) for years, simply by having relationships and figuring out what works for them and how to make them continue to work—and talking about it? It's the official signing of a piece of paper, the commoditization of something called a "relationship contract," that turns what is simply "A RELATIONSHIP" into something icky and nerdtastic (and not particularly romantic, for that matter). There's nothing wrong with discussing your expectations of a relationship and how you'll generally divide up duties and such before you, say, move in together. That's actually wise. But does the relationship contract itself actually serve to help in this cause, or is it more of...well, something handy as a New York Times trend piece, in which a writer can allude to such things as the long-told anecdote involving the now-married Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan—the one in which Chan required Zuckerberg to put in writing his commitment to spend one date night and 100 minutes together a week, "not in his apartment or at the Facebook office"? Oh, Chan. Oh, Zuckerberg.