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Breaking Agreements

Whenever people get together to work as a group, they make agreements, whether actually stated or not, regarding what is right and what is wrong—in other words, what will help the group’s survival and what will be destructive to its survival.

This is called a moral code—a set of agreements that each person has decided to follow to ensure that the group survives.

The size of the group doesn’t matter—whether it is two people forming a marriage or a whole country being formed—the group members enter into certain agreements. The breaking of one of these agreements is commonly known as a transgression.

When one partner in a relationship or a marriage breaks the agreed-upon moral code, he often feels that he cannot tell the other person about it. But these transgressions can gradually build up and cause a breakdown of the relationship.

In Scientology, the word used for a harmful act or a transgression against the moral code of a group is an overt act or, more simply, an overt.

An overt is either something that you did that you shouldn’t have done or something you didn’t do that you should have done, according to the moral code.

Another way of looking at it is that an overt is a thing that you have done to another that you wouldn’t want to have done to you.

For example, take a husband who makes an agreement with his wife that he will meet her at a restaurant that night for their wedding anniversary. Later that day, his friend asks him to go to a movie and he decides to go there instead. He doesn’t show up to meet his wife, or even phone her to let her know, and she ends up eating alone. That would be an overt act.

When a person commits (does) an overt against someone, he often feels he can’t tell that person about it for fear of what might happen. So, he keeps it to himself—he withholds it.

A withhold is an overt act that a person has committed that he isn’t talking about.

Any withhold comes after an overt.

Overts and withholds separate a person from freely communicating with the remainder of his group or family.

For example, if a man goes to a casino and loses all the money he had set aside and needed to pay the family bills, he has committed an overt act. If he then hides this fact and never mentions it to his wife or family, he has broken an agreement that the group is based on. This is the type of act that causes the disintegration (separating into parts) of the family.

A marriage that has broken down to the point where the partners are separated from each other because of overts and withholds is almost impossible to put back together simply by postulating it into existence. After people have separated from each other, they have to unseparate themselves. They have to, in some way, get back into communication and get back to creating their marriage. But how do they do that?

Some people may think marriage is like something they read in a storybook or saw in a movie. They may think that on a beautiful summer day, they will meet this handsome man or this beautiful girl. Then they come together and say, “I do until death do us part.” And they think they have made a marriage just by saying that. But actually, they have not even started yet.

You may think that marriage has a lot to do with relationships. It doesn’t. It has mostly to do with things such as makeup and razor blades and clothing and the car and the house that they have to share together. They have to learn to live with each other—if they can.

To some degree, they have wiped out or removed—by the act of getting married—what they were doing before. They make this agreement and have to start from there. It’s what happens from there on out that matters.

But sometimes things they have done before, which they are violently (with great force) withholding from each other, don’t even let the marriage get started and forty-eight hours later their marriage is heading for ruin or disaster. This is because there are just too many overts and withholds from before they even knew each other.

But even that marriage can be saved.

In a marriage that has gone on for a few years, overt acts and withholds can build up until the partners “grow apart.” Some may consider it to be traditional (the way things have been for a long time) that at the end of three years, husbands and wives don’t get any enjoyment from being with each other. They consider it as usual. But they don’t seem to really know why that happens.

It happens because of the overt acts and withholds the marital partners have between each other.

If this is the case at the end of three years, how bad do you think it will be at the end of ten? By that time, many couples have just learned to put up with each other or they are both in propitiation—a state of trying to keep each other calm or reduce the anger of each other. They are somehow getting along and would rather have it that way than some other way. They would rather be married than not. They think they’re making it okay. And they don’t think too much anymore about the girl or the guy that they used to think they should have married instead. Their marriage is going along somehow.

Into that relationship, Scientology can make a shocking and surprising change: we can clear up the marriage!

Divorce and separation come about simply because there are too many overts and withholds between the marital partners. It’s as simple as that.

When a marital partner is feeling stress or pressure and wanting to leave and saying, “I should go” or “I should not stay” or “I should do something else” or “We should split up” or “I’d be much better off if we hadn’t,” all of those ideas come immediately from the overt acts and withholds of the partner having those thoughts.

Actually, the basic reason a person does this is that he’s trying to protect the other partner from his own viciousness (mean or harmful behavior). So he says to himself, “Well, I’d better leave” or “We’d better break up” or “We should cool it off (break up for a little while).” And that’s usually the gradual approach of a marriage breakup. But we can take these things and “uncool” them off.

If you’ve ever tried to help clean up a marriage between a couple, you will find that they may decide that it’s all over and there’s no reason to go on with it because one couldn’t possibly… The thing that saves the day each time is to get each person to remember what he himself or she herself did. If the two marriage partners just keep that thought firmly in mind and disclose all of their overts and withholds to each other, any marriage can be saved.

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