Most contracts involve one person promising one thing and another person promising another thing. For example, in a tennancy agreement the landlord's obligations to the tenant are different from the tenant's obligations to the landlord.

Historically, marriage has been viewed in a similar way. The obligations of the husband to the wife are not the same as the obligations of the wife to the husband. The vows made by the husband differ from those made by the wife. In the traditional English marriage service (Book of Common Prayer) the groom's promise is to love, comfort, honour and keep the bride, whereas she promises to obey, serve, love, honour and keep him. There is also an explanation of the differing duties.

More recently marriage has been thought of as a relationship in which the duties of husband to wife are identical to the duties of wife to husband. In the modern alternative Church of England marriage service each promises to love, comfort, honour and protect the other. There is no difference.

Is there a legal term or phrase for a contract where the commitments of each party are identical, as opposed to being different.

I am not looking for a word like "equal" implying the status of the parties, or "symmetrical" implying, I gather, their relative bargaining strength. I hope for a word or term that means the commitments are identical.

  • Maybe bilateral? If this is what you're after, I'll turn it in to an answer (unless someone beats me to it).
    – user35069
    Mar 12, 2022 at 12:38
  • I can't think of a better term than "bilateral" suggested by @Rick. But I have not seen it used that way, and "bilateral contract" is used for a contract where neither party has yet complied with the obligations of the contrast, say a sale in which the money has not yet been paid, nor the goods delivered. I suspect that there is no accepted legal term for a contract where the obligations are identical, because legally it is unimportant. Each party is treated in the same way whether or not the other party's obligations are the same. So there is no need for such a term. Mar 12, 2022 at 14:07
  • 1
    I would suggest symmetric. Mar 12, 2022 at 16:05
  • Thanks very much gents. I think though that bilateral just meansthere are two parties, and that symmetrical is used to indicate the parties are equal bargainers, an assymetrical treaty being one where the stronger side dicates the terms. erhaps ther is no term, but lawyers tend to have so many terms I wondered if there might be. I suppose also that if evn you guys don't know it then my intended audience won't either. But thanks.
    – davidlol
    Mar 14, 2022 at 21:17

2 Answers 2


One would often talk about "reciprocal" obligations.

In law, a reciprocal obligation, also known as a reciprocal agreement is a duty owed by one individual to another and vice versa. It is a type of agreement that bears upon or binds two parties in an equal manner.

(Wikipedia Source).

  • 2
    Thankyou very much.
    – davidlol
    Mar 17, 2022 at 7:47


Also, marriage is not a contractural relationship.

  • Actually it is, that is why the legal term is "marriage contract". The contract is specified by the state, but it is in many was dealt with as other contracts are. Mar 12, 2022 at 23:20

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