Couples, are you interested in finding an activity to bond, grow, learn, and communicate more lovingly and effectively with one another? Learning together can cultivate a relationship of connection, attraction, and growth.
In this blog you will learn what The Four Agreements are, how they can support communication, transformation, and create emotional safety. You will be given relationship tools, individual sidenotes, and lastly, a couples assignment (homework) that I share with my clients!
I meet and work with SO MANY COUPLES who usually want and need at least one of the following: Deeper connection, more self-awareness, and communication tools. I work with couples in regular weekly sessions and have shorter “intensive journey packages,” that hone in on their dynamic and create unique interventions in a matter of a few days or weeks. Not all couples decide to go to therapy and even those who have, may need or want additional tools. Regardless of your spiritual or religious beliefs, there is a book that is a 3.5hr read or audible, with four precious agreements that when couples go through together, make a world of difference for their connection, self-awareness, and communication. That book is…
“The Four Agreements” by Don Miquel Ruiz
There are pieces of literature that come into our lives and guide us, inspire us, teach us, and challenge us. There are books that I hold dear to my heart as they have helped me on my own personal journey. Some challenge our intellect, some speak to our soul, while others truly warm our hearts.
For those out there that know my therapeutic approach to couples therapy, you know I am passionate about being authentically yourself, growing with one another, and continuously recalibrating the relationship allowing for growth, passion, and new vision to keep both partner’s not only engaged in their life together, but also feeling desired, safe, seen, and inspired. I recognize that’s ambitious. I also recognize that it is entirely possible.
Back to books. It was about a decade ago when a close colleague recommended this book to me, as it was recommended to her by a friend, many years prior. It is a book that supports humanity, not just clients, not just me, my colleague, and her friend. It is a simple read, yet it’s depth is as deep as the reader. It meets you where you are. The more you know yourself, the more of “the work” you’ve been doing, the more you will see, the deeper you will go.
Published in 1997 and according to my latest web search, The Four Agreements has sold over 12 million copies. and has been translated into 52 languages! Which means, that there is a strong likelihood that if you are reading this blog, you have read or at least heard of it. What makes it so special? I suppose there are various opinions around that question. I can share why I believe it is a MUST READ and how I have seen couples who read this book together experience major shifts in their communication, conflict resolution, connection, and overall happiness and fulfillment with themselves and in their relationship. They are able to go deeper as individuals and that shows up in their relationship!
“Remember, despite how open, peaceful and loving you attempt to be, people can only meet you, as deeply as they’ve met themselves.” – Matt Kahn
Why should everyone read this book?
I have clients in individual therapy read, “The Four Agreements” because it supports us with some of the most popular topics in therapy:
- Engaging in negative self-talk or not keeping your word with self and/or others. Being able to be trustworthy, people you care about being able to trust that your words and actions are aligned. You being able to hold true to the promises you make to yourself and learning to trust yourself. – Learning to be “BE IMPECCABLE WITH YOUR WORD“
- ‘Personalizing most things, being defensive, making it about “you.” Internalizing what others share and often believing it is a judgment or something negative about you – Learning, “DON’T TAKE ANYTHING PERSONALLY” (and that means anything “good” or “bad”).
- Jumping to conclusions, thinking you can predict what others are going to do/say, you do not ask questions, and you determine (assume) what someone else’s actions mean – Learning, “DON’T MAKE ASSUMPTIONS“
- Not fully executing, doubting your ability, not trying, doing things haphazardly/half way, knowing you can do better but choosing not to. It can also mean, overdoing things to the point of exhaustion or depletion and risking illness or burnout. – Focus on, “ALWAYS DO YOUR BEST” (not more, not less).
Do you experience any of the following in your couple dynamic?
- You and/or your partner assume what the other is thinking and feeling, without them sharing.
- You and/or your partner do not stay curious, and assume they know what is best for their partner.
- You and/or your partner doubt that their partner is being forthcoming and transparent when asked questions. Examples: “Are you sure? Do you really mean it? Seriously, tell me if you want me to do it? Are you being 100% honest with me?”
- You and/or your partner put your relationship on the back burner, give it minimal effort, believe you can get to it later.
- You and your partner have what feels like the same argument and are defensive/experience defensiveness.
- You and/or your partner do a huge amount for the relationship, giving more energy than you have to the point of exhaustion and then pull back, do much less, and feel resentful?
- You and/or your partner take the actions, words, and mood of your partner personally. Do you make it about you and have a hard time holding space for them?
- You and/or your partner hear things through a filter of, “what have I done wrong now?”
- You and/or your partner are not 100% transparent and are sacrificing a need, not expressing a desire, or not sharing something that hurt your feelings in order to keep the peace or because you struggle with expressing your needs.
THE FOUR AGREEMENTS as FOUR TOOLS FOR COUPLES…
THE FIRST AGREEMENT: BE IMPECCABLE WITH YOUR WORD
- When you believe your partner is saying they are okay and you believe there is something wrong.
- When you believe your partner is saying (or not saying) something to avoid an uncomfortable conversation.
- When you are sharing something with your partner and they have a hard time believing you, or think you are holding back.
TOOL: When sharing, simply share with your partner, ‘I AM BEING IMPECCABLE WITH MY WORD.” This one statement can immediately ground both partners. You and your partner will know that what you are saying is true, conscious, and intentional.
Sidenote: Individually, keep an eye on being impeccable with your word to yourself. Be on the lookout for negative self-talk and keeping the promises you make to yourself.
THE SECOND AGREEMENT: DON’T TAKE ANYTHING PERSONALLY
- When your partner is in a “bad” mood and is snappy or snarky with you.
- When your partner is not initiating sexual intimacy.
- When your partner is quieter and less engaging than usual
TOOL: Stay Curious and take yourself out of the equation rather than make it about you and telling yourself a story that they are not interested in you, do not love you, do not find you attractive, etc. You can ask: “I notice that you have been quiet, is something wrong or are you just in a quiet space?” or ” you have been quieter than usual, are you okay? I am here if you would like to talk.”
Sidenote: Individually, hold yourself accountable for not taking ANYTHING, from ANYONE personally, even the good things1 Remember the phrase, if this wasn’t about me, what else could it be about?
THE THIRD AGREEMENT: DON’T MAKE ASSUMPTIONS
- When you believe you know why your partner is exhibiting a behavior and acting a certain way.
- When rather than ask and stay curious about your partner, you assume you know the intentions behind what they do and do not do.
TOOL: (Ask questions) If you notice your partner is less attentive, rather than guessing. hypothesizing, or assuming, you can state: “You are being less attentive and I do not want to make an assumption that it’s because you had an exhausting day at work, can you tell me what is impacting you? or “You have been going to bed really late, I do not want to assume the reason why, are you open to talking about it?”
Sidenote: Individually, hold yourself accountable for asking questions and staying curious about all things and people. You may make an assumption and be correct, however, oftentimes we get it wrong. Remember to say this phrase to yourself, I do not get to attach meaning to someone else’s actions or inaction. I get to ask.
THE FOURTH AGREEMENT: ALWAYS DO YOUR BEST
- When you put less thought, energy, and/or care into your relationship because you believe it can wait.
- When you knowingly do not try your best in the relationship because you do not feel like it and/or are taking your relationship and partner for granted.
TOOL: Set intentions together. Remind one another that you are in it together and have an honest conversation about your level of investment in the relationship. To quote Don Miquel Ruiz, “your best is never going to be the same from one moment to the next. Everything is alive and changing all the time so your best will sometimes be high quality and other times it will not be as good.” He continues on to say, “under any circumstances, always do your best, no more, no less.” You get to make a pact with one another that no matter what, you will do your best and when one of you is struggling, the other gets to give their partner the benefit of the doubt. You get to trust that they are doing their best according to what they have the capacity to do at any given moment.
Sidenote: Individually, make this how you show up for yourself everyday and ALL of your relationships will benefit. Including your relationship with yourself!
Reading The Four Agreements together can be a relationship game changer! I recommend reading or listening to one chapter per check-in/session and after you both have finished the chapter, discuss the following:
- Each of your takeaways regarding your individual relationship with and thoughts about the agreement.
- How the agreement (taking things personally, making assumptions, etc.) shows up in your relationship.
- What tools do you believe will be helpful and want to implement in your relationship?
- How will you hold yourselves and one another accountable, with compassion and gentle reminders during conversations and/or conflict?
Remember, you and your partner can create whatever dynamic works best for you as long as you are committed to the process. If you are both showing up and sticking to Agreement #4, you’ve got this!
Thank you Don Miquel Ruiz for your contribution to humanity!
Sending love to you and your relationship, Tamara