Don Miguel Ruiz’s classic, The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom, speaks volumes of wisdom to us in daily life and is especially important for us as we maneuver life after a divorce or bad breakup. So many things change. The first anniversaries of special occasions from birthdays to religious and civic holidays after the divorce or break up mark one more time when things are different. Breakups happen for so many reasons. Sometimes the match was rooted in miscommunication. Sometimes people were in love with being in love and got into a relationship with a stranger. Each of the agreements (in italics below) provides concepts that can help us love who we are amid the challenges of divorce and bad breakups.
Ruiz’s text can bring some solace as we reflect on the relationship and embark on the healing process, as we look back and live in the present. Be impeccable with your word, as we say what we mean and mean what we say, which helps us to reckon with our new reality. We recognize that the relationship we dreamed of is no more. Depending upon the length of the relationship, and the status of our holistic health, the impact of the loss can vary. We must be clear about the relationships and our role in its demise, whether our responsibility was 5% or 65%. We must tell the truth about the loss, the causes of the loss, and what changes need to occur, to heal so that we do not bring the same challenges to future relationships.
Don’t take anything personally gives us the freedom to not get imprisoned in regret of what did not happen, and other people’s feelings about the divorce or breakup. There is plenty of pain to go around. When children are involved there are many decisions to be made. Sometimes couples delay divorce until children are older. Sometimes divorce occurs for a variety of reasons, whether due to a tragedy, irreconcilable differences, or abuse. While the vows stated “until death do us part,” sometimes the healthiest decision is for people to separate. Holistic health is essential and when the relationship has become toxic, regardless of our part in the failure, we need to see the reality of the nature of the relationship, not take it personally, and be willing to let go.
Don’t make assumptions is an important rule for any relationship, and is most significant when dealing with a divorce or bad breakup. We cannot assume we fully understand why the dynamics of the relationship deteriorated to this point. We cannot assume how family and friends will take the breakup, who will side with whom, and what changes will come by definition of the split. With a change in the relationship, other things will shift. Now is the time to listen with compassion and grace, and to avoid focusing on blame. We will need time to make the adjustments and to heal from this loss.
Always do your best is an opportunity to reset, to be aware of what has transpired, to accept the reality, and to take action toward a commitment that all relationships be mutually healthy. When we bring our best selves, we bring love and care—freedom, appreciation, and empathy. We honor the best and release the worst of the former union. We let go of judging ourselves and our former partner. We can focus on how we can improve how we relate to ourselves and others, without judgment. We daily focus on living in the moment, rather than begrudge the past.