conscious uncoupling

Four Agreements in Romantic Relationships

Don Miguel Ruiz’s The Four Agreements transformed the way I think about communication with myself and with the people I love. I know for some the spiritual undertones can be off-putting, but for many of my clients over the years it has offered really powerful wisdom.

The overall theme is that four simple yet profound rules can have an enormous impact on our life and relationships. Focusing on each of them has helped me live a more intentional, integrity-fueled life and build more mindful connected relationships.

These agreements not only apply to life in general but are absolutely critical in dating. I’ll dive deeper into each of them below. You can also download this beautiful printout of all the agreements to help you keep them in focus.:

Agreement 1: Be Impeccable With Your Word

Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using your words to speak against yourself or others. Use the power of your words to grow truth and love.

Being clear with your intentions, expectations, and boundaries in relationships is the best path to connection and the only way to avoid misunderstandings.

When I began to focus on this agreement I noticed many innocent lies I told throughout the day. I might run into someone I know and say “we should get together sometime” knowing I would never truly follow up. These white lies add up, and wear on us over time. And for many of us this culminates in a pattern of over-promising and over-committing in relationships. Committing to this agreement means being really honest with yourself and others all the time.

I also appreciate the focus of this agreement on being really mindful of the words we choose to create a life and commit to a narrative that works for us. The stories we tell ourselves have direct impact on our happiness and the ways people around us respond to us. Take care in choosing the stories you hold as true, and the ones you share.

Agreement 2: Don’t Take Anything Personally

Realize that nothing others do is because of you, but instead a projection of their own reality, self-work, and dreams. When you are immune to the opinions of others it will free you from needless suffering.

Let me be clear here: I’m not saying you should stop caring about anyone else. But most of us care a little too much. I see so many folks tied up in anxiety and conflict because they are too closely connected to their partner’s feelings- or worse, their perception of their partner’s feelings.

This is huge when dealing with rejection. Once you accept that rejection isn’t personal, it starts to roll off your back. Maybe your partner had a bad day, maybe someone in their past was a jerk, or maybe they’re just unhappy- unrelated to you.

Their emotional experience is beyond your control. You can help them feel a little better, but their choice to feel better does have to start from within. There’s no value in stressing about something that’s out of your hands and not about you.

Now, of course there are times something you’ve done will spark a reaction in someone else. You can still own your mistake or the impact you had on someone else without taking it personally. That might sound like responding “I’m sorry, I was running behind, and that resulted in you being late and nervous.” instead of “I am sorry I’m such a jackass. I always mess this stuff up.” Can you feel the difference?

It’s really important you take responsibility for your actions and work on improving it to minimize negative impacts on others. But don’t let it determine your self worth or define your character.

You can do better- and you will.

Agreement 3: Don’t Make Assumptions

Ask questions and communicate as clearly as you can about misunderstandings. Stay curious about yourself and the others around you to create room to honor each of your individuality and growth.

I’ve written extensively about this in the past, so I won’t bore you here, but staying curious about your sweetheart is the easiest way to avoid growing stagnant and bored in long-term relationships. Invest energy in understanding them instead of assuming they’ll never change.

The same goes for yourself. Stay curious about your thoughts, feelings, and reactions to others- there’s always plenty to learn and the more you assume you know, the less self-awareness you are likely practicing.

Most of the couples I see stuck in struggle are clinging to resentments, assumptions, and misinterpretations without really exploring them. These keep us disconnected and often lead to bitterness. Nobody wants that.

The path to fulfillment is learning and growth- neither of which will happen without a little curiosity.

Agreement 4: Always Do Your Best

Your best will change moment to moment (with your health, energy, and experience) but by investing the best of yourself you’ll avoid self-judgment and regret.

So often the regrets we beat ourselves up about are the times we didn’t act with intention, integrity- or as our best selves. Committing to doing your best all them time helps us avoid regretful missteps.

But committing to always doing your best doesn’t mean becoming a perfectionist, or striving for some high-level output 100 percent of the time. Doing your best also means being clear with yourself and those around you about what you can do, how you can show up, and what you can give moment-to-moment and say-to-day. The more mindful you are of your internal state, energy level, and competency in the different and changing areas of life, the better equipped you’ll be to communicate this with the people you care for.

If you enjoyed this, I highly recommend you pick up The Four Agreements as well as Don Miguel’s other books, The Mastery of Love and Voice of Knowledge. They are about forming healthy relationships and defeating inner voices that cause suffering and anxiety, respectively.


Gina Senarighi, MS, MA, CPC is a communication consultant, sexuality counselor and certified relationship coach specializing in healthy communication, passionate relationships, jealousy, and infidelity.  

She leads workshops and couples retreats in the Midwestern United States and Pacific Northwest and consults with clients online. Access her free Relationship Resource Toolbox here, or join her next FREE Monthly Relationships Masterclass coaching call.

Connect with her on social media or schedule a free consultation to see if her support could help you build more fulfilling, connected partnerships.

What is Conscious Uncoupling?

Some of the people who begin this process of discernment realize they want to end part of their relationship and still stay in loving compassionate partnership or friendship at the same time.

There’s not a lot of support in our culture for more creative relationship transformations, but that is often what folks are seeking when we talk about conscious uncoupling.

Conscious Uncoupling Expertise from the Source

Watch this Wanderlust talk by Katherine Woodward Thomas, author of the book Conscious Uncoupling about what this means if you think that may be a path forward for you.

Here are the basics of Conscious Uncoupling:

  • It is natural to want to stay in connection with past lovers. Historically we stayed in lifelong connections with interconnections rather than end relationships without any further contact.

  • It is possible to have a loving happy post-divorce (or break up) family if all partners are committed to that vision.

  • With clear intention, self regulation and support you can share generous care for your partner- even if your relationship evolves more into friendship than romantic partnership.

Questions to Ask When Deciding to Break Up

Making the decision to break up isn't easy. Most of you reading this have good reasons to both stay and go. For the most part, people felt super ambivalent about their relationships even if the decision seems pretty obvious. Most people have baseline dealbreakers that often go out the window when they meet someone and feel a strong chemical reaction.

Over time we start wondering if compromising those standards and some of our independence was really worth it.

Others start feeling stuck in unresolved conflict and unaddressed resentments that block our ability to deeply connect.

It’s hard to end a relationship for many reasons. If nothing else, there’s no way to end a relationship without facing the reality of loss and grief. But sometimes loss and grief are what you both need to build fuller, more enriching lives apart.

Questions to Ask When Deciding If You Should Break Up

Breaking up is obviously never easy. However, these 18 questions are designed to help you find some clarity if you're having difficulty deciding what to do:

  1. Have I been feeling unsafe, intimidated or threatened in this relationship?

  2. Have I been criticized, degraded or disrespected on a consistent basis?

  3. Have I been regularly interrogated about who I talk to, where I go, how much money I spend and related issues?

  4. Have I been walking on eggshells because I’m fearful or uncomfortable speaking my mind in this relationship?

  5. Does my partner always blame me or others for their problems or things that go wrong?

  6. Is my partner excessively possessive, calling or texting constantly, visiting expectantly to check up on me?

  7. Does my partner make me feel inadequate?

  8. How is this ending going to improve my life? The other person’s life?

  9. Does my partner keep their word or promises? Do I?

  10. Does my partner take responsibility for their actions? Do I?

  11. Is my partner willing to see things from my perspective? Will I see theirs?

  12. Does this person make me happy or would I be happier by myself?

  13. Have I asked for my needs to be met directly and respectfully?

  14. Am I expecting my partner to be the only one who changes - am I willing to make serious changes in order to make this work?

  15. Have we adequately tried to resolve conflicts and stuck points? Are we willing to hire help if needed?

  16. Do we have the same values and goals for the future?

  17. Am I ready to walk-away or am I going to end it and get back together?

  18. Can I handle being single and finding other supports for my grief through this break up?

At the end of the day, no one can decide what you should do about your relationship but you. But if you really take the time to think it over, you'll make the right decision for you.

If you want help sorting through this decision please give me a call for a consultation. I’ve supported hundreds of great folks as they decide to stay or go and I’d be happy to help you.

Gina Senarighi Madison Couples Counselor

Gina Senarighi, MS, MA, CPC is a communication consultant, sexuality counselor and certified relationship coach specializing in healthy communication, passionate relationships, jealousy, and infidelity.  

She co-hosts the Swoon podcast and coaches clients online all over the world and leads retreats in the Pacific Northwest and Midwest United states.

When she’s not working she’s tending her urban garden, traveling with her partner, raising her toddler, listening to podcasts or walking her little dog, Frida in Madison, Wisconsin.