By: Jeff Everage
What would it mean to never take personally anything that your spouse says or does?
In my last two posts, I recommended one of my favorite books, "The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom" by Don Miguel Ruiz. There is no better place to practice the Four Agreements than in your love relationship.
When applied specifically to your spouse or partner, the four agreements would be:
1. Be impeccable with your word when speaking to or about your spouse or your relationship.
2. Don't take anything personally that your spouse says or does.
3. Make no assumptions about what your spouse is thinking, feeling, or intending.
4. Do your best in the relationship.
This post will focus on the second agreement. What would it mean to never take personally anything that your spouse says or does?
Ruiz writes that when you take something personally, you are implicitly agreeing with their position, giving them power over your inner state, and traping yourself in "the dream of hell". Doesn't sound very fun! To quote Ruiz:
"What causes you to be trapped is what we call Personal Importance ... (this is) the maximum expression of selfishness because we make the assumption that everything is about me"
In your love relationship, following the second agreement and not taking anything personally is hard because we think we know our spouse and they know us well. We think that they should know better than to say or do anything that offends or triggers us. These are false assumptions. They are not true and never will be true and as Riuz teaches these beliefs are selfish and self-centered.
Not taking personally what your loved one says or does means that you acknowledge that you don't have all the information and neither does your spouse. It requires identifying your negative feelings first and not blaming those feelings on your loved one's words or actions.
Not taking it personally requires patience with yourself and with your loved one, curiosity about what the other is experiencing, openness to change, vulnerability to see and admit your part in the negative cycle and the damage you may have done to the relationship. More than anything else, it requires the strength of character to act from your best self, to hold your spouse is the best light, and to have empathy.
In our couples workshop, we teach being Accessible, Responsive and Engaged (A.R.E.) to develop secure attachment in your love relationships.
The second agreement supports our ability to do all three. We are accessible when we don't take it personally and can stay open and present to our spouse throughout the storm of emotions and criticism. We will be responsive to their needs and fully engaged with them only when we are not self-centered and focused on our hurt or other negative feelings.
This level of commitment to the relationship takes tools that our parents may not have taught us or modeled for us when we were growing up. TV programs, the news, and movies show people breaking the second agreement and creating conflict by taking everything personally. We live in a culture that cultivates and glorifies being a victim. We've got to practice not taking things personally and we need techniques to move us into personal responsibility so that we can be accessible, responsive and engaged in our most important relationship right when they need us the most.
In our workshop and online course, you work on discovering and getting out of your negative cycles. The process starts by talking about the feelings and reactions during those negative cycles. At the root of all cycles is taking something personally and assuming that you know what your loved one is thinking and feeling.
The one constant in our workshop is the surprise discovery of what is really going on for your spouse and the support he or she really needs during tough times. Even 30-year-old relationships get surprised by what they discover about this person they've know for decades.
Our ARE toolkit has simple techniques to use to replace the typical negative cycle that comes from taking it personally. You can download our free A.R.E. toolkit here:
You can purchase the four agreements on Amazon with this link:
To learn more about our relationships workshop and online resources go to