Practicing the Four Agreements in a Divorce
Posted on April 15, 2016
If you’ve read the book The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz, you’ll better understand this article. If you haven’t read the book, I highly recommend it. A summary doesn’t do the book justice, but is necessary for this article.
To summarize the overall message of the book, the author posits that if you can live your life in accordance with these four main agreements (i.e., values or rules) then you will be happier and more fulfilled with your life. I not only agree with Don Miguel Ruiz, I can show you how these four agreements can be utilized in the divorce process, or even modified to fit any other career or personal situation.
1 – Be Impeccable With Your Word : Meaning, speak with integrity, say only what you mean, avoid using the word to speak against yourself or gossip about others, use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.
A volatile or emotionally-laden situation, such as a divorce, is rife with opportunities to explode either verbally or physically, and to behave in ways you’ll later regret. Some people say that hard times reveal a person’s true character. I’m not so sure about that. While I’ve been surprised by a client’s occasional degradation of character, I don’t know that I believe that is their true character. Rather, I tend more to believe that when a person is exposed to emotional stress for a longer period of time than they are hard-wired to handle, that stress will find a way to release. It’s not their true character unless it manifests in a pattern of behavior.
By committing to being impeccable with your word, you can protect your case, your conscious, your reputation and your dignity during a divorce process. It’s so tempting to reciprocate in the verbal mud-flinging and airing of dirty laundry. But who will that help? Neither a judge, nor your attorneys, are going to want to hear about Joe’s affair with his secretary or Betty’s weight gain and snoring. Protect your privacy and dignity by discussing matters solely with your attorney and allow him/her to decide what facts should be shared on public documents.
2 – Don’t Take Anything Personally : Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.
Nothing can feel more personal than going through a divorce. Whether you are the one who filed or not, it feels “gasping for air” personal. Realistically, for the family court judges and staff, you are just item #35 on their day’s calendar, and the next day, and each day thereafter, they will have another calendar with 35 items to process. For the attorneys involved, it’s a bit more personal, because we all think that our client is right and perfect, but we don’t have to live with the decisions on a case. It’s not our kids that are going to be involved in that custody arrangement. It’s not our retirement accounts that are being subdivided. Truth be told, as invested as we are in a client at the time, we attorneys will eventually move on and that client will become an old memory. That’s the nature of the beast. So, protect your psyche during the divorce process by imbedding the idea that nothing others are doing is really because of you. That value will alleviate a lot of needless suffering and drama.
3 – Don’t Make Assumptions: Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with other as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.
Any legal procedure is replete with jargon, procedures and rules with which the average person is ignorant. Clients sometimes fail to ask questions or seek clarification for various reasons. Either because they don’t want to appear uninformed, or they don’t want to run up the attorney fees, or they just assume that their attorney has things handled. Truth be told, the divorce process actually belongs to the client, the parties, and not to the attorneys or the judge. The parties should understand as fully as possible the what’s, why’s, where’s, and so forth. If you are paying an attorney for their time, use some of that time to educate yourself. Knowledge is power. When you understand the lay of the land, you tend to make better decisions. I’m always impressed by a client that demonstrates participation in their process. When a client assumes ownership of the divorce and asks thoughtful questions, articulates points of view, and values and desires, that impresses me.
Always Do Your Best : Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret.
You simply cannot do better than your best, whatever that looks like at the time. If you do your best in any given situation, then you never have to doubt yourself or the outcome. Most couples put a lot of effort into their wedding. They often plan for months or years on each detail, from the rings, to the colors, to the dress, flowers, appetizers, seating arrangements and honeymoon. When they reach their wedding day, they’ve given their best efforts toward that blessed day. Now with divorce, on the other hand, not so much.
Divorce is not a time to scrimp or become lackadaisical. Since the outcome will affect a good portion of your future, if not the rest of your life, it deserves to be taken seriously and be given your best efforts. What does that look like in the context of a divorce setting? It means to be where you are supposed to be, and be early. It means to communicate with your attorney fully, and timely. It means to comb the attic for documents your attorney requests, if that’s what is needed. It means to conduct yourself with dignity and truthfulness. It means to put your children’s interests ahead of your own and realize that they love mom and dad. It means to mentally walk in the other party’s shoes when you want a certain outcome and ponder how you would want to live with that outcome.
Only you will recognize your best. No one else will know for sure what your full potential was in any given moment. But, if you do your best, you will know. And if you didn’t do your best, you will know that too.